This blog contains links for your convenience. Some are affiliate links, meaning if you purchase through that link I may earn credit at that store or a few pennies; however, links are provided solely for your convenience. The intention of this blog is to help you support single foster and adoptive moms that you know.
Mother’s Day can often be a trigger for adoptees, a reminder of their first mother, a reminder of so much lost. The idea of Mother’s Day can stir up big emotions and memories. As a single adoptive mother, I don’t expect gifts or pampering from my child, so anything is a bonus. Usually he has a rugby game, and I end up with a team’s worth of uniforms to wash. Perhaps you know a single foster or adoptive mom who might need a little extra attention or encouragement this year. Parenting kids with a history of trauma and/or loss, we may have extra things to consider even with normal gift ideas.
What she does not want you to do is to rope her kids in to making a gift or shopping for her. While some kids are gift givers and love shopping, it could actually be harmful for some adopted kids depending on where they are in their emotional processing. It may be counter-intuitive to what you saw in elementary school and churches where kids were given crafts to make for mom, but the foster and adoptive mama attuned to her children’s hearts will avoid those activities and maybe only attend the churches that want to provide a flower to every woman in the room.
Here are some ways you can surprise the single foster or adoptive mamas in your community:
Foster parents may not be allowed to accept offers to babysit unless you have first completed a respite training or gotten approval from their case worker. Being trained as a respite care provider would be such a gift and communicate to her that her family is important to you! The training will give you new insights and help you to be a really solid support and advocate for foster and adoptive families. While foster parenting may not be a way you can serve your community right now, many people have the ability to provide respite regularly or sporadically.
Even if babysitting can be accepted, there are some things to consider for foster and adoptive families, particularly in the first few years. In the first six months to a year, I would really encourage child care be limited to entertainment while mom is in the home. After that first six months, it may be possible for mom to leave the child in your care, but meal times, bed times, and bath times should still be left for mom to do. While this may not seem like it is much of a break for her, it is important for establishing trust and attachment when a child has joined a family through adoption. As trust and attachment are established, there will be more flexibility, but it is most important to both mama and child that he sees her as the one who is always there to meet his needs, physically and emotionally. Bed time may be a special time even years down the line due to attachment needs or a history of trauma. It is also very important for foster and adoptive families to maintain a consistent structure and schedule to build feelings of safety, trust, and maintain regulation. Special snacks, extra screen time, or a late bedtime could spell disaster for a foster or adoptive family in more ways than one. Think about day time for helping wiht child care rather than a “night out”.
As a single mom, she may not get in the frame with her kids that much, but she needs to! Her kids need to see not just their photos on the wall, but pictures with her in the frame, memories of them having fun, and snapshots of love and affection. This is an important reminder to kids that they are a part of a family, loved and adored, and that mom is in this with them. And it will be something she treasures as well. To help facilitate family photos, you can find a flexible photographer (maybe even one that specializes in adoptive families), get a gift card to help her get new outfits for the family, and even offer to come along to help entertain the kids and tell jokes to make them laugh.
We all know that figuring out what to make for dinner every night is one of the strains of adulthood. For single moms who need to help with homework, bath time, etc., without anyone to help with the dishes or make sure the pot doesn’t boil over, but also wanting to provide nutritious meals for sensitive kids, making dinner can become an exhausting task. Especially during the adjustment and attachment phases, it is important that children know that parents are the ones providing for all of their needs, so we cannot always accept your offers to bring us dinner. An exception might be a frozen pre-made meal that we can bake ourselves, assuming that the child does not know where it comes from. A better gift that we can accept would be a gift card for a box of pre-planned meals. These save on grocery shopping, decision making, and some of the prep work. We have tried several, but Sunbasket is our favorite because there are so many options including meals from all around the world. Or if you feel confident in the types of meals her family enjoys, just send a box to her door.
While we sometimes use cooking meals together as Connection time, getting out of the house can be helpful to creating a special time dedicated to connection. You can sponsor a mother-child date with restaurant gift gifts, pedicure gift cards, movie gift cards, etc., but I really love active adventures because a little positive adrenaline can help build attachment. What are fun activities in your area? Rock climbing? high ropes and zip lining? Go Karts? Even roller skating can be a great activity for the whole family. While my son has really enjoyed getting pedicures with me in the past, be aware that sensory sensitivities in some kids may make some activities or locations over-stimulating, so you may want to ask before buying a gift card.
Clothes & more
Single foster and adoptive moms are likely to be the ones making sure their kids have the things they need and want and not shopping for themselves, especially if it involves taking kids into a store! While Stitch Fix does save trips to the store, I have a better suggestion. Goods & Better is an online store that she will love because every purchase at Goods & Better directly benefits a child entering foster care through their “buy it forward” program, which provides comfort, clothing, luggage, hygiene essentials, and/or baby bundles to foster children through a partnership with Foster the Family. You can buy a gift for her while also contributing to a cause that is important to her. They have the softest hoodies I have ever tried, clothing for the entire family, jewelry, wall art, and more, all in designs that speak directly to the heart of foster and adoptive moms.
