9 things this adoptive mom would like everyone to know.

The adoptions of my two children are, quite literally, the two best things that have happened to me.

Ever. In my whole life. Nothing has altered the course of my life or meant more to me than becoming a mom to my kids.


My son, Mattix, and me when we met in December 2007.

Before them, I didn’t really understand what unconditional love was, nor did I have a clue how it felt. Now I know — twice over.

My daughter, Molley, and me, when we met in April 2009.

Adoption is amazing. And it’s complicated. It can bring great joy. And it can bring great pain.

Adoption is nuanced. And like anything else, it can be hard to see those nuances when it's not part of your life. That's particularly true when the media is so good at circulating adoption narratives that are a little problematic — like the baby left under the Christmas tree for his siblings to discover.

Photo by Clayton Shonkwiler/Flickr.

I get why people thought it was sweet: A precious new life was placed into an obviously loving family. But I still cringed. Partly because it felt uncomfortably similar to buying the kids a puppy for Christmas. And partly because it made me think of the commodification and trafficking of humans, which unfortunately happens sometimes in the world of adoption.

Thankfully, there are some really great adoption stories that circulate, too — like the one where a grandma lost her mind with excitement when she met her granddaughter for the first time. Beautiful! Most loving grandmas tend to experience unadulterated joy when they first lay eyes on their grandkids.

GIF via Laura Dell/YouTube.

As with most of the important things in life, talking about adoption is complicated.

But at the heart of it is something really simple: More than anything, we want our kids to grow into adults who are respected as the complex and unique individuals they are. Not just representatives of the "adopted kid" stories we see all the time.

There are many, many things I’d love for everyone to know about adoption. Here are nine of them, from an adoptive parent's perspective.

1. My kids are "my own."

"But are you going to, you know, have any kids of your own?”

Most people who ask this question have good intentions. They want to know if my husband and I are planning on having any biological kids. It’s a wording issue for most adults, but for kids who are struggling with attachment or working to feel secure in their families, those words matter.

When you ask this in front of kids who were adopted, you might be shaking an already unstable foundation the family has worked hard to build.

Adopting our kids was our "Plan A." We didn't want to have biological kids.

For other families, adoption may have followed a long struggle with infertility and it can be a painful question for them, especially coming from a stranger or casual acquaintance.

That said, know that...

2. Adoptive parents are approachable!

It's true that we don't appreciate being asked super-personal questions about adoption, especially in front of our kids. But that’s pretty much like most personal topics in life, right? Asking random questions — especially of a stranger — to satisfy your curiosity probably isn’t cool.

For instance, please don’t ask how much our kids "cost" or where we "got" them. A two-second google search for "how much does adoption cost," for example, will provide the info you need. I promise.

Asking respectfully because you really want to learn or have an interest in adopting yourself? That’s a different story.

I’m not an unapproachable lady (I'm even fun at parties!). I’ve been a resource for many people wanting to learn about adoption. I've given my phone number to complete strangers who want to adopt and would like to learn more. The best questions begin with, "Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about adoption?"

That gives me a chance to say "no" if my kids are there or if it doesn’t feel like a good time for me. That also lets me know that if you ask something I don’t feel comfortable sharing, I can say, "I’d rather not talk about that" — and you’ll understand.

3. Yep, we’re all real.

“Do you know who your kids’ real parents are?”

I know what you mean — you’re asking if I know who my kids’ birth parents are. It’s not that I’m offended by the question, thinking that you’re implying I’m not real. My kids’ birth parents most certainly are real.

But the last time someone asked that in front of my sweet then-7-year-old son, he looked at me, the usually bright smile fading from his face, and asked in a quiet voice, "What does she mean? You’re my real mom too. Nobody can take me from you…" — long pause — "... right, Mommy?"

Of course, he knows the answer to that. We’ve been talking about adoption since, well, since the day he came home at 10 and a half months old. Back then, it was me talking about adoption to a baby that didn’t understand. I figured I’d start then to ensure we never stopped talking. And we haven’t.

