January 03, 2011

Husbands and Adoption AKA- Flip Your Magnet

*warning*  Not one iota of this is scientifically based.  These are my own meandering thoughts and observances of how I see the situation broken down and how it all played out in the MoM household.

Okay.  I'm just going to go ahead and put this out there because I get a bazillion emails from women (ALL women) who say, "I want to adopt (like yesterday) but my husband is just not on board.  What should I do."  First of all, I say get divorced and adopt as a single take a minute and try to understand where he's coming from.  I was ready to adopt a whole year before my husband was.  In my mind, it felt like I was dragging him every step of the way.  I knew that my heart was there, but his just wasn't yet and waiting until it was and wondering if it ever would get there was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g.

It caused all kinds of craziness in my mind.  I wondered why my husband was so heartless.  I mean, who doesn't want to help an orphan!?  As if we didn't already know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, they also think really differently about family planning, especially adoption.  For us, adoption wasn't something we ever discussed.  We were cruising along, having some biological kiddos, and then one day I came home and looked my hubby in the eyeballs and said, "It is my purpose in life to adopt a baby.  Let's do it."  At the time I suppose I expected him to say, "Ok.  Let me make the call.  Let me fill out the papers.  Don't worry- if this is your dream, I'll take care of it."  Ummmm... hello?  I must have been off my rocker to think that was how the conversation would go.  After all, I was struggling to take care of the two children that we had.  How in the world had I proved to my husband that I could tackle another kid, much less, handle the adoption process.  I hadn't.  Y'all, fear lingers in the minds of these men.  Logistics are important and looking back on it, I realize that my husband's fears were 100 percent founded.  I wasn't really in a good place to adopt at the time that I thought I was.  My husband, who knew me best, could see this.  But this doesn't mean that it didn't tick me off royally that he was slowing things down.  In retrospect, it was the very best thing he could have done, but at the time, I couldn't see it at all.

In talking with TONS of prospective adoptive families, more often than not, it is the woman who initiates the adoption.  Adoption is messy.  It defies logic.  It is a lot to wrap one's head around.  The men that I know, need something more concrete.  They want to know how the money will be raised, how long it will take (not a span, but an exact date), what life will look like after the adoption, how they can love another person's child, etc, etc, etc.  The women I meet are more willing to take a leap of faith and figure it out as they go.  Most men can't handle that!  They need to have things talked out.  They need to plan.  They need to see the vision of the whole thing coming together.  And many times, it is our job (the woman desperate to adopt) to show him that lovingly- not get mad that he needs that. (Cause y'all- I've done it un-lovingly and it just makes a mess the size of a nuclear explosion.)

Then one day as I was strolling along in this "my husband is heartless and we will never get to adopt" puddle that I'd created, I all of a sudden had a paradigm shift in the way I was thinking about the whole situation.  I finally began to see it from his perspective.  In our case, I felt like I needed to step up my game to get our adoption moving.  I needed to suck up how hard it was having two kids and get a plan.  I needed to prove to my husband and to myself that I could take care of the things that were already on my plate (the kids, the house, the bills, the laundry).  I needed to nurture and serve the family that I already had until it was firing on all cylinders.  And not in that fakey Brady Bunch way.  Ladies- I am not saying to be super woman here.  I'm just saying that if you can't handle the things on your plate as they are, then it might not be the right time to adopt. Take a minute to figure out how you can get a grip on all the things that you are already doing.  I had to get serious about self improvement.  I had to figure out how to organize my day to be more functional.   I had to figure out how to take care of the children that I already had and learn to be happy about the challenges.  Again- not in a fakey way.  It's just that I realized that when my husband would get home, I would offload 8 hours worth of kid screaming crap right on his lap.  It's a wonder he ever wanted to come home.  His brain was saying, "Hell to the no we can't adopt a baby or have a baby or get a goldfish.  This woman can't handle it!"  And he was right.  I had to learn how to take the hardness of motherhood and learn to revel in the joys of it instead of focusing on the things that made me want to put my hands in the garbage disposal. 