In addition to the wall art at Goods & Better, another gift for the home that would speak to her heart is this poster from former foster youth and current foster mom Tori Hope Petersen “When it is all said & done, I don’t care to be remembered as a powerhouse. I hope to be remembered as a safe house.” I have one hanging on my wall.
Another way to speak directly to her mama’s heart would be books on foster and adoptive parenting. These can provide comfort that she is not alone and wisdom for the journey. I have a list of books on my Amazon page, but I would specifically recommend Securely Attached and The Connected Parent to every foster and adoptive parent. Both are fairly new, so it is very likely she hasn’t read them yet. Because Mother’s Day can be a hard day for kids who have experienced foster care and/or adoption, you might also consider building up her library of great books they can read together as a family.
Webinars or products or conferences
Another way to speak to the heart of a single foster or adoptive mom is to help equip her with education and support through adoption and foster care conferences or retreats. Even if she has supportive family members or respite care that would allow her to travel without her kids, the fall out the kids experience due to the separation may not be worth it. To really empower her to be able to learn, don’t just pay the conference fee on her behalf but volunteer to travel with her and entertain the kids while she is in sessions. Most conferences have frequent breaks where she can check in and help the kids feel safe and connected.
Even with online conferences, she may not be able to take advantage of the opportunity unless the kids are entertained. Conference registration support is wonderful, but the practical help of a person willing to travel with her family is priceless. I can also guarantee that it will deepen your relationship with her. Maybe you will get to go some place cool; a few years ago I took my cousin to Disney World so she could swim with my son while I was speaking at a conference.
Beyond conferences there may be webinars or online trainings that are on her wish list to equip and encourage her in the tough work of trauma parenting. Let her know that you want to support her and her mission, and you would love to know what conferences or trainings or webinars she would enjoy if there was a scholarship. Some ideas to consider are the Insight Conference, National Association of Adoptees and Parents Conference (held in Indianapolis), Filled Retreat, NACAC conference, Hope for the Journey, Anchored in Hope (Texas), Deeply Loved (Montana), Refresh (Seattle), Replanted (Chicago), and the CAFO Summit.
A Clean House
Every mom considers a clean house a gift. The amount of clutter in a home has a direct impact on the stress level. Also time spent cleaning is time that is not directly investing attention into parenting and relationship building. Between work and school and activities and homework, the hours we have together are limited. Can you offer to do the dishes or fold laundry or send over a fabulous house cleaning service that you trust?
Whether she is capable of re-wiring her own house or not, a single parent is likely to have several tasks undone around her house which she may not be able to accomplish with kids around. If you are handy or have a specific skill, asking if you can come over for an afternoon to help with her home repair list will be endlessly appreciated. The contractor that fixed my storm door before he left “because it will just take me a few minutes and it will make your life easier” certainly touched my heart. Even if you are not particularly handy, you can pay a trustworthy handyman to spend a few hours doing jobs for her.
Items from child’s birth country
When a mother and child have been joined through international adoption, the country and culture are so important for her to understand and embrace. Recipe books, art, books, holiday decorations, language classes… there are so many ways to bring a little of the culture into the home. Between Etsy, Instagram, and the internet marketplace, it is getting easier and easier to obtain gifts from around the world. Both mother and child may love trying sweets and snacks from the child’s birth country. While my son’s country isn’t included (yet?), we enjoy Yums Box each month because we love traveling together and gastrotourism. Colombia, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine and more all of traditional snacks that you can have mailed to their home.
- It is very likely that a single foster or adoptive mom does not do a lot to take care of herself. If she is able to accept some respite care, a gift card for a pedicure, massage, facial, acupuncture, or even therapy – as long as it is an adoption informed therapist – is an easy way to care for her.
- Assuming there are not allergies in the household, flowers are always appreciated A live plant may be wonderful, but make sure it does not require a lot of maintenance as she may not be able to give one more living thing the attention that is needed.
- It may have been a joke on SNL, but I loved getting a luxurious robe for Christmas.
- Jewelry may not be something that she buys for herself as a single mom. The first Mother’s Day gift I got (from my mom) was a necklace made from a map of my son’s birth country. I love it! There are lots of mom focused jewelry options, but be careful when looking for “adoption jewelry” because you may come up with things you might think are cute but are actually harmful for this family. For example, I am not a fan of the term “gotcha day”. You are safer to stick to something more general if giving jewelry is your jam.
- There are so many different monthly subscription boxes that you can find one specific to her interests or needs.
- Anything to make her life easier… if her kids play sports, make sure she has a comfortable chair, if she has lots of kids a wagon may help… What are the things that make your life easier?
- Don’t forget to check her Pinterest boards for ideas specific to her.
One last thought: Whether you get something traditional like flowers or you meet a specific need, a gift that communicates I see you, and I value you and what you are doing will be hugely impactful. Writing that in a note will turn any giving into a gift of encouragement for the single foster or adoptive mom.