Adoptive Mothers
Adoptive mothers don’t feel like “non-moms,” so why are they put in that category for Mother’s Day?

OK, those of you who have read this blog, or my book, or heard me speak will know that I’m really not one to be overly sensitive to slightly [inappropriate or less than perfect language when talking about adoption. My basic belief is that most slips are made from ignorance, not bias, so we do more harm than good when we take easy offense. Maybe I’m laid back, or maybe I’m just too busy, or more likely too lazy, but I figure life’s too short to go looking for reasons to get upset. But even I took offense to NBC and the Today Show classifying an adoptive mother as a non-mom.

You may have heard about the brouhaha, but in case not, I’ll fill you in. NBC and Teleflora ran a contest for Mother’s Day titled America’s Favorite Mom. People vote for their favorite contestant and a big monetary prize was awarded on Mother’s Day. There were various categories of moms, including single moms, working moms, military mom, etc. One category was titled “the non-mom mom” and included a mother through adoption. Now that got my dander up.

The funny thing is that I don’t feel like a non-mom. I would have thought that being a non-mom would be easier somehow. Why in the world would someone other than a real mom spend hours on her Friday night date with her husband (I guess he’d be the non-dad dad) discussing how to motivate their child (would he be a non-child child?) to raise his grades. A non-mom shouldn’t have to be the object of sulks and dirty looks for refusing to let another child hang out downtown with her friends even though “everyone else does it.” Surely a non-mom would be able to let someone else carry the load of being “the heavy” every once in awhile.

A non-mom should be able to have some time over the weekend for herself—if not an hour-long soak in the tub, at least a shower long enough to shave her legs. A non-mom could let someone else hem the new curtains for a child’s bedroom, plan next week’s menu so that everyone gets a favorite meal, commiserate with a child over a classroom slight, super glue her fingers together while trying to repair a toy (cut me some slack—it was a very small toy), and make sure each child has library books for the week. A non-mom would have to be crazy to sign up for this job?

Now don’t get you knickers in a knot, NBC fixed the problem by changing the category name from “Non-Mom mom” to “Adoptive mom”. I suppose this is better, but I wonder why we need a separate category to reflect how we got our kids. I don’t see a vaginally- delivered category or a cesarean-delivered category. From my vantage point in the trenches, I just don’t see that the job of mothering differs depending on how our kids became ours.

I realize I’m sounding really petty and picky, but hey, I’m on a roll so I might as well go all the way—of the three candidates in the Adoptive Mom category, only one was a mother through adoption. The other two were remarkable women, but they weren’t nominated because they were a mother. One ran an orphanage in Haiti with an emphasis on finding families for as many children as possible in the US. The other was a woman who took in numerous children of relatives to raise while being the sole support for her family and continuing to work towards finishing her high school education. These two women sound amazing and truly deserving of a prize, or an award, or at least a good bottle of champagne. And they certainly deserve a separate category because they aren’t really a mom, just the next best thing. But we adoptive moms are the real thing in all its inglorious, non-award deserving details. Most of us aren’t remarkable or amazing, but we are a mother to our children regardless of how they joined our family. We don’t deserve, nor want, a category separate from just plain old mom.

P.S. In the interest of fairness, here is a copy of Teleflora’s aplogy via email.

You’re absolutely right and I’m very sorry.
The original aim was to highlight Moms who didn’t take a traditional path to motherhood – for example, one of the contestants raised her younger siblings after their mother left the family. But we didn’t convey that clearly and instead we annoyed and upset people, which was not our intention. To say, or in any way imply, that an adoptive mother has a lesser status than a biological mother is untenable and offensive, and we sincerely apologize.
I appreciate you taking the time to post your comment.



Image credit: Jay Trefethen