The Single Adoptive Parent
Embracing the non-traditional
In hindsight, I can pinpoint conversations or events that led to me pursuing adoption as a single woman, but at the time, it felt more like my life was pursuing a predetermined track.
On the millennium’s New Year’s Eve celebration, I remember telling a friend that I was considering adoption if I didn’t meet anyone “special” in the near future. My friends thought, “Yeah, right. Whatever, Gayle.” I always wanted a large family and thought adoption would be a good way to go, but I also thought I would be married before I started.
That January, I decided to go ahead and adopt; I wasn’t going to ignore the feeling anymore. I made a good salary. I owned a house. I had a lot of love to give. I wanted to be a mother, but just hadn’t met the right guy. In September 2000, I submitted the paperwork to China and began the wait. That November, although I didn’t know it, Lydia was born.
While I waited, many events transpired that made me nervous. Just two weeks after September 11, I received a call – I had been matched with a little girl in Anhui province. We – my parents, sister and I – went to China in November 2001, and I officially adopted Lydia. I have strong memories of Beijing from that time. I fell in love with the country. I knew that I didn’t want Lydia to be an only child, but the Chinese government was making it harder for singles to adopt. I secured a spot on a waiting list and started the long wait again. In June of 2005, coinciding with my 39th birthday, I received the referral for Adeline and adopted her that August.
In 2006, I chose to be transferred from New York to Hong Kong. While there, I was given the opportunity to come to Beijing. My girls are Chinese – first and foremost. I felt it was important for them to have an understanding of China that had depth. I wanted them to learn the language and customs and to understand who they are.
My older one, Lydia, is still trying to sort out her identity. She is so obviously not only Chinese because of the way she behaves. She moves differently in a crowd. My little one, Addie, her first Chinese phrase was, “Don’t look at me.”
People are so curious when they see a Chinese girl speaking English. Sometimes my girls say, “I don’t fit in with the foreign kids, but I don’t fit in with the locals.” People see them as Chinese. The first thing my oldest learned to say in Mandarin was, “I don’t understand – I’m an American.”
We do get odd looks, but most, if not all of the comments, are positive. There must be negative opinions, too, but personally I haven’t seen any of it. Beijing is a really great place to be a single mom. For a start: ayis. The fact that I can outsource some things gives me time to be with my kids. I picked the fun part of being a mother.
I am happy being single, and I refuse to be sad about something I can’t control. It’s also not something I focus on every day. I would love for the girls to have a father, and a husband for me of course, but only a truly great one. I wouldn’t ever marry just for the sake of marriage. Since the girls, my standard is so much higher; I’m pickier because my kids are so great and not every guy would be worthy to be their dad. I often tell people that the only times I miss having a guy in our lives are the very best times. I think having even just one more person adoring these amazing girls would be a blessing for all of us, but I’m not going to put our lives on hold until a good one comes along. I make sure they have positive men around them.
I’m a bit of an oddity among adoptive parents. I’ve never experienced a desire to be pregnant. I don’t have any longings for a “missing” child and I didn’t want to “save” a child. I wanted to be a parent and the information I received at the time was that there were children in China who needed parents. It’s as simple as that. Today, I see the issue as much more complex; there are many emotional minefields for parents to navigate with their children.
The thing I’ve learned is that motherhood is not about me. If my child has a problem, it’s about her and how she feels. It’s just about Lydia and Adeline; I don’t think about me. I make my choices based how it will affect my girls. They filter what’s important in my life – they filter it in a good way. As told to Imogen Kandel.
American Gayle Hawley is regional manager of the Beijing branch of Deutsche Bank. She is the mother of Lydia, 8 and Adeline, 4.