Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Changing my expectations of motherhood

When I was thinking about becoming a mum, I remember having an idea in my head of the things I'd do, and what I'd be like...a bit like little girls who plan their weddings and know exactly what dress they're going to wear.

I would be a cool mum, the one who all the other kids liked, the one whose house would be pretty much open for snacks and playtime anytime, the one who would have plenty of other mums round to chat over coffee and the one whose garden would be full of children running around playing in the summer, whilst I provided tray after tray of homemade cakes and biscuits, and jug after jug of chilled squash.
I'd also have a small but very close network of other mums (who I'd met at playgroup) who would babysit for each other, pick the kids up from school, and because like surrogate aunties to my children - just like my mum and her friends. In fact now, 30 years on, my mum is still friends with one of the playgroup mums, and she is affectionately referred to as mum no.2.

In reality, I missed out on meeting other mums early on at playgroups, the other mums at nursery were rather snooty and wouldn't talk to anyone else, and now Mini's at school and doesn't seem particularly friendly with anyone. Don't get me wrong, he has friends, and there are a couple of them who I'd happily have round for playtime, dinner, and in the summer - a play in the garden. But he hasn't got that big circle of friends that I hoped my child would, or even a best friend, he often isn't in the right frame of mind to have friends round anyway, and I'm too embarrassed by my freezing cold house to invite the few mums that I am friends with round for coffee.
There are a couple of other mums who I know I could call if I was really stuck for picking Mini up, and one has been a star recently, but in all honesty, Mini couldn't cope with it. This week he hasn't even been able to cope with the thought of the NC picking him up, let alone anyone else. Right now, we're at a crucial point with therapy, where Mini is a blank canvas and we can start working on emotions and making him feel secure. I don't want to do anything to jeopardise that.

This is yet another one of those ways in which adopting is different. My son's needs mean I can't be the type of mum I thought I would. I'm sure I might come across as over protective to the other mums, making excuses even, but really, I'm putting my own needs, wants and hopes to one side so I can focus on Mini and his needs. That's what being a mum is about isn't it?

I wish we'd spent longer on this during our homestudy. I feel we were unprepared for exactly how much our expectations would change. In fact, it's only now, 5 years in that I'm realising just how much they've had to change. I'm not sure if this is yet another thing I have to grieve for - or if just recognising that things aren't as I'd envisaged is enough. I guess I've got another few years of motherhood ahead, and things could change?

18 comments:

  1. Your post really strikes a chord. I too had the same visions as you. In reality, Missy has no close friends, some of my 'friends' have disappeared, I'm too shy to talk at the school gate to a load of mums who all know each other anyway from nursery.

    I wish I'd spoken more to adopters whilst doing our homestudy and found out the reality. My new set of friends are you guys online and the adopter support group locally I've joined.

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    1. Yes, we're really lucky that there is great online support.

      I must try harder to find some local support, can't beat talking to people in RL who actually understand.

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  2. I can empathise with you but from the point of view of a mum of an autistic son. He is my third child and although his older brothers are not huge socialites they did play dates, had friends round and OH and I became friends with their parents. Number 3 son however is a very different child or rather has different needs and so early on I realised (having tried it for a while) that I would have to abandon the well trodden path and do things differently. He wants and needs consistency and often is happy just me and him. He has friends at school but we don't so many play dates as he finds it too stressful and I wanted those school friends to have good experiences playing with him briefly at school rather than experience his meltdowns at home. It does mean that party invites are thin on the ground and we don't do as much family socialising as we did when the others were his age. I think the thing to realise is that you know your son and your family and doing what suits you all is the most important thing.

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    1. Thank you, I'd like to think that we know him well now, although some days it doesn't feel like it. I do know that we're on the cusp of something important, and it's make or break time. Perhaps in 6 months things will be different.

      All parents have different experiences, not just adopters, and I know that it must be isolating for parents of children with specific needs too?

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  3. It's so true, how I perceived myself being as a mother and the reality is very different. None of that laid back big gatherings that my parents were either at or creating in our home. I just find them too stressful now and I know some people think that I'm being over vigilant because we go maybe for an hour and leave before any trouble can start, but that's all I know we can all manage. I do try and do play dates every now and again but I have to plan it carefully.I can totally relate to all this and you've put it into words so well. xx

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    1. Thanks Sarah. It's reassuring to hear that others feel the same way and face similar issues xx

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  4. This captures my experience perfectly too. All my "little girl" dreams were about the mum I would become one day, and feel I was very unprepared for the reality. My beautiful adopted boy is now also diagnosed non-verbal autistic. Did you catch the My Son Isaac blog recently too? I know it has been widely shared, but struck a similar chord.

