Interview with Sue Dooley: Teaching Gratitude and Acceptance

Last year when I started Raising & Roasting, I posted on Milton Neighbors on Facebook and asked for volunteers to talk with me about parenting. I received many responses and Sue Dooley was one of them. Quite honesty, I wanted to interview her mostly because she is in a same sex marriage with two young boys (Liam, 5.5; Teddy, 4.5) and everyone else I spoke with were in hetero relationships. Sue and I vaguely set up a time to meet, but in the meantime, we kept crossing paths. At golf lessons. At a dinner organized by a mutual friend. And, when my son went to kindergarten, one of the first boys he met was Sue’s son, Liam. So, I began to get to know her a bit before we met for the interview. Although I was still very interested to hear about how parenting may or may not be different as a same sex couple, I was more intrigued to hear how she manages as Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at The Rockport Group, has two completely lovely and adorable boys, a successful and nice wife (Tara), finds time to participate in activities outside of home and work, and most importantly, prioritizes family every day. Sue and Tara are the modern-day Cleavers, except with more perspective and acceptance for everyone. Listen to hear how Sue manages a successful and busy working life while being a present Mom raising two rambunctious and loving boys.  Excerpts from the interview are below. 

Teddy, Tara, Sue, and Liam

 Tell us a bit about yourself

 I’m Sue Dooley, a Mom of 2 young boys (4.5, 5.5), a wife of lovely woman named Tara. We have been in Milton for about a year. I am in the marketing field and she is in healthcare. I lived here about 16 years ago and hoped to stay but couldn’t find the right house so moved out of town (to Canton). Eventually we outgrew the house so we moved back to Milton.  It’s fantastic, we love it. Tara and I have been together for 15 years and married for 10. We are well into our relationship and know what we are looking for in a community and it felt very right to come home.

How has it been living in Milton?

It’s been great being here. It coincides w the general movement in society of acceptance. Marriage is now a national privilege for everybody and it seems that the rising tide of acceptance is there and definitely here in Milton, which to me seems like a very diverse town even though there is a high population of Irish-Americans - I am one of them!  Milton still has a nice racial diversity. We have met other same sex couples and more importantly we have met educated and open minded people so it has been great to be here.  

What guides you?

We don’t have a formal philosophy. We haven’t read a lot of books about what is means to be a parent or a same sex parent. But, we know we were raised by wonderful families with good values and we would really like to instill those values in our boys. We want to make sure they are grateful for things. Tara and I are blessed with good careers and financial security. The materials things we have in our life, we want to make sure they appreciate and make sure they understand not everyone has those; there is no judgment about what people have or do not have - there are far more important things. The value of being grateful of the things you have and most importantly the people in our life. Every night I pray with the boys and reflect and be thankful what went on in our day and the people that made it important, and even the people we don’t even see everyday like military personnel, police, firemen and woman, doctors and nurses taking care of people around the world. It’s really important that we are grateful. Another value is instilling confidence. Confidence comes from knowing they are loved regardless of the situation - whether they score a goal in soccer or are too tired to play. if they get 5 stars at school or get in trouble. They are loved.

What challenges you?

At this stage, it’s my work schedule. I enjoy work but I’m not married to my job. I have a responsibility at my job and I have a financial responsibility to my household but when I get home, I shut it down. The balance is the biggest challenge. One advantage of becoming a parent at 44 is that I was already in the senior management role. I make very good use of my time at work. The water cooler chat is not there for me. I come to work, I say good morning, I’m happy and hospitable, but I’m getting my job down and not wasting time.

What do you do well?

I’m good at diffusing a bad situation and that comes from my person outlook on life. My glass is half full. I use humor a lot in my work life in managing people and I use humor in the management of my of kids. When they are unnecessarily whiny, I’ll come up with something funny or witty. Whatever works in that moment in time.

Does being in a same sex couple affect parenting for you?

It’s not a big deal. But, we make it a point that everyone knows it from the get go because it is who we are. Not that it defines us but it’s part of who we are.  We don’t want any surprises or misconceptions when somebody finds out that Teddy and Liam don’t have a Dad. The Milton School System has been fantastic. Like on Father’s Day, they will say ‘make a card for a special man in your life’ so it’s not like ‘oh, well you don’t have a father’. The school is very aware that these two boys have two Moms so there have been little changes in the road but it’s been an exceptional experience. They key is just being open. It’s not like we are walking in and waving a flag right away but we just want to clear the air, mostly for the wellbeing of our kids.

How does this relate to the boys, or not?

I’ve been out 30 years. Through maturity and time, you get more comfortable with who you are, whether it’s your sexuality or whatever it is. I don’t often say that I am a person that’s gay; it doesn’t seem relevant and it’s not an adjective I often use to describe myself. What is most important to us is just being aware of different types of people in the world, whether its visible or not. The boys get it. The line we have used from day one – families come in all shapes and sizes. All colors. Some with two Moms, two Dads, one Mom one Dad, one Mom and no Dad, and gosh, some kids don’t even have parents! We have ingrained that so much it doesn’t even phase them.  But, I don’t think they have actually met any other kids at school with same sex parents. We are sensitive to acceptance of all different types of people.

What are your thoughts on family dinner?

 We try to have dinner together every night. But, my career is pretty demanding and I’m not always home in time. There is some travel and extended hours but I make it a point to before the kids go to bed to spend time and a few nights a week for the family meal together. That table is conversation – what made your day good, what were the struggles, Tara and I share too. Just be together. It’s not just hearing from the boys, Tara and I share too.

Simple Recipe: Chickpea, Olive, and Feta Salad (Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons of good olive oil

1 tablespoon of lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed

½ cup Kalamata olives, or your favorite kind

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk olive oil and lemon juice together. Toss chickpeas, olives, and feta with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pairs well with any grilled meat or fish.