S2E2 - How I'm Parenting Transracially, An Adoption Story w/ Lynn

Episode 2 September 27, 2023 00:34:13
S2E2 - How I'm Parenting Transracially, An Adoption Story w/ Lynn
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S2E2 - How I'm Parenting Transracially, An Adoption Story w/ Lynn

Sep 27 2023 | 00:34:13

/

Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this podcast episode, Aisha interviews Lynn, a single mother by choice who adopted two white children from foster care and later had a biological child through embryo adoption. Lynn shares her journey and experiences in adopting transracially and raising multiracial children. She discusses the challenges and joys of being a single mother by choice and navigating conversations about race and identity with her children. Lynn emphasizes the importance of providing a diverse and inclusive environment for her children and empowering them to set boundaries when it comes to sharing their adoption stories with others. She also recommends joining online support groups and communities for individuals interested in adoption and parenting transracially.

If you want to learn more about the life of Single Mother’s by Choice and the things, they navigate on a day-to-day basis check out this Day in the Life Playlist here.

If you have questions, you’d like to have addressed on the podcast submit it here.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to Start to Finish Motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. So I've always said that becoming a single mother by choice has its roots in love and the desire to parent. There's been lots of talk in the Single mother by choice community about parenting multiracial children or parenting transracially. I think the Colin Kaepernick story about his family and his life growing up as a child in a transracial household sparked a nationwide conversation about white parents adopting non white children. But we don't often hear open conversations about non white parents adopting white children or parenting transracially. So when I heard your story, I knew that I needed to get you on the show. And so, Lynn, I'm glad to have you here today. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your single mother by choice story? [00:01:18] Speaker B: Yes. Thank you. Glad to be here and share a little bit about me and my family. I decided like many women, probably in my mid 30s, that I really hadn't met an individual or anyone that I was looking to settle down with. But I didn't really feel that that needed to stop me from pursuing becoming a mother. So at the time I was doing some court appointed special advocacy work in the Nashville area. I was a Casa volunteer, and I just really saw the need for support for kids that were in the foster care system. So I then endeavored to become a foster parent in Tennessee. Started that process in was approved in 2012, but I, for a variety of reasons, didn't end up taking my first placement until 2013. And it was a call, that call that foster parents get. I'll always remember it. I was at like 05:00 and I was at work getting ready to leave work, and I get a call, hey, we have these two little girls, they're siblings, and it's just going to be like a two week placement because there's a grandparent. We just need to vet the grandparent and they'll transition there. [00:02:38] Speaker A: And I was like, okay, this is a good little get. [00:02:40] Speaker B: My feet wet, I jump in. I was like, okay, but now I have to run to the store because they told me the ages they were three and four months, so I didn't have anything like for baby, baby. So I'm like running to the store trying to pick up some stuff to get home before the case worker rove and shows up with these two little beautiful little white children. So I never asked. Race. I assumed I was living in the Nashville area, and I just assumed that they would be black kids. So I was taken aback. But then you get into the motherhood mode, it doesn't matter. Race, at that point, they needed a home and to be taken care of and loved. So those were my girls. And then fast forward, they didn't stay for two weeks because I ended up adopting them in 2015. And still they are who made me a mom. And I've learned so much and grown from having them and many challenges, many challenges because they are white, like I said, and having a black mother and that dynamic, it's interesting, to say the least. And then in 2019, I was like, well, I never did get the opportunity to experience being pregnant or carrying a pregnancy. So I had learned about embryo adoption and I says, well, I can try it. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work because I still have my girls, so I still had kids. So I tried it and it was successful in the very first attempt. And I have my son who is three. So that's kind of my journey into becoming a mother. [00:04:23] Speaker A: Well, congratulations. And it's funny because I had a challenging second attempt to have my second child and I definitely reached a point where regardless of race, if you put kids on my doorstep, I was going to open that door and I was going to parent those kids. And I often say that the decision to take the single mother by choice path is one that is out of love and one that is through a desire to parent children. Period, end of story. And so, yes, every time I hear that part of your story, I'm like, yes, I know that feeling. So first, when you reached out to me, you briefly mentioned that you were not sure if your story was a black single mother by choice story. Why was that? [00:05:12] Speaker B: Oh, I mean, gosh, well, conscious or unconscious, I've had people that say as black women, they've said, well, if I was going to do foster care, I would only take black children because black children need the most support or their numbers are higher, whatever, in foster care. So there's a lot of judgment that people get. There are many other families, men and women like myself, who are black, that are parenting white children. And many of them are much more vocal on social media. Me, not so much. I think I tend to be more the average run of the mill kind of family. I have social media, but I will not say that