But a child’s feelings about adoption change over time. So can their sense of security. And having their place in their family questioned at the wrong time can feel pretty unsettling to child who’s in the process of making sense of some of those feelings.

4. My kids' histories belong to them.

Sometimes the details of a child's history are simple. Sometimes they're pretty complicated. And, quite frankly, they're private.

Some birth parents place their children for adoption because they’re not ready for a baby. Some place because they’ve been coerced or pressured into it. Some place because of medical issues — either theirs or the child's. Some place because they don't know how they can afford a baby and there aren't enough services in place to assist them. Some place against their will because they're incarcerated. Occasionally, some truly don't want their kids.

Sometimes we have no idea who our kids' birth parents are or why they placed them for adoption. Sometimes our kids were abandoned. Sometimes our kids came from the foster care system and their family histories are very complicated.

Whatever the reason, it's not something we want to go around chitchatting about with anyone who's curious.

5. We might parent quite differently than you do.

It doesn't mean we're weird. Or coddling. Or over-parenting. Or trying to prove anything.

We’re just trying to give our kids what they need and deserve.

Adoptive parents have to learn about a bunch of things their children could face, and we have to learn how to best parent our kids. Attachment parenting, healing from trauma, sensory processing disorder, and many other phrases become more than just words for a lot of us. When we decide to adopt our kids, most of us put our hearts and souls into doing what's best for them. Sometimes what's best isn't necessarily what most other parents do. That’s OK.

I got up every half-hour all night long with both of my kids for at least six months after we adopted each one. I didn’t do it because I loved being a sleep-deprived zombie that would have traded a kidney for a solid week of sleep. I did it because in my son’s 10 months of life before us, nobody ever got up for him at night. He had learned, rightfully so, never to believe someone would. And when we were finally there to do it, he didn’t trust us. We had to work hard to earn that trust.

I went to my daughter all night long because she desperately wanted me to, but was terrified that I wouldn’t. The people who looked at me, exhausted beyond words, and told me I should just let my kids cry it out had no idea how hard we were working to build a foundation of trust. Ultimately, we were doing it so our kids could grow into adults capable of having healthy friendships and relationships with others.

Plus, isn’t that kind of a cardinal rule of parenting: Don’t offer advice unless it’s solicited?!

6. Those of us who have adopted transracially aren’t suddenly "super sensitive about race."

For 26 years, I lived in a blissfully comfortable color-blind bubble of ignorance. When I decided to adopt children transracially, I began educating myself and came to understand the world doesn’t work for people of color the way it works for me. Now that I’m a mom to two kids of color, I’m committed to being their advocate. I’m committed to being the person they know will always stand up for them when someone at school hurls a racial slur. I’m committed to calling out friends and family members for jokes they might think are harmless.

It’s not about being politically correct or raining on people’s fun parades. It’s about making sure that the world around our kids is as supportive as it possibly can be.

7. It's complicated.

There are three people (or groups of people) who are part of adoption: those who are adopted, those who place their children for adoption, and those who do the adopting. All of those people have feelings and experiences, and they might conflict. That’s OK!

My kids missing their birth parents and wishing they hadn’t lost their cultures, for example, doesn’t mean they love my husband and me any less. My wishing that my kids didn’t have to deal with the pain of loss doesn’t diminish the feelings of pure gratitude and joy I experience over getting to be their mom.

8. One of us doesn’t speak for all of us.

While some things in adoption are pretty universal, one adoptive parent doesn’t speak for them all. Which means that I’m well aware that not every adoptive parent will agree with everything I’ve written here.

And not a single one of us can speak for birth parents or adoptees. We can do our best to lend our voices to our kids as we’re raising them, but when it comes to sharing life from birth parents’ or our kids’ perspectives, that’s not our place.

9. We’re like any other parent in most ways.

I’m pretty normal (whatever that means). I have good days and bad days — days where I think, "Oh my gawd, if my child talks back one more time, I’m going to lose my mind!" And days where I think, "I couldn’t possibly be happier. This is everything."

Like every good parent out there, at the end of the day, we just want the best for our kids. And we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.

My totally adorable kids. And yep, I'm biased! ;)

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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