We adopted our wonderful daughter who is now 9 months old in an open adoption, and we couldn’t be happier.

Before we adopted, I read your blogs about the Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule for open adoption. It was easier to imagine how I’d react and implement it than it has been to actually implement it. LOL. I am a huge fan of your blog and show, and hope you can help me with a difficult situation.

My daughter’s birth mother (“Anna”) lives in the same city. At first we got together pretty frequently, and now it`s about every 6 weeks or so. She has a history of being a little pushy, but nothing we haven’t been able to work out.

We have already scheduled a visit for the Saturday before Mother’s Day, which happens to be Birthmother’s Day.  Anna texted me last week and said she wanted to spend some time with our daughter on Sunday, Mother’s Day.  I told her that was an already full day with our families and that we’d be seeing her for a nice long visit the day before. Yesterday I got another text from her saying she really wanted to see our daughter on Mother`s Day, even if it wasn’t for a long visit.

I don’t know whether I’m being selfish, but I want to have Mother’s Day for me and my husband, and my mom and mother-in-law. I’d like to know how you’d apply the Slightly Annoying Grandmother rule to this situation. [Altered to delete any identifying information]

Open Adoption and Mother's Day and Birth Mother's Day

The Devil is In the Details

Everything is easier in theory, isn’t it? That’s why armchair quarterbacking (and parenting) is so popular. The Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule is really about attitude.

For those who are new to My #1 Rule for Open Adoptions, it works like this. When faced with a potentially difficult situation with your child’s birth mother, imagine how you would handle it if she were your loved, but slightly annoying grandmother.  You love her and you value what she can offer you and your children, so you want to treat her with respect and have both sides leave the situation with the relationship and their dignity intact.

It all sounds good in theory, but implementation is always harder.

The Relationship Tightrope

All relationships are a balancing act, and no place more so than in open adoption. You want to value and respect your child’s first mom, but you also want to value and respect yourself and your family. You probably also want to set a comfortable precedent to take into the future. You are the parent and you are in charge, but you should carry this power lightly for the sake of your child’s first mom and ultimately because that is what is best for your child.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

There is more than one way to apply the Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule and strike the balance with open adoption relationships.

Clearly seeing her daughter on Mother’s Day is important to Anna (the birth mom), so I’d be inclined to try to make it work, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to change my family and extended family plans.  There are so many factors to consider:

  • How large is your extended family, and how many mothers/grandmothers do you need to see?
  • How easy is it to schedule a quick visit with the first mother?
  • How busy are you?
  • Does your family have a long-held Mother’s Day tradition?
  • Do you have or do you want to establish a special tradition for your new family?
  • Do you have the afternoon free?
  • How able is the birth mother to respect boundaries?

Flexibility is absolutely a requirement in navigating all family relationships. This need for flexibility usually comes to a head with marriage. Most families I know have some variations on when they celebrate Christmas with their families. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve with the husband’s family and Christmas Day with the wife’s. Some rotate each year celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving. As the great philosopher, Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

“You Might Just Get What You Need”

I don’t have any magic to offer, but the first thing I would do is text Anna that you would like to talk via phone or, better yet, at a coffee shop. Texting is not the best for delicate or in-depth conversations, and I think that it is important to use this first Mother’s Day to have a real conversation rather than make a unilateral decision or sweep the difficulty under the rug.

I would want to say some variation of the following:

I can tell that it is important to you to see Suzy on Mother’s Day and as her other mother I can totally understand that. That’s why we scheduled Saturday to visit so we could truly celebrate with you the day without all of our other obligations interfering.

If it is really important for you to see her on Sunday, we can try to make that work. Mother’s Day is always busy with our families, but we could visit for a short time between lunch with my family, Suzy’s nap, and dinner with my husband’s mom. I want to work with you, so you choose between celebrating at our scheduled Saturday morning visit or a shorter visit on Sunday afternoon. I’m glad we’re talking about this because there are a lot of holidays in the year, plus her birthday. Celebrating on the actual day won’t always be possible, so I need to know which are most important to you.

Should You Celebrate Birth Mother`s Day

You can decide whether to mention that the Saturday before Mother’s Day is Birth Mother`s Day. Some birth mothers embrace this day as a way to honor their unique form of motherhood and their role in their children’s lives. Other first moms feel it is dismissive and not necessary since they are mothers and should be honored on the traditional Mother’s Day.

It is not fair to pre-judge how all birth mothers in general, or your child’s first mom in specific, will feel. Given that this is her first Mother’s Day she may not know about Birth Mother’s Day, so you might mention it as a possibility, then follow her lead.

The key to resolving all issues in open adoption is non-judgmental communication, which I know is easier said than done. But when in doubt, remember what Mick says: “If you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

How would you implement the Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule on Mother’s Day in an open adoption?

Image credit: Cookieater2009