The Inspirationals #5: Happy (Single) Mother’s Day
Welcome to the fifth installment of BeFreeMySheeple.com’s The Inspirationals where I interview people who inspire me.
This week I interviewed Anna, a highly successful advertising executive and an inspirational woman who adopted two beautiful girls as a single parent, Madison & Phoebe (names changed to protect their identity). What makes this story unique is that Anna adopted her nieces from her sister to keep the family together. Like Anna’s daughters, I too was adopted so I have huge respect for anyone that goes through the adoption process and provides a better life for children.
Mother’s Day is an especially difficult time for me because I lost my mom to cancer on July 13, 2009. My birthday is July 11th and I’m certain that my mom held on for an extra two days so that I could enjoy my birthday for the rest of my life. Please call or hug your moms today and tell them how much you love them.
I also believe that being a mom is one of the toughest jobs in the world, especially as a single parent. Before we get into the interview, I wanted to share one of the most emotional and creative advertising campaigns that I’ve seen for Mother’s Day that reinforces this. Grab some tissues.
BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Anna
Adam Francisco: Happy Mother’s Day Anna! As you know, I was adopted from Mexico so I have always been moved by your story. What inspired you to adopt your children?
Anna: I am a firm believer in keeping my family together. Family is the most important thing to me and I would do anything for them. I have always been involved in my nieces and nephew’s life so when I knew that Madison and Phoebe needed help, it wasn’t a question. I don’t necessarily think it was inspiration that motivated me to adopt. I think it was the love I have for my family and wanted to do whatever I could to protect them.
Adam: What was the adoption process like?
Anna: This process was extremely difficult for me because I did not have a typical adoption. My sister and brother-in law made some bad decisions in life and Madison and Phoebe were taken away from DCF (Division of Children and Family Services). Because they were taken away from a government service, the adoption process is very different. When you think of adopting, you think about the typical process – apply at an adoption agency, get interviewed, pay a ton of money and then meet the children. My experience did not go like this at all.
Adam: The typical process sounds like what my mom and dad had to go through to adopt me from Mexico.
Anna: When I first got custody of my daughters, I had just turned 25 years old and was working full-time at a media agency in New York City. I was living in a 1 bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment and just barely managing to maintain paying all my bills. You can only imagine to my shock when I received a phone call the morning of September 21, 2014 from a case worker at DCF to tell me that my nieces were going to be placed in a foster home if I did not take them in. I was shocked, confused and devastated. I went to the DCF office the next day and spoke with them for hours regarding what would happen to the girls if I did not take them. The clear conclusion was that if I did not take the girls, unless my sister and brother-in-law got better, my family had a 99% chance of never seeing them again. After hearing that, I knew what I needed to do, and I told DCF that I would take them. 3 days later the girls moved into my 1-bedroom apartment. Madison was 2 and half and Phoebe was 11 months.
Adam: Everything happened incredibly fast. What did you need to do to keep the girls?
Anna: The process of being a foster parent is extremely invasive, embarrassing, and almost abusive. To even get your foster parent license, you must go through several steps – 3 drug and alcohol tests, psychological evaluation, background check, personal references, financial background checks, friends and family background checks etc… and once you are cleared from all these things, then you must allow DCF workers to inspect your house. Each month a DCF caseworker would come to my apartment and check every outlet, cabinet, bathroom, pet paperwork etc.… to make sure that everything is safe and compliant to foster care regulations. If one thing was off, you were in jeopardy of the kids being taken away. This honestly was so scary to me because you never knew if something might be out of place that you didn’t notice.
Adam: That sounds so stressful.
Anna: Besides having a case worker going through my home monthly, a lawyer and nurse would have to come every 3 months. They only worked 9-5 so I would have to either take off a day of work to be home for when they could come or leave early, which to be honest, my boss was not very supportive or happy when I did.
Adam: I hope that boss has learned a bit more humanity.
Anna: I tried to always be accommodating with DCF because of the fear of upsetting them and risking Madison and Phoebe being taken away. My biggest fear was making a mistake and then losing the girls.
Adam: I can’t imagine.
Anna: For years, I went through this process and had to deal with these stresses. I was even screamed at once by their nurses because I needed to reschedule a dentist appointment. I couldn’t maintain working in New York City and taking care of the girls and handling childcare so I ultimately left my job in NYC and got a job in an office close to my home.
Adam: Living in NYC is already extremely stressful even without kids. You absolutely did the right thing getting the heck out of there.
Anna: Before you can legally adopt foster children, there are 1 or two things that need to happen. The biological parents need to sign away their rights or DCF needs to rule the parents are unfit to take care of their biological children.
In one last attempt to connect my sister with her children, DCF setup a mediation session with the caseworker, myself and my sister. I will never forget that session because the outcome was my sister telling me that I was a fucking asshole who had stolen her children.” Ironically, a month later, my sister and brother-in-law signed away their parental rights and the adoption paperwork was processed.
Adam: I’m so happy that they ultimately made the best decision for the kids.
Anna: The last step before the adoption took place was to have a medical check done on the girls so the government would help support their medical needs post-adoption. This was finalized and on January 25, 2016 I legally became the proud mother of Madison and Phoebe.
I can’t explain to you how happy I am to have the girls in my life. Although it can be hard, I would not take it back for one second.
Adam: What did your family and friends think about you adopting children as a single mom?
