A tale of two lives

Today I want to talk to you about two different couples.

The first couple are twenty somethings who have settled down, gotten married and bought a beautiful house in the suburbs. Both have jobs they love. They both work hard and earn good salaries. Both have careers where there are plenty of opportunities for promotion should they wish. They work full time and most weekday evenings are spent enjoying home cooked meals together, visiting family, going on the occasional mid-week night out or just having a bit of time relaxing at home. Their home is stunning. Each room is beautifully decorated, it is spotless and smells amazing – lots of scented candles from The white Company adorn the place and each bathroom has Molton Brown Soap and Handcream as well as soft, luxurious White Company towels.

At the weekend, they spend lots of time going to events with friends, eating out, shopping and having fun. Despite a large mortgage, they still have plenty of expendable income to buy accessories for the home, and items for themselves. They also have money to go on holidays each year. Their favourite place to go being New York where they stay in Upper East Side and do LOTS of shopping as well as sight seeing. They also go lots of weekends up to the North of Scotland to do lots of hillwalking and photography.

They each have their own hobbies that they pursue during the week. He helps out with a Scout group and she visits sick children in hospital. They have a close knit family and a strong group of friends that they like to spend lots of time with, going walks, going out for lunches/dinner with or having them round to the house for BBQs.

They both take a lot of pride in their appearances too. He is always wearing designer shirts and she is a huge shoe, handbag and accessories fanatic. Her clothes and shoes are not designer but they are just well matched together and chic. It is rare not to see her in a pair of heels – even in the kitchen cooking! She also likes to get her hair done, go for the occasional massage and get her nails done by a therapist or will frequently do them herself.

They are careful with their money, still putting some aside for the future, but money would not be seen as an issue – if they see something they would like to buy, generally they can afford to get it, or at least have the money saved by the following month.

They are a very close couple who like to have their own hobbies, but prefer to spend most of their other time, doing and seeing things together. They are immensely happy.

 

Now lets look at our second couple.

They are thirty somethings with two adopted children. He works full time at a job he loves but his hours are immensely long. His journey to work is an hour and a half each way just now, meaning he leaves for work at 6.15am and doesn’t get home until 8.30pm. He also has to work the occasional Saturday too. She got a year’s adoption leave from her work then decided to take a 5 year career break with a view to returning to work (part-time initially) once the children were settled at school. However, the children both have attachment issues and have found school highly challenging. She therefore has to be ‘on-call’ all the time. The children wouldn’t be able to cope with breakfast and after school clubs and so it has been decided that she will remain as a stay at home Mum.

Staying at home is a huge job in itself. Because her husband is away before the children get up and after they go to bed, she is the full time carer during the week. This means making breakfast, sorting lunch money, getting the children to school, doing all the washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning. She is then there when the children get home from school and so she does the homework with them as well as dealing with frequent meltdowns that happen, mainly because of something at school. She then makes dinner, tidies up and puts both the children to bed. She has spent 5 years fighting for her children within Education because attachment issues aren’t all that well known about. She hates cleaning  – especially when it seems to be just be done then ruined straight after. She needs more than just days of cleaning and washing. She therefore works from home blogging about life as an adopter and volunteering with Adoption UK. She gives advice to teachers, Headteachers and fellow adopters. He is amazing at dealing with all the big jobs – fixing the endless amount that needs done, DIY jobs and cutting the grass etc. He has to try and fit this in around family days at home over the weekends as he is home too late at night to start making too much noise.

She doesn’t have time to really get a proper break. Weekends are when her husband is home and so it is full on family activities. She is very thankful for the fact her husband puts the children to bed on a Friday-Sunday and gets them up on a Saturday and Sunday morning because she needs that break.