I'm on it or I don't leverage it to the degree that it could be. And some families share their stories much more than I do. It's not that I try to hide our story, because you can't hide it, right? It's so visible and so apparent. But you do get a lot more criticism, I think, from black people like, well, why don't you have black kids? Why did you take white kids? When you get a call like, I said, I didn't ask the race, and I assume naively that they were black, but it's just a child that needs home and needs loving. So I never say I don't see race or I don't see color, and, oh, they just need to be loved and they do need to be loved, but we very much see color and we are not blind to those conversations that we have in our house. [00:06:49] Speaker A: All right, so we're going to get to that in a few minutes. Now, well, first, your story is the story of a black SMC. There is no one size fits all. Like you said, when you're thinking in terms of I want to parent, it doesn't matter. Those kids are in need. They show up on your doorstep, you're going to step in and you're going to step up and you're going to parent. [00:07:11] Speaker B: Right. [00:07:12] Speaker A: That's just the end of it. [00:07:14] Speaker B: Absolutely. They need a loving home. That's it. Period, point blank. And I don't apologize for I wouldn't change it, I wouldn't not have my girls. I've learned and grown as an individual having them. So for that, I'm that much better off. [00:07:33] Speaker A: Now. Did you receive any other backlash with regards to adopting transracially, like, from your community, your immediate family? How did it all kind of come together, introducing your girls to your extended family, into your community? [00:07:52] Speaker B: My family was completely supportive before I got them. As you're going through the process, there was probably like, well, why do you want to do that? Why don't you just try to have your own? And back then? Well, I won't say before IVF, because IVF has always been around, but for me, it was not an option because it was cost prohibitive, which is why a lot of black women do not pursue IVF. And now I work for a company that has a very good infertility benefit. So that's why I was able to do the embryo adoption, but it wasn't an option at the time. And my family, once those girls were in my household, I don't want to say it was like I had them, but they were my family and my parents, you couldn't tell them that those are not their biological grandchildren. They love the kids so much. [00:08:40] Speaker A: Can you take us through the process. [00:08:42] Speaker B: Of adopting through foster care, adopting them? In Tennessee, I really thought I was going to run into barriers, because depending on the state that you live in, sometimes when you foster, you foster directly through the state, and sometimes you foster through an agency who works with the state. So in Tennessee, I was a foster parent directly through the state, and I really expected to run into issues in Tennessee. As a black woman adopting these two white kids, I really expected them to have delays and excuses. So in the back of my mind, I was kind of prepared for this fight. Right. But I will say that the case worker that I had pushed everything through and not once was there any pause or delay. I was genuinely surprised. And honestly, in my mind, I think they made sure that there weren't any issues because I was black and they didn't want the perception that there was any issue with me adopting them. That's my theory. [00:09:54] Speaker A: My thought would be that it would have been the reverse. That because they were two white children, they wanted to throw all the resources at making sure that they landed in a safe, sound home environment. And so they threw all the resources at making sure that that happened. And they probably would have done that regardless of if you were a black adoptive parent or a white adoptive parent. But I think it was the race of the children that required them to take extra care. But that was just my thinking because I didn't even think of any barriers to the process when you mentioned it, until you mentioned it. And I was just like, oh, and I was expecting you to say because of the race of the kids. [00:10:38] Speaker B: Interesting, I did have the option because I was a foster, to adopt purpose of foster care is always reunification with the family, but obviously that does not always work out. She did ask me, the case worker did ask me early on. This case looks like it's going to go down this path where the kids are going to end up being adopted. And she did put it out there. You don't have to adopt them. And if because of the race or whatever and they would have been moved, okay, they would have been moved to another pre adoptive type of home. But you're bonded with them, you're taking care of them. Why wouldn't I adopt them just because of the race? I think maybe white parents with black children, that's more of a struggle. But I don't know. As a black person, I don't want to say it's easy to parent a non black child, but you are more prepared for it than I think a white family might be for a non white child. So I don't know. [00:11:39] Speaker A: Okay, all right, so take us through the process. So for a person who's thinking about becoming a single mother by choice, what was your experience in navigating the foster care system or the foster to adopt path? [00:11:57] Speaker B: It's a very regulated foster care is a very regulated decision that you need to make because there are people in and out of your life, in and out of your home, and there's so many things that you have to do to get your home ready to pass a home inspection. So there's many classes. You'll go through several weeks of training about cultural competency, prudent, parenting, treating foster kids like you would treat any other kid. So if you had a 16 year old and you're going to teach your biological child how to drive, well, the same opportunity needs to be afforded to a child that's in foster care. So it's just kind of mentally preparing yourself for those types of things, but then know that you're helping facilitate visits. Because ultimately the goal of foster