    Thank you both for your writing, it really helps to read of similar experiences, especially on the tougher days. Heartfelt thanks.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by anonymous. I haven't heard of My Son Isaac, I'll try to look it up.

      And thank you, like you say similar experiences do help xx

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    2. Sorry I couldn't post a link... It is actually the blog of the father of a young boy with a high-functioning autism diagnosis, not an adoptive family, but a beautiful piece of writing too, with a similar theme running through it... x

      Mysonisaac.blogspot.co.uk (Connecting trains)

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    3. Thank you, I've had a read and it is indeed beautifully written. Thanks so much for sharing it, I completely get why x

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  5. I have to say I'm certainly not the mum I dreamed I would be during those years of infertility. I don't always have as much patience as I thought I would have and I'm not quite the earth mother I planned to be. I often feel guilty for not being everything I wanted to be.

    We are lucky to have a wide circle of friends and Katie is one of the popular children in school so is always being invited to parties etc. She loves being at the center of all the action. We are lucky also that she doesn't have an attachment disorder or any major issues as an adopted child at the current time. She does have her issues though and I think simply being an adoptive parent means that I am different. It's so hard telling other mums that we are going to be parents again. They automatically look at my belly and I have to explain how I become a parent. It's not just my story, it's also Katie's and, with a birth child you don't have to be so aware of how you present information.

    There is so much about being an adoptive mum that you are not prepared for. xx

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    1. You're right. There is heaps that we're not prepared for. Some of it could be covered in preparation courses, but of course they can't cover everything, and we all react differently.

      I hope Katie continues to thrive amongst her friends, it's heartbreaking to see your child as 'the lonely one'.

      xx

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  6. hi first time to comment here but this thread really hit a chord with me. Early days as my girls only arrived with us last september. Dont know if it just the early days or it is the way it will be but my expectations are already very different. The mother I thought I would be is nothing like the one I am being at the moment. My eldest does seem to be making friends but no sign of any meeting friends out of school yet - she is only four but compared to my niece who has loads and is the same age, I worry she is missing out. I lack patience much more then I ever thought I would. Both girls have lots of energy and are very confident and stubborn and was told they need firm boundaries. But being firm can feel not very nice.

    I worried I would spoil them too much (and I do spoil them) but just not like I thought I would at all.

    No way ready for any coffee type meetings and only have very few people to the house that I really know - not at all what I had in mind. In fact dreading my youngest next birthday and what to do.

    Yeh so much that I was not prepared for but not sure I would have listened anyway xx

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    1. Hi there, thanks for commenting, as I said to Sarah (above) it's reassuring to know others are in similar positions.

      There is a great online community if you don't feel up to facing people in real life - twitter, blogs (check back here tomorrow for the Weekly Adoption Shout-Out) and various forums and message boards.

      I'm sure you're right...about not listening anyway, not at the time. But if it had been covered just briefly, I might have been a bit more prepared for feeling like this, rather it hitting me like a freight train...

      Anyway, keep reading and come back xx

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    2. Are you able to recommend any good forums? for online support?

      thanks xx

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    3. Most adopters that I know use the Adoption UK message boards. It's free, and you don't have to be a member of Adoption UK. Do remember though that these forums (and blogs) are often negative as it's where people share their problems. Not many people share their good days, they just enjoy them!

      I personally don't use it so much anymore as I've found a lovely tribe on twitter, and some of us are now FB friends too :-)

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  7. Hi - I am new to adoption mummydom and it is different to what you dream of - Ive just started branching out to do new things in groups with my daughter - toddler groups etc - it is hard for her to join in and consequently hard work for me during the weeks she takes to adjust to it being new - mums ask if I have just moved in to the area - or glare when they see her run around hitting out in a new situation.

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    1. Hello and welcome to mummydom! It's hard, but you sound like you're doing better than I ever did with Mini (we never made it to toddler groups etc).
      Take your time, and ignore the judgements (easier said than done I know) x

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