When my daughter was newly home, one of my lady friends came over to visit. She is a much older lady in her 50s, with three grown daughters my age, but for some reason we have enjoyed an easy friendship over the years. She is like a mother and elder sister all rolled up into one. I remember her holding my Little One and with a wistful smile saying, “I really wanted to adopt a baby boy, but your father (her husband) would not let me.”
I will never forget the expression on her face. Such longing…
Her sentiments are not unique. I have interacted with women, some of whom are in my family who express the desire to adopt a baby, but hesitate for two reasons:
1. If the lady is single, she fears that her future husband may have a problem accepting a child she has no biological connection with. This is not unfounded as the typical African man is more comfortable with the thought that a woman is a single mother by accident, than the possibility that she chose to adopt a baby and be a single mother. Single women are also afraid that adoption could complicate their dating life. This is a real fear.
2. For a couple to adopt, both partners must consent to the adoption. Majority of men do not understand adoption, others fear it, and others find the idea of raising another man’s child unbearable, and for that reason many married women quash their desire to give a child a home.
But why are most men averse to adoptions?
Before I proceed…Not all men are averse to adoption, but it seems MOST men either do not view adoption favourably, or they think it is a sweet gesture, just not for them.
I raised this question on social media, and the answers were both enlightening and saddening and I would like to share them together with my perspective on each of them, with the hope that someone out there will at least rethink his perspective.
1. “Adoption is foreign and it is against African culture. It will take time for us to get used to this”
Whenever I get this very common objection, I really wonder what “our culture” here refers to. Yes, adoptions that are court endorsed came with our legal system which is borrowed from the West, but adoption as a practice is more African than it is Western. Africans raised children together, no matter their lineage or parenthood. Orphans were well taken care of in the community and they grew up with a sense of belonging. With urbanization we may have lost that sense of community, but caring for the orphaned is deep within our African roots.
2. “Why raise another man’s child while I can sire my own?”
Let me first confess that I do not know how the URGE to have children that many describe feels. I desired to be a parent for a long time, but I have never felt the urge to bear a child and for that reason I may not relate to this urge that’s said to be primal and innate.I would however like to challenge this pushback on two fronts:
– Adoption has no relationship with bearing children unless one is adopting because they cannot bear children. We adopt because we have room in our hearts and homes for an orphan who would otherwise grow up in a group home, which brings me to my second point…….
– Raising an orphan is not raising another man’s child. The child is in a home because he/she does not have parents. Once you adopt that child, they become your child in all ways. You are all they are going to have, your family becomes their family, and they enjoy all the rights your biological children enjoy for life.
3. “I have no way of knowing the child’s character/ genes. The child may riot or hate me later in life”. There is a Swahili saying that goes…“Mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo” and even another one that says, “Kuzaa sio kazi, kulea ndiyo kazi”. The character of your child depends to a very large degree on how you raise them. Your adopted child’s genes are responsible for a very small portion of their character. How you raise your child determines whether they will love you, whether they’ll riot, and whether they will feel they fully belong in your home. This is fully in your hands as an adoptive parent, and fully in your control. If you are led by love, then adoption is always a very rewarding experience. A child will give to you more than you could ever give them.If you parent with love and the child wants nothing to do with you as an adult (which also happens with biological children), then you need to still be grateful because you got a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.
4. “Man is inherently selfish” Yes, but so are toddlers, that is why we teach them to share! What I am saying is, let us free ourselves from myths and social stigma, and actually consider reverting to our true selves and be loving and accepting of all. An orphaned child may not share your blood, but we are all one in humanity.