People Need to Change How They Talk About Adoption

Ok, so…we all know I don’t have children.

I enjoy the freedom my child-free existence gives me.  I enjoy it tremendously. I love having no schedule, sleeping in, and booking plane tickets on a whim.  My life, right now, without kids,  is quite frankly… delicious.

Seriously.

That being said, I’m in my 30’s, so at this point, as a child-free woman, I’ve gotten really good at dodging the never ending questions about my age and fertility, to the point that they generally don’t bother me much anymore.

I do however, LOVE other people’s children.

I’m convinced my niece is the coolest kid ever.  All of my friends have kids, and all of those kids are freaking amazing, just like their parents are.  I genuinely get excited when someone posts a video of their kid walking, or sleeping, or babbling.  I love it all.

And though I relish my child-free existence, I’m beginning to slowly warm towards the idea of starting and having a family (mainly because I’ve finally met someone I would want to raise a family with…not that you can’t do it alone). And when I say “slowly warming,” I mean like  “melting a glacier with a lighter” type slow.  I’m not quite there yet.

I’m still a while away from wanting to add “Mom” to the long list of words people hurl at me in irritation.  But I’m getting there.

And while I’m getting “there” I’ve turned to asking people who have families for their insight.  I talk to my male and female  friends about their experiences and regrets.  Is parenthood really so great? Would they do it all again? I want it all…the nitty gritty.  So I can prepare myself for the inevitable emotional slaughter that is parenthood, as best I can.

But many of these conversations inevitably come back to my age.  I get subtle warnings about the biological clock tick-tocking away. Reminders about how, after 35, my ovaries might literally dissolve into dust in my body.

And that’s when I say, “Actually,  if I can’t have my own, I don’t think there’s a strict age limit on adoptions, so I’ll be okay.”

And that’s when people get stupid. Just…so…stupid.

There’s usually a pause, a polite smile, followed by some sort of mind numbing comment about how it takes a “special” type of person to raise someone else’s kid. This comment is usually followed by reminders and questions similar to these ones:

  1.  How are you going to know about their mental health?  Lots of adopted kids have issues, you know.
  2. Can you not have your own children? You’ll never really love a kid like you’ll love your own.
  3. Aren’t you going to feel rejected when the kid starts looking for his or her birth parents?
  4. What if your kid turns out to be some sort of serial killer? Have you thought about that?
  5. <Insert anecdote about a family they know who is struggling with their adopted child>

And the list goes on and on…

So now, here’s the thing.

The questions, while they bother me, don’t hurt me… because I’m not an adoptive parent.  But many of my friends are.  And several other incredibly well adjusted friends of mine, were adopted children themselves.

And as I’m being inundated with insufferable questions that unintentionally diminish both the lovability and value of children up for adoption, all I can think about is…why is this line of questioning even okay?

Seriously…why do people think it’s okay?  Because…it’s not.

If you think these types of questions and comments are appropriate, I want you to imagine what it felt like or what it will feel like when you or your partner gets pregnant. I want you to now imagine telling one of your friends your great news.  That you’re pregnant. And about to have a baby.

And I want you to imagine them giving you a polite smile, and then saying, “That’s so brave of you, your life is going to get so hard.” I want you to imagine that they ask you questions like:

  1. Oh, man…aren’t you worried about what this kid is going to do to your body or relationship?
  2. What if the kid has learning disabilities or mental disorders?
  3. Aren’t you concerned he or she is going to grow up and resent you like you resent your parents?
  4. What if you don’t bond with the baby?  Aren’t you worried about post-partum depression?
  5. Have you read any of those articles about parents who wish they had never had children?

In fact, most people with biological children HAVE to imagine the above situation playing out, because it just honestly never happens.  Whereas parents with adopted children deal with questions and judgments like these all the freaking time. For like…ever.

It’s not okay.  So stop.

Is it okay for these questions to come up in your head? Sure. I certainly wonder about all of these things in regards to adopted and biological children. Starting a family is a crazy leap of faith no matter how you do it. But it’s the same leap.

