How to Recognize Adoption Burnout – And What to do About It

Are you tired?

Whenever you think about filling out your adoption paperwork, do you feel lethargic, maybe even apathetic?

Do you want a child desperately, and yet can’t bring yourself to do anything proactive regarding your adoption plans?

You could be suffering from what is known as “adoption burnout.”

Not long ago, I realized I was suffering from . . . something . . . but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was in the middle of a lot of great projects and activities. I felt upbeat and full of energy. And yet, when it was time to update our profile, or sign a paper, or send that email off . . . anything to do with our adoption felt like a chore, when in reality it was something very simple. But psychologically, it felt like the heaviest task and one that was impossible to complete. And so I didn’t even want to start. I couldn’t figure it out. What was my problem?

Burnout.

I’ve felt it before with other things in my life. We organize a large fundraiser every year that involves the community. Heading that up is no simple feat, and yet, year after year we do it. And it’s really fun! This past year, however, was challenging, and by the end of the event I had a hard time writing those thank you letters to sponsors and others in the community who supported the event. There were many tiny little tasks to complete, but I had a hard time bringing myself to actually doing them. I was burned out. My energy stores were depleted and I didn’t want to finish. It sounded so much better to just forget it all and move on. But, that’s not the responsible thing . . . so I finished.

I did it. And I felt better afterward.

When our daughter was young, she was having a lot of medical problems. After months of 20 seizures a day, I was tired. I made it through each day, but by bedtime, I was spent. I was in pure survival mode. Makeup—and some days even showers—were a luxury I longer cared about. I was too emotionally exhausted to care about anything in my physical world. Paperwork, phone calls to the doctors and insurance company, church responsibilities, etc. I was burned out.

I find that I feel this way when I have lost my sense of hope . . . when things aren’t turning out quite like I imagined, and I begin to wonder what the point is in my efforts.

But I did it. I took care of what needed to be done. And afterward, I always felt better.

Sometimes burnout just happens. It creeps up on us. We are doing fine, then all of a sudden, we are done. We feel we can’t go on. Of course we can, but it feels so difficult. In the adoption world, there are lists that always need to be checked off. Before you even have a child, there are lists full of assignments to be done before you can be home study approved and ready.

After placement, there are mental lists—those things you know you need to do to keep in touch with birth family and keep everyone included. You want to do those things. Aside from being important, you have a deep desire to keep your adoption open and loving and happy. And yet sometimes it feels onerous to pick up your hands and type up that email and attach the pictures, or make that phone call. If you are a birth mother, perhaps burnout sneaks up on you when are telling your story for the fiftieth time in the past twenty-four hours, or when you aren’t included in a family event for your birth son/daughter . . . again. It’s more than frustrating, it’s emotionally exhausting, and you just want to shut it all out.

I find that I feel this way when I have lost my sense of hope . . . when things aren’t turning out quite like I imagined, and I begin to wonder what the point is in my efforts. That’s when I begin to feel burned out.

But what can we do about it?

1. Push Through. It’s way easier said than done, but whenever I have pushed through and done what needs to be done, I feel a huge sense of relief because IT’S DONE and I no longer have to even think about it anymore. Furthermore, I’d say when it comes to adoption burnout, I would argue that pushing through is for a really good cause, whether it’s to find the right baby for your family, or keep a family together.

2. Distraction. I have a lot of interests. Sometimes, just distracting myself for a bit, even a week, gives me that boost to go back to what it is that needs to get done. I feel renewed by allowing myself the time to focus my attention on something else, so when I return to filling out those papers or fixing our profile, I feel fresh.

3. Find Gratitude. There is something fundamentally profound about gratitude. It changes hearts. In my experience, no matter what my problem is when I start remembering and then focusing on those things in my life that I am grateful for . . . I am happier, I am more optimistic, and my burdens feel lighter.

What have you done that helps lift you when you feel exhausted and just plain…burned out?