In the sunshine on the roof of the Central Library, being passed between her fathers, surrounded by screaming children, one of Austin’s newest residents barely stirs.
For Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk, late nights used to just mean watching over long City Council meetings. Now he and his husband, Brendan Bujold, are parents to Lauren Irene Bujold Cronk, and they are navigating what fatherhood means.
“You can wake up and just the amount of love that you have for your family and seeing her every day is incredible,” Cronk said. “It’s all the small moments and the yawning and cooing.”
Cronk and Bujold, who have been together a decade, began thinking of having children six years ago, back in Minnesota. They took a class called Maybe Baby, geared toward LGBT couples, and began considering adoption. Then, through a friend of a friend, they met a surrogate who wanted to carry another child.
They moved forward on plans to do so, even after they moved to Texas. Council members hired Cronk as city manager in early 2018. Bujold is the director of strategic partnerships for the Long Center for the Performing Arts. Lauren was born on his birthday, May 8.
» Listen to Cronk and Bujold talk about building their family in Austin:
“If we would have had Lauren three years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been thinking about moving to Austin,” Cronk said. “I want to believe in fate, and the fact that we weren’t blessed with expanding our family until having moved to Austin is the reason we were supposed to be here.”
Both noted that as a same-sex couple, becoming parents is a more complicated process than for most heterosexual couples.
“You have to really want it,” Bujold said.
So far, the two have been lucky in fatherhood. Lauren is a relaxed baby. The night before her first newspaper interview, at just 4 weeks old, she slept six hours straight. Cronk nervously noted that she’s been a good sleeper “so far,” while Bujold laughed and told him to knock on wood and enjoy it.
They gave Lauren a first name they thought was cute for a little girl but powerful enough for a CEO. Her fourth day of life was a road trip to visit Bujold’s family north of Minneapolis, and she later slept through a delayed airplane journey back to Austin. Home life here means excursions with a Dutch baby stroller specifically designed for tall people to push (Cronk is 6 feet 6 inches tall) and lessons for the Minnesotans in keeping an infant cool in the Texas heat.
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They take her as many places as possible, even in her earliest weeks, to get her comfortable with new places. That’s the kind of parenting Cronk and Bujold intend to continue.
“Just exposing her to more than what I find interesting,” Bujold said. “Not just, ‘Here’s the ballet and here’s the performing arts.’ It should also be, ‘This is camping.’”
“But also letting her take the lead,” Cronk added.
“That’s not just a good father, that’s a good parent,” Bujold agreed.
» Listen to Cronk and Bujold talk about how they want to raise their daughter:
Mayor Steve Adler, himself a father of three daughters, had a few pieces of advice for the new dads. He told them to trust their guts, that new parents know more than they think they do. He told them to forgive themselves for human mistakes and accidental owies.
“I said … ‘You’ll pull up a zipper and a finger will get caught in it. Or you’ll walk into a room holding her and misjudge where the door is and bang her head,’” Adler said. “‘Just know, that happens to everybody. … It doesn’t make you any less of a parent.’”
Bujold said that advice is good to hear. Cronk said he’s appreciated the people who told him that he’ll figure out parenting as it comes. They’ve looked to their own supportive fathers as examples. And they’re keeping an eye on the pitfalls of the future.
“I don’t want her to be able to wrap me around her finger,” Bujold said. “When she’s screaming and crying, I’m like, ‘If you could scream for a pony right now, I’d go, ‘OK, fine, here’s a pony.’ … I can see how you can fall into that really easily.”
Cronk perhaps has more power over the future of Austin than anyone in the city. Having Lauren hasn’t changed his outlook on those decisions, but it has certainly made them more personal, he said. He wants City Hall to be a family-friendly workplace and wants the city itself to grow in a way that accommodates everyone.
For Bujold, his daughter has made him notice things about the city he didn’t before — like why are there so many dog parks around Lady Bird Lake but so few playgrounds?
Asked if they want more children, the pair laugh.
“Spencer wants a soccer team,” Bujold said. “And I’m like, can we start with one and see how it goes?”
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