I’m a real mom. More than that, I’m a real mom through adoption. Why? I’m a real mom because “Momming” is what I do each day from sun up to sun down (and sometimes in the middle of the night).

From the second I became a mom through adoption right up until and beyond this very moment I’ve been real and will continue to be real. Just in the same way that I am a real daughter, sister, wife, friend, and writer among other things.

It’s really weird writing these words, but at the same time, the issue of whether or not adoptive parents (adoptive moms tend to be especially singled out), continues to come up by some in the media and elsewhere. And so I thought I’d throw in my two cents. Why? Because for one it’s kind of rude. And for another, it’s hurtful to children who were adopted who consider their adoptive parent(s) to be real.

To be completely honest, the concept of titles or prefixes has never been a big deal to me. I did not decide to adopt to attain the title of mom. I adopted to become a mom to someone who needed one—to someone who for whatever circumstances in life brought them there did not have one. I did not adopt to become something, but rather to become someone for someone else. 

If you’re not a mom yet, that may sound completely and utterly vague and useless. But to those who embrace the role that motherhood truly is–you know that the term mom is not as glamorous and or as “all that” as some may believe. Most moms I know didn’t become moms whether biologically or through adoption to gain entry to bounce houses, soccer fields, or any of the other commercially and socially-pushed mom narratives where everyone is smiling and everything is perfect.

Another thing, being a mom is not a resume builder–if you’re doing it right. Rather, it’s an unconditional sort of love and, to some degree, a sacrifice that may or may not be returned. It is something you do without expectation; it is someone you become in the small, unnoticed moments that nobody other than you may be aware of–because the result of your actions is growing and nurturing another human being. It’s not always pretty and social media-worthy. Early mornings, late nights, and full days kind of sound like the worst job ever. 

Mama, Mommy, Mom, Bruh

At least with a little one, you start out as a mama. The first time your child says this word, it hits right to your heart. It’s not so much the word, but the connection it represents. This little being recognizes and is reacting and responding to your love—your bond. As time goes by and they get a little older, the word may change even if how much they rely on you doesn’t.

The idea of being a real mom has always somewhat annoyed me as my job is to care for my children, not to waste time and energy justifying a title.

Maybe it’s because I’m more of an actions-speak-louder-than-words person. But honestly, what anybody other than my children think of me or calls me in no way impacts the view I have of myself. 

More than any other reason, though, the main reason why I’m a real mom through adoption is because my kids say so. 

As with most of the heavy adoption-related things our family has navigated through, I’ve always tried to let the child voice be the main voice: the lead voice, with myself in a supporting role to their needs. This is why we’ve had discussions on mom and dad titles. Because even though it’s never been a huge issue within our home, I’m well aware the discussion takes place outside of these walls and that navigating life as an adoptee can be confusing. Especially when your experience may not be the same as other adoptees or other adoptive families.

Recognizing the Complexity of Adoption is a Good Thing

As an adult, I know my children’s lives are more complex due to adoption—even if they may not yet have completely grasped that concept. I know this because I don’t live in a vacuum, but rather through relationships with birth moms, other adoptive families, and adoptees. I learned about adoption before I became an adoptive mom: the pros and cons, the good and bad, the “all of it.”

Even without first-hand experience, through research, education, and reaching, it is possible to become familiar with all sides of the adoption community. It’s not always an easy pill to swallow–the heavier, not-so-light realities, beliefs, and opinions. But it’s important to recognize they exist and to learn and grow from those who have walked the adoption journey before you–no matter the shoes.

And it’s okay, friends, to slip up. I’m not going to lose it if you refer to my children’s birth family as their real family. Want to know why? 

Because they’re real, too. Very real. In fact, without them, I couldn’t and wouldn’t be an adoptive mom to my children. 

I don’t like to speak for my children as it’s their story to tell. But I will say that what one of my children feels, another may not—sometimes even within the same family. And that’s all right. As humans, we are all individuals and experience things in different ways. 

Talking About Adoption Early is Key

It is up to us as adoptive parents to respect our child’s feelings about their adoption. 

One way to make sure they are able to grow in a healthy way is to make the adoption conversation an easy one as early as possible. Remove any barriers they may feel exist and let them know their feelings matter and are valid.

You adopted a child. It is your responsibility to acknowledge that adoption in a way that helps them feel comfortable, heard, and free to work through their feelings without worrying about hurting yours.

Be Who Your Child Needs

I love my children with my whole heart—more than can be expressed through words. I love them through actions and they know this. We may not always see eye to eye on the typical day-to-day things parents and children–families–struggle with, but that’s okay, too. I don’t see eye to eye with my biological mom on everything and that doesn’t make our relationship any less valid.

I would suggest to any adoptive mom struggling with her identity to simply stop and do the work instead. Don’t take it personally if someone brings up the real vs., I guess, not real conversation. Don’t be shaken by the biological vs. adoptive language commentary. Take that energy and put it into being the best parent for your child who needs you to be their rock (in a world where far too many people are throwing stones). 

Let your relationship speak for itself.