Adoption and maintaining a career

(37 Posts)
booksshoescats Tue 26-Mar-13 11:34:50

I have a rather 'how-long-is-a-piece-of-string' question regarding the possibility of how realistic it is to think I'll be able to maintain my career after adopting a child. I think I am as realistic as it is possible to be about what is involved without having yet embarked on the process (i.e probably not very smile) and I do realise that it is not possible, with all the good will in the world, to judge how much (and what kind of) care and attention a child will need until they have been with you for a while, and even then they may develop needs along the way (e.g. at school age/as teenagers) that they did not have as a two- or three-year-old, which is the age we would hope to adopt.

DH and I have birth DD age 4 and are potentially planning to embark on the process of applying to an LA in around 18 months' time. We have done a lot of legwork in terms of an LA that might take us on, and had a very promising face-to-face meeting with a lovely senior SW, who seemed favourable to us and advised us that when we were ready we should come back to her directly, could skip info events and she would have a SW come to see us and we could take it from there.

I am pretty sure this is what I want, DH slightly less so although very open to the idea. I am not attached to having another BC, and have always wanted to adopt, he is still not quite there as he would, in an ideal world, like another baby (although not desperate). I am 40 he is 46, though, so time running out for BC in any case.

Anyway, if you've read this far (thank you), the only sticking point I can see for me - and I am really giving this a lot of thought - is that I love my job/career, and can't see myself ever being able to give it up. It forms a very strong part of my identity and I don't think I could bear to go completely freelance or do less than three days a week. I work in a very female industry, where it is common for women to take a year for mat leave, so adoption leave wouldn't be a problem - it's more a case of what happens afterwards.

DH likes his job/career, but not attached in the way that I am. We have always done equal childcare (in fact he did more until recently and is an amazing dad with huge reserves of love and patience).

Anyway, would really like to get perspective from experienced adopters to whom career was important on how things have worked out for you. Apologies if I take a little while to come back, as am at work (obvs!).

Thanks so much in advance.

booksshoescats Tue 26-Mar-13 11:39:23

I'm a regular, btw, although not a famous one smile, and a long-time adoption-board lurker. I haven't really posted much for ages, though, and have namechanged to make me a bit less identifiable.

Happiestinwellybobs Tue 26-Mar-13 12:24:23

I completely understand where you're coming from. My job is a very important part of who I am and I love where I work. We were very fortunate to adopt a young child (DD was 10 months when she came home - a year ago tomorrow actually smile )

Our SW did stress quite a bit about me going back part time, and I had to keep reminding her that I couldn't insist work would let me but I knew my rights. As it turned out, when thoughts of work came, I really only wanted to do part time hours and it was accepted by my employer. DH is self employed so much of the childcare falls to me. For us, in our particular circumstances, going back to work has been relatively easy. DD, after a wobbly couple of weeks, has settled in beautifully at nursery.

However DD was so young and had been in a (magnificent) foster family since birth. As such, and at this stage in her life, we don't appear to have any issues (beyond the usual ones associated with having a nearly two-year old who knows her own mind!!!!). I am not naive to think that may change over her lifetime, but for now, me working works for our family.

I do know of other families, where a parent (mums in both cases) had planned to return but were not able to due to the issues they have to deal with. One adopted a slightly older child, and one adopted young siblings.

I think you are absolutely right when you say that it really depends on the child. We were specific about what we could and could not deal with. I have to say that that was the most difficult part of our home study. We felt enormous guilt, but we said that we said that we wanted a child who was as young as possible, without any major health/learning issues. Who's to say what the future may bring though?

Hope that my ramblings are of some help smile

booksshoescats Tue 26-Mar-13 13:07:02

Huge help, thanks so much Happiest. You do indeed get exactly where I am coming from, and, like you, I think we will have to be completely realistic about the kind of child we are able to take on - it's very useful to hear your experience of laying out clearly what your position was on that during home study, so thanks for that, too. I can imagine that it is very guilt-inducing - not looking forward to that bit myself, and questioning my motives very deeply.

At the end of the day, it is still about me, DH, our BD and the kind of family unit we want. So it is not in any way selfless, even though to me (and I speak only for myself, this is not a judgement on others) it doesn't feel right to bring another child into the world when there are children without capable parents. Despite that, I would still be rejecting those children most in need of a family.

