Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trying to be Human 101: Assigned Reading - Splendid Doormats

To avoid any confusion, please be aware the following is not my work. All that is written below is the work of James Gritter, author and social worker.

An excerpt from Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience.

Splendid Doormats

      Far more important than these alienating dynamics, however, casting birthparents as saints creates an expectation that they will be continuously and indiscriminately selfless.Enter the no-self birthparent, the adoption participant devoid of substance. This prospect is so serious that we need to explore it in detail.
      We are not quite sure what to make of saints - we see so few of them - but mostly we feel pretty good about them. We like having them around because they offer proof that positive forces are still at work in our struggling world. More to the point, we enjoy their company because they are reliably selfless. Sure, they may disturb us a little with their sterling examples, and they may inspire a few pangs of guilt about our comparative shortcomings, but we usually consider them harmless. Their consistency and reliability leads us to the conclusion that they are safe. Since saints are oriented to the needs of others and place little or no emphasis on their own needs, we are confident they won't make trouble. To our delight, saintly persons can be counted on to forgive any mistreatment they might encounter, a marvelous quality that means we do not have to worry about offending them.
      The notion of the mature, selfless, giving, thoughtful birthparent is an appealing trap. Each of these pleasant words can carry the subtle message, "She'll make no demands." This high-minded talk of selflessness may be well intended, but we must be careful about issuing anyone an invitation to be extraordinary, for, as we have seen, there is usually a price to pay for choosing a course that is out of the norm. In this instance, the praise of maturity can serve as an invitation for the birthparent to stifle her thoughts and feelings. It can be an alluring invitation to self-discounting. It is one thing for a birthmother to make a careful decision to curb her self-interest so the interests of her child can be advanced, but another thing altogether to be admired into a status that presumes continuous sacrifice.


  1. I wish there was a "Like" button on this post. :)

  2. This is so true, although it's likely not always entirely sinister. Sinister in the way that the all of the outside entities are intending to trick the mother into feeling like a saint. I can just picture a woman, especially a young woman still being supported by her parents, making up for the mistake of getting pregnant by choosing adoption, redeeming herself in the eyes of those who would judge her. I know there are those who will say getting pregnant isn't a mistake, that unplanned doesn't mean unwanted blah blah blah, but surely anyone who has had a pregnancy scare would have to admit it's a huge relief to find out it's just a scare, not a real pregnancy. I've gotten off track here. This is a very good post. It makes it very clear how a mother could get caught up in sainthood status and choose adoption for redemption. Short term gain for long term pain is not how it's supposed to go. I agree there is a big difference between making a careful decision and being admired into choosing adoption and I can see how it would happen.

  3. Wow, I have no words. This is very profound for me. Thank you.

  4. What an articulate, insightful post! I'd begun writing one in a similar vein (falling off pedestals and such). I'll be reading more.


What do you think? I'm curious.