This CEO Dad on Being Part of a 'Big Family' with Their Surrogate: Our Son 'Calls Her "Angel Mama"'
How I Parent explores the ins and outs of modern day parenting with moms and dads from all over the world, who are raising their own unique families and sharing their best advice and most heartfelt lessons with PEOPLE. Want to be a part of it? Email what makes your family so special to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Byron Kantrow Slosar
Location: New York, New York
Occupation: Founder and CEO of HIVE Diversity, a virtual recruiting platform that creates meaningful engagement between businesses and a uniquely-qualified diverse community of next generation talent.
Family Situation: Two Byrons, two Roses, and a Matt — I'm big Byron; little Byron, who just turned 3, is my son. There's Nana Rose, our dog Rose, and my husband Matt.
Parenting "philosophy" in a sentence: Focus on the present, make decisions about the future when necessary, get more excited than scared of the unknown and celebrate that you get to create your own experiences.
What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
I always wanted to have kids. I'm from a big family in Louisiana and I've got five siblings. The only thing I really knew about myself, until much later in life, was that I wanted to be a dad.
I met my husband Matt in 2009 and at the time, we didn't even think marriage would be on the table. It wasn't legal in many places so we didn't give it a thought until two years later when marriage became legal in New York. Once we decided to start the process of having kids, we were well into our marriage.
We went through surrogacy, which was amazingly overwhelming. We had our surrogacy agency in Boston. We were in New York. Our egg donor was in Connecticut. Our surrogate was in Virginia Beach, and our doctor was in Los Angeles. Then, we also had an early miscarriage. The experience was a lot. It was both financially and emotionally taxing, but it was awesome.
Our son Byron was born and we were finally a family of three, plus we gained our surrogate Misty's family, too. Misty's husband called us when we got pregnant and joked, "Congrats on knocking up my wife."
I went to Virginia Beach nine times to be with Misty during her pregnancy. I went to every doctors appointment, and Matt was there for most of them. Throughout the process, we really became a big family. Their kids became our niece and nephew. They call us their guncles.
Before we chose who we wanted as our surrogate, we made an agreement that we wanted Misty and her family to have a relationship with us. Byron knows who she is and calls her Angel Mama.
People go through different types of surrogacy, but we chose to have an open one. Our egg donor and surrogate are two different women, who were both open and comfortable with that. We wanted it this way for Byron so there wouldn't be any questions we couldn't answer or any obstacles in place if he ever wanted to meet them.
With surrogacy, I don't think people really understand that these women are angels. It's not something they do for money. Misty was a surrogate twice before, and she has three kids of her own. It's a phenomenally amazing thing they do, and we wanted Misty to understand that she was a person to us, not just our carrier.
The miscarriage took place at a very, very early stage and it was really hard on us but any and all emotions and concerns went to Misty. Matt and I love her and wanted her to be okay. It was a lot of brand new emotions to be feeling at 40 years old, but we got through it.
I remember sitting in bed with Matt one night, during the not-so-great 2016 presidential election and saying, "This really sucks," and talking through everything that was happening at the time. Then four years later, we were laying in bed with Byron watching Joe Biden win and we said, "Okay, we now have faith that things will get better." Everything happened for a reason, and I totally get it now.
How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
There's no question that I know with 1000 percent certainty how much my parents love me and my siblings. I think my parenting style is currently "loving the hell out of my son." Matt and I don't benchmark a lot. There's not a lot of study in how we're doing this. We're just going and flying by the seat of our pants, and it seems to be working.
What's your favorite thing about parenting?
I love seeing myself in Byron. I love watching him mimic my mannerisms. I also love watching Matt become a great dad. Everyone knew that we were going to be good parents, but I don't think Matt was sure of himself. It was not something he grew up thinking about, so seeing him be the phenomenal dad he is has been the most rewarding experience for me.
What's the hardest part?
I fight every day with myself about finding that balance between working too much and making sure that I'm giving our son a good life. I've got a lot on my shoulders and those thoughts are always there — am I working hard enough, or too much? I haven't figured that out yet.
What's the best advice you can share with new parents?
Don't take advice from anybody without kids. We laugh about this all the time! But we have chosen to put blinders on, so we can really have this be our own experience.
What would you want your kid to say about you as a parent?
I want him to say that he knew that I loved him more than anything else in this world.