When a couple gets pregnant, often there is one partner who is already in the ‘parenting mindset’ before the other. As an adoption consultant, I see the same thing in the adoption process. In fact, it would be unusual for two people to have the exact same outlook at the exact same time. It’s more typical for one spouse to be comfortable moving ahead with adoption before the other one. I speak to many prospective parents who are not emotionally on the same page during the process — or, sometimes, even when the baby is placed with them. To help parents overcome the early challenges of adoptive parenthood, here are some tips to help motivate each other.
Early in the adoption process
Early in the process, your viewpoints on being a parent might not match. Likewise, one of you may feel like you are doing all the paperwork and all the effort required for adoption while your spouse is disinterested in the nitty gritty details. If you are experiencing this, here are some tips to help you communicate with your spouse.
1, At the start, commit to being honest with each other and really listening to each other’s perspective. This should be done without a predetermined ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision about moving forward.
2. If you find yourselves having trouble communicating throughout the process, consider going to couples counseling with someone that both of you can trust. Each partner needs to feel that a therapist is not taking sides or trying to pressure anyone into a certain decision. A reputable therapist won’t do that, so do your homework first before selecting someone.
3. Accept that one spouse might not be as motivated to do all the work to prepare for adoption. The more motivated partner might need to shoulder a bit more of the paperwork. It is important, however, to confirm there is a certain level of shared commitment about parenting. If not, there will be resentment that could jeopardize the relationship and the child’s experience.
After the adoption placement
It can be a difficult adjustment after your baby has been placed with you. If one or both spouses are having trouble adjusting to parenting and/or bonding with the child, there are some things you can do to help your spouse grow into their role.
1. Make sure each partner has time to recharge and feel connected to his or her friends. No matter how you came to be a parent, having that pre-baby normalcy is very important to emotional well-being for everyone in the home. This could include going to the gym regularly, getting decent sleep some nights, and/or occasionally grabbing a bite or a drink with a friend.
2. If you’re lucky enough to have available and willing grandparents, take advantage of that benefit and get them involved! They would love to spend quality time with their new grandchild. Have grandparents come over to watch your baby while you shower, do laundry, or just watch a movie together. Dropping your baby off with grandparents is also a great way to take a guilt-free break and transition into parenthood.
If family isn’t nearby, line up a part-time nanny who can take some burden off.
3. Have a date night! You need that couple time to keep the romance alive and to continue communicating without the stress of parenting interrupting what you want to say to each other.
Throughout the entire process, remember that it’s OK to not be in complete alignment every step of the way. It can even lead to healthy conversations during which you may both learn some new perspectives. But the key is to keep communicating. Even if you’re not on the same page, you need to both be reading the same book.
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy (www.TheAdoptionConsultancy.com), an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months.