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Will I love my adoptive kids more than my stepchild?(8 Posts)
We've been married almost 2 years, together for 4 and my stepdaughter (15yo) lives with us and has lived with her dad since age 1. We're still in stage I of the adoption process and are part way through our 3 day adoption course. DH and I get on well with DSC and her mum who has daily contact.
However the family outsider feeling hits me most when I think we need to discuss X as a family or agree certain family values and DH either discusses it privately with his daughter or not at all - leaving me feeling left on the outside. Recently he introduced us publicly to strangers who didn't need to know as "my wife, my daughter - oh but she's not her mum!" which underlines that separation thinking. DSC on the other hand refers to us both as her parents. DSC introduced me and her mum to her friends as "my 2 mums". She even said when I moved in "you live here now, you can make decisions" - this is great but I need DH to express our unity - regularly - as parents.
This is so important because now that I'm a step parent I can appreciate the distance my stepdad created. I asked him to walk me down the aisle for my wedding, but as my dad was still around he said no. He hadn't seen my dad in 20 years. Only when he saw how frail he was on my wedding day did he then approach me and say he felt happy to do the wedding speech. My point is that birth parents must stay involved and 'give permission' for certain step parent / DSC interactions, even when DSCs are adults. It helps the bonding.
I show my DSC love but don't say I love you, partly because I didn't grow up with those words in my own childhood, so it's a bit alien and partly it would be clumsy saying it when we already show love with gifts, talking, hugs, leisure time together etc. But I'm already feeling a very deep love for our prospective adopted children that are yet to be identified and placed with us (we haven't even been approved yet), partly because I'll be able to play my full role as parent, despite the challenges. I can't wait to tell them how much I love them. But I do wonder how my DSC will feel... whether she'll wonder if I was saving my deepest feelings for the adopted children.
Lots triggered by attending today's course so my emotions are a bit shot. DH and I are crazy in love, we're not as world's apart as I may have depicted. We do talk about this. Just made me think how responsible we need to be for getting things right with adopted kids.
If it were me (and I'm no expert) I would talk with DH about how you are aware that you are a bit of an outsider when it comes to parenting your DSC and that parenting your AC will need to be different and set out some ground rules before hand for how decisions will be made etc. As for your DSC, if they are mature enough (and from what you said about her saying 'you live here now, you make decisions too', that sounds likely) I'd have an honest conversation. Without DH, I'd tell DSC that you love her immensely but that you don't always say it and that as she has her BM playing an active role in her life you've never wanted to replace her and have stepped carefully. However, your new AC, while having 2 mums, only has one playing the active role so you are going to have to be different with them. Also they have had a very difficult start in life and you will have to show them a lot of love, very openly and be telling them 'I love you' lots all the time and that you're worried she may feel that you don't love them equally and that isn't the case and it hurts you to think that, so you wanted to be open about it now and explain. Your DSC will likely appreciate your openess and honesty , your reassurance of love for her and your bond will become stronger and explained before any LO arrives.
Will you love your AC more? It is very possible that you could feel that you do, due to how much more time you will spend with them. You will likely create a stronger bond, especially if you are the primary carer, which you've never been with your DSC and for that reason you shouldn't beat yourself up about it if you do. Obviously never tell DSC that though!
It sounds like the course has made you really reflect and the fact you are thinking all this shows how much you care about the DC (now and future ones) in your life feeling loved and secure, which will make you an amazing Mum!
I don't think it's a case of loving them more, but loving them differently. Even if you have more than one BC you don't love necessarily them in the same way as they are individuals with their own unique personalities and ways of relating to you. Your DSC sounds like a mature girl and I think you should have an open conversation with her and your DH. Tell her that you love her even though you don't say it, and that you don't want her to feel that she is less important when AC join your family.
I am a step mum and an adoptive mum. My situation is different as I knees my dsc when they were quite little so we are very free with the I love yous. But they are only here half the week. I really understand what you mean about being slightly on the outside when it comes to decisions, but as your dsd gets older, decisions will move to being hers with parent support or advice, not parent decisions and you will be more and more involved. I think your dh needs to catch up with his daughter when it comes to your relationships and stop feeling the need to make the distinction between you and her mum. Everyone seems aware of their roles and you seem to understand not to step on mum's toes. When you have your adoptive children will he also feel the need to explain this? 'This is my wife and daughter but she's not her mum and these are my adoptive children and she's not their birth mum either'. It might be something he learns on the adoption journey - nobody really needs to know your family's business. When I am with my dsc and das they are just my kids. Obviously my dsc have their mum, but no one really feels the need to explain this to random people.
