Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Parenting Clubs.....

It occurred to me whilst chatting to a fellow adoptive mum friend the other day that expectant mothers, with a baby in their actual tummies, are encouraged at every turn to join bump to toddler clubs with companies such as Boots, Sainsburys and Tesco.  They are given vouchers for nappies and creams and food and little joining gifts and magazines.  If you join Emma's Diary you can get £150 worth of Argos vouchers.  There are obviously financial incentives to join these groups with money off vouchers etc but there is also a wealth of help, support and advice available from the websites and forums.

As an adoptive parent you are not barred from joining these clubs (as far as I can tell) but they do usually have a preclusive upper age limit of around 2 years of age and seem to be mostly aimed at the "bump to babies" mothers .  When you think that the average child isn't adopted for around 18 months of being in the care system (at the least) then the majority of us newly adoptive parents have children above the age range specified for joining these clubs. When we first brought Katie home she was 2 years and 4 months old, too old to join any of the clubs and get all the exciting things that new parents can get from the big companies.  Yet I was still a new, first time, mum with all the anxieties that a new mum has and nobody seems anxious to get us to sign up to their parenting clubs or give us a free changing bag!  I can remember gazing longingly at the Boots Parenting Club leaflets and feeling sad that, after all this time of waiting to become a mum, I still wasn't eligible to join their club.  In fact, as an adoptive parent, you have to go out and buy an enormous amount of "stuff" in a very short space of time.  We don't get many months of preparation to slowly stock up on nappies and take our time choosing our prams.  We almost have to run into Mothercare and grab whatever is available to take home that day.  We rarely get any financial support from our Local Authorities to buy all the paraphenalia that goes with bringing a new child home so it's a very expensive and very frentic time. 

As an adoptive mum you miss out on all the bonding that pregnant mums get to do with other mums.  You don't do pre-natal yoga classses; you don't do ante-natal classes; you don't bond with other mums in the hospital after giving birth.  Being an adoptive mum is actually quite an isolating experience.  Yes, we have visits from our Social Workers but the emphasis is on us to get out there and meet other people.  Now this is a great thing to do but you're actually advised to keep things simple when you first bring your child home.  You are discouraged from introducing too many people to them in the early days.  This serves to further isolate the newly adoptive parent, especially once your partner's adoption leave is up (if you are adopting as part of a couple) and you are the one at home literally holding the baby.  For the adoptive parent our world seems to be full of little reminders that we have become a parent in a non-traditional sense.

So with that thought and feeling in mind I am sending this post out as a call to all the parenting clubs out there and asking:

Is there a space for adoptive parents in your clubs?
Can you be more aware of our needs as well?

Many of us have waited years to become a parent 
and the little things, like feeling included in things like this, 
would make such a big difference. 


P.S. Plus we're consumers as well and we're going to be spending a lot of cash in a short space of time.......

.......why not give us an incentive to come and spend it with you!


 
Edited to add: From the response this post has received on Twitter, it appears I'm not the only adopter who has experienced this issue. I'm hearing responses from various adopters who feel maginalised by the big parenting clubs and some have even been refused to join.


Additional Edit to add that Adoption UK have been in touch to say that they are going to see what they can do about this issue - Big thank you to them!!!

34 comments:

  1. It's not just adoptive parents. These clubs have a blind spot for dads too.

    I signed up to Boots Parenting Club (for the extra points offers, like you do) when N was a couple of months old. Since then I've been getting emails and letters every month or so telling me "how to make the best of being a mum", etc., etc!

    I've tried explaining to Boots via Facebook and Twitter that dads do have their own identities but it just produces a generic apology and the letters continue to be completely non-PC, targeted solely at mothers.

    I am very tempted to take up their latest offer of a free No.7 makeover though..

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    1. You'd think in our PC-led world that things like that would be picked up by PR Departments wouldn't you? It appears not though. I really hope that getting enough interest in this post might highlight these issues with these clubs/companies.