care, which I fully support and embrace, is reunification with family. Now, a parent can go through a rough patch. That does not mean the parent needs to lose their rights to their child. That means that family needs support. And that's what foster care is for. And there are many, many services that social workers do and provide to help families get on that path. And as foster parents, we help support that. So I fully embrace it. You should never go into foster care saying, I just want to adopt a child because it's the wrong mentality to have. Sometimes the cases work out that way that you do end up being able to adopt a child. But ultimately the goal is always reunification with family and you have to be able to love hard and be able to walk away. And that is a very hard some people say, oh, I don't know how you do it because I could never do it, I could never give them back. But you have to. And you need people that are passionate and will love hard because those kids might not have ever experienced that before they come to you. So you have to give them that feeling, that support. But it's a lot the people in and out your house, that's probably the hardest part. Oh, come and do a visit and your house is just an open doorway. [00:14:12] Speaker A: Yeah. And I think I had to consider that when after I had my first and I ran into roadblocks having my second, I did consider adoption. I considered foster to adopt because I could not afford domestic infant adoption. And I did talk to one of my friends here in the DMV area and ask about the process. And it was a combination of having already a toddler, trying to navigate all the things you do with the toddler, but also the training, the home visits, getting your house, your living situation in a specific way that it would get approved. And so I was just like, I can't and then the loving heart and letting go I think would have been hard for me. Even as you said it, I'm just like I was a foster kid myself. And so I understand what it is to kind of get settled into a pattern and get used to having someone like a toddler wrapping their fingers around your fingers, being you're their safe space. And having to give that back takes a special kind of person. So thank you. Okay, so you feel like your agency did a good job of setting you up to parent transracially. [00:15:31] Speaker B: They ask you, there's like a bunch of stuff that you go through, like what race, what type of severity of issues that the child might have. Do you feel that you'd be comfortable and adapted to be able to handle and so forth? But that's all on paper. All right. It's all three until that child gets in your house and whatever issues they may have, the way that they may acting out, not out of and they're doing it out of fear and things that they've been exposed to. So they teach you it in theory and principle, but truly, until you're experiencing it, you'll never really be truly prepared for it. So, I mean, they prepare you as much as you can, and that's where they just have to make sure that in their minds, I think, that they just get which is why during the process, there's so much talking. To counselors and therapists and making sure that we all have baggage. We all have relationships that didn't work out and things that you carry. And it's being at a point in your life where if a child does something that it doesn't trigger you so that you are able to help that child, not that you've gone through the same thing that they've been through, because you don't have to have some parents may have. Right. A lot of people come from abuse backgrounds or whatever. And so then maybe you have a connection, but it's being able to not let anything the child does trigger you for you to have a response and then maybe your response not be appropriate. [00:17:08] Speaker A: I love that so much to unpack there making sure that you're taken care of so that you have the energy to focus on taking care of those kids when their time of need arises. [00:17:20] Speaker B: Okay. [00:17:21] Speaker A: All right, you've now adopted transracially. What was your approach to exposing your children to their culture? [00:17:30] Speaker B: They're white and society is catered towards them. Right. So really, do I have to do anything to go out of my way? No. If anything, I'm more conscious to make them aware of because they are white, that they have privileges that they've already experienced being white at 14 and ten, that me and their little brother don't get the same courtesy. And I call it out, not necessarily not in that moment, but we sit there and have conversations about how people are. During the presidential election, we voted. I took the girls with me and we went and we discussed and we discussed why Mommy voted, the way that she voted, the way he treats women and some of the things he's said towards black people and stuff. So I call out stuff like that to teach them because if I don't teach them, they're going to hear it from their friends and they're going to formulate opinions that might not be the way that I would necessarily support. [00:18:40] Speaker A: So we all know living immersed in a white culture as black people, we know our history. Our parents supplemented our education and taught us that history. How do you balance sharing that history with your children in a way not to maintain comfort because I think that that's why America shies away from these conversations. But how do you maintain telling the honest truth about the history of this country with regards to black individuals and balancing them not feeling guilty? How do you balance telling that story? [00:19:19] Speaker B: It really became more of me sharing with them because I was always like just talk about subtly because mind you, their age, they were smaller too, so you have to do it age appropriate too. But when the whole George Floyd and ahmaud, Aubrey events just honestly something in me just really was triggered by those two events. And we really had a conversation about how black people in America are not treated the same way as white people and it's not to say that all white people are bad or they do X, Y and Z. I don't generalize, I says, but is not always going to