Let me tell you, this did not happen overnight.  It was a process.  It took me a long time to stop getting ticked about finding a sitter so I could take one to the doctor and see it instead as an opportunity for some one on one time with each kid.  It took me a long time to stop getting mad that someone was always hanging on me and focus on enjoying those snuggles more. (Oh, who am I kidding?  I still get ticked off when they hang on for dear life like tree monkeys all day.  But I try not to!) It took me a long time to stop throwing 8 hours of garbage on my husband when he walked in the door.  I tired so hard to be more smiley.  I didn't go all June Cleaver, but more I just tried to think about how I would feel after coming home from work to only hear about the crap from the day instead of the good parts.

In trying to create a better situation, I was actually able to start shifting the way my brain saw my day.  When each kid would do something really cute, I would write it down on a little piece of paper so I could remember to tell hubby when he came home.  And in doing that, it made me focus more on the happiness that lived in my house instead of the overwhelming-ness.  Overall, the whole thing that was designed to make my husband think I had my act together- actually did make me a happier person with more control over my life and my thoughts.  Who knew that deception could be so mutually beneficial!?!?  (Seriously though- you can think of it as deception but I like to think of it as fake it till you make it self improvement.)

Even though my husband would never admit it, I know that deep down he was probably worried that with another little one pulling at us, he wouldn't get as much attention.  Yep.  Those husbands need attention, too.  I was all too guilty of putting the children to bed, and soaking in the tub all alone until I would turn into a prune and then crawling into bed with a book and getting angry at being interrupted. (edited to say: after reading this, I sound like a HORRIBLE wife- yikes!)  And forget, ummmm... you know.  'Cause oh holy night- after all day with people hanging all over me, I didn't need another person touching me!   

Again, there has got to be a paradigm shift here people.  You've got to nurture that relationship for your own good.  The key to healthy, happy kids is a healthy marriage. Duh.  But it's true.   I find that when my husband and I are on the same page and we are connecting and taking time for our marriage that our kids follow suit and thrive so much better.  Last night while I was in bed I was thinking a lot about how my husband and I are like magnets.  Sometimes we have this indescribable pull toward each other and there is nothing that can pull it apart.  And then there are the times where one of the magnets gets flipped and the magnets repel each other and they do this dance around each other but you can't get them to stick no matter how hard you try to push them together.  But you know what?  If you shift the way you think about the relationship and focus less on being right and more about nurturing, the magnet flips itself back over and they stick together again.  Girls- flip your magnets.  See this struggle to get on the same page about an adoption as less of an "I'm right and he's heartless" scenario and see it as a "He's got fears and I need to help him through it" scenario.  I wish I would have flipped my magnet a whole lot sooner than I did.  Heck.  I probably need to flip my magnet a whole lot more than I do!

During the whole adoption process, I've never felt more bonded to my husband.  But once Miles came home, I slacked.  So I guess you could say that those deep seeded fears my husband probably had about his attention levels were probably right.  But now that life is settling down and Miles is doing so much better, I am on a mission to nurture that relationship again.  But this all goes back to the fact that we need to show our husbands, not just tell them that the relationship that we have will still be a priority, no matter how many children get added to a home.

And then there are the finances.  Oy vey.  Thinking about adoption finances can just about make a person's skull come unglued and shoot their brain into orbit.  Get a plan.  Do your research about grants, loans, fundraising ideas.  Write it all down.  If money for an adoption is not just laying in your lap (and really?  Who has that kind of money laying around?) then be prepared to tell your husband what you are willing to give up to make it happen.  Have a real discussion about the options instead of just going on the hope that money will fall from the sky.  My husband for one, needed to see where the money was going to come from or what the options were for trying to make that happen.  Women- I am one of you.  I know how tempting it is to say, "It will come.  If we just take this leap, I know the money will come."  But every man that I know would like to see a plan.  Get one.

So to sum it all up:  be understanding, be patient, do not be condescending about how high and mighty you are for wanting to help the orphans and how horrible your husband is because he's not there yet.  See it from his perspective.  Address his fears through actions and watch how your own life and relationships improve.  Because some times, you just have to flip your magnet.

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