African American woman consoling her adopted baby in the kitchen.Over the holidays, I attended a brunch. I knew most of the people there since I grew up with our host Leslie. I remembered coming to this home as a child, then as a college student, a young adult and, finally, as a parent. I had a great time catching up with old friends and was reminded that motherhood had interfered with some of my close friendships, including with Leslie. 

With one child, I still managed to go out. Not a lot, but one child was easy to take around town. I even kept hair appointments, arrived to Pilates on-time, and traveled.

Not so with two children. The arrival of my sweet girl stretched thin once close unions, and happy hours or short trips went by the wayside. Becoming a parent affects all relationships, and the added spice of becoming an adoptive parent was an instant game changer.

I adopted from the foster care system, which required social worker and birth family visits. This took up enormous amounts of time, energy and headspace, leaving precious little time to spend with non-immediate family or those offering support (like babysitting).

Kid-focused conversations became my default, because parents have a hard time not talking about their kids. For friends without children, I imagine that gets old and uninteresting and our complaints about being exhausted sound like excuses. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day, and whatever is left over is generally not enough to nurture friendships or hobbies. This is not an adoptive mom phenomenon; this is the parenting matrix of young children. And though I missed my old life, my new normal was an all-encompassing love fest of two children I did not birth.

While it is no secret that my kids are adopted, I was surprised when, at brunch, Leslie introduced me as an adoptive mother to a successful woman business owner. Like me, the woman was single and African American though she had no children. I assumed they have discussed adoption and Leslie was trying to make a connection. I smiled but cringed a little on the inside. I have been a parent for almost a decade and forget that my kids are adopted. I love talking about adoption but would have preferred that their parentage come up organically.

A few months ago, my aunt and I were meeting with an attorney and, out of nowhere, she also announced that I was an adoptive mother. I know that Leslie and my aunt are proud that I was fearless or crazy enough to adopt solo, but their introductions insinuated that either I was not a real mother or that I deserved a prize. I deserve neither, as the adoptive qualifier is only for legal purposes.

As you can see, some adoptive moms are sensitive. We do not want to be known as an “adoptive” parent because it separates us from our children and diminishes everything we endured to join the mom club. It suggests that we are imposters and our efforts carry less weight than biological mothers. Like natural moms, we struggle with time management, worry our kids will grow up to hate us, pray our daughter scores the winning goal and that we survive the terrible twos, twisted threes, and funny fours.

We spend so much time immersed in the duties of motherhood that the creation of our family unit through adoption is irrelevant. I know this feeling well and want people to know that being referred to as an “adoptive” mom pulls me up short. Luckily, I don’t stay in that space long, knowing that the toddler giving herself an oatmeal facial is indeed mine.

If you want to read some additional perspectives, here are three articles written by adoptive mothers who, like me, want others to know how they feel:

About Nefertiti Austin

Nefertiti Austin is a certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at mommiejonesing.com, and writes about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her children in Los Angeles.

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