Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1 - Adoption & Stereotypes

Adoption & Stereotypes. There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to adoption. How do you NOT fit the stereotype? What's your least favorite stereotype? There are even stereotypes in the adoption community. How do you fit into those stereotypes?

The stereotype of young teenage girl gets pregnant was the one that everyone assumed was why I was placed for adoption. It wasn’t until I found my birthmother that I discovered that she was actually a 40 year old woman when I was born. There have been a few other stereotypes over the years…. that I was better off being adopted or how lucky I was. While I love my adoptive family, hindsight has let me see that I would not have been any worse off if I had stayed with my birth family. My birthmother was not the stereotype of young, unemployed, homeless, drug using, abusive parent. I would have grown up in a nice house in a beautiful neighbourhood with a working single mother and older sister.

Another stereotype that comes up is that I must have had a horrible adoptive parents, or an atrocious upbringing since I decided to search for my birth family. People don’t seem to understand that wanting to search for your roots and fill in the holes about your past, has nothing to do with your relationship with your parents. It always strikes me as odd that people can accept children having more than one relationship with parents in the case of divorce and remarriage, or even in the case of a parent dying and the remaining one remarrying, but they cannot accept an adoptee (who by then is usually no longer a child) having a relationship with more than 1 set of parents.

I’m also an adoptive mother, so I always see things from 2 different directions. I have to fight the birthmother stereotype all the time when discussing my son’s adoption. It gets old pretty fast. I also hate the stereotype of adoptive parents as “saints”. I’m no more special than any other parent out there. I just formed my family through adoption instead of conception.

And I must confess a stereotype that I held for the longest time, one that I blame on Disney and made-for-TV-movies. When Liam was born he had to go into foster care for 17 days, during his mother’s decision making period. I had a very negative stereotype of what a foster home would look like: dirty, overrun with children, mean, uncaring “parents”. I could not have been more wrong. His foster parents were wonderful, amazing people that invited us into their home, showered our son with love and felt like extended family. But the influence of stereotypes is strong. Even though Liam had heard us talk about his time in foster care in nothing but a positive way, he too developed a negative stereotype of foster care. 2 years ago he asked if we could visit his foster family, so we set it up. After we left them, we asked him if it was what he had expected. He confessed that he thought we were going to visit a long narrow room filled with cribs, with a lady at a desk at the front who signed out babies to adoptive families. Thank you Disney for that orphanage stereotype.
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