Holidays Every Adoptive Parent-To-Be Dreads (and How to Deal)

Family-centered holidays can be hard for adoptive parents-to-be, but there are ways to deal with the heartbreak.

Rachel Garlinghouse March 30, 2015
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Because many holidays center around family traditions and activities, these times can be very difficult for adoptive parents-to-be who do not have any children. Here is a list of some especially difficult holidays:

New Year’s Day: New Year’s is difficult for those waiting to adopt because it’s the day they start a fresh calendar and a fresh reminder that they still aren’t parents.  Meanwhile, everyone is celebrating and making resolutions. New Year’s Eve is often a night reserved for parties with friends, friends who might ask how the adoption wait is going.  Though the intent is kind, the reminders of a child who has not yet arrived can sting!

Valentine’s Day: Though the day is supposed to have a romantic focus, as with most holidays, children have become the primary focus. While adoptive parents-to-be walk up and down store aisles, they see cartoon Valentines intended for children to pass out to classmates; they see cheap toys meant to be gifted from parents to children; and they see specially designed candy packs for children to disperse to friends.

April Fool’s Day: Though not a big holiday for most, April Fool’s Day is when many women jokingly post on social media that they are pregnant.  This can be incredibly hurtful to those who have struggled with infertility and failed adoptions.  It’s a day I know that many adoptive parents-to-be steer clear of social media.

Easter: Everywhere adoptive parents-to-be look there are Easter baskets, adorable little Sunday-best Easter outfits, and advertisements for Easter egg hunts.  Easter is also a holiday when many families gather together, and adoptive parents-to-be can count on being asked about their adoption journey while sitting around the dinner table.

Mother’s Day/Father’s Day: For obvious reasons, not being a mother or father during the holiday designated to honoring and celebrating parents can be disheartening.  Like other holidays, Mother’s or Father’s Day involves greeting cards bouquets of flowers, jewelry, and apparel.   Parents-to-be cannot necessary opt-out of the holiday because they have their own parents and grandparents to celebrate.

Fourth of July:  Fireworks are fun, especially sparklers and smoke bombs, the things popular among children.  Most Fourth of July celebrations are family-friendly events, so adoptive parents-to-be will find themselves surrounded by children and kid-geared activities.

Halloween:  Halloween is another holiday that is centered on children.  There are the rows and rows of costume displays at your local store, the bags of candy, and the costume contests.  Trick-or-treating may be something parents-to-be opt out of participating in by keeping their porch lights off.

Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful for all of one’s blessings.  However, Thanksgiving can entail family get-togethers where parents-to-be may be asked multiple times about their adoption wait.  Meanwhile, the kids are giggling from the children’s table heaped with steaming turkey, mashed potatoes, and grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie.

Hanukkah and Christmas:  These are two major holidays for many that involve weeks (even months) of preparation, gifts, activities, and traditions (many of which are deeply rooted in family).  This is yet another season when adoptive parents-to-be will likely be getting together with loved ones and asked what is going on with their adoption journey.  These holidays are often particularly difficult for those waiting to adopt because they occur near the end of a calendar year, reminding the prospective parents that they still do not have a child.

There are several ways that parents-to-be may choose to deal with these holidays:

— Go on a vacation (get out of dodge!) or plan a stay-cation.
— Create a new tradition.
— Attend or host adult-only events and celebrations.
— Volunteer for a local establishment that benefits the elderly, homeless, or disabled.
— Check in with your adoption support group.
— Take up a new hobby that gets you out of the house (and away from social media).
— Date your partner.
— Set time limits when you do attend celebrations.  Having a “deadline” and an exit strategy makes the time you are present more bearable.

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Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of "Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children," "Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays," and "Encouragement for the Adoption Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal" (co-authored with Madeleine Melcher). Rachel's adoption education and experience has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post Live,, Babble, Scary Mommy, Portrait of Adoption, Slow Mama, I Am Not the Babysitter, and more. Rachel is a mom of three children, adopted domestically and transracially. Learn more about her family's adventures at White Sugar, Brown Sugar or on Twitter @whitebrownsugar.

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