I’m Not Perfect, Just a Parent

Are there higher expectations for adoptive parents?

Sarah M. Baker October 02, 2017
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“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.

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Sarah M. Baker

Sarah is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and passionate about teaching others the power of open adoption. She is very active in the adoption community, where she spends a lot of time advocating as the founder of Heart For Open Adoption. She is the mom of two boys in addition to parenting her niece. She is a mother biologically and through domestic infant open adoption. Sarah promotes adoption education and ethical adoptions. She and her husband were featured on Season 2 of Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby,” which tells the story of their first adoption match failing. Sarah hopes to bring her personal experience to you and help anyone who wants more information about adoption to find it with ease. Though it was once a taboo subject, Sarah hopes to make adoption something people are no longer afraid to talk about. You can learn more about Sarah and her family on her blog.

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