By Tim Elder
This just in…”Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” That same concept rings true when it comes to building your family through adoption.
My wife and I are in the midst of adopting our third child, and I’ve taken the driver’s seat every time. Not because I took the lead in making this decision for our family…not at all (although I did start researching adoption before my wife was fully on board). Regardless, once we knew that adoption was right for our family, I was all in. If this was how we were going to build our family, then we BOTH needed to jump in. Due to our ages, I didn’t feel we had time on our side. With no time to waste, we needed to figure out the process and go for it! And that’s exactly what I did.
I think it is imperative that men step up and play a bigger role in the adoption journey. We need to support our wives and get involved – and it all starts with figuring out how to communicate more effectively.
Over the years, I’ve been asked by a lot of hopeful adoptive moms, “What can you tell men about how to be there for their wives – especially when they are going through the adoption process?”
With experience on my side, here are 4 pieces of advice for you, guys…
1. Figure out Your Differences Quickly.
Chances are very high that you and your wife work through issues very differently. The sooner you figure out those differences, the better off you will be. Thankfully (and providentially), I realized this early on. Do you think if I had told my wife, after years of fighting with our fertility problems (as painful as that was for me too), that adoption was a great way for us to build our family, that we would have our two beautiful children today? Maybe, maybe not. Although I dove in to reading and researching everything about how to adopt way before my wife was ready, I knew she had to come around to the idea on her own accord. When she did, I was ready and fully supportive.
Don’t just “hear” what your wife says – but really listen. Make eye contact and give her your full attention. This doesn’t mean having a conversation while you are watching TV or while you are sitting in the same room, both staring at your smart phone or tablet.
Believe me, I’ve done it (and my wife may tell you I still do it from time to time). Real listening won’t happen this way. We all have to work at this, but it is vital when discussing big things in your life…such as building your family. So, shut off the electronics, put down the newspaper and listen.
3. Show her (in your own way) that you care.
Guys are not good at showing how much they really care. It can be uncomfortable, but you have to show her that you are in this together. You are not going to give up on her, and you won’t give up on being parents.
If you don’t express yourself well by talking, try something else like writing down what you think. I know it can be difficult, so don’t make it too complicated. Just do something to show her you are there for her – and don’t think it is enough to show her once. Keep going. Keep showing her.
4. Get involved in the process.
A great way to show your wife that you care is by getting involved. Do not assume she will handle everything. This is flat out not fair to her. And if you think about it, even this part of the journey is a part of your child-to-be’s story and I know you want to be part of that. So, step up and do something. Ask her how you can help with the adoption process. Maybe assign different tasks to each of you.
Perhaps you could take initiative by calling your home study provider to find out what paperwork still needs to be completed. Maybe you can research the various resources that have been suggested to you thus far (i.e. attorneys or agencies). Or, perhaps you can help with your adoption profile. Again, there are plenty of things to do when building your family through adoption. Get involved. Do something.
While men and women may handle things in a different way, the adoption journey can go a lot smoother if it’s worked on together, as a partnership, with communication, support and sharing tasks.
And guys, there are a LOT of US going through the adoption process, too – it’s not only the women. There are a ton of Facebook communities and while some men are active, I’m noticing that it’s mostly women who participate. Sometimes men would like to connect with each other as well. So, I invite you to please join my Facebook group where guys can talk with other guys going through the adoption journey as well OR who have already been through it. This is a great place to go for support.
I really believe that husbands want to be there for their wives through the adoption journey. We really do want to be involved and want to provide support. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to show it, but with these four suggestions, I know you’ll step up so that when you tell the story to your future son or daughter, you can feel great knowing you were both 100% part of the journey!