Half of the relationship is ready to dive headfirst into parenting, while the other half is not so ready to go for a swim. Whether your talking about adopting or becoming foster parents, some guys are reluctant to become dads.
What Is He Thinking?
I interviewed a couple of adoptive parents and as a trainer I have also listened to several men speak of their concerns as they investigate adopting or fostering. Here are some of their thoughts.
Financial Worries - Many men worry about having "another mouth to feed." Not to mention the cost of braces, health care, college and still being able to go on some family vacations, or even a movie, without going into debt. Some men feel, even if they aren't the sole provider of the family, that they are the main protector. He may worry about expanding that role by adding a child to your family picture.
Am I My Father? - Some memories of dad may be great, while other memories, not so much. He may be worried about not measuring up to his father, or in some cases, worried that he may be just like his dad.
My Youth Is Gone - Being a dad means diaper bags, PTA meetings and G-rated movies. Not exactly the swinging scene, unless that swing was made by Fisher-Price. He may be wondering if adding a child may mean his simple, youthful life is over.
I Don't Want to Take Care of Someone Else's Responsibility - Sounds harsh doesn't it? But it's been said by more than one man that was asked by his partner to explore adopting or fostering. Many men are not interested in stepping into another man's role. They may even be intimidated by such a request. What if the child says, "I don't have to listen to you, you're not my dad." Ouch.
What About Stress on My Relationship? - Another common concern is that of the burden parenting may bring to the relationship. This thought may cause some men to be hesitant about fostering or adopting.
Possible Impact on Other Children - If there are other children in the home, many men worry about how bringing another child, through foster care or adoption, into the family will impact the other children. Why upset a happy home and family balance?
Helping Him Find Answers
It is important to address any and all concerns when making any decision and adopting or fostering is a pretty big decision. Here are some possible answers and resources to help meet his needs.
Basics First - My husband wanted to understand the financial and legal responsibility that went along with being a foster or an adoptive parent. He is a logical guy, and this information eased his mind. Perhaps your partner is all about having facts up front too.
Encourage Education - Ask him to agree to attend the parenting classes offered to prospective foster and adoptive parents and give him time to learn and make an informed decision. Agree to wait until the end of the course, when all facts have been gathered, to make a decision as a couple. When considering international adoption, there are also informational meetings available as well as parenting classes.
- Are You Ready for Fatherhood? - a quiz offered from our About.com Guide to Fatherhood - Sometimes the best education is learning about oneself.
Meet with Other Adoptive or Foster Parents - Many people like to speak to those who have already traveled the well-worn path of an adoptive or foster parent before making a decision. Perhaps a buddy family will help him get the straight story from another man who is already parenting.
- Connecting with Other Parents: Help for Dads with Cold Feet - from our About.com Guide to Fatherhood
- Things They Didn't Tell You about Fatherhood - from our About.com Guide to Fatherhood
Start Off Slow - Consider starting off with respite weekends or being a temporary home for emergency placements, if considering foster care. This will help ease him and your relationship into foster care and give you both an idea of the different ages and stages you would most be interested in parenting. If considering international adoption, perhaps you would like to babysit for another family or host a child that is in the country through a summer exchange program that some adoption agencies offer.
My husband was very hesitant at first when I approached him about becoming foster parents. He had a ton of questions. I spoke to him about this article and asked him what changed his mind. He said,
"I put myself in a kid's shoes. I pictured myself back as a 10-year-old, out riding my dirt bike. The thought of not knowing where I was going to sleep that night or who was going to take care of me, never crossed my mind. I wouldn't want to have that worry as a kid, no kid should have that worry. So, I chose to do something that obviously not enough people are willing to do [speaking of the high number of kids in the foster care system]. The kids just need a chance."