When two women have a child together, there is often the question of who is the “real” mother and who is the “other” mother.

In families where there are two mothers, it is important to understand that they are both equal parents, regardless of who gave birth to the child. Of course, carrying a child for nine months is a bonding process and the woman who gives birth feels very connected to her child. But if it is a good relationship between the women, the non-biological partner also feels a connection as she, too, has gone through the process.

Once the child arrives, bonding occurs through childcare. Both moms ideally are involved in holding, soothing, changing and feeding, supplementing nursing if the baby is breast fed. Both moms put the child to sleep and push the stroller. There is an age old debate over what is stronger nature or nurture and there is no definitive answer. In adoptive families, where there is no bio parent, both parents can generally bond quite successfully with their child, regardless of whether there are two moms or a mom and dad.

I have seen non-bio moms who are more connected to their children than bio moms, if the bio mom spends significantly less time with the baby. But our society generally relegates non-bio moms to a lower status and sometimes they struggle with their authenticity as “real” moms. It is a common question from uneducated folks to ask two women walking with a baby “Who’s the real mom?” This is a painful question for both moms when they want to feel equal.

Bonding is based on Attachment Theory, which is a psychological model describing the emotional bond between an infant and primary caregiver, and the way in which that bond affects that child’s emotional development. Being available and attentive to a child is what creates the bond. A strong attachment is necessary for a child to grow and develop into a healthy adult. This theory helps us understand that a non-bio mother can be just as relevant as a bio mother.

This is good news for lesbian families. It is also good for blended families where a bio mom partners with another woman (who may or may not have children) and they form a new family. Both women can be loving parents to the children. A family is not defined by genes, but rather built on love and respect.

This theory also supports gay dads being able to be good parents as neither of them birth a child. Sometimes, a child is the product of one dad’s genes and sometimes the child is adopted and has no biological connection. But research has shown that two dads can raise happy and healthy kids.

Whether children are born into families or adopted by families, or merge as is the case in blended families, the most important aspect of connecting with kids is to spend time with them and love them, be attentive and caring. Love makes a family.