      I can't wait to see your No7 makeover though!!! ;)

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  2. My thoughts exactly

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    1. Thank you! I want to say I'm glad it's not just me.....but I'm obviously not.

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  3. Well said. It IS an isolating experience becoming an adoptive parent and as a mum, you are already aware that you missed the pregnancy, the birth and the early months/years. But we are still brand new parents, who in most cases, have never parented before and who need support - and who need to buy things! We adopted 2 children at first, aged 1 and 2 - so we had to frantically buy everything for them x 2! 2 x nappies, clothes, spoons, beakers, toys, car seats, etc....and then later our 3rd came along aged 1 year and again we needed to spend. It would be nice to receive things like incentives, discounts or gifts to help us feel part of the 'traditional' parenting group as already we can feel different - and also it would be nice so we can help reduce the costs we incur for all the things our children need also!

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    1. I can just imagine how frenetic and expensive those weeks before you met your children were. We do have to get an awful lot of stuff in a very short space of time which means we can't always shop around for the best deals. How is family life with 3 children? How long ago did you adopt?

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  4. I look forward to hearing if you get any 'Big Company' responses. Have you sent links to Tesco/Sainsbury's/Boots/Mothercare etc?

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    1. Yes I've sent the link to everyone I can think of (including Mamas and Papas!). Any other ideas of who to send it to would be really appreciated. I will just check out whether Asda do one.......

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    2. Babies 'R' Us have one, so do Heinz, Cow and Gate, Aptamil and Hipp (admittedly all most useful for baby babies). Apparently 'Emma's Diary' (whatever that is) offer Argos vouchers, so could be worth contacting. Links here http://www.which.co.uk/baby-and-child/nursery-and-feeding/guides/free-pregnancy-and-baby-stuff/free-pregnancy-stuff/

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  5. It is really hard as a new adoptive Mum - very isolating at first and also expensive. Most of the new baby gifts I had seen before my 3 year old arrived were beautifully packaged - but very much for new Mums who had just given birth with the contents of the gifts. All the offers were for new baby - friends and family found it almost impossible to buy welcome cards for us as most were new baby birth specific. I too had a considerable outlay with all the house safety checks costs - safety glass film, safety gates, door locks, car seats, buggy and nappies all cost beyiond the settling in grant. and not a freebie in sight.

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    1. Yes it is incredibly expensive (we managed to avoid the safety glass thankfully) and we're currently in the process of readying the house again. The card thing is an issue although there are some companies online offering some lovely adoption cards and you can custom cards at Moonpig. It would be nice to see more cards in the mainstream card shops like Clintons though.

      The car seat thing is a real issue especially when you're adopting more than one. We were lucky that we were given two nearly brand new car seats but to buy the same quality brand new would have been an enormous expense. I was incredibly lucky to be given a lot of what we needed from friends but it was still a considerable outlay and we wouldn't have qualified for any grants (even if they were available).

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    2. thanks Gem. The only car 3 car seats I found to fit my car, 2 unsuitable for a wriggling traumatised child used to a harness style narrowed it down to one - and that will have to be replaced as she grows! It really would be lovely to see some cards in shops suitable for adoption. You look forward to a baby so much that when ot happens some congratulations cards - and yes the gifts issue is another hard bit too, emotionally, as gifts aren't recommended at first.

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  6. I agree , it's along time since I brought my children home , I remember feeling I had missed out on something as we were also told to keep things low key . It cost a fortune to kit two young children out with clothes and school uniforms . We did get help with the uniform as there is no way we could have afforded it all .Good luck with the parenting clubs.

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    1. Thank you Fiona. I hope they do take notice. It only takes one to make the change and then the others would follow suit. I expet they haven't even considered it. I will keep plugging away at it. In some ways some of the big organisations like BAAF, Adoption UK and Coram might get better results than I will. I will put that to them.

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  7. Although we are still in the early stages of our adoption journey, but recent adverts for an insurance company which is offering free life assurance to parents for the first year of the child's life had got me wondering if they would offer a similar discount to adoptive parents for the first year.