be safe for your brother or I. And there will be situations where I'm just kind of hyper vigilant about stuff. Now during those two times I will say my oldest daughter, I think she really keyed into it because I never push an agenda. I just try to lay out certain I just explain it. But she really kind of got on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon. Didn't push it. I didn't even mention it. So that's just kind of she saw some of the signs, and she asked about it, and she actually drew one drew a little sign that she put up in her room because she has a black mom and a black brother. And I think she's understanding that she wants them to be safe, and she doesn't want something to happen to us, and she wants to make sure that so she doesn't push it. She does subtle things but I see that and I noticed that about her. So just doing it age appropriate and making sure that I explain things so that I'm giving a narrative like I said, and not friends or other people that might have different opinions because that's ultimately honestly where I say we talk about kids get it from home. Home training. When you hear little four year olds or five year olds saying like, oh, black people, oh, I can't be friends with you because you're brown. And they get that from home. Right, right. Totally. Home training. And I've had several conversations about sexual identity and people gay and I knew what I said because the way she was captivated to my words that had I said, oh, being gay is wrong and you're going to hell or something like that, that would have been her thought. Mommy said being gay is wrong and totally see it. They soak up what you say. So I'm a much more open to love who you love as long as they treat you kind, I don't care. [00:22:06] Speaker A: Yeah, kids pick up a lot through Osmosis. Even before they have language skills, they always have listening skills, right? And they're picking it up. So now your home is more of a controlled environment, right? And so when race topics come up, you can sit them down, you can talk about it in the moment, you're calm, what does this look like and how do you handle it when you're out in the world? And have you had instances of having to, in the moment, have a teachable moment or conversation with your kids or check an adult? [00:22:37] Speaker B: In the beginning, I used to feel the need to always explain or to justify, oh, well, they're in foster care, they were adopted and stuff like that. But I overshared and that's just something that you do as foster parents and stuff like that. I've since reeled back, and honestly now, I do not get questioned as much. And I always joke and I say that I call it this resting bitch face where I just have this expression. Either I'm very hyper focused, like, don't bother me, don't come at me. We're here in and out, or something like that. But occasionally I've been at a store and like a cashier, one time we were at a Goodwill, and the cashier was just really like, oh, they're so beautiful. Are they with you? And I mean, just really probing. And I says, yes, they're my kids, and I don't entertain anymore, and I just move on from that. So sometimes I'll share, explain, yes, they were adopted from foster care. Because sometimes I think people make up, like, oh, well, maybe she's married to a white guy and maybe those are his kids, or not that I need to justify explaining it, but it just depends on the moment or the situation that I'm in in regards to how I explain it. But I never really go too far into their story because it is their story to share. I'll just say in general, they were adopted from foster care. And I seem to not ever really elaborate more on that. And people I don't really get people that question, oh, well, why were they in foster care? Not at this point, because they've been adopted for so long at this point. [00:24:16] Speaker A: All right. I bought my first house when I was like late twenty s. And I wasn't too worried about the school district. I wasn't too worried about the neighborhood. You buy the house, you settle in, and then you start to notice things. And so then you're like, I'm never raising my kids here. They're never going to that school. So you've had multiple opportunities to move around, to buy homes or get settled in. How has your thoughts changed? And what would you advise other people who are even thinking about becoming parents in terms of being intentional about where you live and where you raise your kids? [00:24:51] Speaker B: So totally agree. When I brought my house in Nashville, it was in this suburbs, border rural area of Nashville because it qualified for one of the rural USDA rural type of loans. Nice little area, quiet, didn't have any kids at the time. Then I got the foster kids, enrolled them in the schools. Then I see the schools now, tennessee, it is just black and white. You don't really have a lot of Hispanic. I mean, yes, obviously there are some. It is not a huge population, asian even smaller. So it is very black and white, literally. And the area that that house was in was a very white area and I wanted them to go to a school and be around people that were more representative of their family. They had a black mother. I did not need to go into a school that is 98% white. Yes, they're fine. But then when I go in there, oh, well, who are you? You must be either one of these one or two kids, mom and stuff like that. So I didn't want any of that living there. So an opportunity presented itself with work and I was able to relocate to Denver. Denver, Colorado. Loved Denver. Rented. I did not buy in Denver. I rented nice little area and when I moved, at this point I have kids. So now you are very intentional and I am obsessive about certain things. And I joined some mom groups and was like what are some good school districts? And then I look at the individual schools, there's like good ratings or niche that gives you percentages and like, oh, it's really good. And there's school tests. I did not focus on test scores. I could care less about test scores. I was looking at diversity. I did not single digit minority numbers. I wanted to be able to see. So in Denver we were in a very good area. Loved it. Four years