Advice for a Single Adoptive Parent

I didn’t make the decision to become a single adoptive parent lightly, but there were still some things I didn’t fully understand. Maybe these are things you don’t really get until you’re already in the thick of single parenting, but still, this is the most important advice I can give to those considering this path.

Gather your people

Parenting in any capacity is not for the faint of heart, and doing it as a single parent (though absolutely worth it) can be even more challenging. But just because you’re parenting without a partner doesn’t mean that you need to do it alone. It may be that you’re already a part of supportive family or community, but if not, now is the time to find them. These are the people who can help in practical ways (think emergency babysitters) and emotional ones (think late night phone calls when your baby won’t sleep and you can’t think of anything else to try).

It’s also helpful to connect with other people whose parenting journey looks similar to yours. This can include other single parents, but also people pursuing the same kind of adoption. Are you planning to adopt from foster care? Connect with other foster parents who also face trauma-related behaviors and a frustrating court system. If you’re pursuing international adoption, get to know others who have also adopted internationally or are doing it now, particularly from the same country. This applies to private domestic adoption, relative adoption or guardianship—whatever path you are taking to become an adoptive parent, there is a level of support and understanding that can only be offered by people who truly get it, who have walked in your shoes.

Don’t worry about other people’s expectations

Many people will see you with your adopted child and make assumptions, some of which may not be flattering. Sometimes these are just awkward encounters (like a salesperson asking if your child gets his curly hair from his father), and sometimes they are absolutely frustrating (like trying to explain to a passport official that your child really only has one parent). That’s okay—you don’t owe them any explanations.

Speaking of expectations, you might have to relax yours as well. You are only one person; you can’t do everything, and you certainly shouldn’t feel like you need to. It’s okay to outsource some stuff in order to focus on the things only you can do (i.e. you can be the parent and let someone else clean the house).

One more word about expectations: for many single people who adopt, parenthood hasn’t come in the way or time you might have expected. Those dreams may be a loss you have to grieve. Take the time to do that, and then celebrate what is beautiful about your story and the way your family was built.

The bottom line

Don’t be afraid to jump in. Being a single parent, and especially a single adoptive parent, has its challenges, but the end result is worth it. If you’re a single adoptive parent, what would you add to this list? What advice would you give someone considering adopting as a single person?