Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Becca Gruenspan
The term Single Mother by Choice (SMC) is a funny one to me. Yes, ultimately it was my choice to adopt a baby on my own, but was it really what I would have chosen? No. I wanted to be married with a large family. To go on vacations together and return to our comfortable home with enough bedrooms for all. Yah, so “choice,” uh, not REALLY!
Most of my fellow (touché) SMC’s are over 40 as well, which presented another set of questions that arose when I was making the decision to embark on this thing called single motherhood. Namely…
- Will there be anyone my age with young kids who I will be able to relate to and hang with?
- If not, am I ok hanging out with other moms in their 20’s and 30’s – are they ok hanging out with me???? Maybe that’s the real question. Eh, I can pass for 35 – or so I keep telling myself.
- Will I have energy to raise a child? Let’s be real, when he is 15, I will be approaching 60. Not exactly what I had in mind when I dreamt about what my family would look like. My parents were 22 when they had me. I always thought I’d be a young mom too. Turns out, I’m just young at heart.
- How will I raise my son to be a good man? After all, what do I know from being a man? I grew up with two sisters. Will he have sufficient male role models, will I fall in love after all (I’m still hoping so). How will not having a father impact my child?
- Will I stay healthy? I’m all he has!
- Do I have the right support system in place?
These are serious questions to consider. Ultimately, I decided I was enough and had what I needed to be a “good” (well, that’s loaded term) mom.
Thankfully I live in the big city of Chicago, where it’s probably been a lot easier for me to build my tribe. Surprisingly, there are a lot of women in my life my age with young children – usually a second or third child as opposed to their first.
I have the privilege of having a large and active SMC group where I’ve met some of the most supportive women – some of whom have become my closest friends. This support has been extremely helpful to me and I can’t imagine doing this on my own without this tribe who make me feel “normal.”
Let’s talk about the question of energy. I am now 48 years old (I mean 35) and struggling with peri-menopause. For those of you who don’t know what that looks like, let me paint a picture…My hormones are all out of whack, I’m ravenous all-the-time and hence, have gained over 20 pounds – my son has told me more than once that I have a baby in my tummy and plays with it (that’s lovely), I’m tired and I don’t even want to talk about the night sweats!!
I’ve become a bit of a hypochondriac too. Being a single mom without backup if, God forbid, something were to happen to me, is something I worry about. So I am constantly trying to teach my son what to do in case of emergency, which just freaks him out. Now every time I’m five minutes late picking him up from after-care at school, he thinks I died. Great! I try to eat healthy (but then there’s that peri-menopause thing I’m grappling with) and work out, which is not always easy because of the lower energy and, oh, I own my own business to boot. And of course I stress out about finding time to give my son enough attention.
Ah, attention as a single mom. All he wants is for me to play. There’s laundry piling up, dirty dishes in the sink, my floors are covered in toys and I run my own business to keep us afloat. And he wants my attention. Right. OK. Yah, let’s play Legos together or a quick game of Go-Fish. I’m just not the creative “project” mom and when it comes to homework – oy, homework! It becomes a battle.
Do I really want what little unstructured interaction we have during the week to be consumed by an argument? Nope. So, don’t do your homework. Maybe I’ll outsource for that – there’s gotta be someone else better at this.
But we sure do love snuggling on the couch to watch a TV show. He’s an affectionate little guy who loves his mommy. We love to cuddle and morning tickle time is our favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I do love throwing a baseball around with him, but I can only do that so much.
I have found that the best thing to do with and for my active 7-year-old boy is to get out of the house! We tend to do a lot of activities and play dates (for him and me). Often, it includes drinking wine with another mom while our kids play. That counts, right? And signing him up for sports is a win-win – usually also filling that void of being around male role models while getting out some good built-up energy.
I can’t tell you how important having an adoption community has been to both my son and me. I know how crucial it is for him to see other families like ours and I need other adoptive parents to run things by and share with. As an adoption professional myself (that’s my business), I sometimes find it challenging to seek out answers to my own personal issues around adoption on Facebook groups or other public forums.
There is a fine line between personal and professional and I struggle with how that should mix. I tend to seek out people and build my own community of support and use the awesome Facebook groups to continue learning from others.
As an “older” mother, sometimes I feel as if I don’t fit in. My son also struggles with not fitting in. Thankfully not about how old his mom is (at least not yet). Usually, he struggles because he looks different (he’s Hispanic and I’m white, which is another layer) or because he doesn’t have a father and/or siblings.
He desperately longs to fit in and have what most others seem to have, and he is very vocal about it. In fact, for years he told people about his dad and siblings – I would often have to tell his teachers that those people don’t exist in real life.
The nice thing about having always been single is that I don’t feel the need to hide my dating life… Not that it’s anything to talk about. I can show him that I’d love for him to have a daddy too and I’m trying…for both of us. I also stress that if that doesn’t happen, he and I make a great team! Although sometimes dating is just one more thing I have to make time for and frankly, my life is pretty full and happy. We share all the cuddles and unconditional love every single day.
Being a single mom is so much work, and yet I’ve noticed that, as the only adult in the home, there is no arguing or negotiating over who has to do what or how things should be. I do it all and still sometimes feel I’m better off than some of my married friends.
For any woman who hasn’t found a life partner and does not want to give up on her dream of being a parent, my personal journey has taught me to ask yourself the hard questions that really, only you can answer. Don’t let other people’s opinions and judgments sway you. Make sure you can provide for your child and connect with a great support system, whether that includes friends or family.
I asked myself the hard questions as I prepared to become a parent to the most amazing little guy in the world. I found that being an older mom has its benefits and yes, I can absolutely do it on my own. I wouldn’t change my situation for anything.
Rebecca Gruenspan is the Founder and Chief Consultant of RG Adoption Consulting (www.rgadoptionconsulting.com). She and her team help guide hopeful adoptive parents from across the United States, through the domestic adoption process. Their goals are to help hopeful parent(s) reduce their stress, mitigate their risks and bring their baby home as quickly as possible. Rebecca resides with her son in Evanston, IL.
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Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter