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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family
10 Ways Adopting Made Me a Better Parent
As a mother through biology and adoption, I often compare the different paths. I've come to believe that the process surrounding our adoption better prepared me and my husband (though I can't really speak for him) to be parents. This is slightly ironic, since our daughter through adoption joined our family last—we definitely would have benefited from this information before we had our two sons. Here I am with my three children on the most recent Mother's Day. Below, you'll find the 10 reasons why this was true for me.
1. Having to make a thoughtful decision about what country to adopt from and what type of child we were open to made me honestly consider what we could take on as parents. I was aware there were no guarantees, as with birth, but adoption forced me to do the soul searching. What are our capabilities and limits? What is best for our family?
2. Going through the homestudy's self-assessment made me articulate how my relationships in the past would influence me as a parent. When I first became a mom, I blogged about how my then complicated relationship with my mother would impact me in this new role. But this inquiry probed deeper, and it involved a stranger leading the discussion. I could not comfortably avoid truths I did not want to examine.
3. The homestudy also forced me to explore how my husband's and my different upbringings and beliefs shaped us as parents and could be brought together for our child. I learned things about my husband I never knew, and we had been married for 16 years. I shared things I don't think I had told anyone before. We came away with an even closer relationship.
4. We struggled to decide: Were we equipped to raise a child of another race and culture and give her everything she needed and deserved? Having a candid dialogue with our social worker about what that would entail made us dig deep on issues that had touched us only in an arm's length fashion. I gained a deeper appreciation for how much race defines the way people view others. Love is not a cure all.
5. I had to complete a questionnaire about the resources available in my community, should my child require special assistance. This was highly valuable information, but it had never occurred to me to seek it out. It also made me really think about what it might mean to raise a child with special needs. This is a likelihood with international adoption, given the rough start many of these children have. I had preferred to stay in the land of cute pictures and happy thoughts until then, but if I was going to be a good mother to our child, I had to be prepared for her reality, whatever it might be.
6. Since our daughter has another set of parents, I could never, nor would I want to, claim her as solely "mine." She has another mother who gave her life and shares her biology. But this realization made me think about my other two children. It really drove home that none of my children are "mine," even if they share my DNA. They are only mine to parent, to love, and to cherish for my lifetime. They are their own people.
7. Becoming a parent was one of the most terrifying decisions I made. I wanted to do it, but I didn't know if I would be good at being a mother. And the decision was irreversible. Generally, I like the possibility of undoing a decision if things don't work out. So, as a coping mechanism, I avoided thinking about or doing anything to acknowledge the momentous change about to happen. With adoption, this was not an option. I had to embrace the preparation and face my fear (no, having two children did not make me sure I would be a good mother to this third).
8. Adopting made me think about defending our family and our choices with rational rather than emotional responses. Many people judge what is different or what they don't understand. I learned to provide balanced and thoughtful responses. I try not to assume cruel intent unless that seems the only possibility. I also find myself judging others less for choices I may not have made.
9. I had to face an ugly truth. I, as a parent, cannot make everything OK for my children, no matter how much I wish I could. My daughter lost the chance to be raised by her biological family, in her country, and in her culture. I cannot make up for those losses. All I can do is honor them and do my best to integrate her culture into our family. I can be open to what she needs when she reaches the point in her life when discovering "who am I" involves some complex questions and relationships.
- 10. Adoption showed me that becoming a parent impacts many people. I felt this to a great degree with our boys, but it was more limited to family and friends. With our daughter, I saw the impact to our larger community and people who share her culture. Children are amazing teachers and ambassadors for what is good in the world. I have a number of community members, family, and friends who are now fundraising with me for Ethiopia, have become more open to adoption, or just have a broader view of family because of our daughter.
We pursued adoption because we wanted another child and knew there were many in the world who needed a family. And in the process, I grew to have a deep understanding of motherhood, family, and community. For that, and because of our amazing daughter, I am forever changed and grateful.
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