Dear Carolyn: I’m a 45-year-old single woman who is financially secure and a self-described introvert. Years ago, I moved miles away from my parents. My parents’ positive qualities far outweigh their negative ones, but lately I feel increasingly upset about our seemingly happy family.
I am happy being single, have a decent job, own a home and have created a good life for myself. I badly want to adopt or foster a child on my own and I have thought of doing this for years. Every time I bring this up to my parents, I am bombarded with the negative aspects of being a single parent. Additionally, my father is admittedly prejudiced and has made remarks about the possibility that I may adopt a nonwhite child.
I would not expect my parents to support my child financially or emotionally. They are amazing people in many ways, but for the life of me I cannot understand why they are so against my goal.
I have tried talking to my parents about how their statements make me feel, and nothing has changed. I fear that if I listen to my mother’s litany of reasons I shouldn’t be a parent, I will never fulfill my dream. In many other ways I have always been close to my parents, and it feels strange to make this an off-limits topic and simply do what I want to do.
Do you have any advice on how I can handle this situation?
M.: I’d say you have in fact listened to your mother’s litany of reasons you shouldn’t be a parent. Not deciding is the same as not becoming.
Now, if you’re still thinking about it for your own reasons, then do keep thinking. That’s important. Carefully weigh your mother’s warnings, even; blind-squirrel theory, she could be wrong about 99 things and strike nut on the 100th.
But if you’re all set otherwise and your only obstacle is your parents’ disapproval, then, congratulations. You have no obstacles.
That’s because you’re 45. This is not a state of being that requires parental approval. And you’re well off, and eager to foster or adopt.
If the issue is more about fears that they may be right, then do your homework using knowledgeable, accredited sources, of which your parents are neither. Your father’s overt and unapologetic racism — pardon me while I get this off my chest: wow — utterly disqualifies him as a source of just about everything, except perhaps as the embodiment of the prejudice you and a future child may face and of the steps required to protect said child from him.
If you haven’t already, then please talk to people actually involved in such child placements so you can find out what’s even possible.
If you’ve done this, then, next step: Decide if the possible is still desirable.
If yes, then get to it. Don’t explain yourself, just be yourself. You don’t need to make the topic “off limits,” though, either, since it’s enough not to engage with them on it any further. A fine distinction, maybe, but one that gives you the control: “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind. More potatoes?”
But you do need to decide, now, if you’re strong enough to be an ally to any child you bring into this family. Because, wow.