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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom

When Entitlement is a Good Thing



Entitlement. Now there's a loaded word.

Supermodels feel entitled to rough up their staff, powerful men feel entitled to cheat, or, from personal experience, to speak loudly on their cell phones while riding the train, deeming themselves more important than the masses. But perhaps entitlement, meaning right, privilege, claim, has never been more fraught with negative emotion than when it's used in the adoption community.

Recently, I read an online posting from a prospective adoptive mother in which she shared her disappointment about the expectant mother's decision to parent. In the thread below there was a comment that read, "That smacks of entitlement," the phrase implying that the prospective parent was only concerned about herself and her own desires.

As a mom by way of domestic adoption, I believe entitlement was at play. But not in the way you might think.

I was surprised to discover that entitlement plays a very important role when it comes to adopting a child, according to Judy M. Miller, Adoptive Parent Educator and Support Specialist. She says it means "fully embracing that you have the right to parent your child. This belief comes from claiming your child wholly, developing a sense that she 'belongs,' even though you didn't give birth to her."

Judy goes on to say that entitlement is a process that happens over time. And I suspect that, for many adoptive parents, it starts well before our babies are legally our babies. I know it did for me. I look back over my gratitude journal entries leading up to the birth of my daughter, Beth, and see that I've written many a claiming statement, including:

I am grateful to know our healthy, beautiful baby is on her way to us.

And

I am grateful for the upcoming "We're a Family" chapter of my life.

It's definitely a fine line of emotion to walk. To feel hopeful that I would be a mother, yet at the same time detach from the final outcome. To honor and be respectful of Kim as a person and expectant mother, yet at the same time feel the quiet excitement of parenthood nearly within my reach. It's hard stuff, and it's just one of the many complexities in the adoption journey.

To me, entitlement means being a mother in the complete sense of the word -- I am the nurturer, defender, storyteller, boo-boo healer, incessant-question answerer, nail polisher, and all the other types of "-ers" you can think of when it comes to raising a child.

Entitlement means creating a home where our daughter feels safe, secure, and loved, even when she's raising hell on her way to a time out. It means establishing an ease and openness when it comes to talking about Beth's adoption story. Entitlement also means nurturing our ever evolving open relationship with her biological mother and family.

I relish the title of Mom, wholeheartedly, and, especially, gratefully. It's not a position to be taken lightly; it can't be done in a half-assed way. It's something that must be embraced fully, fearlessly, right from the start -- and even a little before.


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12 Comments

I appreciated your post on this topic.  In our case, our son was the second child of a married couple who did not feel they could parent both children well in their current situation.  We have an open adoption and are friends - though on different coasts.  During and following the adoption we helped them a lot to get back on their feet, financially, and otherwise. We wanted for them to succeed.  They are my son’s brother’s parents and we care about them so much.  When we heard she was pregnant again - less than a year from the adoption, and planned to keep the child - at first my heart sank.  Only because I thought, “oh, I WANT that baby.”  But that was before I really thought it through, rationally.  Yes, I want a sibling for my son - and of course, it would be special if that sibling were blood-related -  but I don’t want to ever see them faced with that decision again.  I know it was wrenching for them.  And so I was able to separate my initial feelings of longing for this new child with my feelings of joy for them.  We worked hard to help them get out from under and even helped her secure a grant for continuing education.  We bought them nearly everything on their Amazon baby registry. Why would we work so hard for them and NOT want them to succeed in life, as people, as parents, as family?  We would be the world’s biggest hypocrites. It makes me so happy now to know that they are at a point where they can raise their own children - and that we helped make that happen.  So, my initial feelings might have been of entitlement, but I was able to really put it all into perspective, with time.  And now, I’m just waiting for that phone call/text that my son’s little baby sister is here.  She’s due any day and we couldn’t be more happy for them.

By teresahardy on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 12:51 am.

Thank you for your insightful post. I was just thinking about this topic yesterday, while looking at pictures of when we brought our daughter home at 3 weeks old. She is now 18 months old, and I can really feel the shift in our feelings of entitlement. For instance, my husband’s office had a large baby shower for us shortly after our daughter arrived, and at that party I let complete strangers hold my baby, walk around with her, and so forth. My husband didn’t even know everyone who was there! I’m shocked looking back at the photos because I would never let her be passed around like that today (nor would she—LOL). But at the time, it didn’t feel unusual because she didn’t feel like she was “mine.” After two failed matches, we were still dealing with the fear of losing her and, I guess, protecting ourselves on some level. We had also spent a week with our daughters’ birth parents prior to bringing her home. They had raised her for two weeks before placing her with us. Seeing the beauty of their little family unit for that extended period made it really difficult to make the shift to seeing her as “our” child. Thanks for putting into words the importance of that shift.

By Celestial_one on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm.

This is a very well written post on a subject that is too often seen as “negative.” Well done!

By rredhead on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8:04 am.

I completely agree with this article! Thanks for writing this and sharing your thoughts.

By mom2oneprincess on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8:11 pm.

I like this article, but something did rub me the wrong way in it, albeit not through any fault of the author: I happen to be one of those “language & delivery” sticklers too, who is probably (hyper-) sensitive to adoption being portrayed in a negative light, because I live in a country where it is looked upon as “strange” and “unnatural” and “weird”, and that is exhausting to deal with sometimes (i.e. phrases like “real mom” and “child of your own” are almost part of our daily lives). So given that we’re talking about “loaded words” - when I read the Parent Educator and Support Specialist (referenced in this article)‘s words: “...a sense that she ‘belongs,’ -even though- you didn’t give birth to her”. It was the “even though” that really got me.