Lovely to hear you are having a happy and settled life with your DD so far, too (and congratulations on your anniversary grin. x

mrsballack Wed 27-Mar-13 14:50:20

I'm intending to take adoption leave and then return full time to work. The fact is that we cannot afford for one us to give up work. We are lucky enough(ha!) to work shifts and hubby likes to get up early whereas I am an evening/night person. This will mean that one of us will be at home for almost all of the day. If there is an overlap in shifts (which there may be as I have to allow 90 mins to get to work) we are intending to either hire a childminder or ask SIL. We're hoping that the sw will be ok with this as we have literally no other plan. I'm already dreading how tired I'm going to and we're nowhere near that stage yet.

Kewcumber Wed 27-Mar-13 18:36:43

The thing is that even with a child who appears to be within your acceptable level of neediness (can't think of another way to put it!) may not necessarily react to things in the same way a birth child would.

DS is a good example.

He was with me from 1yr, wasn't abused or neglected but was institutionalised at birth. He was fine with me going back to work part-time after 6 months (2 days a week then 3 days a week then 4 days a week). He was alwasy clingy with me but appeared to deal with the very lovely childminder and my mum for the 4 days just fine.

Then when he was 4, I became unexpectly became ill (visit to A&E turned into a weeks hospitalization with no preparation for him up front). What had always been a moderate separation anxiety turned into a severe one and although I recovered, he regressed emotionally quite significantly - it became obvious that even a year later he was going to struggle with starting school with me working. Starting nursery had been difficult enough for him prior to this episode and I eventually decided to give up work and live off my savings for a while until he was sufficiently stable for me to go back.

What I expected to be 6 months turned into 2 years. Though to be fair probably at least 6 months of that more recently has been lack of opportunity rather than his issues.

His separation anxiety has improved dramatically and I don't regret it for a minute but my career (previously finance director) and my financial position has suffered dramatically (now self employed).

Of course we all have to make decisions when our children face problems and you could argue that any child birth or adopted can have issues that crop up at some point. But it is undoubtedly true that its far more likely that adopted children with struggle to deal with change (for example) than birth children.

If I'm honest I also wonder if I had taken more time and scaled my career back earlier on if it would have improved his separation anxiety more. I wish I hadn't paid so much attention to non-adopters assuring me that his separation anxieties were totally normal and listened to my own instincts that he was very anxious indeed when I left him. In fact I'm sure that his seeming to cope with it was in fact just a sign that he had learnt that people always left and there was nothing he could do about it. I feel a little ashamed of myself being so pleased with him taking to childcare so easily now - though I did get it right (I hope) in the end!

I'm not sure that's really helpful to you though!

booksshoescats Wed 27-Mar-13 19:28:34

It is really helpful, thank you Kew. I have read a lot of your posts through the years, but hadn't ever grasped these particular ins and outs of your experience - I am really grateful for the detail you've shared. I am someone who processes information and reframes things very speedily, so now that adoption is something that is growing increasingly likely for us I have been examining my feelings about work/career and whether or not my attachment to it is healthy anyway! I had an experience about 18 months ago that made me realise I was on shaky ground with regard to my over-attachment to my work and workplace, so it will be no bad thing for me if I have to scale back somewhat.

I have been reading a lot about therapeutic parenting and thinking very carefully about what a (even apparently relatively well-adjusted and young) adopted child might need, so any experience that someone like you is prepared to share is very gratefully received.

And thanks to mrsballack too for your dose of realism re your situation.

DH and I are about to join Adoption UK so hopefully if and when the time comes to take things further we will be prepared for the changes we will have to make.

KristinaM Thu 28-Mar-13 10:25:11

OP, what about your Dh becoming a SAHD? Would that work for you?

I wouldn't assume that being attached to your career is a bad thing in itself.

Kewcumber Thu 28-Mar-13 10:30:50

agree with Kristina - I though that and meant to say it but my post was already way toooo long!

booksshoescats Thu 28-Mar-13 14:18:38

Thanks, both. Funnily enough, I put the very thing to him last night - he is probably a more natural SAH parent than me. Economically (and I think for our own sanity) we couldn't really afford for either of us to give up work completely but I could see a compromise of both of us being part-time or one of us freelance and part-time.

