And Baby Makes Three
A single momís decision to adopt a second time.by Carrie Krueger
My mom tells me that when I was little I said that when I grew up, I wanted to have a house with 100 different rooms, and a baby from every single country in the world. I collected dolls from around the world and always knew someday I would adopt. I also figured I would get married. I was about half right.
College came and went with no sign of Mr. Right. Career, travel, friendship and adventure took me through my twenties. Thirty hit and the knight in shining armor still hadnít ridden up. I told my parents I was serious about wanting to adopt. My father asked me to take a year and work on finding a mate. I tried! But at the same time, I started researching adoption agencies and programs. China opened up and suddenly it all became clear. I was one of the lucky early pioneers in the program, traveling to Hangzhou in July 1992 to break new ground and bring home my daughter Claire.
At that point people pretty much figured my family was complete. But I knew in my heart it was not. As elated as I was with my daughter, as exhausted and overwhelmed as I was juggling work and family as a single mom, I knew I wanted another child. I felt at least 3 irresistible pulls:
I didnít want an only child. I wanted her to have a sibling growing up and later in life.
I wanted to help another child, to offer a family and love to another child in need.
I didnít want to be so completely focused, infatuated, obsessed with one individual. I knew it wasnít healthy for her or for me.
So I pushed forward and in February 1995 I welcomed my son Cameron home from Vietnam. (Getting a boy has been really fun, but I canít say wanting a child of the opposite sex was a reason for wanting two. I would have been thrilled with two girls as well.)
Whatís it like to be outnumbered by oneís children, alone in the house with a toddler and a preschooler? Exhausting, overwhelming and a whole lot of fun. While the first period of time with a new infant was not for the faint-hearted, things really are getting easier and more enjoyable all the time.
Many adoptive parents relate to the feeling that they were "meant" to have this child, that they got exactly the child that was supposed to be theirs. I feel that times two, PLUS, I feel my two kids were "meant" to be siblings. Theyíre star-crossed, a love match. Itís beautiful, moving and emotional to see them together and know that they will have one another for the rest of their lives.
The drawbacks? Time to myself has gone from none to non-existent. Between work and home, I have ceased to exist as an individual. Iíve let myself go, do not exercise or even cut my hair. I have NO free time. But these are the crunch years. I really believe things will get easier (and those of you with older kids, please donít tell me it doesnít get easier!) Besides having no time, I have no money. In a two-parent household, you have the option of two incomes, or one income and free child care provided by the stay-at-home parent. I have one income and pay full time child care for two kids. Itís killing me. Again, I think things will get easier. Lack of time and money sometimes leaves me feeling lonely (but never alone, of course). It would be nice to be sharing the ups and downs of all this with someone else. Anyone out there got a nice, single brother who loves kids?
Some of the second child issues are amplified in a single-parent household. For example, itís very difficult for me to carve out time to be alone with either child. And certainly those long nights of crying baby and cranky toddler are worse when there is only one parent to try to get everyone settled. Bedtimes are tough because kids of different ages need different routines. When I was rocking my 8 month old, it was tremendously difficult for my three year old to stay away from us and let him fall asleep. Iím sure plenty of couples face these same dilemmas when one partner or the other is out-of-town, working late, or otherwise unavailable. Still, the pay off comes when the two of them laugh hysterically over a private joke, comfort one another when grumpy mom yells, or run off to make "pancakes" in the sandbox. Itís worth every ounce of effort for those moments!
Meanwhile, I have to say that in general, Iíve gotten far LESS support for my second adoption than for my first. I think it is often true that people are less excited about a second child than a first. But for me I got a message along the lines of "I could understand you really wanted a child and supported you. But two? Now youíre going too far." When I express feelings of being overwhelmed by this experience, I feel some people are thinking "What did you expect when you took on TWO?", or "You asked for it . . ." Itís true, one child is a LOT easier, more manageable, more contained that two. But that just means parents, especially single parents, need even more support when they take on a second.
The adjustment to two? It takes a good solid year. With one, I felt such bliss that the late night feedings were a joy and an honor. With two I felt despair, even depression after months of sleep depravation. I felt like I would finally get one of them happy or settled and the other one would wig-out over something. It was rare that the whole household was happy at one time. But those days are starting to seem like a long time ago. Now weíre mostly happy most of the time. The kids are busy together, running in the sprinkler, finger painting or putting on a show for me. Everyone is sleeping better. Each child is becoming more capable and independent, and every day Iím even more happy that I decided to adopt a second child.
Can I hold the line at two? Everyone keeps asking me that. I donít know for sure. But I do know that weíre all pretty happy right now. Iíve got no money for another adoption and I donít want another BABY. But I could imagine a day when a third child, older than a baby but younger than the two I already have would enter our lives. You never know.
My parting advice to anyone, single or married thinking about two: Itís hard, itís a lot of work and Iím SO glad I did it. I canít imagine life without my pair.