And if you struggle with things to say to someone who is considering adoption, here’s a life hack: just think about what you’d say to anyone who was going to have a child. And proceed from there.  Offer to throw them a baby shower…share experiences you’ve had with parenthood…smoke a cigar with them…it’s not difficult.

So my point:  no one gets off easy when it comes to kids and family.  That’s why compassion and mindfulness is needed no matter how someone decides to “do” the whole family thing.

So people without kids:  if you really think you need to expel a human out of your vagina in order to fully love it, you should really think about your intentions behind your family:  do you want to be a parent?  Or do you want to have your own children?  Because there is a very distinct difference.

And people with kids: if you think there is a difference between the love you feel for your child, and the love an adopted parent feels, that’s fine.  Just stop talking about it.   And if you feel the need to bring it up around adopted parents…there is something very broken in your definition of parenthood and love.

Now… if you’ll excuse me… I’ve got five hours of Youtube to catch up on before I sleep-in until noon.

I’m really gonna be a great mom one day.

 

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The “Body Shame Game.” Can We Stop Playing It Now? It Sucks

The “body shame game” is a behavior many of us are familiar with.   The game can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, consist of any number of players, and take place anywhere and everywhere.  The only thing that’s consistent about it is that absolutely no one walks away from this game as a winner.  Everyone loses.  It’s the worst game ever.

So what is it?

The game usually starts with a group of girls catching up.  Things are cordial for a while.  Banter and jokes are flying around, people are smiling and laughing, the night is looking pretty good…and then someone decides to make the first move.  She looks at one of her friends and goes:

“Oh my god…you look so great!  Have you been working out?  Ugh, I have no time for it anymore, I’ve gotten so fat.”

The table will get silent for a second.  The friend, not sure what to say at this double edged sword of a compliment will think for a second and quip something along the lines of, “Oh no, I’m actually so out of shape at the moment.  I mean…that’s why I’m wearing pants right now, my thighs are like cottage cheese!”

Anxious to get involved, another woman quickly thinks to herself and goes, “You have great legs! I mean, I would kill for your legs.  Mine are super short…I look like a penguin.”

And thus the game begins.  When it’s your turn to speak, you have two choices:

Say something positive about someone ELSE

 OR

Say something negative about yourself 

This game is quite frankly…pretty gross.  And like I said…no one wins, no matter how many cards you have to play.  This game is what causes so many of us to look at our bodies every day and see it as a combination of problems to be fixed.  This game is what causes us to take a healthy, functioning human body and view it like this:

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To be fair…I loved my calves

I mean…seriously…what the f*ck.

We need to quit this game, and we need to quit it now.  Your body is not a problem…it is the one thing you are guaranteed to have until the day you actually freaking die, so it’s time to start honoring it, and all it does for you.

Now look…We all have that little voice that speaks to us every time we look in the mirror or see a photograph of ourselves.  That’s where the “body shame game” starts: at home…in our own heads.

This voice sneaks up behind us and says: “Hey…you’re not actually happy with what you’re seeing here, right?” It points out our thighs, the texture of our skin, our rolls of body fat.  It does this so often, that when it’s time for us to actually talk about our bodies, those are the only things we have to say.  We define our bodies by what is wrong with them…so I think it’s time we start re-defining what we view as problems:

Stretch marks:

Yes…I have them.  They are a result of a dark shameful  period in my life where I put A LOT of weight in a short amount of time.  The doctors called it puberty.  I called it hell.

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Before puberty: The “no stretch mark” glory days

And that’s all stretch marks are… signs of growth and change.  They show us how adaptable our bodies are.

Did you have a baby?  Did having the baby leave you with stretch marks?  Now you don’t want to wear a bathing suit because you don’t want people to notice them? I completely get that…but…i’m sorry…I may have trouble noticing them because I’m busy being in complete awe that you GREW A HUMAN in your body.  Where there was NO human…you made one…and now it’s here… walking around and talking and stuff.  That’s amazing!  And your stretch marks…they are a badge of honor that show everyone that you loved someone else more than you loved yourself.

