Ask AF: Referring to the Birth Mother

Avoiding the term "birth mother" around your isn't advisable, says this expert — in fact, it hearkens back to the "dark ages" of adoption.

Q: Our social worker advised us to avoid the term “birth mother” when talking with our child. She said this would just confuse our child and that “you are his only mother.” This has been bothering me — especially since we’d like to stay in touch with his birth mother.


A: It sounds like your social worker is stuck in the dark ages of adoption! You are right to question this advice. Yes, you are your child’s mother, but you are not, in fact, his only one. Your family may find that it feels most natural to call the birth mother by her first name in casual conversation, but you’ll do so with the understanding that your son is aware of their connection. You will have explained to him that ____ is his birth mother, and that he grew in her tummy.

Children often understand more than adults give them credit for. They know who mom and dad are, and won’t be confused when they speak with their birth mothers, or when the birth mother comes to visit. In fact, with the ongoing contact you’re planning, adoption will be easier (not more confusing) for your child to understand.


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