Although I’m a stay-at-home mom I think it is absolutely critical that adoptive parents be given the same parental leave as biological parents. We raised two biological children before we adopted a sibling set of four and it is by far a more difficult experience to parent adopted children. Adoptive parents face many set-backs and need as much time as possible to connect with their sons and daughters, as attachment and bonds do not happen overnight. And beyond the need for time to attach, new parents need a great deal of time to deal with all of the fall-out from a child’s history of trauma.
New parents with biological babies don’t sleep much and there is a learning curve but most people don’t realize that often adoptive parents with older children don’t sleep either, even with a ten-year-old! Our children were up all night crying, grieving, in fear, looking for attention. Every single night. Imagine getting little sleep but needing to search for your older child who has run away because they had homework. Imagine that in a chronic state of exhaustion you might be holding the arms of your child who is physically attacking themselves because they couldn’t accomplish something. Imagine being up all night then trying to cook dinner while stopping your child from completely destroying a room because they couldn’t have cookies.
It is not unusual for adoptive parents to spend two or three days a week at therapists’, assessments, doctor’s office, or at school, trying to figure out exactly what their child’s undiagnosed or newly diagnosed special needs or disabilities are and how to proceed. Imagine spending your days at appointment and your evenings pouring through books and articles to find out how to advocate for your child, how to heal your child, because no one has ever known them so well or been so committed to them to even try. Imagine your child who has never had a mother or father beg you to come on a field trip, because this is their first time to have a parent like the other kids, but you can’t miss work. How are new parents supposed to negotiate the colossal and unique demands of new adoptive parenting while working?
Finding adoptive homes for children is the best thing we can do for them and for society. To expect parents to spend time at a job rather than with their child who is desperate for connection is wrong. It’s impossible to articulate the actual stress of having one’s home turned into a battle ground, all day, all night, with no break. Ever. We must not expect tired and overwhelmed parents to walk into work with a smile on their face and function, while trying to field phone calls from teachers and doctors, while not letting on what chaos they face at home. The least we can do is give adoptive parents some time away from work so they can soldier on, so they can help their new children heal, and create the family every child deserves.