Did you lose a lot of weight?  Now you don’t want to wear a bathing suit because of your stretch marks?  I completely get that but…no.  No wait, I don’t get that.  You freaking FOUGHT for your new body.  Blood, sweat, and tears for this new body.  Those stretch marks are your battle scars for winning a war most people never even have the balls to start.

Body Fat:

Yes, I have it.  I also have the luxury of eating food everyday.  I have the luxury of not having to walk miles for my food. I have the luxury of never knowing what it’s like to have to be hungry.  And If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re like me.

We don’t know what it’s like to have to be hungry…so why do so many of us spend our time time trying to starve ourselves?  Why do we try to convince ourselves that body fat is something we are supposed to eradicate?

Bringing up body fat is ultimately the Ace of Spades in the Body Shame Game.  Girls and women love to bring up the fact that they need to lose weight.  Please don’t play that card.  And if someone you know needs a way to feel good about their body fat, please remind them that their fat rolls are the only thing that will help them survive the next famine.  Seriously.

Thick thighs and thick arms: 

Instead of trying to make these body parts smaller, can we please just try to make them stronger?  Get off the elliptical and get onto a pull-up bar.  Stop with the crash diets, and go and get to know the squat rack.

And if you don’t want to do that, at least acknowledge and thank your body for giving you arms and legs that work.  None of us have any…freaking…reason to ever shame the body parts that allow us to get from point A to point B and allow us to pick up and hold people and things that we love.  None of us.

Faces: 

My face…I used to hate how it looked when I smiled.  Im assuming a lot of women feel this way (would explain duck face). I would hide my face when I smiled or laughed.  It was a cool time in my life.

But then I found that a lot of people in my life made me smile and made me laugh, and I didn’t want to shield myself from those experiences by putting a hand up or turning away.  We all need to live life by putting our best face forward.  And your face…well…it’s your best face.  And it’s wonderfully your own.

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Just smile

So, the body shame game.  Needless to say, I don’t play it anymore.  When I look in the mirror, that little voice that used to dominate every view I had on my body has no choice but to say, “sure…I guess you look good.”  It’s not easy at times, sometimes, after a hard day or experience, that voice still has a lot to say.  But just like a drunk friend at a bar, I let it talk at me, but not to me.  I let it ramble and rant until it has nothing left to say, and then I get on with it.

I don’t play this game when my girlfriends bring it up either.  I don’t even try to re-assure them about their bodies anymore, because by doing that, all I’m doing is validating that “voice” in their head that is speaking for them. And I don’t want to talk to it.

 I don’t shame my body anymore.  And because of that, when I look in the mirror, I’m able to see a true reflection of who and what I am on the inside…someone who is happy and healthy and loving life.

So ladies…honor your bodies.  You would not let someone else call you fat or ugly or thick…so why are you letting yourself talk to yourself that way? If you don’t like something about the amazing vehicle you have been given, you have two choices: accept it or change it. Don’t shame it. 

And ladies, gentlemen, who ever is reading this still.  I want you to stop talking to “that voice” in your head.  Stop giving it power over you.  You are valuable. We all are.  And no matter what that voice is saying, whether it’s telling you that you’re not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough… whatever it says, please just know one thing…

It’s lying.

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Disclaimer (read if anything slightly upset you in this post):

I KNOW body fat is a huge issue for so many people.  We all need to honor our bodies by keeping them healthy, and some people do NEED to lose body fat to be healthier versions of themselves. Im not talking about that type of body fat.  I’m talking about the “shame game” version of body fat  where we agonize over things like having a slight muffin top when we don skinny jeans.

Also…this is not a “woe is me” post.  I’m aware that I have no reason to feel bad about my body.  But then honestly, neither do you.   We ALL struggle with these issues.  No matter how we look to other people, it’s ultimately how we view ourselves that define us.  

And for over a decade, I didn’t see what a lot of people may see when they look at me…I saw a girl with gangly wrists, a fat tummy, and oddly placed knees.  The purpose of this post is to show you that for a long long time…I did struggle with body issues.  It wasn’t easy for me, and realistically… it should’ve been.  It should be easier for all of us.