Deaths, drugs, finances, unplanned pregnancies—many of us face these issues with close friends and family. Out of love, we do our best to help, especially when children are involved. Following our emotions, some of us (me included) would adopt every child on the street that didn’t come from a stable, loving home. However, in reality, adopting (or taking in) a child is not as simple as it appears.
There is much that comes with parenting and even more that comes with a child who isn’t biologically yours—particularly true in Losing Isaiah scenarios and step-parenting on non-custodial side of things. What happens when you invest your love into a child as if they were your own, make them a part of your family and, suddenly, ten years later their biological mother gets clean and wants to regain custody? Or, what about trying to integrate an outside child into your family culture every other weekend?
Though the reward usually outweighs the inconvenience and sacrifice, adopting a relative can be taxing which is why you should ask yourself a few questions before making the leap into non-biological parenthood:
- Do you have the ability to love the child more than you love yourself?
It’s a no-brainer for most mothers as to whether or not they would sacrifice their well-being on account of their children. At the moment of birth something clicks and suddenly they are struck with the capacity to love unconditionally, selflessly. Parenthood often requires one to put their needs on the backburner to meet those of children—for better or worse, rich or poor. Would you be willing to give that child the last bite with no way to feed yourself?
- Are you being driven by emotions or clear thought?
Emotions are unpredictable and deceiving; they flutter up and down, left to right. Remove your emotions from the decision and weigh out the pros and cons when your feelings are at rest. That way, you can accurately assess the situation and how you would tackle potential issues in the future.
- Are you flexible?
If you’re an idealist, a less than traditional parenting setup may not be a good idea for you. Consider how firm you are on being The Mom and only mom. Ask yourself if you would wish the biological parents away or be open to making them a part of the child’s life. Adoption is an alternative form of parenting, which means it also requires a non-traditional approach.
- Can you afford it?
No, you don’t need a million dollars to become a parent; but it costs money to raise children. Take a look at your finances and adjust your current budget with the added expenses of a child in mind. If you work, is there room for child care expenses? Can you buy school clothes and pay for dental appointments?
- Do you really want to raise someone else’s child?
Taking a child in is a huge commitment and you have to be dedicated to that child as if they were your own, which is easier planned than done.
Adopting a new relative changes your life instantly. Think and pray through it before acting.
LaShaun Williams is a Madame Noire contributor and columnist whose work has appeared in the New York Times and across several popular sites, such as HuffPost Black Voices and the Grio. For more information, visit her blogPolitically Unapologetic or follow her on Twitter @itsmelashaun and Facebook.