“But you wanted this.”
These are the words I heard as I sat down with a huff after a rough temper tantrum my son had just thrown. The bad comes with all the good. It’s part of being a parent, right? So why do I feel especially guilty when complaining about parenting woes? Does being an adoptive parent negate me from being allowed to experience hardships? Am I expected to be perfect?
The rough days may be incredibly stressful, but I wouldn’t trade the real-life experience of parenting this little boy for the world! The glass of red wine at the end of a long day or the long talk at the park with a girlfriend are some of the passages of parenthood. When people sing me praise for adopting our son, I feel like it further exasperates the falsehood that I am perfect. I make mistakes. I lose my cool. I dress him in mismatched socks when running late. I feed him chicken nuggets two days in a row. I buy toys to stop a fit from being thrown in the store. I let him watch far too much TV. And sometimes I make the easy choice instead of the right choice. I am not perfect – so why do I hold myself to that expectation?
I am not immune to bad decisions or selfish ways because I am adoptive parent. Being an adoptive parent means I put money aside to afford myself the ability to have a private adoption when my husband and I couldn’t grow our family the traditional way. It means I passed a background check that said I wasn’t a psycho (my husband sometimes disagrees) or an axe murderer. My house passed an inspection that I spent weeks stressing out over. I built a profile book that spoke to all the qualities I thought we could offer a child while trying to remain humble. But, I am flawed.
I don’t know if I hold myself to higher expectations, if society holds me to higher expectations, or if I am imagining all of this. But sometimes I feel like my life is under a microscope. My husband doesn’t seem to share the same sentiment as me. He is slightly disconnected from caring what anyone thinks, I wish I possessed that gift. I overanalyze. I hear the whispers and comments. I see the adoption remarks. I feel like there is so much expectation of gratitude wrapped up in adoption that sometimes it’s hard to just be a normal family. But we are normal. We have wet beds, bonks to the head, and mouths to be fed. We make sacrifices. I am no more perfect than the single mom across the street, nor is my child less likely to make huge errors in judgement. Sometimes I hover as a parent and sometimes I give too much independence. Just like any other mother, I wasn’t given a parenting handbook.
What about the world of open adoption? This may make us even more prone to feel the need to strive for excellence. Every injury, illness, work lay-off, or other hardship my family experiences, I worry about being under a microscope. Am I failing at providing the life they envisioned for their son? But then I remind myself that perfection wasn’t ever the goal in their placement. Learning is something I can provide our son. When struck with hardships, I can provide education. How I handle the hard times may not always be the best for the event, but it was the best I could in the moment. What did I learn? What did it teach my son?
Take a deep breath. Say to yourself, “I’ve got this. I am doing my best. My children are loved.” You are not expected to be a superhero. Adoption doesn’t automatically put us on a pedestal, and it’s okay to step from it with purpose if we don’t want to be there.
The next time someone says, “You are such a saint.” reply humbly, “Thank you for thinking that, but you should know, I have done nothing special, I’m just a mother.” And with that, find comfort that you belong in the mom group of parenting woes. Enjoy that.