And will you love them more? Only time will tell. I found my dsc were loved from day one as they were part of my dh. But your dac will be totally your responsibility. You will probably feel more protective towards them, and yes, they will rely on you for everything. But this won't necessarily mean you love them more, just differently. My dsc have been really involved welcoming my ds into the family and helping him settle and if anything we are closer as a family.
I do understand that you find it hard to tell dsd you love her, but as pp have said, do try and tell her once, maybe explaining why you find it hard to say.
Good luck with your journey. My family is not at all as I imagined it when growing up, but is perfect and all the children are special and loved completely.
I think it's one of the best kept secrets of parenting that there are moments and stages when you may feel you 'love' one dc more than another. I believe many parents go through it but would never admit it. (And yes, it's often not about loving one 'more' but the way that that particular dc needs to be loved at that stage or the way they react to being loved that causes the feelings).
I actually think it isn't a problem as long as your dc never ever suspect that for today you have a favourite or that they are ever unloved. (Possibly your adopted dc may need to believe they are the most loved. Dsd has a mum giving her security and unconditional love already, whereas they may need to know you are their safe place. They have no fall-back like dsd. That's OK too, as long as dsd knows deep down that she is loved by you too .) Demonstrate unconditional love to both/all in the ways that they need it. And if all else fails remember the MN mantra ' Fake it til you make it '.
Remember, your dsd may be almost adult when your adc arrive. She will be able to choose for herself how her relationship with you and her new siblings grows and changes. Encourage her to be part of the family as much as she wants so she doesn't feel she's being replaced as she gets ready to fly the nest.
Good luck on the journey
Your post left me with many questions and reactions. I understand how many emotions get stirred up by prep course and this is a great opportunity to think them through.
I'm really struck by your assumption that you will love your adopted children fully, completely and instantly. That isn't the experience of many adopters (or even birth parents) and it makes me wonder if you have some problems that you think will be 'solved' by adoption? It just sits very oddly with your feeling that it would be difficult to express love to your dsc, like you're saving up all this feeling to dump in the lap of the new child? How will you feel if you don't instantly love your adopted children?
If that happens - and it's very common in adoption - then you may be in the 'fake it till you make it' place where you have to demonstrate love and commitment to traumatised children who need to feel secure with you long before your love for them has fully developed. You may, actually, need to tell them you love them before you do. So maybe practising this with your dsd (who sounds lovely) would be a good place to start?
Hi all - thanks for your comments. When we (prospective adopters) returned for the last day of the course last Monday, we all reported being completed washed out and emotionally drained, which was reassuring in a way.
Devora - I know what you mean about not having the instant love reaction with adopted children. I have friends who are adoptive parents and say there was no initial love fest - so I take that point. No I'm not saving any feelings, who knows what I'll actually feel? As for problems solved by adoption :-) no! I was planning on adopting as a single person (as was my husband) before meeting DH and started the process where I used to live. However I'm a FT step parent now too which for the most part is an utter privilege. I'm married as you know so I get the fake it till you make it (no, not in THAT department...ladies!)
I guess I was trying to say that parents have more authority and freedom over their own children than other peoples. In stepfamilies there can be many delicate relationships to manage e.g. if a couple has children from previous relationships and also their own children you can have different levels of parenting (e.g. I'll discipline mine, you discipline yours, we discipline ours) and it can take lots of time and skill to agree common house rules / principles. As a stepchild myself I can particularly relate to that. So I want to show my love to all my children incl DSC, but am realistic that I'll be able to co-parent more freely the children we adopt (DH and I have already talked about our parenting styles), not least because I respect the parenting of DSC's mum and DH and don't want to step on toes. I'm happy with my influencing role and pleased that DH does usually listen seriously to my views.
I only mention the 'I love yous' because there are lots of I love yous between DSC and her dad and DSC and her mum. It's only in the last 10 years that my mum (mid 60s) has started saying I love you to me and probably only the last 5 that I've started saying it back - so I'm learning and have started with 'we love you' to DSC and as I mentioned there are lots of ways I show love to her. I also had a chat with her about it being OK to have a range of emotions about the adoption process. I think because I help run a youth group, I'm always acutely aware that she (and teens generally) may be going through a whole heap of stuff. My DH is far more chilled out that way and if anything has taken the lead on the adoption front.
Thanks again all for your comments.x
I do need to add that I made a whopping error... I said you will make an amazing Mum.. to your AC yes, but you already are one to you DSC. Sorry
And I don't think my mum has ever used the words I love you with me and it's actually made 'faking it until you make it' so much easier, because like you, I couldn't wait to tell them that and I do...A lot!
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