Both rarely see any of their friends anymore. They attempted trying to give each other one weekend day off a month to catch up with their own friends but it just seemed to be forgotten about as they were so caught up in family life. They also planned to go out together once a fortnight once the children were in bed and they could get a babysitter, but again, it got forgotten about. They feel they rarely see much of each other too. His long hours mean they only see each other for a couple of hours at night and thats when both do some of their own hobbies individually. They are together at weekends, but being part of a family day isn’t that ‘alone time together’ that they both crave. She has occasionally been invited out at night during the week to go on runs or walks, but she can’t because she needs to wait until 8.30pm.

Their holidays are twice a year for a week at a time – that’s all they can afford because their accommodation always costs more due to the nature of their children – they have to give each child a separate room, so they can only look at 3 bedroom properties. The children get very anxious about going on holiday and so they have ensured holidays have only been in the UK.

Money is okay – they budget each and every penny to ensure there is enough to cover the endless amount of food they need, the clothing for the children, tools to mend the multitude of broken things around the house. They put aside money each month for birthdays and Christmas and for the holidays. This means they each, personally have a small budget of £100 each to spend. If they go out with any friends for dinner, it has to come out of that budget. So whilst money is okay, and they are thankful that they have what they do, they rarely get the chance to treat themselves to anything – its the essentials only.

Hair cuts are done at home – she does his and the kids and then she gets a neighbour to come and do her own. The makeup and clothes she wears are ones she has had for years. She frequently has to buy new jeans as that’s her staple wardrobe  – jeans, t-shirt and trainers. She is too tired to consider anything else. She bought a shellac machine to do nails at home, but rarely gets the time to do them.

They are both extremely happy within their wee family unit, but this kind of life is extremely hard – especially for her and especially during school holidays. 7 weeks being with the children 24/7 on her own.

She eat, sleeps and breathes all things attachment and a lot of the time, it really takes its toll – she becomes completely and utterly emotionally, mentally and physically drained.

She sees lots of friends having children and then returning to work and this makes her a little bit jealous – they are able to have a life outside of their family because their children are able to have that routine. Whilst there are a few jobs that could potentially be done during school hours, they receive a small adoption allowance that helps to pay for some of the extras that are needed for the children. If she was to return to work to earn a little extra pocket money for herself, they would lose the allowance as it is means tested. She therefore just has to be happy with things as they are. Last year they were delighted to find a cheaper mortgage – it was going to mean an extra £100 a month coming in which would help to pay for all the clubs etc the children do. However, the adoption allowance was cut to reflect that, so they were no better off. She considered going back to work 3 days a week, but because of the cost of childcare that would be required before and after school, and the fact that the adoption allowance would be taken away, they would have been £200 worse off than they currently are, so that wasn’t an option.

The children are very ‘hard’ on the house – lots of rooms are needing painted, the whole house needs decluttered. There are lots of boxes of home accessories up their attic, but the children can be violent during meltdowns and so those which held any meaning had to be put away for safety. The children’s bedrooms have been recently decorated but that used up all the money they had aside for the home improvements. Everything else will just have to wait.

Any clothing, home accessories etc tend to be from supermarkets. They try to do bulk shopping from Costco every couple of months to get cheaper soap and other toiletries.

She is just coming to the end of the 7 week summer holidays and she is drained in every possible way. His working hours are so long and he too is physically tired. The children can still be extremely hard work and demanding at weekends and so he too becomes mentally and emotionally drained. They both feel they hardly spend any quality time together, they struggle to have time for their own individual hobbies and they miss it. They also miss the ability to treat themselves to some nice things too.

Two VERY different couples but as you’ve probably guessed- they are the same people, M and I. Only one was us before children and the other, now – 5 years after adopting our two boys. Of course we love being a family, and we love our boys unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t miss aspects of our life before children.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it all, and it has been making me really quite sad. I miss the Lora of before – mainly because I was just that, Lora. I was a person with a career and money and lots of friends. Now, whilst I do still have a really good group of friends, I am always seen as a ‘Mum’……I feel that the Lora I once was has slipped away and it scares me. M and I had a long chat about it the other night and he feels the same. We have been so wrapped up in the struggles of family life, that we have completely lost a sense of who we are as individuals and as a couple. I have made a plan to hopefully, start bringing things back around slightly again.

