Motherhood can take an infinite variety of forms.
In this piece and others, we’ve been honoring moms of every sort at LifeZette this year — including those with adopted kids, foster kids, biological kids, stepkids, “half” kids, and “children of the heart.”
Meet mom Kristen Longshore of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
She and her husband, Joel, are the parents of two internationally adopted sons, 20-year-old Trent and 17-year-old Jonas (not their real names, for privacy).
The Longshores are also in the process of becoming foster parents.
Kristen Longshore began her journey to motherhood in August 2011 — and following an eight-week in-country adoption process in Ukraine, her sons landed in the U.S. in October of 2012. The children were 14 and 12, respectively.
“While I legally became a mother by the stroke of a gavel, becoming their ‘mom’ was a process,” she explained. “Mothering, for me, has been about learning to love more selflessly, and learning that love doesn’t always look like you expect it to. Being a mom of children with attachment challenges means that sometimes loving behaviors can be extremely counterintuitive. Reconciling that has been a process,” she added.
She also said her job of being a parent “is to guide my kids and help them to know they are deeply loved — not to conform to anyone’s expectations of what my family should look like.”
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LifeZette asked her a few more mom-focused questions:
Question: What is your Mother’s Day wish?
Answer: Mother’s Day is often very difficult for adopted children. It represents the deep loss of their biological moms, as well as the current relationship with their adoptive mom. My wish would be for my children to reconcile the fact that it’s OK to have two moms — and to know it’s OK for them to love them both.
Q: What is the hardest part of being a mom? The easiest?
A: The hardest part is watching a child make what I know is going to be a very poor decision, and making the choice not to intervene. Sometimes letting go and letting it happen is the only way children can grow, but it’s painful to allow your kid to crash and burn.
The easiest was actually what most people think would be excruciating with international adoption: the stacks and stacks of paperwork and the never-ending waiting. It’s tough in the moment, but it’s by far the easiest part of adoption!
Q: What makes a good mother?
A: The best moms know exactly who their children are, and they parent the child they have — not the kid they think they should be, want them to be, wish they were, or hope they will become. They know their strengths and weaknesses, the good and the bad. Great moms advocate for their children and teach them to advocate for themselves, but they do not make excuses. They teach their kids to be responsible for their own behaviors.
Q: In what ways is your family similar to or different from others?
A: We probably have some different rules, and our children may have more freedoms in some areas and less in others. I actually feel we are very “typical” in a lot of ways, but all families have their own unique rhythm and way of operating. Life is both beautiful and hard, no matter how your family was formed.
Q: What would surprise others about families with internationally adopted children?
A: Our children are not “grateful” to have been adopted, and we did not “save” them. They have experienced tragedy and loss on a monumental scale, and to suggest that they owe us gratitude or that we are their saviors is offensive. They are our children. They deserve a family and parents who love them.
“Because of the unique background of our children, good judgment didn’t accompany them into our home, and we have had to put more boundaries in place.”
Q: What surprised you most about parenting?
A: How truly all-consuming it is.
Q: What is your parenting style?
A: My natural tendency is really to be a free-range mom. Want to ride your bike across town? Go fishing with your friends? Stay out after dark? Have a good time! I encourage risk-taking and trying new things. Unfortunately, because of the unique background of our children, good judgment didn’t accompany them into our home, and we have had to put more boundaries in place for safety.
Q: What role does spirituality play in your household?
A: Our faith is really the reason we became adoptive parents. I had a come-to-Jesus moment when we were researching adoption options. We attend church regularly, and our closest friends are a community of believers, many of whom are also adoptive parents. Our faith and our relationship with Jesus informs every decision we make.
Q: What is your hope for your kids’ future?
A: It’s cliché but true: I want my children to be healthy, stable, well-adjusted, kind, and productive humans. I want them to know joy, and I want them to know how to give and receive love.
Q: What wisdom would you offer to new moms?
A: It all boils down to one word for me: community. Always have at least one friend with whom you can share the ugly truth. Isolation is your enemy. You need friends who you can text and say, “Child X is being a huge idiot, and I am planning to run away from home tonight,” and their response is “I will help you pack.” They already know you don’t mean it and that you love your child and would throw yourself in front of a train for him.
Also, stop comparing yourself. Ignore people on social media. You are only seeing their highlight reel. They have issues, too, I promise.
Finally, the people who judge you aren’t “your people.” You don’t have the time or energy for that. Don’t put on a performance for anyone, and don’t expect that from your kids. You can expect your children to be polite and respectful — but beyond that, they are who they are.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! And please read the other articles in our Mother’s Day series:
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.