Brandi Carlile and her wife of more than eight years, Catherine Shepherd, are raising two young daughters in rural Washington State — but when things get a bit hectic, they’ve got family and friends nearby to help.
Truly, the couple don’t have to go far to see some of their loved ones: Carlile’s bandmates — two of whom are married to Carlile and Shepherd’s siblings — live so close by that their homes essentially form a small compound.
“Everybody teased, ‘Brandi’s forming a cult.’ Next thing I knew, the people I work with were here. And we’ve married into each other’s families,” Carlile says in a Q&A that follows an essay she penned for Parents magazine’s February 2020 issue.
Carlile, Shepherd and their kids live in a log cabin the singer bought when she was 21 years old, and her bandmate Phil Hanseroth and his wife Tiffany, who is Carlile’s sister, live next door with their two children.
Nearby — close enough to get there via ATV, according to the artist — are Tim Hanseroth, Phil’s twin and another of Carlile’s bandmates, his wife and their two kids, as well as Carlile’s cello player, Josh Neumann, and his wife Sarah, who is Catherine’s sister. The couple welcomed a baby girl in November.
“You get so tired of your own cooking — so, say it’s Josh and Sarah’s night to cook. We can go to each other’s houses. We have a garden that we all can work in. We built a deck and put in an above-ground pool. We’ve done all kinds of projects together — anything to keep ourselves busy,” Carlile says. “Everyone helps the kids with learning. It’s a community-based effort.”
This “it takes a village” parenting style has proven beneficial for Carlile and Shepherd, who, as two gay women, do not have the benefits of generations of institutional parenting wisdom and knowledge that straight parents, especially those in heterosexual relationships, do.
Notes Carlile, “It might not feel radical to talk about LGBTQ+ parenting right now, but over the arc of history, gay domesticity is a radically new concept.”
“There’s some serious pioneering involved here,” she writes. “Now I want to be a part of building some of that history for other LGBTQ+ parents.”
“For my wife and me, every part of our emergence into the world of parenting was intentional and always felt a little like walking out onto thin ice, blindfolded,” the singer-songwriter adds. “To my immense relief and delight, Catherine and I found a total abundance of support from our friends and family around us who had kids. It felt like joining some kind of a club. It actually made me feel cooler.”
Carlile and Shepherd conceived their first child, Evangeline, who was born in 2014, via in vitro fertilization (IVF). Daughter Elijah, born in 2018, was conceived via artificial insemination. Shepherd carried both children.
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