Different Decisions = Different Families = That’s Okay!

Angry words have been thrown back and forth this week. (Clarification: most of the anger has been in the comments of said posts.) People have been clinging very hard to what they believe in, unable to see that the lines of wrong and right blur when you take the time to consider that each of us are unique and, as such, so are our families.

I have never understood the “my family’s way of life is right and yours is wrong” variant of internet bickering. Unless someone admits to blatant neglect or abuse, I don’t see why this argument even needs to take place. I feel it very keenly as many (too many) people have consistently told me that we are wrong for participating in an open adoption with my daughter and her family. They spout things about confusion (which none of the children have yet experienced) and say silly things like, “That’s not the way it used to be done!” True. It’s not. And, at one time, we didn’t possess the knowledge to save children born too early or have dual breast pumps to provide milk for various reasons or utilize things like, oh, car seats. We’ve learned things over the years. We, as a society, have made changes. In fact, those changes have gone from demanding women to work to sending them back home again to now chastising them for whichever decision they make. It’s lose-lose!

A friend pointed out to me the other day that when we were growing up, the mothers who stayed home with their children were exalted while the ones who went out to work, out of necessity or desire, were shunned. It’s true. My mom took a lot of flack for working (and working hard) during the 1980’s. She raised me with a strong work ethic and pushed me to be the best that I could be. I was nervous to tell her that I was considering staying home when BigBrother was eight months old. I was afraid she would be disappointed in me, that I had let her down in some way, broken the code of Strong Women. Instead, my mother took my hand and told me that whatever I needed to do for my family was of the utmost priority. Whether that meant working outside the home or being at home, she would support me. And she has. She’s let me cry to her on days that I have gotten nothing done because of illness or general chaos. She has applauded my promotions and rejoiced at my published works. I guess, then, I’m confused as to why more people aren’t like my mom. Maybe they should be.

We see in the adoption world all too often the general contest of who has it worse. Birth mothers from the closed generation often shun birth mothers with open adoptions, claiming we can’t truly know the pain of adoption since we have it so “easy.” Adoptive parents get a rough time from birth parents who claim that they caused all of the pain and, therefore, they shouldn’t complain when parenting gets tough. Then adoptive parents turn around and tell birth parents to hush as they chose this life the moment they opened their legs. And then, goodness, if an adoptee dares to speak up about any grief, loss or pain, they are told to hush their mouths and to be grateful because they could have had it worse. Instead of supporting each other in the muck and mire and hard stuff associated with adoption, we cut each other down. We refuse to see that we’re all in this together, that without one another, we don’t really exist. We can’t make any progress with ethical adoption reform or the process of adoptees gaining access to their Original Birth Certificates because no one will work together. It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. And it’s really pointless as we should realize that we can and should be working together.

And that’s exactly what I saw in the mommy world this week. I’m not going to argue about whether or not my working life is easier or harder. I am so happy with my own life right now that I don’t think it matters one way or the other. Instead, I challenge mothers to stop fanning the flames. (Look! A fire pun on our blog! Go figure!) There’s no need. When a mother, whether WAH, WOH or SAH, complains that she has had a hard day, don’t laugh and say, “How the heck was your day so hard? I had to deal with x, y and z! Shut up!” Instead, offer your support. Your shoulder. Tell her that she will get through this hard time. Tell her that she will make it out the other side as a stronger woman, mother and human being. And then, just maybe, she’ll be there for you on your next awful, horrible, no-good, very-bad day. Because you will have one. Just like I will have one. Just like she will have one.

We’re never going to accomplish anything as long as we point fingers, take sides and demand that we deserve a cookie, a medal, a trophy, an award. They don’t make those for The Best Mother Ever. There’s no Red Carpet awards ceremony. You don’t get to mingle with the stars simply because you put down another mother to make yourself look better. My parents always taught me, you get what you give. If you throw nastiness out into the world, nastiness will be thrown back at you. I try, nine times out of ten, to live that lesson. And that tenth time, of course, when I forget, I am reminded. Quickly. (Did I just admit that my parents were right?)

I know I’ll never see this utopia of mothers agreeing on everything. That’s not even what I’m asking for as disagreement causes us to push our understandings just that much more and learn something new about the world, about mothering, about ourselves. Instead, I just want to see mothers supporting mothers. I want to see more compassion. I want to see more help being offered. I know. I’m a Bleeding Heart. I always have been. My parents tease me mercilessly but, hey, they raised me to think for myself and, dang it, I do. I think they’re proud. Nine times out of ten.

In the end, we here in the FireFamily are working our tushes off to make decisions in the best interest of our family. Sometimes we trip up and make the wrong decision. Sometimes we get it right. Just like every other family out there. What works for us now might not in a year or two. I won’t defend our decisions and I don’t expect other mothers to defend theirs. I do, however, expect other mothers to love their children with the heat of a thousand fires and use that love to do everything in their power to make the best decisions possible at any given time.

Because if we’re not doing that, there’s no hope for our future.

[By the way, the picture of BigBrother up there is how I envisioned everyone acting. And isn’t it funny when you really think about it? No? Okay, then just laugh at his cuteness with me and how I’ll put that picture in his yearbook someday. See? There are joys to motherhood!]

22 replies on “Different Decisions = Different Families = That’s Okay!”

Firemom, I couldn’t agree more. I think we’re all so terrified that we’re not good enough that so many people are choosing to level those around them instead of cutting themselves some slack. You’ve touched on this theme a lot lately, and I’m glad – the more we moms hear it, the more likely we are to live it!
.-= Katie in MA´s last blog ..Love grows up. =-.

