“Real” Parents

When I saw the topic for this week’s Adoption Talk Link-up I somewhat laughed to myself, unsure as to where to even begin. Adoption in the media is something that has irked me over the years so much that I avoid engaging in it. Very rarely is it accurately portrayed. Either the storyline wraps up in some unrealistic, beautiful ending or the tragedy is disproportionate.

A book that I picked up last week led me to the subject I want to discuss because I feel it is possible with enough education, it is something that actually could change. Stories will be stories, always fictional roughly based in reality, but what can be different is the terminology that is chosen to be used.

Somehow I missed the fact that adoption would play a large part in the book that I got absorbed into when I read the summery –identical twins separated at birth, adopted into different families and later find each other by pure chance. It was interesting enough to grab my attention. A chapter in, though, I found myself with a frustration on my hands.

One of the twins mentions that her adopted sister found her “real” mom. The character wishes she would be able to find her own, but knows her “real” mom is dead. Later, she talks about not having any “real” siblings.

Real, real, real… I hate the concept of real family. In my frustration I want to scream “BIRTH”! Birth mom, birth siblings or we could even use the term “biological”.

Being an adoptive mom has caused me to be quite sensitive to this idea. On occasion I get asked about my children’s “real” parents and I find myself speechless. I wonder who they think I am. I know what they mean and that the term is born out of ignorance, but I am left feeling defensive of my role in my children’s lives.

Aside from my own sensitivity, I cringe at the thought of my children hearing the question. Adoption is confusing enough to explain to children. At three and five, mine are just getting old enough to understand that they have two families –their birth family and us. Just like they have a mom’s side and a dad’s side, they have a birth family side as well. Who is their “real” family? All of us.

When we assign a status of “real” family to the birth side, what does it say about the adoptive side? They are not the “real” parents and siblings? Turkey-Man and Little-Flower play and fight just like real siblings. Hubby and I love them with every ounce of ounce of our being, just like a real mom and dad. I would daresay that we are their real family. That is not to say that the birth family is not, just that they have an extended real family that most other kids do not.

The idea of real and not real sends a message to kids that what they know as family is inaccurate. It is terminology that I would love to banish from the media. The storyline of an adopted child and their birth family being reunited is a beautiful one, but we have to stop describing the birth family as the real one.

Real family is not just the biological one. It is also the one that stands by with unwavering love. It is the parents up at night with a sick kid. It is the ones cheering a child along through life. I am just as real as my children’s birth mothers.

If enough of us begin speaking out on proper adoption terminology, maybe we can change how our culture views adoption which will hopefully impact how the media portrays it. There is no other real family than the one the child has, birth and adoptive combined.


  1. Found you on Adoption Talk. I wrote a post on my other blog http://www.bittersweetadventures.com about adoption pet peeves and it included terminology. I, myself, say “biological” but have no problem if others use a different term. Except I hate “natural” because that implies I’m an unnatural parent and adoption is unnatural, neither of which are true.

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs! 🙂


  2. I see so many moms upset with the word and adoptees too – I can understand it triggers you, and others, and I’m sorry. I wish it didn’t but wishes are just that.

    It wasn’t a trigger word growing up, perhaps because they hadn’t yet invented the term birth mother, or first mother. Natural was (and still can be) the legal term, and natural or real (as in biological) was used in conversations, mom typically just said mother, but to strangers she’d use real mother – she did that recently, shortly before she passed, telling one of her new doctors about what happened to me (she liked to tell doctors about it) and then that my real mother had the same happen and she’d died. And for the first time – hearing real bothered me, despite 50+ years of it being the term used, and I think it’s because it seems everyone now sees it as bad, yet it never seemed anything other than a description of fact just like mom was mom. Funny how times change.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My sensitivity over “real mom” ebs and flows. For me personally so much has to do with the way a person says it. Sometimes it’s sad so accusingly and nosily that it gets right under my skin… and sometimes it’s asked with sincerity by a person who just doesn’t realize it is a bit impolite. I read a post awhile ago where the person said that when others asked what happened to her child’s real mom she responded with “he has two” one being the birth mother and one being the adoptive mother. I liked that response.


  4. I can quickly spot why a person is using language that isn’t sensitive. And depending on my mood I might educate, ignore or feel irritated by it. By in large, the general population does not know how their choice of language affects children and much needs to be done. Thanks for sharing!


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