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Primary/secondary caregiver roles- the only way?

Danielle&Sarah May 30, 2019 22:43

Our social work assessment team in stage 2 is promoting a primary caregiver approach and has told us our plans to share parenting roles as equally as possible will be damaging for our potential adopted children as they won't be able to cope with learning 2 parenting styles at once. They suggest adopted children can only securely attach first to one primary caregiver. Even after agreeing to one of us taking the 12 months of parental leave rather that sharing it, we continue to be advised to adopt a primary and secondary caregiver role for the first 5 years of adoption. We'd love some advice if you've tried joint parenting as equally as possible and whether it's been beneficial for the child you adopted? Thanks!

Edited 17/02/2021
Serrakunda27 May 31, 2019 13:03

As a single adopter not really a problem I face. But what jumps out to me from from your post is the comment about different parenting styles - what exactly do you mean by that ? I would probably agree that asking a child who has just been uprooted from everything they know to have to grapple with two completely different styles of parenting is too much. They do need consistency. So I would probably give some thought to how you are presenting that part of your plans.

More genenerally speaking, I don't think I know any parent, birth or adopted who is the parent they thought they would be. Children tend not to fit into the little boxes we have in our minds eye. I don't think I would get into conflict with a social worker about the specifics of parenting a child that doesnt actually exist yet. You will probably find that when a child lands in your house, a lot of your plans will go out of the window. I'm so far removed from the earth mother type I thought I'd be - mainly because I ended up with a real boys boy, with no interest in baking cookies, crafting or cultivating veggies. I thought we'd do lots of home cooking and never darken the door of McDonalds. Instead I spent the first year swimming ( which I hate) and playing Frustration. I've also had to develop an 'interest' in every sport you can think of. Chicken nuggets, pizza and sausages remain the food of choice and yes there is even the occasional McDonalds. I think I have maintained some general principles but a lot of the specific ideas went very quickly.

For what its worth I don't think they can actually dictate to you how you divi up your adoption leave. Also remember that after you have the adoption order, how you parent is up to you. There are times in the adoption process when you have to smile and nod in agreement and let it go.

Lastly, your eventual child may come from a different authority which may have very different views.

I think what I'm trying to say is don't die in a ditch and ruin your chances because of a philosophy of child rearing which may not actually work in practice. Show flexibilty in your thinking, a willingness to accept that you may have to adjust and go with the flow.

Edited 17/02/2021
Snowy May 31, 2019 13:25

I can understand why SWs might question sharing parental leave as I think that shift in setup early in placement would be tricky for everyone. But given that's not the case here I think they're making too much of it and it's ridiculous to ask anyone to commit to 5 years of a particular family model. My OH is the stay at home parent, i.e. primary caregiver, but I do a lot of what is left over when I'm home from work - morning routine, bathtime, bedtime and he makes sure he gets plenty of time away from it. The likelihood is that your child will require more parental energy than the typical birth child and I don't see it as particularly realistic for one person to shoulder all of that responsibility if they can share it with their partner. Indirectly it's better for a child to have a primary-ish caregiver who gets time to recharge rather than one who attempts to be on it 24/7, which I think is impossible.

Also, the dynamic between child and primary caregiver isn't always a straightforward one. I think the biggest myth of the adoption training process is the idea that you have neat categories of secure and insecure attachment (with its tidy subtypes), secure is good, insecure bad, keep going until you've made it secure. In reality, I would say most of the adoptive parents I know have a strong connection with their children at the same time as having to deal with their children's insecurities. In practice that doesn't feel like your child is falling short of the golden secure attachment, it just seems obvious that they will need more patience and reassurance in various situations that might cause them stress. Sorry, that's a bit of a digression, but it sort of takes me to the point that an adopted child's relationship with their primary caregiver can be a complicated one, which adds to the strain for the primary caregiver. My OH certainly sees more of the insecure behaviours and the fact that I am there to give the pair of them a break is probably good for everyone.

Final thing. As part of a same-sex couple I would say that it's much more typical for same-sex couples to share parenting as we don't have the same gender expectations underlying our relationships. Obviously that's a generalisation, but holds true for a lot of the couples I know.

To be honest I would nod and say sure and then after placement live your life in a way that balances the child's needs and your own. Maybe sharing will work for you, maybe you'll end up with more traditional division of responsibilities than you expected. More about being open to what works.

Edited 17/02/2021
Bluemetro May 31, 2019 14:29

When we had our DS at just under 1, I was the primary caregiver for just over a year. However, from the start we took it in turns to do the bathtime routine which worked well both for bonding and to give a short break. We also shared care when DS was a home. This did mean he bonded more closely to me at first. I then returned to work part time. Due to only one vehicle DS took him to nursery so he got that contact time for 3 days. This worked well and when he went to school I amended my hours so I did school drops and pick ups. However due to redundancy after 5 years DS was around more and eventually our roles changed as I was offered more hours. Now he is older it works well to have more time with his Dad. Also, however as I still do not work full time, some of the care is shared and as we have appointments so to share the time can work well as for both of us to work full time would not work.