Do you think a lot of adopted children would struggle with the changeover of primary carer from day to day if we were switching between us? Bearing in mind that DH, if he is still in his current job, works slightly odd hours and will be around at home (one day not working and one day working a few hours) two days a week anyway, so our (potential) adoptee would be used to his being at home during the week while I was on adoption leave. With our BD we make such a good tag team (and she gets the benefit of an equal measure of both of us), but I just wonder if that would be unsettling for a child who will likely have attachment issues.

We are in different sectors of the same industry, but in my area it is currently much easier to get freelance work (and would be very easy for me) but in his freelance work has all but dried up. I would greatly miss an office environment, but I know that I am going to have to let go of some of my old life if this is what we decide to do, so am trying to prepare myself for that as much as possible. I think at the end of the day I am fundamentally quite a selfish person who is exploring the possibility of doing something that requires a level of selflessness that I'm not yet sure I possess. Although I do think that wanting a child by whatever means is both one of the most selfish and most selfless impulses a person can have, so I guess we all have mixed motives in that respect.

Thanks for responding to my thinking-out-loud ramblings. Just trying to get as much straight in my head as I possibly can.

Kewcumber Thu 28-Mar-13 14:26:15

I don't think DS would have had a problem with two primary carers if they were consistent. I also think you don't need to give up working in an office (I agree it can be a sanity saver as I've just started working for myself at home!) - can you do some time in an office and some from home? With him the same.

Kewcumber Thu 28-Mar-13 14:28:05

Adopting DS was the most selfish thing I've ever done in my life. The fact that I would now cheerfully murder anyone who hurt him and am (even worse) spending a week of my Easter freezing my assets off in a caravan for him, doesn't negate the selfishness of my original motivation!

booksshoescats Thu 28-Mar-13 14:53:27

smile at 'freezing assets off'. Now that IS selfless!

I almost definitely could work some time from home and some from the office, yes. I have expended a great deal of time and energy making myself as rooted in the company and as indispensable as possible since having BD, and I know I have engendered a fair amount of goodwill as a result, so I am in quite a strong position. One can never say for sure how such a thing will pan out, but I have high hopes that I would be able to continue here even if in a necessarily slightly downgraded capacity on a fairly flexible basis. As for DH, he wouldn't have any flexibility in his current position for good reasons, but one day a week is fully his own and one partially, so there's already a little built-in flexibility there.

There are so many variables and unknowns with adoption. I know I can't control the whole process, but I suppose my general attitude to life is that anything is possible. I am at once a control freak and someone who likes not knowing what's around the corner. Not sure what that's all about, though!

Thanks again for your really helpful insights - I will definitely be sticking around these boards and no doubt popping up with many more questions and ramblings over the next few months.

snail1973 Fri 05-Apr-13 17:12:34

I felt similarly before we adopted DC1, and in fact I was also the main breadwinner. And we managed to agree with SW that DH and I would both be off work for 1st 6 months and that at the end of that time I would go back to work 4 days a week and DH stayed at home.

SW felt it was very important that the 'mum' be at home for bonding but were OK with my DH taking over after 6 months.

Andd I would add that SW was one of the 'very thorough' variety when it came to home study, so if she agreed to it then I am sure others would.

As I happens, having a family has really changed my outlook, and when 2 years ago we adopted DC2 I stopped work completely. I have recently gone back to work (after 2 years at home). I was 100% ready to go back, but reallly loved having the 2 years at home. So, just keep your options open is my advise, and be ready to swtich things around to suit your family. Afterall happy parents = happy kids

GOod luck smile

booksshoescats Mon 08-Apr-13 14:13:42

Thanks, snail - that's really useful to know - both that the SW approved your plans and that your own outlook changed. I am beginning to imagine that possibility (that work might become less important). After 15 years + of work taking such priority in my life and my mind, I've begun to surprise myself by beginning to foresee that a time may come when that's not the case. Or at least where it takes a backseat for a few years.

Hayleyh34 Wed 17-Apr-13 15:14:08

Hi, I adopted a DD two years ago when she was 3. I took a years adoption leave and the. When she started school I went back to work full time because I had no choice.

It was a huge adjustment for us all but we've coped well. We have an excellent childminder that our DD loves and we are in a good routine, which I think is key.

