Melissa Anne has quite a different motherhood experience from most people. She’s a single parent who has adopted a second child, which also means raising siblings who come from very different backgrounds. Many people would find it challenging to carry even one of those profiles! While her story is already being shared on her blog, she graciously allowed us to ask some of the tougher questions we had in mind.
Hi Melissa, thank you so much for doing this with us! Let’s get straight into it. In your blog you wrote that you always wanted to adopt a child, but how did you emotionally prepare yourself and your son, Joshua, in the days leading up to meeting Kaitlyn and welcoming her home?
For myself, it felt like I’ve been preparing myself ever since I was a teen as that was when I had the desire to adopt a child. But prior to moving ahead, I had spoken to a couple of friends who had adopted, and also read up more online about what the process in Singapore is like, and the support groups available etc. For Joshua, I spoke to him about it and he initially did not show much reaction or concern. In fact it was about few days later when he asked more about adoption, like where do the children come from, why are there children up for adoption, why their parents didn’t want them, or how do we go about finding babies to adopt. It showed me that he had been really thinking about it.
I answered all his queries as honestly as I could, and reassured him that having a new member in our family did not change my love for him, and that we are adding to our family, not taking away any aspect of it.
What’s it like as a single parent, raising children from two completely different backgrounds?
One great thing is that being a single parent, I can parent any way I like! haha, but honestly, while I am on my own pretty much, I do have a great family support system, mainly my parents and close friends. Both kids are really different, with Joshua being totally reserved and quiet, while Kaitlyn is vocal and very demanding! It’s been quite a challenge finding the right way to parent Kaitlyn as she is totally different from how Joshua was as a toddler. But then, each child is unique and needs to be parented in a way best suited for them. With Joshua now a teen, that’s a whole new world of parenting for me to learn and explore!
I do find that it’s a challenge when it comes to parenting Kaitlyn as she comes from a background that I do not know much of. Sometimes she would cry over nothing, or what seems like nothing. But then when I read about bonding with an adopted child, I learned that she may have gone through some trauma as a baby that is ingrained in her, not that she necessarily remembers it. So trying to build that trust with her, and assure her that she is safe, is an added challenge in my parenting journey. She and I are both learning more about each other, and seeing her run to me for comfort when upset or frightened is a step in the right direction.
On another note, trying to get the preschool to work with me, like being mindful of what is taught in school about families, and to be inclusive. After all, she does not have a ‘daddy’. So I had to inform the teachers to be sensitive to that fact.
What have some of the highlights been throughout the journey?
Watching Kaitlyn getting more and more precocious each day, and especially seeing how happy she is. Her laughter is simply precious! And it warms my heart when I see her and J playing well together. Her special relationship with my parents has also been such a blessing — while first apprehensive, my parents have grown to love and accept her with all their hearts, and sometimes she does get a tad more preferential treatment! I’m glad my parents get to enjoy the pure love and affection of a child in their golden years, since the other grand kids are all in their teens and less expressive in terms of affection.
I’ve also been approached by other singles or couples who ask about adoption matters, and I’m glad to be an inspiration to them. But ultimately, adoption is still a very serious decision and none should take it lightly or do it out of impulse.
Were there any key support areas or strategies that help you thrive?
As mentioned above, my parents, my close friends, and the forum of adoptive parents that I go to for advice from time to time. I do wish there was more help or support for single parents who adopt. I tried attending the support group set up by the agency, but it didn’t prove helpful.
What are some practical ways that parents prepare themselves and their children to adopt another family member? And specifically, if the parent is a single parent?
For starters, the parents need to be sure they are able to welcome a child who isn’t biologically linked to them. Some are unable to get over that hurdle. After adopting, they will show favouritism or treat the adopted child differently. And for a couple, both need to be agreeable on this. My ex was never for adoption, so that would never have worked out well. As a single parent, I researched a lot online on the process and what I needed to prepare before deciding to go ahead. While it was always my heart’s desire, I had to be sure it was the right timing. I had been financially stable for a while, and had my own place, and prayed a lot before I made my move. I also had to speak with my family about it, and was prepared to answer any doubt or questions they may have raised.
Singles would need to find a support system, like for me, I had to be sure that if something happened unexpectedly, I had someone who could take over the care of my kids. Having backups are a must. I had also spoken and reassured my son before I embarked on the journey. If he had shown any resistance or raised issues about it, I would have had to put a halt on it. Knowing how to talk to your biological children about welcoming a new person into the family is important. Don’t make empty promises; be truthful at all times.
Prospective adopters need to commit to the child — it’s for life. Make sure you are able to provide for the child, both emotionally and financially. Those who aren’t very sure if they can make such a huge commitment could try fostering children first.
There are some families with children where one is adopted and one isn’t, and because they kids are still young and may not fully comprehend their situation, they find ways to use that knowledge against each other during squabbles or use it to get their way. Would you have any advice to help parents manage this situation better?
This is definitely an important issue. Firstly, talk about it to your biological children and have them understand that the new addition is going to be as important and real as they are in your eyes. All will be given equal treatment, and that it would be hurtful to use the situation against the adopted child. Next, letting the adoption not be a hush hush matter is also crucial.
From young, talk about adoption openly with your new child, read books about blended families, and discuss how this new child may not have been born from you but from your heart/wish. Talk about how this child was always meant to be a part of your family and God decided to make it a special way by having you FIND this child etc. Come up with ways that best suits your family dynamic. But never try hiding the fact that the child was adopted. This only makes it worse if the child finds out from external parties, or at a later age. It would give the impression that being adopted is a negative thing.
What do you wish more people knew about motherhood as a single parent, and about adoption?
For career, as one who has received unfair treatment at work as a single parent, it would be great if companies and other workers to understand that it’s not like I wish to leave work on time (to fetch my kids) or that throughout the day, I may get calls from my kids/caretakers for issues regarding my kids. A lot of people tend to think that we should all be treated equally, but the truth is, no one is equal. As long work gets done, that’s the important thing. Companies should take note and adjust working requirements for single parents, perhaps letting them occasionally work from home when the need arises, or some flexi-work arrangement. Not many companies are open to that despite the societal changes these days.
On personal note, single parents are really trying to play dual roles at times…caretaker and disciplinarian. We are everything to our kids, so sometimes we are stretched to the limit. Some don’t even have any family support like grandparents, or friends. We are just doing our utmost best to raise our kids and be there for them.
For adoption, some have asked why I want to adopt as a single mom.
Some have criticised why I would want to give a child an incomplete family. A family is not about how many family members there are, but that the people in the family love and care for each other.
Finally, how do you think being a mother changed you as a person and changed your life for the better? 🙂
As a close friend once told me, I was born to be a mom. I have a nurturing nature and have always loved children and couldn’t wait to have my own. Being a mom has made me realise that you would put your needs aside and prioritise your child’s. You would give up your life to protect your child. There is nothing a mother wouldn’t sacrifice for her child and I believe that God made us this way. While I may miss the freedom of being spontaneous and just going anywhere, anytime and doing whatever I wanted at my whim, or even take an impromptu trip, the joy of watching my children grow and thrive is more gratifying than anything else. Being a mother also gives me a purpose in my life.
I love both my kids, even my furry kid, and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
Melissa Anne is a single mother of two beautiful children, “one born from my womb, one born from my heart” as she proudly describes. She started blogging to share her parenting journey in hopes that it will encourage and inspire others parents as well. You can follow her at allmyrainbows.com or email her at [email protected]