HEAR HEAR! I will never understand why we as mom’s have to constantly attack other mom’s. We are doing this to ourselves here! Why can’t we just support each other. Do we not realize how big of a support system we could be for each other? Tell me – how great would it be if you took your screaming child into a store, and another mom, instead of rolling her eyes, cam up to you, gave you a smile, and said “I totally get it.” That is essentially what these women are doing to each other, rolling thier eyes at each other and screaming about how bad THEY have it. Well we all just need to SHUT UP already and SUPPORT each other!!

We all deal with different stresses in our lives differently. Being a mother is hard, with or without working. We should allow ourselves to at least be able to talk about it without the fear of another mother lashing out at you and telling you how easy you have it so they can feel better about thier own lives.

WE hav the power to rise up and change the world for women. Instead it’s us, other women, who are our biggest obstacles.

Okay, this has nothing to do with your comment but the other day, commenting on your very last word, I told BB that his room was an “obstacle course.” He looked at me, mulling over the word in his head, and said, “Popsicle corcus?”


Yep I don’t get it either. I know finding confidence in your own parenting techniques can be hard – and folks can be threatened if someone chooses to parent differently. Insecurity flares up, we become defensive, what if I’m not doing something right, well they are no better than I am, who are they to tell me what to do with my child – bladdy bladdy blah – and it all unravels. So I see how it happens. However. Nothing is accomplished by tearing down another parent. Nothing. It is hard enough trying to do well by our own children while we keep ourselves sane and free from our own inner parenting demons (I blame LOADS of mommy guilt issues on those demons). We should be supporting and lifting one another up. Celebrating our differences, learning from one another and laughing at all our mishaps. Well. In a perfect world maybe. Until then, I got your back at least. :) Great post.
.-= Caroline ´s last blog ..From Babies to Big Boy Beds =-.

Oh, Jenna. Amen sister! If this post matched my class’s assignment this week, I would so be sourcing you. Sadly, it doesn’t match this week’s feminist theory. But, we’ve talked about this very issue in class and we concluded pretty much the same thing. But, I’ve glad you’ve said this loud enough to be heard. Ya know, at least in the internet world!

Well said!

BRAVO, Firemom!! Very well said! Different things work for different people, different families.

One reason why I rarely post anymore is precisely because I got tired of the wars, the put-downs, the “I have it worse than you because I’m a (fill in the blank).” As an adoptive mother writing honestly in the triad, my family was questioned numerous times and I decided that I wouldn’t defend our family anymore; it is what it is.

I applaud your post, very much. I’ve had similar thoughts, but you’ve articulated them so incredibly well. BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO!!!!
.-= Judy´s last blog ..this is what a happy family, without cancer, looks like =-.

I can’t believe (okay maybe I can) that people dare to question how you parent, whether you stay at home or not, etc. Ugh. And the whole open adoption thing.. that’s YOUR call, not anyone else’s… and if it works for you and your family, then that’s great, that’s awesome.

Sigh… some people.

Anyway… well said!
.-= Ari´s last blog ..San Antonio Zoo =-.

Yes, some people indeed. Of course, then my overly positive (gullible) side thinks, “Maybe they were just having a no good, very bad day and needed to vent.” But still, the nastiness is unnecessary. :(

I couldn’t agree more! For every parent or expert that insists that you must do A or your child will turn into a horrible adult there is another parent or expert that insists that you shouldn’t do A because it will turn your kid into a horrible adult. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals – but how awesome would it be if they did?!
.-= Condo Blues´s last blog ..Stylish DIY Dog Toy Storage =-.

Even if kids came with instruction manuals, you’d learn that every child is different. That would be a lot of instruction manuals to write and read! My two boys are 100% different. In everything. From eating to napping. They keep me on my toes!!

Good job wording what so many of us feel. I think that 9 people out of 10 are really good people who sometimes do or say stupid things. The people who have to belittle others to make themselves feel better need our pity. Ignore their comments and pray for them to GET A LIFE!

I love what you said about open adoption. Hope you don’t mind if I use that argument the next time someone criticizes our decision to have an open adoption with our daughter’s birth family. Their involvement has enriched her life and ours. Thank you for another great post!

Colleen; I think that’s a great point. I know I’ve said some foot-in-mouth type things in the past. And I likely will again. But sometimes people are mean. And that is what makes me so sad.

And, yes, go ahead and steal my words. Likewise, my daughter’s mom has taught me many a lesson about parenting and just otherwise made my life a better life to live. Who knew that an open adoption relationship could be like any other relationship! ;)

Firemom, I could not have said it better.

I have been a SAHM since 2003. I recently started college (Fall 08) and have one year left til I get my degree. I did and will drive almost 1 hr to campus, be there from 9am to 2 pm everyday, and starting this fall, after classes are done for the day, I will pick up 2 (not 1…but 2) kids from school, go home, fix dinner, help with homework, do my homework, give baths and somehow manage to squeeze time in for my 2 internet classes. Whew! I got tired just thinking about all that! Talk about hard days to come!


first time to your blog and i’m glad I visited! I couldn’t agree with you more-I also adopted (internationally) and the idea of open adoption wasn’t open to me. I wish it was. I won’t have any birth parent info for my daughter. However-I have been criticized as a single parent adopting from SE Asia because apparently it’s a fad and I shouldn’t purposely being raising a child without a father. whatever.

There are so many ways to build a family. I will do everything in my power to make sure my daughter feels loved and that she didn’t miss out on anything. Like your mom said-do whatever is good for your family. Unfortunately as the only breadwinner-I do have to work outside the home.

It certainly doesn’t do any of us any good to blame, criticize and point fingers. We should learn from each other without feeling guilty about our choices. I love learning from other parents. But only from the ones that don’t judge the way I do things.

Jules; You misread. I am the birth mother. That’s okay. Doesn’t change the point that we’re both working hard to make sure our children, in any way that they relate to us, are loved and well cared for.

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