A strong routine will help a child most, you just have to find something that is realistic and works for you all

Maryz Wed 17-Apr-13 16:14:57

My experience has been that it isn't so much the working full-time/part-time/not at all that is the crux of the matter, but the flexibility of it all - and that doesn't just apply to adopted children, but to many children with a variety of SN. And by definition, children who have come through the adoption system are likely to have greater extra needs than others.

If you take my life, for example, my intention was always to work at least part time. When ds1 came to us first (at only 9 weeks) I had a year off and then worked two days a week at home and a morning in work. This increased to two days a week when he was 2, but then dd came along and I had another year off. I was pregnant before she was a year old (accidentally) and never went back.

I had intended to go back to work when ds2 started school, but by then it was becoming obvious that ds had a few problems, and I have never retuned to work. He is 19 now, and since the age of 8 I have had to be around at short notice to pick him up from school at odd intervals and at short notice (and later from the police station/hospital hmm). He had a year out of school at 15/16 and I couldn't have worked at all then. He has settled and is in college, but still wouldn't go in every day if I wasn't here to take him.

It wouldn't have to be me, now - I could actually go back to work and hire a taxi driver - but I don't think our family could ever have run smoothly without one of us being able to drop everything at any time and pick up various pieces. And in our family it had to be me, since dh's job was not flexible at all.

In your case, if your dh is in the position to be flexible in his work, that might be the answer.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 19-Apr-13 20:54:47

Hello OP

I will try not to be one sided here as I am a long term (20+years) sahm, but am also adopted from a few months old.
Even knowing nothing else apart from my parents it was important for me to have somebody there after school. I always felt different to my peers even though being adopted was more commonplace than having divorced parents when I grew up. How weird is that?
What I'm saying is all dc are different and for some reason I don't know of, I always find rejection difficult. This can be time rejection too, I am even like it now with my dh and dc, I know it sounds stupid.
I think you should go with the flow, obviously your career is important and like another poster said, part of who you are.
I think it would be naive to think you could definitely keep the same life as you had pre dc, but you seem aware of this.
Personally, I think being able to support dc out of school is important things like taking them to activities (not the school ones), helping with homework, going places, doing things together. Also goes without saying being able to go to school events imo is a must.
My parents did these things for me, and now I do them for my dc. They both worked, but mum did p/t to fit in with us. I looked up to my mum as a good role model as she kept up her charity work, singing and had a book of poetry published, whilst raising 3 adopted girls.
A good balance is important and I think as an adopted parent these days you need this as well you know the poor kids are quite often damaged, hurt and neglected.
Good luck and I hope you or others don't think I'm speaking out of turn smile

welcometomysillylife Sat 20-Apr-13 00:11:57

Sorry to sound dramatic but going back to work full-time after adopting my DC turned out to be a disaster for me and contributed to the break up of my family. I love my job but you really cannot maintain your career and give your child/children what they need from you. Adopting a child is not the same as having birth children. This is fundamental to how you view adoption. You must be realistic.

Hayleyh34 Sat 20-Apr-13 14:02:36

Sorry it didn't work for you welcome but I disagree. It CAN be ok to work full time and have an adopted child. I have been doing it for quite a while. It depends on the needs of your child. My child knows her routine and is completely comfortable with it

happyfreeconfused Sat 20-Apr-13 16:10:42

My social workers also reluctantly agreed that my exh could be SAHD after I returned to work after my adoption leave. It was not what I wanted at heart but made sense inasmuch as I was earning a good salary. It turned out to be the worst thing we ever did. I did manage to work fulltime for a number of years but it was a struggle and in the end everything imploded very suddenly and I can no longer work anyway. If we had set everything up in a more traditional way (him 9-5, me at home) things might have worked out differently.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 20-Apr-13 22:27:54

Shouldn't your children come first though, be that birth or adopted.
I wouldn't do anything that would mean me not being able to do this.

As long as this is your philosophy what does it matter if you work or not. As long as the child's needs are being met, that is the most important thing.
I am glad my parents both worked and had interests. I am also glad they attended school events, took me to groups during the evening and dancing classes at weekend. I am glad they had all their spare time to spend with me and my adopted parents.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 20-Apr-13 22:36:16

Not adopted parents (duh) adopted sisters smile

happyfreeconfused Sat 20-Apr-13 23:05:15

The bottom line is where is your child/children while you are working all hours? Who is looking after them? That is what I used to think when I was leaving for work early in the morning and returning home in the evening.