Anna: This is a tough topic to talk about because at first a lot of people did not support my decision. I think my family and friends were concerned that at a such young age, I was giving my life away. For a long time, I was very angry at them for not supporting me at first, but after I saw a therapist and was able to open my eyes, I understood it wasn’t because they did not believe I could, it was because they were worried for me. Now, I can honestly say that everyone is truly happy and 100% supportive of my decision. My dad tells me all the time how proud he is of me that I was able to get through all the hard time and build my career while being a single mom. Things really happen in mysterious ways.
Adam: What are some of the challenges you face as a single mom? How do you handle them?
Anna: Being a mom has truly been the hardest challenge of my life. I honestly think all moms have a hard time and I wouldn’t say I have harder challenges than married moms, but we just have different ones. I think for me, the biggest challenge is being a 30-year-old, single adoptive mom. I say that because the questions that come up with my daughters are much different than others, but each mom has struggles. My girls know they are adopted and have a lot of questions about their adoption. My oldest wants to know why her birth parents “didn’t want her.” It has haunted her a lot, but I always tell her that sometimes in life you have a birth mom and a forever mommy. I am her forever mommy. Her birth parents were just not ready to be forever parents, but that does not mean they did not love her. They did. Every time she hears that, her tears turn to a smile because she knows she is loved.
Adam: You could even say she’s twice as loved – loved by the parents that wanted her to have a better life via adoption and you for adopting her.
Anna: Another fun question I get is, “when are you going on a date?” (it’s like I have a 97-yr. old grandma in the house), and if they will ever have a dad, and to be honest this is personally hard for me. The day I adopted the girls the guy I was seeing for 6 months broke up with me. That was hard for me because the girls had grown to adore him, and I was completely blindsided. I get why he did it, but he is still an asshole.
Adam: Yeah, that sounds like a selfish asshole.
Anna: I feel bad for the girls because I want them to have a normal life and be able to have that “daddy” figure in their lives. I grew up with my dad and I knew how it felt to not have my mom around and I would never want them to go through that but dating as a single parent is tough now a days, and I need to focus on the girls and make sure they know that they always come first and are my 100% priority.
Adam: Dating sounds pretty difficult in America as a single mom compared to Thailand where many women have children at a younger age so it’s completely normalized to date single moms there.
Anna: Yeah. Dating is hard. To be honest, it sucks. If I tell a guy I am a mom of an 8 and 6-year-old they are so quick to judge since I am only 30. I don’t want to share the reasons why because I shouldn’t have to. My family history shouldn’t matter, but a lot of the time guys don’t even give me the chance to let them know. This is the only part of my life that I am sad about.
Adam: I wouldn’t be sad if I were you. A happy single parent is better than two miserable parents (most relationships ultimately end up unhappy). Enjoy your freedom!
Anna: [Laughter]. I think the other challenge I am constantly dealing with, which to be honest I think ALL moms can relate to, if they have girls, is how DIVA these minions are! Yes, my kids are only 8 and 6, but they act like they are 18 and 16. Madison is constantly wanting to go to Abercrombie & Fitch and needs to know the latest top 40! *roll eyes*. Phoebe needs to get her nails done and has a “boyfriend.” When I was their age, all I cared about was what Barbie was going to do in her dream house!
Adam: OMG I can’t imagine what it’s like having a daughter lol. What advice can you give to someone who want to become a single parent?
Anna: I think that being a parent is a huge sacrifice. The greatest advice I can give someone is to make sure that you are ready to worry about someone else 110% because you won’t have that extra time anymore to go get your nails done or grab a beer with your boys. It is not an easy job and it’s a lot of hard fucking work, but in the end, it is all worth it. I would never change my decision. I have become a better person because of my girls and I think it is a blessing I have them. Don’t be a parent, to be a parent. Do it because you feel in your heart this is the right thing to do.
Adam: If you could go back in time, what advice would you have given yourself? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Anna: Honestly, I don’t know. I think I would have told myself to not let the negativity of others get to my head so much. That really impacted me for a long time and I was so angry, so I would want to avoid that.
If I could have done anything differently, I would have saved money better the minute I graduated from college. Just like most typical early 20-year-old, I did not save the right way and I think if I had, I may have not struggled, but again I was not planning on being a foster mom at 25 and a single adoptive mother at 27.
Adam: That’s one piece of advice I think is important for everyone. Start saving early and invest. My first investment was in Facebook when it IPOed and my money has almost multiplied by five times since then!
Anna: Everyday you learn how to be a parent. I don’t think I will ever be perfect at that job. I make mistakes just like everyone else in this world. I can only keep trying my best to make sure Madison and Phoebe have the best life and are 110% happy. They are amazing kids who deserve the best.
Adam: How has the definition of “happiness” changed for you?
Anna: Wow, that is an amazing question. I don’t look at it as a single mom thing to be honest. I think most moms would relate that my happiness is seeing my girls come home everyday with a smile on their faces. Madison scoring a goal in her soccer game or Phoebe breakdancing when we are having a dance party on a Saturday night. Their smiles are what makes me happy. The pride they have when they get a 12/12 on their spelling test is amazing. The excitement about going on a plane and meeting their great grandparents or throwing them a party for their baptisms with 30 people coming to support them. As a mom, my life has changed. My happiness is making sure my kids are happy and healthy and enjoying their lives. That really is what matters to me.
Adam: Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and touching story. As an adoptee, I really appreciate what you’ve done for your children and I wish your family all the best and a Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday!
Have a Happy Mother’s Day! Have another person that you’d like me to consider for next month’s The Inspirationals? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.
Be Free My Sheeple!