later, had another opportunity came for Houston. Now, Houston is probably the largest, most diverse and again made a list of all the school districts and the schools within the district and theaters into high schools and stuff of races because now I have a black son and I didn't want him to be in a school with 5% black. So again, very intentional. And the area that we live in love the school that the kids go in, very diverse. It is probably even across all races like black, white, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian. It is probably like 25% of each. Very pleased with it. So you have to if you're going to be a parent and some people it depends on what education is very big for me. So I'm just very intentional that it's representative of our family dynamic and the area that we live in, they don't need to live in a bubble where they're only around one race because I just don't think it's representative. [00:28:00] Speaker A: I knew you were a friend in my head because your thinking is very similar to my thinking in that when I moved to this area, you start talking to parents and they use coded language for what is a good school, what is a low performing school, right? And you really do have to talk to black parents, but also black parents who kind of get it right. You want a good education, but a good education does not mean a white school district. You do want the school to represent what is out there in the world so that your child gets both a social experience as they're learning as well as an academic experience. And so, yes, I love that. So can we talk a little bit about privacy versus secrecy and the importance of setting boundaries? So I'm big on privacy and helping my kids to decide what they want to share and connecting them to what they feel comfortable sharing and why. And that's in all things, but in particular as it's relevant to this conversation about their conception story or how their family came to be. And I kind of feel that privacy goes hand in hand with consent. So even as I tell parts of my children's story, their conception story, I try to tread carefully on the line between privacy in the context of what I share about my conception story, their conception story, and what it means to share some of what can be seen as their private information. Even what I share about their private information. Because at some point, my story ends and their story begins. And so I want to be respectful of that. And I know you've mentioned this, so could we talk a little bit about that? [00:29:46] Speaker B: Which is funny because we just got back from adoption camp. We go every year. We found the camp in Denver, so we went to Denver from Houston, had a great time, and the kids, especially my ten year old, because she is now really starting to ask questions, which is good because she hasn't really had. So I'm always an open book in regards to answering what I can based on what I know. But it's her comfort level. I mean, it's obvious, right, when I go to the school and they see my daughter with me and she's like, oh, this is my mom. Now that we don't really get the questions, partially because of her personality, to not really question. I said, this is my mom, so keep it moving kind of thing. We don't make it a secret. But I try to follow their path as they're getting older for as much as they want to share is what I share. Part of it is keeping their birth mom story too, right? Because like I said, parents go through rough patches. In this case, it led to her not being able to parent these two. Doesn't make her a bad person, just decisions that happen at the time. So you want to be respectful of that as well. So it's not. That we hide anything. But to your point, it's not everyone's business to know. And I know curiosity and people want to know, but really stay in your lane. It really is beyond what you need to know. They are loved and cared for, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. [00:31:24] Speaker A: So now, how do you tell that to them? Because they will be in a situation where you're not there. How do you get them to connect with when you feel that enough is enough in terms of sharing? Right. So how do you coach them on sharing what you feel comfortable sharing? And that's it? [00:31:43] Speaker B: Yeah, it's really just empowering them and more. So I had to teach this to my older daughter that you just need to tell them to stop. I told you that I was adopted, and that's all you need to know. It's giving them a couple of pocket phrases that they have that they can always use to just shut people down. Not being rude or disrespectful, but that's really none of your business. I said what I said. [00:32:09] Speaker A: Well, Lynn, thank you for coming here and chatting with me and sharing your story. So are there any tips you would offer for a person considering becoming a single mother by choice or just some resources around the topic of adoption, parenting, adopting from foster care, raising children in a transracial family? [00:32:32] Speaker B: I would say do your due diligence. There are many Facebook groups out there catered towards fostering, adopted, and then there's actually many cultural groups out there on Facebook for parents, white or black, that are parenting children of a different race where you can come have conversations. Now, a lot of them are very targeted towards helping center the child. So a lot of white voices in those groups may or may not be as receptive to some of the feedback from blacks that are in those groups, but ultimately, it's to help the child. So just do your due diligence. There are some private groups. I am in a private group for black parents parenting white children specifically because it's a very niche group of us. Right? But I'm not the only one. Well, thank you, Lynn. [00:33:30] Speaker A: Okay, so that's it. [00:33:32] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:33:37] Speaker A: Thanks for listening. To start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow Start to Finish Motherhood on Instagram. Email me at [email protected]. If you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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