To start let me tell you I love my kids and would not change anything. Also, I am a Christian and this is a huge part of my story. Although I know what I went through is something that is common among adoptive families of all faiths, to understand my mindset it is important for me to share this part of the journey.
I am writing this for a few reasons. One, I want adoptive moms to have an honest picture of what the first few years will look like. Two, I want people who have friends who are adopting to know what your friend is going through. Three, I want to give you some coping skills and ideas if you are in this situation.
Here is my story.
It was a year from when we met our girls until they moved into our home. It had been two years since we started the process of adoption. My husband and I had spent two years working toward being an adoptive family, and now the girls were finally in our home. We were fostering to adopt, so the process was ongoing.
At this point, our biological girls were in grade four and six. The girls we were adopting were in grade five and seven. I was at the time working in full-time Christian ministry. My job was much more than a job for me. It was a calling. It was not about bringing in extra income, it was about making a difference in the world.
After trying to work and balance the needs of the growing family I realized I would have to take time off of ministry. This was probably the hardest thing I had to sacrifice. Serving God and sharing his love was all I wanted to do.
I had been running a club for foster and adoptive families and had to pass it over to other people and walk away. This was very hard. It was not something I had thought would happen.
My days were making lunches, making suppers, driving kids places, filling out paperwork, cleaning and doing laundry, filling out paperwork, did I mention there is a lot of paperwork?
We also had monthly visits to our home from social workers. They were always kind, and respectful. Still, it is draining and one more thing to add to the list.
There were visits to birth family, counseling appointments, and court days.
While we waited for the adoption to be completed I could not sign permission forms for my kids. One day we were going to go to skyline on a PD day and realized I could not because I could not sign the permission form. I had to get a form, ask our worker to sign it at the next meeting and then I could take them.
We went on holidays with the girls but we needed permission for that well.
As a mom, I found this time period really hard. Much harder than I thought I would.
I lost my identity when I walked away from my job.
I lost my friends because I had no time or energy to put into the relationships.
I lost my freedom because I had to ask for permission before our family could do anything.
And I felt alone. I didn't know who I was anymore.
I heard all the time about "self-care" but I felt I needed more than a spa day or a long bath. I needed to know my life mattered. I found my way out of this mindset and here is how I did it.
1) I continued to learn. Of course, I went to classes offered by Social Services, and I read everything that would help me be a better mom to my new daughters. However, I continued to learn about things that I was interested in that had nothing to do with being a mom. I love history, so I began to read history books. However, time is a problem. So I discovered audible. This is an app on the phone and for less than 20 dollars a month I can get an audible book each month. So my hours in counseling waiting rooms, or driving, or doing laundry, or doing dishes was now spent doing something that was bettering myself.
2) My husband and I had regular date nights. This falls under self-care. We picked Thursdays, and we went out every thursday night. This was always kept simple.
A walk around the block, or to the local ice cream shop.
A coffee at Tim Hortons.
A drive to a nearby field and then parking and watching the sunset.
The rule... We don't talk about the kids unless it is to share something positive. We talk about dreams, goals, and things we are learning about.
3) I gave myself time. I know I will not be able to go back to full-time work anytime soon. I had to give that up. However, after a year I began to do some freelance writing and even self-published a book. I started blogging and started a podcast. I started slowly and have added to my work load slowly.
4) I found a way to do what I love without it being my job. Remember for me, stepping away from my job was difficult because I was stepping away from what was my calling. I wanted to know God and make him known. What I realized was I could continue doing my passion without having it as a job.
5) I found a new community of friends in adoption groups. Loosing "work friends" is hard, however, I found there are many other adoption moms out there. These moms are my new "work friends" One of them is now an actual work friend since we have started a podcast together.
The girls were officially adopted this summer at the age of thirteen and fifteen.
Today we are a family of six. We are doing well. I am doing well.
Lorelee Simens is a mother of four teenagers.
She is a co-host of a podcast called Gifts From God - a podcast that shares the stories and advice from adoptive and parents.