Saturday, 23 August 2014

The pressure of parenting in a family formed by adoption

(I wrote most of this over a year ago, but had never finished it.  A lot of things have changed since then, but I thought I would publish it anyway because it poses some important questions and food for thought.  Thanks for reading.)

Lately, I've seen numerous articles talking about how we need forget about the myth of "what makes a good mother" and embrace our fallible, often mistaking, self-embarrassing mothering selves.  One of those examples is here.

It always makes me ponder about the differences between parenting a biological child vs. parenting a child who was adopted.

As an adoptive mom, do I come more under scrutiny?  Or does it just feel that way???

I feel the need to constantly display good parenting skills (and even justifying them, if necessary) when in public.  This is a common feeling amongst mothers.  However, when I go through this, it is more than "I hope they don't think I'm a bad mother".  There is the added dimension of "I hope they don't wonder why I was allowed to adopt".

I doubt most bio moms think "I hope they don't wonder why I was blessed with this child".  Perhaps most of them never even realized how blessed they were to have that child.  When you've had to spend years of energy, money and sanity proving that you are going to be a fit parent, your child becomes a bit of a prize. It's like an NHL Team who has worked their butts off and finally wins the Stanley Cup.  There is always an expectation, the following season, that they will come out with a bang.  If they don't people wonder what happened.  What went wrong, what changes did they make, would they have won it if they had made those changes the year before?

Or think of beauty competitions-the winner has a reign for a year, and if it is discovered that she does something or has done something in the past that is less than respectable, she is shunned and sometimes, her crown is even stripped away.

Let's say I win an Apple Pie Baking contest at my local fair.  If I am seen buying pies at my local store a few weeks later, won't people wonder if I bought the one that won?

All those things seem fair to me.  So when I look at all we did to be able to adopt our amazing, perfect, wonderful daughter, she feels like a prize sometimes.  We worked so hard to grow our family, and we were rewarded for our heartache and hard work with this amazing kid.  (Alright adoptive parents-stop judging me.  I know this is not about me, its about her.  She is not a prize or a possession.  She is a human being who has suffered loss and tragedy and when I talk about her in this way, I trivialize that.  I know.  YOU can stop judging me too).

So it's clear I feel judged.  When I hobble off the bus with my daughter, I feel people are judging me for wanting to parent a child when I am having so many mobility issues myself.  When I take her to McDonald's I think they're judging me because I am overweight and she is so skinny ("for now", I think they must say).  When she asks me a question that I find embarrassing, I think that they're judging me for the way I raise her.
But I also feel judged by the adoption community.  I feel judged when I wish someone a happy "Gotcha Day" because even though we don't use that expression, some people do, and others feel it is inappropriate.  I feel judged when I even take the bus because "shouldn't I have enough money for a car if I adopted internationally?" (For the record, we do own a car, but in our city, buses are way more convenient).  I feel judged when I talk about our family dynamics, about our finances or about our values, because they may not match other people's.  I feel judged when I talk about our daughter and the fact that our family was formed by adoption, always afraid of using the wrong adoption-friendly language, because it may appear that I am stupid or that I don't care.  I feel judged when I try to correct my mother-in-law's inappropriate adoption language and she thinks I'm overreacting.  I feel judged when I talk about adopting again because my physical health is not the greatest and I'm afraid people will not feel that I can be a good mom even with debilitating arthritis (my mom sure was!).

So WHY do I feel so judged?

Regrettably, I think it is because I am a very judgmental person myself.  But interestingly, I think I am only judgmental when it comes to parenting.  Especially when I see people who would, quite universally, be seen as "bad" parents.  Woman comes on to the bus with a large stroller carrying a young child.  The child has a messy shirt, chocolate all over the lower half of his face, and is screaming like a banshee, rocking his stroller back and forth, clearly looking for attention.  Mom is busy texting someone on her cel phone.  When the child reaches for the cel-phone, she shouts at him, maybe even grabbing his hand, pushing it back towards him and telling him to sit back, and shut up and that she is busy.  I judge.  I wonder why God would bless her with a biological (presumably-because if she had adopted she would surely be a better parent-how snooty of me...) child and not me?  It seems I feel I am so much better than this stranger about whom I know nothing.  I have made a judgment exclusively on what I saw of this person in 10-15 minutes.  I never even spoke to her.

I hate that I am so judgmental.  Maybe that's why I think I'm being judged all the time.  I hate that feeling, and wonder, if I became less judgmental, would I feel less judged?

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