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    1. That's a really interesting point. Are you going to apply for it and see what happens? If you do I'd love to hear the outcome. Good luck!! how far along in your adoption journey are you?

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  8. It was very interesting to hear your perspective on this I think there needs to be more understanding and support for adoptive mums. I am expecting my first baby in March and agree that all the baby deals and groups are focused on women with new babies and must feel isolating when becoming a first time mum to an older child. Good luck addressing this issue and I hope the industry takes notice

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    1. Thank you. I've now realised there is a whole group of people effected by this issue, dads, gay adopters etc. I hope we can get something done about it.

      So exciting to hear that your first child is due soon. Not long to go. I hope your pregnancy has been a good one?

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  9. Great point Gem - and also some good further points made from some of the other parents responding.

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    1. Thanks Sezz. There have been some really interesting comments made here. I didn't realise how many people had been effected by this issue. Hopefully we might be able to get something organised to make it all more inclusive. I don't think the big companies deliberately exclude people, it's more that it hasn't occurred to them to have us on their radar.

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  10. I totally agree with you. It is such an isolating time in the beginning and to be recognised as a new mum going through lots of the same things that birth mums go throw and needing the same things too would mean a lot. Thanks for linking up with the Weekly Adoption Shout Out :-)

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    1. Yes, you're right - that recognition is really lacking. People make throwaway assumptions because we haven't given birth to our child and therefore don't need "recovery time" etc but actually our process is so incredibly frenetic towards the end and so exhausting that we do need people to understand that. Our SW said to me, on the subject of introductions, that adopters have to wait until they are at their most exhausted and then we can take our child home. I think that's pretty accurate. Add to all that the fact that we are running around buying everything we need. I think I was in shock for months afterwards LOL

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  11. I joined all the Sainsburys/Tesco/Boots clubs - and what do I get - Junk mail about stuff I don't want to buy. They look exciting on the outside, but they are pretty pointless (although the boots changing bag is good).

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    1. Aaah you managed to get the coveted Boots bag!! I think you're right though, most of the information isn't going to be relevant to us. We don't have need for cracked nipple cream. Our needs probably need to be tailored to a bit more. As to those of the dads who are adopting either solo or as part of a couple - be that same sex or heterosexual. I can just imagine the editors of the magazines having a panic at the thought of meeting all our needs. Doesn't mean it can't be done though.

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  12. Been an adoptive mum is isolating... you are so right. And why shouldn't we be eligible for the same discounts as any other new parent. I look forward to hearing what responses you get!

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    1. Watch this space and I'll let you know as soon as I find anything out.

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  13. This is so true. I remember when we adopted our son at 22 months I contacted my local NCT to join a post-natal group with similar age children. I was told I couldn't, and felt very isolated, even though we already had a birth daughter.

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    1. I can imagine you did feel isolated especially having been eligible to join the "clubs" with your birth daughter. It is so difficult starting out with a newly adopted child and joining these groups. I was so lucky to have friends with similarly aged children to Katie but I still felt really obvious.

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  14. I was asked to leave a toddler group that had become oversubscribed as they took a "last in first out" approach - I was heartbroken as this was my only lifeline to the outside parenting world. My two children were 3 and I was not coping. Soc Serv specifically discouraged us getting in touch with other new adopters (dangerous to compare experiences apparantly) Thankfully a wonderful HV invited me to join the support group she ran for Foster Carers which helped enormously and was very illuminating!!!!

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    1. That is so very sad to hear. I would have been furious as well as upset I think. I am shocked that you were discouraged from having contact with other adopters. They have been my lifeline since Katie joined us. We all talk daily and support each other. It's amazing to be able to talk to people who understand all the subtleties involved in being an adoptive parent. I hope that you are well supported now?

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  15. I just wanted to send a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported this post here and on Twitter. I hadn't realised how much this topic effected people. I very much hope I can help facilitate a change that brings about more inclusion for us adoptive parents.

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