Firstly, we are sticking to our proper, out the house date night once a fortnight. On alternate weeks, we will get a dine in for £10 and have a candle light dinner once he is home and the boys are in bed. No phones, no laptops, just us.

Secondly, we are going to each have a designated day off a month. We both need it. I would love if sometimes we could get it at the same time i.e together, but that is highly unlikely!

Thirdly, we are going to start arranging to meet up with friends again, but we know that there will be friends that we meet up with on our ‘day off’ and then there will be friends to meet along with the children. We feel the best for the latter of these, is fellow adopters. I have been meeting up with a group of fellow adoptive Mums and it is like therapy! We just ‘get’ each other with no need for explanation. We can say what we want without any judgement. There is quite often a lot of swearing!!!

I am then (as I am the one struggling the most) going to have a list of ‘self-care’ tasks that I am going to do each week. These are:

1.Exercise – Running, hiits, & hillwalking and Flexibility exercises at least 3 times a week

2. Healthy Eating – real foods with minimal treats

3. Water – drinking at least 2 litres per day

4. Great Outdoors – daily walk

5. Home Improvement – small task each day (365 tasks per year)

6. Daily Affirmations – Done each morning

7. Thankfulness – End of the day, write gratitude points for the day

8. Daily Kindness – A small task each day to brighten someone elses day

9. Personal Care – Regular massages, facials, nails, hair, tanning (one each month from my allowance)

10. Relaxation Task – colouring, reading, relaxing music.

11. Meditation – 10 minutes of daily meditation/mindfulness.

 

All of these, as well as our free day and date nights are all going to be written in to my diary so that they HAVE to be actioned.

Self-care is so important. It’s about investing in your mental health as far as I am concerned. I honestly think that if I don’t start doing these things, then I could be heading towards some kind of breakdown. Someone on twitter the other day mentioned ‘respite.’ I really do wish this was something given to all adoptive parents. Being a parent is so hard, but being an adoptive parent, with all that comes with it, is just double the task. Sadly, this is only given to those in crisis….

I am hoping this plan of action with really help M and I. After all, we can’t possibly be the best parents if we can’t also learn to look after ourselves.

Lora x

 

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6 thoughts on “A tale of two lives

  1. I recognise this but when my 3 adopted kids came we decided to try to work as normal after my husband took adoption leave (it wasn’t available for me). Issues were the same in terms of attachment, school, friends, relationships. Found greatest benefit from making some of the chaos and difficulties seem normal by being with other adoptees and many friends and work propped me up despite just not getting quite what I needed propping up from. The kids were already at nursery and school when they came so having a good childminder and grandparents helped fill in round the edges but the need to be ‘on call’ has never gone away even now they have left school. Looking after yourself is essential and not becoming isolated is critical. You never know when you’ll need that escape valve or that comforting space to be. Not sure I’d have coped with being the mum at home quite like you are. But good luck to you and best wishes to your kids.

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    1. Thanks Rachel. It is great to have a group of different friends – those who ‘get it’ and those who we can escape with to gain that sense of just being ‘normal.’ I think I need to be better prepared for the holidays next year as this is what I have found to be the most challenging. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Lora 🙂

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  2. I agree with the above, I am a foster carer to a now 19 year old (9 years), and I also work with children who have been in the care system, some failed adoptions too. I have always worked, I know this isn’t for everybody, but I would have gone mad at home with my children all day and nothing else to really focus on. I have worked with disadvantaged families for years, and most recently with vulnerable teenagers, but I have now reached the point where having worked with lots of vulnerable people, that you will drive yourself mad trying to understand why they behave the way they do and trying to attribute it to being ‘damaged’- it doesn’t really achieve anything- you can alleviate some symptoms but not always ‘fix’ the under lying issues, and to be totally honest, sometimes kids are just being naughty, well, just because they are kids. I have two birth children- they have given me a lot more stress than my non birth child ever did (despite him having experienced lots of trauma and severe attachment issues). I would advise you to try and switch off, stop analysing behaviours and constantly reminding yourself of your children’s early years and perhaps look for work within school hours if financially viable- while I appreciate that the adoption allowance is helpful, the long term effects of unemployment now the children are at school could potentially be more damaging. I appreciate that you will probably find what I am saying a bit brutal, but hopefully you will reflect on my points and understand that they are meant with good intent. Best wishes

