The Guilt of an Adoptive Mum

1 Aug

I wrote this as a guest post for SusanKMann’s blog. Have slightly adapted it for my own blog.


My 3 year old beautiful girl, Squidge, came to live with me in June 2010. I formally adopted her in April 2011, almost 4 years to the day from my first contact with Social Services. I’m a single mum and set out to be a single mum from the start.

I’ve talked a little bit about the guilt, or selfishness, I have sometimes felt about setting out to become a single parent before. I mean, I’m depriving my little one from a daddy right at the outset aren’t I? My answer is a complex one but it feels right to me and Squidge is doing well so I don’t mind not answering it! It’s really no-one’s business but mine is it?

Except, for almost four years all my life choices WERE someone else’s business. They were Social Services’ business. I had to justify and have a ‘correct’ answer for every single question they asked me.

For example :
Why do you want to be a parent?
How will you arrange child care for your child if you are intending to work?
How will you manage when your child is ill and needs two weeks off school?


So far so straight-forward right? Every new parent asks themselves these questions. And so they should in my opinion. But who do we answer to when we ask these questions? I had to answer to my social worker; then to a second social worker; then to a panel of fifteen people, twice; then to Squidge’s social workers; then to another panel of fifteen people.

And I couldn’t just give one answer. I had to show I had explored every single possibility. So in answer to the childcare question I had to consider the age of the child – anything from 2 – 7 years when undertaking the initial assessment phase. Then the possible difficulties a child might face: anxiety; attachment disorder; separation anxiety. Whether the childcare would be near home or near work and what if the birth parents found out its location? I had to submit research of all nurseries and child-minders within a five mile radius of home then work. And all my contingency plans for chicken pox; broken limbs; fever…

I was asked to explain and provide evidence for my support network. No family living nearby and friends all over the country is a BIG no-no for social services. Even if you know in your heart you have an excellent support system in place. I have since found huge waves of support I didn’t even know about before Squidge came home and they have been invaluable to me! But without strong evidence I had a system in place I would not have been ‘allowed’ to become a parent.


The big question that keeps coming back to me even now – as a single mother your child will not have a male role model in their lives, how will you deal with this? Well, Squidge has two great role models in her two fabulous uncles. But, she doesn’t see them every day as they live in different towns. It’s a fact I can’t escape – Squidge does not regularly see a loving adult male in her day to day life.

My ‘answer’ is a bit of a mixed bag: I didn’t see my dad much when growing up and I turned out ok! Squidge’s birth father and birth uncles are so sadly dysfunctional that she’s ‘safer’ [I hesitate to use that word but will stick with it] not being around them. I can be an excellent role model for her as a single, successful, strong female. But the fact remains this little girl does not have a daddy. We talk about daddies and all the different ways families are made up. But I do have to say, ‘Squidge doesn’t have a daddy, just a mummy’.

But she’s only 3. It either doesn’t quite register or doesn’t quite ‘matter’ at the moment. But it will do one day. Along with all the other heart breaking questions she will want/need to ask, ‘Why don’t I have a dad?’ will be one of them. And I’m not sure there’s an answer that will ever be satisfactory.


4 Responses to “The Guilt of an Adoptive Mum”

  1. purplepersuasion August 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    It’s an often-observed fact that anyone can just have a baby, and unless their parenting is so poor that they come to Social Services’ attentions for the wrong reason, they are left to get on with it and make horrible mistakes – but a potential adopter has to go through all these hoops. My heart goes out to you, I don’t think I could have made it through the vetting process, it all just sounds so incredibly stressful. Anyway, it’s true what we were saying over on Twitter – as a mum, you will *always* find something to feel guilty about! I set off as having children with my husband, now feel guilty about the divorce and the co-parenting… etc etc!

  2. susankmann August 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    I was close to someone who too went through the adoption process as a single mum and it did seem to be a little tougher for her to justify why she would make a good mother being a single mother. I’m not sure why it should make a difference, I get the whole male role model but surely they don’t go around checking other single mothers to make sure their child has a suitable male role model. I think that you are doing an amazing job, giving a loving home to a beautiful little girl, that should be enough. x

  3. Sally Donovan December 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    When I read your profile I thought ‘wow what an amazing lady, she is a Head of English and has adopted a child’. It’s easy for me to say, but I don’t think you should feel guilty for anything. You sound like a fantastic role model.

    • howwelaughed December 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

      Thanks. I stepped down as Head of English last week. Feels good!

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