-I’m actually diverging from the article, apologies!-

Are we (this community) really still thinking this stuff? In a day and age where we teach our children that non-traditional family formations aren’t “worse” or “less-okay”, but rather “just different”? I work so hard on encouraging friends’ & family’s mindsets to accept that non-biological children ARE YOUR FAMILY. PERIOD. The same way that families can have 2 mommies or 2 daddies or mental disabilities or step-grandparents or WHATEVER and still be perfectly FAMILY. Of course I’m just venting, here, but sometimes the language of adoption still bothers me. Especially when I start to rest on society’s laurels of thinking that everybody just *gets it* in the year 2012 - that pregnancy is no “better” way to have a family, and words like “even though” and “didn’t give birth” in the same sentence just irritate me.

(I’m so glad this forum exists! I’m sorry for going off-topic, and I really do appreciate this article! We’ve just had “one of those weeks”...)

By JJMK on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10:05 am.

The big problem with adoption language, positive or negative, is that every side of the triad has a different experience and perspective on which terms they prefer; even some members of the same side of the triad disagree on the right term. An example that comes to mind is the “was adopted” vs “is adopted” debate. I am adopted, I will never be not adopted so I do not use the past tense when I refer to my adoption. Being an adoptee is as much a part of me as my blue eyes, my blonde(ish) hair and my and my abnormally large feet. There are adoptees who disagree with me, those who say it does not define them so they choose to say “was adopted”. Most adoptive parents I know prefer to say “was adopted” because they consider it just the legal process and once their child is adopted, they simply are daughter or son.

I understand that some adoptive parents, mine included, do not see their adopted children as anything but their children but sometimes that can lead to a dismissive attitude of the biological origins of the adoptee. To me, it does matter where I came from, as much as it matters where I ended up, and talking about it is healthy and should be encouraged.

By EriSycamore on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 11:20 am.

Thanks for your blog post.  It is funny that so many anti adoption people get annoyed with bmom and adoptee stereotypes…as do i as a mom and wife of adoptees…but perpetuate the entitled, insecure, kidnapping, etc. stereotypes of aps.  Trust yourself and your irl support.

By mamallama on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 12:21 am.

“What we have here is a failure of communication.” I think the author of this article made a mistake by using the term “entitlement.” What she is really talking about is adoptive parents of children that they already have legally adopted feeling “entitled” to act as their parents.
What many others mean by the term, and I remember the post she is referring to (may well have been mine) is the sense/belief/inference that many prospective adoptive parents feel that they are entitled to a child that is not yet legally theirs, and that may not even have been born.”

I agree with MaryM

I certainly agree with the mother who has aleady adopted feeling “entitled” to act as their parents and so in that context, I agree with Barbara. 

In the case of the HAP expressing disappointment, it would depend on how they expressed it.  I’ve seen a couple of posters who have done so in a way that shows that they respected the mothers decision and pleased for her but feel disappointed at the loss of a dream and I have no problems with that as they are expressing hhow they feel.

However, on another thread, a commenter posted that the OP of that thread has every right to be angry at the mother for deciding to parent and, to me, that smacks of entitlement. 

I’ve also seen blogs where the mother who parented was spoken about in a nasty way as if SHE was the “baby stealer” for deciding to parent her own child and the blogger kept say “he was my son not hers”.  All the comments were along those lines, it was really quite awful. 

Just a thought to those who go through matches that don’t go through who post on public forums where expectant mothers might be browsing, I have heard other emoms say that part of why they chose to parent is because they have read “failed adoption” posts on other forums which have been so nasty that they have thought “is that what they really think of us deep down”, so it behooves everyone to be respectful to all parties when posting things online.

By katiesue on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 11:30 pm.

“To me, entitlement means being a mother in the complete sense of the word—I am the nurturer, defender, storyteller, boo-boo healer, incessant-question answerer, nail polisher, and all the other types of “-ers” you can think of when it comes to raising a child.”

Of course, you are your child’s mother in the complete sense of the word. 

However, I do dislike when people say the above in a competitive way, i.e. “I"M the one who is entitled to be called the mother because I do all the above, that person is just the person who gave birth”.  I’ve seen that a bit on another forum recently. 

What I’ve seen of your blog though Barbara, you have struck me as levelheaded and openminded so I get the impression that you are just stating a fact, i.e. that you are a mother.

By katiesue on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 11:38 pm.

My apologies all for not responding sooner—Hurricane Sandy kicked us in the shin, hard. Ouch! Power returned Friday, yet thankfully, we were safe and warm thanks to our family and friends.

Thank you all for your responses. Really thoughtful and enlightening.

I do agree the words we use are so very important. I have not read any postings in which a prospective adoptive parent said anything horrific like was indicated…. wow, truly upsetting to say the least, and, yes, that would be entitlement in its ugly sense.

I did want to say that the entitlement process of becoming a parent does take place before the adoption is finalized, well, I know it did for me. I honestly don’t know how a person can remain completely detached from the “preparing for baby” phase—choosing a name, getting the baby’s room ready, and even perhaps rooming with baby in the hospital before parental rights are terminated (that’s what happened with us). If my daughter’s biological mother chose to parent, I no doubt would have been grieving. I would have understood her choice. None the less it would have been a blow. 

Again the way someone chooses to express that pain and disappointment makes all the difference.

By Barbara Herel on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:22 am.
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Meet the Author

Barbara Herel

Barbara Herel

New York

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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