I was raised in an alternative household, so I know firsthand that there are many ways to make a family. My maternal grandparents stepped in as legal guardians when my parents were unable to provide stability for my brother and me. Our multi-generational household was a typical middle-class family, with old school values that did not allow for input from children. Though I benefited from this arrangement, I didn't recognize its imprint until I decided to have a family of my own.
As a child of the 1970s, I was nursed on the second wave of feminism, which insisted that a woman did not need a man. My grandmothers had both been housewives who entered the workforce when their children became teenagers. My grandfathers, both providers, worried about the caliber of young men in the world. Their advice was simple: education first, career second and then marriage.
A good girl, I earned a master's degree, traveled the world, and then plotted a path to a nuclear family: husband, 2.5 kids and pets. I went about my days as Wonder Woman and waited for Prince Charming at night. That strategy seemed to be at odds with itself, as my ability to take care of myself bumped into a man's need to do the same. Having followed all of the rules, I had become simultaneously desirable and unattainable. This, dear friends, is the great contradiction of my generation.
I am embarrassed to admit that as I neared 40, I was still waiting for a man to legitimize my decision to become a parent. Intellectually I knew better, but my Cinderella complex had been with me a long, long time. And as my ticking biological clock got louder, I found myself trolling the Internet -- not for online dating sites, but for strollers. Fortunately, I wasn't pressed about being pregnant and let fantasies of Darius from Love Jones go. Don't get me wrong -- having a mate would be great, but what my life needed at that moment was a child through adoption. Given my upbringing, adoption was within the realm of possibility and in 2006, I registered for an adoption orientation. While I was not rich, I did possess love, life experience, gratitude, time and means. The moment I decided to adopt, I knew there wasn't a man alive who was going to change my mind.
As I prepared to welcome a son into my life, I had unwittingly opened myself to unsolicited comments: "You know you can't give him back when you get tired," "Your wings are about to be tamped," "Are you sure you want to do this by yourself?" I understood where folks were coming from, but pressed on. In my soul, I knew that I was doing the right thing and couldn't be bothered with other people's attempts to discourage me. Plus, I was fulfilling my karmic obligation to my grandparents and others who raised children they did not birth.
My life had come full-circle and it was time to pay forward what was given to me, which was a chance to have the best life ever. And for that, I am grateful.Two adopted kids later, I still believe that my divine mate is out there. And when he comes, his honey-dos will include potty training, baby dolls and assembling Lego Star Wars kits.
Nefertiti Austin is a college instructor in United States history and a certified Partnering for Safety and Permanence -- Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (PS-MAPP) trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her two children in Los Angeles.
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