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate that you have found comfort from going out to work, but for me, getting a convention job isn’t really an option. I am hugely passionate about adoption within education and am working hard to build up further knowledge for others in that area. Whilst I understand that not all behaviours are ‘adoption’ related, I am a huge ambassador for trying to get others to understand that ‘behaviour is communication’ and with my two, I know it most definitely is. By creating and sticking to the self care plan that Ive set out, I know this will really help me to get a bit more variety within my week. I think as this is the final week of the school holidays, my energy levels are depleted and emotions much higher than normal!

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  3. So much of this could be our family story. The ‘before and after’ lives have many similarities. I miss my ‘old’ life terribly at times. Not so much the freedom to do whatever I want nor the material things but the relationship I had with my husband and the fact that my life was pretty much worry-free. Now hubby and I aren’t so much a couple but two separate funnels channeling all our energy, affection and attention into this little person in the middle. In fairness, I guess any parent could identify with this but the main issue is the ever-present matter of Attachment. It drives a wedge between hubby and me, isolates me from other parents and clouds my hopes for the future. A few months ago I had a compulsion to think, read, research and try to understand the subject to the point it became too much. I was becoming really depressed, despondent, emotionally/physically/mentally overwhelmed and in the end, I had to try to switch off. Aiming to parent therapeutically has reverted back to parenting ‘good enough’ to some degree.

    My saving grace is work. For a couple of hours a day, I am out the house interacting with people who have no idea I’m an adopter and for a short while, I’m back in my old life. I talk to customers about a subject I understand which is comforting when the rest of my life is spent ‘not having a clue’! Without work, I don’t think I would have made it this far. Is there anything you could do on a self-employed basis which wouldn’t affect your Allowance that is completely non-Adoption related? Is there anything creative you enjoy which you could focus on? Getting away from home with all its reminders would help you switch-off. You say in your former life that “you have a close knit family and a strong group of friends you like to spend lots of time with” – could they help more? Could anyone come in and help with morning or bed routine? I’m sure you’ve already explored this but what are the chances of your husband doing compressed hours or working from home? Just having him with you means you’re not having to shoulder the childcare on your own.

    Having said all that, I am so grateful Lora for all the work you do – your blogs, volunteering with Adoption UK. and giving advice to schools and fellow adopters. You are inspiring. Please make sure you adhere to your self-care plan and make time for you and your husband together.

    Sorry, I hope all the above doesn’t come over as patronizing. Your blog brought tears to my eyes and I just want to extend a hand of empathy and a bloggy hug. x

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  4. Oh Wends, thank you so much. What a lovely comment 🙂 Whilst I know that blogging and volunteering for Adoption UK is all very ‘adoption’ focused, I love it – its a massive passion for me and clearly one that is making a huge impact. I think if anything, what has gotten me down a bit is not being able to do as much as I would like to within the holidays. We are now nearing the end of week 7 of the holidays and I think that is partly why my energy reserves are at a low and emotions at a high. I absolutely intent to adhere to my self care plan as soon as the schools are back and I know that this will be a huge step forward in helping. Adoption UK are going to be training me as a trainer for schools and so it will be great to be out and about meeting people. I do also have a group of non adoption Mums that I’m going to start to go out with every Friday morning. Finally, I do have a few creative hobbies that I intend to pursue more to get me out of the endless adoption cycle…. Sometimes, just writing things down, and then coming up with a plan is immense therapy in itself 🙂 xx

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