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LMKWYT Jonathan Simkhai & TJ Allers
I couldn't be more excited to introduce you to 2 of the parents I admire most.
Jonathan and TJ manage to run the SIMKHAI empire, be very active in the community through charity work and raise the most wonderful set of twins; Elliot and River (5). Did I mention they also look like male models ?! DADDY GOALS
To know Jonathan and TJ is to love them. They have the biggest hearts of anyone you will ever meet, and they have instilled this kindness in their children. Their house feels like a home, always filled with laughter, dancing, trucks, unicorns & the best Persian crispy rice you will ever have!
They don’t aim to make it look easy, but they always keep it real; parenting in a way that feels intuitive and relaxed, yet is still very much grounded in strong values and kindness.
Continue reading to learn about their journey to becoming parents, their approach to conversations about diversity & inclusion, and how they let their non-traditional family structure empower their kids.
When did you decide you wanted to have kids?
T&J: We both always knew we wanted to have kids, we grew up in a time when it was an unrealistic dream based on societal limitations and the ongoing traditional beliefs around marriage. But when Obergefell overturned Baker, it really changed our views on parenthood.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming parents?
T&J: We were very lucky in the way that everything happened as it was supposed to. We used IVF and were matched with an amazing surrogate outside of Houston, TX. We spent a lot of time there waiting for the twins to be born and going to the ultrasound appointments. We met the most amazing nurses in Texas. They were all so kind. None of the nurses though had ever met a gay couple having babies. We were the first couple to have had babies born in this hospital and a lot of their protocols were extremely, well, straight. To the point that TJ had to be wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair, because that was a rule of the hospital that the person who gave birth was required to use a wheelchair, and TJ was the chosen one. The nurses knew that it made no sense but they also couldn't figure out how to avoid having to do it. It was a funny moment!
How has having children changed your perspective on life, and your priorities?
T&J: A close friend of ours wrote a note to us after the twins were born with one line, “Everything is going to be different now.” it was the truest four words I could have ever imagined reading. Like most things in parenthood, it is hard to find words to describe the feelings in parenting because there are so many of them, all the time and all at once but yes, EVERYTHING has changed.
Going from 0-1 child kids turns your world upside down. Now having twins (!!!) I can’t imagine. What are some of the things you wish you would have known to help yourselves keep sane?
T&J: Yes, it was very hard! I don't think we have had a solid 8 hours of sleep in five years. Some advice we would tell ourselves maybe would be to be easier on ourselves. Try not to listen to every ounce of advice that everyone gives. Do what is right for your baby and for you.
I feel like something people often don’t talk about is how starting a family changes couples' dynamics. Would you share how these dynamics have shifted, and what you prioritize to make it work?
T&J: We would say that yes, dynamics have shifted. It is a natural shift that we are happy with though. We try, like all couples, to keep the romance alive with date nights and one on one time with each other. It is not always easy but it is a must for us.
What are some of the challenges that come with being a part of a non-traditional family structure? And how did you overcome them?
T&J: It has overwhelmingly been a positive experience so not much to have to get over. But navigating conversations with other parents at the park can be awkward when asked where's the mom. Or overhearing our kids navigate those questions from other kids. But as soon as River and Eliot were born we explained to them how they got here and that they have two dads and not a mom and that makes them unique and special. We want to normalize and celebrate our non-traditional structure, to let it empower them.
What do you love most about being a father?
T&J: We love all of it! There are a lot of hard moments and moments when you have no idea which way is up, but their little faces when we pick them up from school, their curiosity, and the hugs we get, everything is simply better with them.
River and Eliot, couldn’t be more different. How do you make sure to nurture and promote each one’s personal growth?
T&J: We try our best to nurture each of their favorite things to do. They both love soccer, River loves to dance and is really happy in her ballet classes. Eliot does everything in his power to get out of the dance studio. Eliot loves collecting things, especially coins, gems, and googly eyes. Talking and listening to both kids to really understand what makes them happy and engaged and to better understand what makes them upset.
What are some of the values you're most focused on instilling in your children?
T&J: The most important value that we hope to instill in our kids is being kind, having empathy, and caring for others. Through some volunteer work that we do, we have made a lot of friends with folks experiencing houselessness here in LA and the kids get to see how easy it can be to treat everyone with love, respect, and care.
How do you approach conversations about diversity and inclusion with your children?
TJ: We are really transparent about the importance of diversity but also about racism and how it is baked into practically everything we do in this country and into the systems that were formed around us. In practicing anti-racism work with an organization I joined a few years ago, White People 4 Black Lives, we have discovered a lot of useful tools and ways to frame these important conversations on diversity and on police brutality against Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Conversations centered around how the lived experiences and general interactions with law enforcement within marginalized communities will be different than ours will be less safe for people of color. These are important conversations for our family and we do start these conversations and then let the kids lead and ask their questions with curiosity and compassion.
Fashion months are all-consuming. How do you manage to create a work-life balance?
Jonathan: It is really challenging for us because I have to be gone for so long sometimes and to be honest, we haven’t figured out a balance. We are trying quite hard though. Being away can be really hectic for TJ and the kids, and knowing that makes coming home the greatest feeling in the world. Although it is sad to be away for weeks at a time I am so lucky that I love what I do, and I know that is not the case for other working parents.
How do you plan to celebrate Father's Day? Do you have any special traditions?
T&J: This year we are going to one of our favorite places, San Ysidro Ranch. That being said, we don't really have any traditions other than just all being together for us is the most important way to celebrate. It is tricky when we are both trying to get pampered on a shared Father's Day, but we always have a lot of fun as a family.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a father?
T&J: That kids are the most unpredictable creatures!