They might be at breakfast club (my youngest hated it,) with a childminder (who couldn't cope with my dc's needs), in a private nursery (mine was picked up from home in a car early in the morning,) with grandparents/auntie/latest babysitter, after-school club, and dp of course.

Maybe yours will be a better SAHD than mine (refused to take dc to toddler groups, swimming classes, barely took them anywhere, let them survive on snacks, let them sleep in the day then they wouldn't sleep at night.) I resented him, he resented me.

Maybe this arrangement could work for some, but not in my family. I would say be very careful. And if you want to stay at home, make sure you do so. No compromises.

Hayleyh34 Sun 21-Apr-13 07:55:40

Happy, my DD goes to a childminder for 2 hours every day after school and it really has been no big deal. If anything, it has taught our DD, that not every adult in her life is a prospective parent. She understands the situation and is fine with it. I would hate anyone to be put off adoption because they think that you have to give ip work.

happyfreeconfused Sun 21-Apr-13 08:05:46

Ok then, let's say be prepared because you will have to be flexible about your work arrangements depending on the needs of your child. The only other two women I know who have adopted have also been unable to work (they have partners, I am now a lone parent. )

aladdinsane Sun 21-Apr-13 08:30:09

I adopted an 'easy to place ' 15 month old. BS was 8 at the time. My work was very important to me and I had worked long and hard to gain the qualification although I was already working part time
We were told our DD had no issues at all, had never lived with BF
Well that's not how it turned out. She came into our house like a wild animal
she now has a diagnosis of attachment disorder and is incredibly challenging
she is also very gorgeous and I love her totally
I have carried on working but only just. My employers have been pretty flexible and let me jiggle my hours at times
she can't cope with being looked after by others - we never leave her
But I did find a very small, special needs friendly nursery and spent weeks gradually settling her into nursery
I was very lucky, they gave her 1-1 care and coped with very challenging behaviours. She can be very violent with other children so she needed the 1-1 and so did the others to keep them safe
We have a very supportive school - I know in some schools she would've been frequently excluded

So, I have managed to work but only because we have been very lucky with the services we have
I know other adopters who have no issues but there is a much higher chance an adopted child will have extra needs and that needs to be considered
Good luck with whatever you decide

Hayleyh34 Sun 21-Apr-13 09:41:38

Agreed Happy. I am totally aware with how "lucky" we are with our DD and the needs that she currently has compared to others and am also aware that this could change at any point as she gets older

happyfreeconfused Sun 21-Apr-13 14:07:30

My story is similar to yours aladdinsane in that my dc came to me young with no diagnosed issues and they now have extreme behaviours needing constant 1:1, like you say, for their safety and the safety of those around them. My story is probably extreme but not rare unfortunately.

aladdinsane Sun 21-Apr-13 18:49:35

Happy- I agree, sadly is is not hard to find adopters like us who are parenting children who it turns out have extreme needs
My life is far from normal but I wouldn't be without her
I try not to dwell too much on the future though

I once read a post on a different board by a adopter who said she couldn't cope with extreme behaviour and had trusted her SW to find them an easy child
I found this very worrying because when you adopt such a young child you really do not know how they will develop and you need to be prepared for anything. Our children need and deserve to have a parent who will stick with them

happyfreeconfused Sun 21-Apr-13 23:01:31

You are right. No one knows the future but I do think I was underprepared for this. I think prospective adopters should be aware of stories like ours.