For us it did work well to have one person setting the routine at first, so I can see why social workers have asked for one main person at first, but it was helpful as much as possible to involve both of us.

Edited 17/02/2021
chestnuttree May 31, 2019 16:19

Parenting and relationships change over time. I think it is ridiculous to ask you to commit to something for 5 years, when you don't have any idea if it will work in the first place.

My children attached to me sooner than to my husband (we are a heterosexual couple). My younger daughter was wary of men and it took her 6 months alone to hug my husband. It also took her months to put him into the family pictures she drew. Now, 7 years on, they are inseparable and she shares all her secrets with him. So we could not have shared equally at the beginning, since it would have fuelled her anxieties. It might have been manageable for my other daughter though.

What do you mean by sharing parenting equally? Is it Mon/ Wed/ Fri parent 1 does the bath, Tue/ Thu/ Sat parent 2 does the bath, or parent 1 does the evening routine, parent 2 does the morning routine? Version one might be too much for a child, while version 2 would work. Keeping things simple, predictable and consistent is key. Your children will also make their wishes clear. It was tough for my husband that our daughters wanted me to do everything at first, but they now often prefer him.

Edited 17/02/2021
Bop June 1, 2019 10:42

Putting on my social worker hat, I'm wondering if there is more behind this question than simple parenting roles - I wonder of your social worker is trying to check out your flexibility and your ability to prioritise the needs of your child above your own needs?

Whilst she is partly right, that a child with attachment struggles will find it easier to be mostly parented by a single person, especially in the early days, as consistency will help them to feel safe and therefore to settle, sticking rigidly to that for 5 years, seems very prescribed. As others have said, the nature of attachment issues, does mean these children are hard to parent and primary carers do need some time to regroup.

Do have a think about alternative options to your current plan - do you have flexibility to do things differently if it becomes apparent that your child needs that? And do think about how you will cope when you parent differently (and inevitably you will as your own experiences of being parented will be different).

Good luck with your journey

Edited 17/02/2021
Gilreth June 1, 2019 19:59

We have always shared care as far as we can with my husband doing mornings from the start. I was the one who took the adoption leave as my works terms were far more generous. But to this day we share as much as we can - stick to a routine ish but it does get varied. I do more evenings as our son clings to me when tired. We do have attachment issues - he is well bonded to us but is ambivalent and tends to try to make friends with everyone to keep him safe. Stranger danger is a taught thing not instinct with him. But I would agree it is ridiculous to stick to primary/secondary for 5 years. We are 5.5 years in and it is fairly equal round work stuff now.

Edited 17/02/2021
Bakergirl June 1, 2019 23:09

My DH and I adopted siblings (2&3). My DH and I very much share parenting and have done so from the start. My DH took extended leave so we were both home for the first 8 weeks of placement and then I was on adoption leave for the next four months. DH is a teacher so he was then off for the next two months with me and then we both returned to work but both part time. So now I am home the first part of the week with the children and DH the second half. We always planned to do this and was in actual fact a major selling point for the children’s sw-er. They felt that as the children were harder to place children that our arrangement where we would be equally sharing parenting and not falling mostly on one person would be a big plus for stabilising the placement.

the arrangement has worked really well for us. We both enjoy our time at home with the children but also get some time out of the house being somebody other than mummy or daddy, while knowing that the children are secure and happy with the other person. Our children definitely need one or other of us around and so childcare is not at option but I highly doubt I could have coped with being at home full time with them all this time. My DH and I do parent very similarly and have a very structured routine at home that we both rigidly adhere to. The children adapt well to days with both of us. I think this is a strange approach from your social worker and do as Bop said wonder if there is more to it. I think it is more than ok to have shared parenting.

Edited 17/02/2021
Milly June 2, 2019 10:35

When we got asked questions that we didnt necessarily want to give a completely honest answer to (as we knew it might not go down well - we're honest people normally, I promise!), we said that we were prepared to be flexible depending on the needs of the child- or words to that effect. We found that went down well. Because to have a strict 5 year plan for an unknown child and a situation you have as yet had no experience of is crazy!

To be fair I have sometimes thought that,in theory, both our children might have done better being the only child of a single parent. However as part of a couple, I also very much appreciate having a partner to share both the practical aspects of parenting and the inevitable concerns and worries.

When we started out with our first child I was the primary carer. I was the prime mover behind our adoption, though DH was fully on board. It wouldn't have occurred to us back then for him to be at home - for one thing he wouldn't have wanted to and for another he ran his own business that would have failed if he had taken time away. I actually had the better salary but took adoption leave. He had a long journey to work too which meant he often arrived home around or after dd's bedtime.

Over the years things have changed completely. DH now runs his business from home and I work 4 long days a week. The care is completely shared between us and has been for years. It does cause issues at times as our children will play us off against each other. Also we do have slightly different parenting styles and that sometimes causes conflict. However I don't believe it has affected our children's relationships with us. I'd say they are equally attached to us both. Neither have 'secure' attachment styles but both have good relationships with us.

By the way, neither of us would want to be a full time stay at home parent. It's important for us to have our own lives and interests but we both have been able to spend a lot of time with our girls.

Edited 17/02/2021


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