Thinking About Adopting as a Single Mom?
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Be prepared for these five adoption realities
Are you considering adoption as a route to single motherhood? You are not alone. Single mom adoption is increasingly common and a wonderful way to build your own family. But looking back, I realize I would have benefited from a heads-up regarding a few realities. Every adoption journey is unique, and no one is fully prepared, but the following advice would have inspired me to do a few things differently and not sweat the small details.
1. Stay strong. Adoption requires organization and stamina. There is a series of hurdles, such as arduous paperwork, a home study, and inevitable setbacks as you negotiate the process. Keep a folder in a safe place for all your paperwork. Make copies of everything, and don’t get rattled when your social worker or adoption agency loses paperwork, as it’s bound to happen. Save your e-mails, as they are proof of conversations and promises that might be forgotten. Expect delays and some disappointments that will make it seem like the adoption may not happen. Stay strong, and these skills will make you an awesome mom.
2. Love isn’t enough. In adoption, love doesn’t conquer all. You will need to educate yourself about the challenges that adopted children might face. Especially in terms of foster-care adoption, international adoption, and transracial adoption, there is a learning curve that moms must be willing to take in order to do best by their child. Use the time when you are waiting for your paperwork to be approved to dig into research or go to Sister Chat or the ESME Adoption Group on Facebook to ask other Solo Moms questions. The more you prepare, the less overwhelming it will be.
3. Birth mothers can’t be ignored. Even if your child was adopted as an infant, his or her birth mother will be on your child’s mind, especially on birthdays or meaningful milestones. Honoring that relationship without being threatened by it is the best for your child. I often sprinkle comments such as “I bet your birth mom would be very proud of you” so that my children know that it’s OK to ask questions and talk about their birth family. We ended up returning to my daughters’ home country of Ethiopia to visit their birth mothers. It was inspiring, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at once.
4. Expect insensitive comments. As a single mom, you will face some unfortunate stereotypes, and as an adoptive mom, there’s an even greater possibility of ridiculous questions, such as “How much did she cost?” You need to be prepared to defend or deflect insensitive questions when your child is with you. People often say, “Your daughter is so lucky she was adopted,” and I respond, “No, I’m the lucky one.” For random, naive questions, keep it short and sweet for your child’s sake. If the comment is demeaning, racist, or guaranteed to make your child feel awful, be prepared to stand up for your son or daughter. If you ignore these comments, it could send a message that you are condoning them or don’t take them seriously. An adopted child’s well-being is directly linked to your actions and reactions. Show your child that you will stand up to behavior and words that make him or her feel “less than.” Become Mama Bear when your cub is threatened, and your child will feel safe and loved.
5. Biology isn’t destiny. I’ve heard many people say that they could never love an adopted child as much as their own biological child. That simply isn’t true. I’m a mom to biological and adopted children whom I love the same. In fact, I found bonding with an adopted infant daughter easier because I wasn’t so exhausted when she came home. We fall in love by parenting and being responsible for the well-being of that child. It may not be instant with older children, but if you “fake it until you make it,” one day you realize that you’ve fallen in love more fiercely and deeply than ever imagined.
I hope these facts haven’t scared you away from taking the adoption journey. My life is infinitely more fulfilling and profound since opening my heart to adoption.
A sociologist who taught at Northwestern University for over a decade, Marika Lindholm is the founder of ESME, Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, a confidential community of support and connection for Solo Moms.
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