By: LMI guest blogger, Erin Herman
John Lennon once famously wrote,
There's Nothing You Can Do That Can't Be Done, All You Need Is Love.
Well, that may have been true for old Lenny, but I am willing to bet he never adopted a baby as a single parent. Those of us that have been down that road know that, while love is crucial, it isn't all you need. You have to have energy, education, patience, financial stability, health, and, maybe most importantly of all, a strong support system.
The old African proverb says It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. Support systems, like villages, come in many shapes and forms. Some of us depend on sisters, brothers, neighbors and coworkers. Others rely on our church family and friends. Still others join cyber-support groups. When I began my adoption process, I knew I would need to rely on my friends and family to help ease the transition into Single Mamahood, but I had no idea how much I would come to count on my other village, my tight-knit group of Single Adoptive Moms, for support and guidance through the roller coaster of adopting and parenting as a single Mama.
We originally met three years ago through (where else?) Facebook, finding each other on our agency's fan page. When we realized we were all in the Cincinnati area, and all adopting babies from the same Central Asian country, we immediately started getting together for weekly lunches. In those early days, we would sit around nice restaurants, leisurely dawdling over coffee and salads, discussing dossiers and social workers. Flash forward to present day, where we meet every Sunday at a different kind of restaurant. It's loud, chaotic, and and not a white table cloth in sight. Yes, we now meet at a McDonald's Playland, swapping parenting tips and hand me down clothes as we simultaneously kiss boo boos and refill the juice cups of our beautiful children.
My single adoptive mom friends understand me in a way that others do not. They understand how physically, emotionally, and financially draining this alternative path to parenting can be. They understand my commitment to my child's cultural education, and my need for her to know and love her birth country. They have been there for me through the challenging times and through the rewarding ones, too. When I traveled overseas to adopt my daughter, I talked to them almost every day. From 7500 miles away, they shared my joy, and allayed my fears.
" What if she doesn't ever feel like my daughter?" I worried. "
" She will." they insisted.
And of course, we all laughed knowingly over Skype, when, just hours later, I danced joyfully around my apartment with my daughter in my arms, whistling "Yes Sir, That's My Baby." Because of course, she was.
Being a single mom is hard. We are given TWO biological parents for a reason. Someone to drive, someone to navigate. Someone to cook, and someone to do the dishes. Still, most of the time, everything goes according to plan. It is possible to independently juggle a job, a child, a house, etc. and not feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I even make it to the gym every once and a while. But then there are those days when I oversleep and the car doors are frozen shut and the dog is sick and the baby is teething. It is on those days that I reach for the phone and call my village. And they are there, without judgment or hesitation, validating me and supporting me as I navigate the I'm Not Super Mom Guilt Complex that inevitably comes with single parenting. My support system of friends has also helped me see the advantages of single parenting. As my single-adoptive-mom friend E famously says,
"Yes, single parenting is hard, but I like that I don't have to constantly compromise with someone else on all the parenting decisions. If I decide its stay-in-our-pajamas-eat-cupcakes-and-watch-cartoons Day, who is gonna stop me?!"
A valid point, but also it is important to remember that it is not a sign of her weakness or an indication of failure to reach out for assistance and support. After all, it was John Lennon who also famously wrote, I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends. While I love my Single Adoptive Mom friends, we don't agree on everything. One of us is religious, the others are not. One of us doesn't let her child watch any TV, I've been known to let my 18 month old watch a minute or two of The Bachelor (please don't tell my social worker). But we do agree on one thing. Being a single parent is the toughest job we have ever loved, we wouldn't have it any other way.
Dalton, age 3, Hannah age 1, and Kamilla, age 2, all adopted from Kazakhstan through Little Miracles.