Hayleyh34 Mon 22-Apr-13 06:13:30

I think prospective adopters should be given a balanced view. Like I said on another thread, my brother adopted 3 children at roughly the same time as I adopted my DD. his children are older children. Although there have been some behaviour issues (as with our DD) overall it is going really well. I know it's not hard to find people who have difficult situations but it's also not hard to find people who have had positive ones. I think both sides deserve to be heard

booksshoescats Mon 22-Apr-13 14:13:00

Thanks so much, everyone, for sharing your experiences. Sorry for the lack of replies - I've been on holiday and only just seen these since I last logged on to MN. You have just confirmed what I think I was clear on in my op, which is that this really was a 'how long is a piece of string' question!

morethanpotatoprints Agree completely, and also feel that my dd needs me increasingly as she gets older – up till two she wasn’t too bothered who was looking after her (parents, grandparents, nursery), but now it’s clear she needs me to be more present, and I notice the difference in her behaviour depending on how much time I am giving her and how ‘present’ she feels I am.

happyfreeconfused and aladdinsane I think what I’m really getting from what you’ve both said, as well as from what I’ve read elsewhere, is that it’s best right from the start to have adjusted one’s expectations of what ‘normal’ life will be like. ‘Our children need and deserve to have a parent who will stick with them’ – that would have to be your mantra, wouldn’t it? I know some adoptions break down, and I can’t even imagine what that’s like for all involved, but I think that you would have to say this to yourself many times a day when things are at their toughest.

Hayley Thank you for the reassurance that things can also sometimes be fairly straightforward. It’s good to have a balance as you say – to be prepared for the ‘worst’ and hope for the ‘best’ is no bad thing.

booksshoescats Mon 22-Apr-13 14:20:12

Maryz - I hope you don't mind my asking, but did you get any support (e.g. from the placing authority) when your ds's problems began to emerge? Also, I'd be really interested to know how his siblings respond to him. Do they have a good relationship? I hope this isn't too intrusive, but it's hard not to look at the great sibling relationships within my own close and extended family and hope for the same for my dd.

DH's job isn't flexible - it would be me that could leave at a moment's notice, but he is around two days a week, so could cover some of the care in that respect. So there would be some balance - as a family we'd be flexible, if that makes sense (if we were both to stay in the same jobs, that is).

Maryz Mon 22-Apr-13 22:16:40

No, we didn't get any help at all hmm

When he was diagnosed with Asperger's I informed the adoption society, thinking that they could possibly add it to his records in case his parents had further children who might have been on the autistic spectrum. But they didn't want to know.

And I will never forget the day I admitted he was running away and using drugs (he was 13). I asked was there any way they could direct me to some help or counselling. The social worker told me to take him to my gp - and then immediately asked why our contact letter for dd's birth mother was late and told me how important it was that I should get it in to her asap [bitter]

But we are in Ireland where post-adoption counselling doesn't seem to exist.

Interestingly, the relationship between the three kids is very good. No matter how awful ds1 is (and he has been really awful at times, including being violent) they are very understanding of him. They are very loyal to him and accept that he doesn't want to be like this, that he can't help a lot of it. My younger two are now very close and go to the same school. They seem to communicate mostly by Facebook even when they are sitting in the same room, which I think is very funny. But they have a quirky fondness for each other which is nice to watch and I think unusual between teenagers.

Finally - I have never regretted adopting either ds1 or dd, or having ds2. I think some people wonder whether ds's problems (which may be adoption-related) would make me wish we didn't have him. I feel exactly the same as I would if he was a birth child gone off the rails - I love him unconditionally while hating a lot of what he does and worrying a lot about his future. As well as occasionally wishing he would disappear off the face of the earth and just give me a break [sigh].

booksshoescats Tue 23-Apr-13 10:03:24

Maryz Thank you so much for this. It never ceases to amaze me how fantastic people are on the adoption boards - there's so much honesty and strength here. Children are amazing in how accepting they are of their own families. And as for adoptive parents, who doesn't occasionally wish their children 'would disappear' so they could have a break (even the least problematic children!)?

The attitude of you SWs sounds positively prehistoric - so sad for you and your ds that this was their response, but you obviously found your own way and have a lovely family - I imagine their experiences with their brother have made your other two very understanding of the needs of others and that every family has their own kind of 'normal'.

Maryz Tue 23-Apr-13 17:21:29

dd wants to be a nurse or a teacher working with children with SN. And ds2 wants to teach.

I find it amazing. I thought they would both get away from ds and his problems asap, but they are great kids and both really enjoy life.

I still hope ds will grow out of it - they say that children with ADHD/ASD/other developmental issues can be considered to be about 2/3rs their chronological age, which would make ds1 a particularly stroppy 13 year old - which is about right. By the time he is 25 he might be a "responsible" 18 year old grin

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