Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dear Sugar: 5 Questions to Ask When Making Parenting Decisions After an Adoption

Dear Sugar:

Is it OK to breastfeed or comfort nurse a baby I adopt? What about vaccinations?  Preschool or childcare?  Circumcision? Naming?  Attachment parenting?  Diapering?  

Becoming a parent for the first time is overwhelming, but becoming a parent via adoption puts on a whole extra level of pressure, expectations, and dilemmas.   I talk about Super Parent Syndrome in my first book: the idea that since you're a mom-by-adoption, you need to live up to it (says society, says relatives and friends, says birth family, says yourself and your partner).   But the truth is, you really are JUST a parent:  you'll have your strengths and faults, and living to impress others will leave you deflated and discouraged.  

I want to encourage you, when facing a parenting decision, not to make your choice out of guilt, suspicion, guessing, projecting, or to impress others.  Instead, ask yourself these five questions, and you'll most likely arrive at what is right.

The five questions to ask, in no particular order, and why they matter are:

1:  What did you and the birth family agree to (if anything)?  

I'm a big believer in keeping your promises.  Trust is EVERYTHING to a healthy relationship. Whether you have an ongoing, open adoption with the birth family or not, you need to think about what you agreed to when you did have communication.  Remember, you were chosen by the birth family for a reason.   Perhaps some of that reason was rooted in what you and the birth family agreed to.  This question is not just about your obligation to the birth family, but to your child, who was placed with you.  Your choices today have a forever impact on tomorrow.   

2:  What does THIS baby, in THIS situation, need most?  

Adoption and parenting is never one-size-fits all.  What does your child need in the situation he or she is in?  You likely have a good idea what the answer is.  Now you just have to have, as I talk about in my new book, the courage and conviction to do the right thing for your child:  because that's what a good mom does!  

3:  What did you promise the birth family?

Perhaps you never met the birth family, but you made a series of promises in your profile book or letter you wrote to them.   What did you promise?  Even if your promises were more broad, say "I promise to be a warm and thoughtful mom," that's a promise to consider when making day-to-day parenting choices.  Now I'm not saying this to burden you: meaning, I'm not telling you to live under a sea of guilt and uncertainty for your entire parenting journey.  I am, however, reminding you of the magnitude of promises:  they matter.  

4:  What do the experts recommend?

In some situations, you need to do your research.  Now, this can be incredibly overwhelming and confusing.   And of course, "experts" is subjective.  Some consider fellow (but more experienced) moms to be the experts.  Some consider the highly educated (say, a pediatrician) to be the expert.  It really depends on the question you are asking.  But it's rare that a question needs an immediate answer, a situation needs an immediate decision.  Take your time and find out what's best for YOUR child.  

5:  What is your mommy-gut telling you?  

I know it's really hard sometimes, as a new mom (especially by adoption, where the expectations are HIGH), to find out what is RIGHT.   But instead of pressuring yourself to make the "right choice," how about slowing down, refocusing, and asking yourself, "What is my mommy-gut telling me?" You were chosen to parent your child.  You have the responsibility to be still and listen to your God-given mommy instinct.  It's likely you already know the answer to your question of "what should I do?" 

Sugar, I believe in you (I tell you this time and time again in my new book).  I know that you're working your mommy-butt off to do the right things, in the right ways, in the right time.   I am here to encourage you!   

What choice are you facing right now?  Which of these questions is helping you make that decision?  Let's chat on Facebook!  

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