Carrie Krueger lives in Seattle, Washington with her family
Carrie Kruegerís top ten survival tips for single moms and other busy parents
- Have lots of back up plans. Figure out in advance what you might do if youíre sick, your care-provider is sick, one child is in the hospital, the car breaks down etc. Itís a good feeling to have plans.
- Seek a variety of supportive friends. Married friends with a stay-at-home spouse can bail you out on week days. Single friends with kids know what youíre going through. Single friends without kids are great for hikes (they can carry gear!). The point is, you need friends in all categories. Even a neighborhood grandma-type is helpful.
- Pay for as much help as your can afford. If you can afford a cleaning person for your house, do it. If you can afford someone to manage your bills, take in your dry cleaning, walk your dog, whatever, do it. Pre-teens will often do a lot for little money.
- Let lots of things slide. When Iím driving to pick up my kids at day care, I say to myself "Nothing matters tonight as much as nurturing these kids. Thatís my focus." If you just lavish love and attention on them, get them fed and into bed, youíve succeeded! Everything else can wait.
- Cook dinner after dinner. No joke. Sunday night, make two dinners and put one in a casserole dish. Monday night, microwave it, and youíre eating five minutes after you get home. After dinner when kids are more calm (and tummies are full), cook up the next nightís meal and save it. I even set the table the night before because that first period of time at home after work is SO hard, having dinner all set is fabulous.
- Get organized. Set up systems for everything. Bills, laundry, recycling. Simplify it, set up a system and stick to it. It helps so much to organize the essentials. (I teach a whole course in this, so I wonít say more.)
- Simplify morning and nighttime routines. Before going to bed, I lay out my clothes and the kids clothes for the next day. I even untie their shoes so theyíre ready. I put dry cereal in cups with lids (easier to hold than bowls) and pour milk into cups with lids. In the morning, I hand them their cereal and milk and put on a video while I shower, dress, make my coffee (mandatory!). I dress them while they continue to eat and stare at the screen. They walk to the car carrying their two cups and continue to munch while we drive to day care. Simple eh? I have a similar simple routine at night. It begins with me stating emphatically: "As soon as you are in your PJs with clothes in the hamper and teeth brushed, we can read books." I then sit down and begin reading their books to myself, inviting them to join me when theyíre ready. It works.
- Trade off with other parents. Take their kids and have a "party" one Saturday night, hand your kids off to them the next. Your gonna hear over and over again that you need time to yourself. Itís very tough to do, but one night every few weeks will do you a world of good.
- Lower your standards. Amazing discoveries: Bed sheets do not have to be laundered every week. Fast food isnít all that bad for kids. Children donít need baths every day, or even every other day.
- Courage! Youíre not the first person to do this and many others have done it without having a choice or having near the resources most of us have. Whenever I get to feeling overwhelmed, I focus on how fast these years go by, the difference I am making in young lives, the difference they are making in mine.
Books for Single Families: Selections from the Bank Street Bookstore
- The Long Weekend
Troon Harrison $14.95, Ages 3-7
James only wants one thing for his birthday--a long weekend. He and his mother spend the time together at the beach, and he builds sand castles, boats and farms, having the time of his life. But best of all, he has a wonderful time with his mother, creating memories heíll never forget.
- Do I Have a Daddy? A Story About a Single-Parent Child
by Jeanne Warren Lindsay, $5.95 (P) Ages 4-7
Erik has never seen his father and wants to know why. His mother answers him simply and honestly. Excellent section for single parents discusses the totally absent father, and suggests ways of talking about him.
- Monster Mama
Liz Rosenberg $15.95, Ages 3-6
Patrickís mother is a monster, but that doesnít mean that she is mean. Readers will enjoy this lively tale of a boy and his mother, and how she is able to protect him in all circumstances.
- A Chair for My Mother
Vera B. Williams $4.95 (P) Ages 3-8
Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother all live happily together, happy enough save for the fact they have no furniture. Rosa recounts the devasting fire that ravaged their apartment, their year-long savings of coins to buy a new chair, and most of all, the strength of their family. This wonderful story was a 1983 Caldecott Honor book.
- Single Mother by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood
by Jane Mattes, C.S.W., $15.00
Reviewed by Benna Troup: I wish I had read Single Mother by Choice when I was first deciding whether or not to have a child. It contains excellent chapters on whether single motherhood is right for you, becoming a single mother through conception or through adoption. This is a book that you will refer to over and over, as your child grows. In the same way that many adoption books tell us how to handle adoption issues as our children reach different developmental stages, Single Mother by Choice explains how not having a daddy is an issue in different ways as your child matures. The book gives simple, concrete advice on how to discuss "the daddy issue" with your child. Excellent bibliography of books on child development, adoption, choosing child care, childrenís and adult fiction concerning single parent families.
Copyright 2000-2004 Adoptive Families Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission prohibited.
"Deciding on a Second Child" by Carrie Howard, www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=587
"Is Sibling Rivalry Just Another Name for Love?" by Mary Ebejer, www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=198
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