Now, before everyone freaks out and tells me about how awesome adoption is and how it saves kids’ lives and gives them a chance I am fully aware of that. I am not suggesting that no one adopt, just that….well, read on to find out.
Let me start out by discussing something less intense. If anyone has gone on a weight loss or healthy living journey you know that you can’t half ass it. You can’t eat good 5 days a week and then binge the last 2 days and expect the same results. You can’t go to the gym regularly for 2 weeks and then not go for the rest of the year and expect any results. If you are going to make a change, you need to make sure you are ready to make a change if you really want it to work. Make sure you have a plan for hard days and late night cravings. Make sure you have support. Think about what you will do when you are tired and don’t want to. Who will hold you accountable? In thinking about all of these things, you are better situated to make a positive lasting change.
Now let’s start thinking about adoption. Most families start about down the adoption road due to a desire to have children or personally knowing a child in need of adoption. The see a need and desire to fill it. They want to expand their family and are exploring all options. Honestly, I think adoption is a wonderful way to expand a family, no less than any other way (obviously). I would not trade my adoption journey for anything. My family is just the way God intended it to be. He used heartbreak and abuse to mold together this amazing family I call mine. I am continually in awe.
The reason my post is entitled “Don’t Do It” is because in today’s adoption world there are things that very few people talk about, or do so generally. I have heard that “Adoption is not for the faint of heart” that it is the hardest thing but worth it. That it will take everything you have. All of these are true but do nothing to help prospective or new adopters on their journey. These things do not prepare anyone. Today I wanted to be more specific about what the hard parts are and things I have done (or wish I would have done) to prepare myself and my family to face these unique challenges. Simply saying that it is hard (is an understatement) and is not useful.
When people say that adoption is hard, they mean it. Before I adopted I brushed that off and said “Well, of course it is, parenting is hard I imagine.” I mean, the SATs are hard, grad school is hard, finding time to work out is hard. Hard is not descriptive. It is more accurate to say that Adoption is most gut wrenching, heart breaking, depressing, tiring, maddening thing that I would do again.
What I did not prepare myself for was how much EVERYTHING in my life would change. Parenting is like that. Adoptive parenting even more so. I didn’t expect not being able to speak more than 3 words to my husband without the kids around in more than a week. I didn’t expect how my kids would be able to find my buttons and push them. I didn’t expect how angry I would get or how deeply I would feel sadness for my kids. I didn’t expect how every perspective I had would change drastically.
So on this second day of National Adoption Month, my advice to prospective adopters is this: Don’t Do It, at least not yet.
First off decide if adoption is for you. It is not just another way to grow a family. It is a unique and life changing experience that will color all of your perspectives. It will make you see things differently. Decide if you are willing to commit 100% to this child (or children) no matter what. No matter if they end up in prison, display abusive behaviors, drop out of school, want nothing to do with you. All kids go through rebellion and negative behaviors, however with adopted kids you don’t have the benefit (usually) of months or years to pleasantly attach BEFORE these behaviors come about. At the start of your journey really examine if you can commit to being there and loving them NO MATTER WHAT! There may be times where they can’t live in your home due to health (medical and psychological) needs or safety, but contemplate your commitment should this happen. If not, there is nothing wrong with that but older child foster care adoption is probably not for you. It’s not just the negative behaviors, I have found my issue is how to kids will CHOOSE these behaviors to see if you are still committed. This makes me soo angry because (in my viewpoint) there is no reason. However, for the kids there is a reason. SOOOO many other people have left and they so desperately want you to not leave that they have to make sure. REALLY think about if you can commit. If this is hard maybe a different way to expand your family is better for you.
Second off, know that it is hard, Like no words to describe how difficult it can be at times hard. Know that this path will not be easy for a long time (if it ever is). There are some things that you can do to help the hardness of it if you are committed to do the hard work.
– Support System: Talk and be open with those that you love and that love you about your adoption plans. Let them know what potential problems could be. Offer to recommend some great blogs or books for them to read to get an understanding of what you and your children will be going through. Connect with people close by because after adoption your ability to connect with those face to face outside of your town is diminished. Let them know practical and helpful ways they can show love to you throughout this journey. The people that love you want to help. but often don’t know what to do. Let them know that making a meal, playing with the kids, shoveling your driveway, ect are great and stress free ways for them to show their love.
In my life Joel and I moved to a new town and within a year started the adoption process. Now I would not have changed anything as it got my this great family I would have used the pre-kid time I had to better develop deeper connections with those in our new neighborhood and church. Its hard to develop those relationships now.
– Spouse: The relationship with your spouse will be tested to the extreme. You will have little to no time to spend by yourselves and potential conflicts about how to parent or respond to the children. Before the adoption, commit to having open communication even if the topic is difficult or embarrassing. Agree to be a team and not succumb to the pitting you against each other that your kids will do! Support your spouse in front of the kids NO MATTER WHAT! No matter if you honestly think what they just did was ludicrous or made you angry. Support them and then pull them aside to talk to them. Be honest with them, even if it makes BOTH of you angry. Work together to figure out how you as a couple want to parent. This is something that all couples need to do for a LONG time
– Self-care: If you are anything like me, taking care of yourself has always been on the back burner. There are always more important things to do, other people to focus on or jobs to complete. This is not a healthy way to go into adoption. Your children will require 150% of your energy. Yep, you read that right. It will be easier than EVER to ignore your needs. Set up an easy plan to do something that fills you up. Something as simple as buying yourself an awesomely intricate coloring book that is just yours to use when the kids and you are coloring. Or find a gym that has childcare so you can run off some stress. Find out if your kids qualify for respite or PCA hours to get you and your spouse a break from time to time. As a family work on healthy eating. It is VERY easy to push yourself to the back burner, but you kids need you more than that. They need you to be at your best so focus on what you can do to get there!
– Support Community: All the self care, healthy spousal relationships, and support system from loved ones is great but if you have no other adoptive parents to connect with the hard times will be even harder. Find blogs to follow, facebook groups to join, in person support groups to commit to going to, ect. Connect with others that have walked down a similar path to bounce ideas off of and to vent to when times are hard. I belong to several facebook groups and have connected with some great adoptive mom bloggers that are my lifeline on the days when saying “Adoption is hard” is the most laughable understatement in the world.
Once these things are in place, you will have a smoother adoption process. Things will still get hard. Like cry your eyes out with angry tears in public hard, but you will be more able to bounce back, showing your kids that you are there for them and teaching them how to bounce back too.