Over the Shoulder Syndrome

We’re quickly skiing down the road towards our home study face to face interview. For most adoptive parents, this event creates feelings of anxiety. We have one more form to turn in before they can schedule our social worker meeting. One more form. We are turning in our paper treasure hunt left and right. Each form we turn in brings us one step closer to a new baby.

I know no matter what I read, no matter what helpful advice I hear from other adoptive parents, and no matter what I myself say, I will worry myself sick before the social worker comes to visit us. I will scrub the house clean in places no normal human being could ever possibly see. I will organize my cabinets, dust ceiling fan blades, set out happy magazines, and maybe even “accidentally” leave out the adoption book I’ve been reading lately. I know these are not the things social workers are concerned with, and I definitely just want to be myself… What’s so wrong with wanting to present a slightly-better organized version of myself?

Lately though, without even having an interview date scheduled, I’m already suffering from a particular type of anxiety. Only half-jokingly I refer to this as “over the shoulder syndrome.” To put it simply, as I go throughout my day, I am caught from time to time thinking about the woman who will choose me as the mother of her child, and I wonder to myself, “Why me?” I feel as though I’m always being watched by unseen eyes. Not in a paranoid in-need-of-therapy kind of way. But in the same sense that Christian’s are often aware that God watches the actions no one else sees and sometimes feel convicted in our less than stellar moments as people.

If/When I catch myself yelling at Little, I think, “Wow I’m horrible… Why would a mother choose me!?” Or, for instance, yesterday in the car when he stuck a tiny piece of plastic in his mouth and was slyly giggling at me. I yelled, I begged, I completely freaked out to get him to spit that stupid piece of plastic out… From the front seat, I didn’t know what to do! I reached back there and I pinched his leg. It didn’t even hurt. He didn’t cry out, and it didn’t leave a mark. He finally let me have the piece of plastic, but by then I was in a near panic. I was close to tears and felt beyond ashamed at my lack of composure. Travis kept saying, “You didn’t hurt him, and ultimately he spit it out and didn’t choke.” I felt like I’d failed some sort of parenting test. That sneaking feeling was there again. This thought of, “Ok, if the social worker saw that fantastic display of on-your-feet parenting, what would they say??”

I know every mom (especially stay at home moms who often find themselves at their wits-end with their kids) has moments like these. For me they don’t happen often, but that doesn’t mean I feel great afterwards. I felt like crap. I felt embarrassed that I’d resorted to pinching the fat part of his leg (despite the fact that he just giggled and said, “Stop it, mommy!”) and that I freaked out so beautifully in the first place. I imagine a room of doctors in lab coats with tablets in hand shaking their head at me pathetically, grading me down for every spastastic mom moment I display.

I know I’m too hard on myself. But good grief, the stories I hear about the promises hopeful adoptive parents must make before “qualifying” for a child are ridiculous! One agency I saw requires all parents to sign a contract saying they’ll never drink alcohol or smoke tobacco of any kind. Travis has a humidor in our bedroom with a vast (and expensive) cigar collection inside. I certainly don’t think this marks him as the beast of Revelation, but apparently that agency would disagree. Similar contracts exist at other agencies: contracts that promise against spanking of any kind, contracts that promise to always attend church, contracts to always speak regularly with the agency and the birth mother, contracts that vow against even yelling at your kids! Reading such strict credentials has gotten in my head.

Our agency does not have such strict standards of course, but I guess the weight of adoption is wearing on me. The idea that I’ll be chosen in absolute trust by a mother wanting better for her child wars against my slightly skewed self image and leads me to wonder if I can live up to the idea of “better.” When I expressed my concerns to Travis, he was supportive and slightly confused because he sees me. Like I said before, I know I’m too hard on myself. I know pinching my son on the leg so he’d spit out a piece of plastic he was delightedly holding between his teeth does not mean that I’m a terrible parent.

I know even when I’m having a yelling day with him and he’s absolutely driving me nuts, I’m still more patient and loving and engaging than a lot of women living in the  circumstances that lead them to choose adoption for their children (as poverty, addiction, abuse and lack of support can add a ton of stress onto an already stressful day with a child.) I know our home is loving and warm and fun. I know I am loving, warm, and fun. But in those frustrating and even sometimes shameful moments, I think, “Would a birth mother be angry if I had to pinch our adopted child’s leg to keep them from swallowing something?” When I’m yelling at LB because I caught him climbing on the living room desk to get down the box of markers I hid from him, I think, “Would she still pick me if she saw me yelling at my child right now?”

The answer is probably still yes. But I can’t help but feel undeserving somehow. When I have a bad day with Little, I have a sneaky thought that somehow the social worker will find out that I have days where I yell at my kid, or that I’ve spanked him before and they’ll say I don’t deserve to have another one. Or I fear that somehow our birth mother will learn about those things and decide I’m not good enough. The shining people I see in online hopeful adoptive parent profiles don’t look like they’d ever have yelling days or like they would ever spank their child. Some days I just don’t feel like I’m worthy.

I know I’ll get over it. I know every parent has their days. I know I’m way too hard on myself. I know my son adores me, and he knows that I adore him. I wonder if I’m alone in my Over the Shoulder Syndrome. How about you who have adopted out there? Have you or did you experience something similar?




Filed under Homestudy, Parenting

2 responses to “Over the Shoulder Syndrome

  1. Keadie

    Stop worrying yourself sick! Seriously! The only thing they’re really going to be concerned about are safety issues. You seem to be such a careful person, I’m sure that you’ve already done a masterful job preparing your home as it was even before you thought of this home visit. Now you need to get your mind off of the what-ifs. Believe that most things that worry us usually end up ok. You know this to be true from past experiences. Go with that, and try to re-focus on having fun times with your family. I hope that you plan on at least one outing on this holiday weekend! One barbecue, too! Social workers don’t come with the intention of giving you the “white glove treatment”. They expect to see some level of normal comfort living, some clutter, some mess.

    As for being chosen to parent a child: do you really think that this woman could ever imagine that you would think of her in these terms? She’s a normal human being with imperfections like the rest of us. She just wants you to love that baby with every ounce of your being, and keep him or her safe.

    Go enjoy life with your family and stop stressing out. Focus on something else for a while. (((HUGS)))

  2. Mom

    You are a great mother. The health and happiness and obvious love of your son are proof of that. I suspect that more than anything in the world that is what mothers who give up children for adoption want for their children, happiness with loads of love thrown in. Social workers will see that.

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