When entering the “world” of adoption conversations, especially when you connect to a blog/Facebook group/other online conversation, you’ll quickly notice the primary voices are women. Certainly God uses “a mothers heart” in many cases, and speaks into a family through the bride. In other times, it might be the “fathers heart” that He uses to tug toward adoption. But even in cases where the couple is equally engaged/pulled toward reaching out to the orphan, most often it seems the mother is the one “out there” with the topic, connecting with others and having conversations about the process. There are a few reasons that stand out as to why this may be happening:
1. Adoption involves a lot of emotion. Like, gobbs. The waiting, the picture updates, how far away this child is from you physically, etc. And as we all know, emotions are for women. (tongue in cheek) Even as young boys, men are trained to have Jedi-like control over their emotions. When someone is being “emotional”, we instantly feel they’re not being “manly”…whatever that might mean. So even though a man may feel it, they’ll probably keep most of it to themselves. There’s also a big chance, that even though they care deeply about what’s happening, they don’t have the words or the need to put into words all they’re feeling. That’s because…
2. Men easily compartmentalize. “The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls our emotional responses. In men, the amygdala communicates with just a few parts of the brain, like the visual cortex and part of the brain responsible for movement. (source: Lloyd) It’s like the amygdala is a power strip, and men have just one appliance plugged in. In comparison, a woman’s power strip is fueling many different appliances. In women, the amygdala is more connected to parts of the brain that control language, which may be why women talk about their feelings. It’s also linked to parts of the brain that control bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, which may be why women get a stomachache or other bodily response when they’re stressed or worried. In comparison, men seem to compartmentalize and show no outward display of emotion. But men still experience all the same emotions that women do, they just don’t cope with them in the same way.” (stolen from a science-ish website)
3. Adoption is much more emasculating than men realize when they “sign up” for it. It’s sounds like the great plot for a manly story. “Man helps his family reach out to the other side of the world, where a young child is in need of rescue, he helps bring them home and increases the size and heart of his own family (Christians add here “in the name of Jesus”).” It’s totally a “knight in shining armor” type thing. But then the journey actually begins. He realizes he doesn’t have the finances to do it alone, and has to go around asking others to help. He’s told by the agency “All of those natural fatherly desires you have to go and do whatever it takes to help your case move forward and bring your child home? Let ’em go. We represent you, and it’s in the best interest of everyone for you to let us do so.” It’s probably true. With the amount of extortion and corruption trying to seep into international adoptions, it’s really good to have people with experience and dedication to what’s best for the nation and children.
With these elements, and many more being thrown into the mix…our responses are important:
Wives – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your husband. Offer grace when he doesn’t seem geeked out about gushing his adoptive emotions over coffee. Love him by asking specific questions, give him time to respond…and don’t expect a book. Pray with him. Help him connect whatever part of the process you’re in to his manly quest. Sure, he may not be able to ride over there on a horse and scoop up your child – but he can certainly put on his shining armor and head out to the fingerprints office. Be thankful that he can breathe slow and steady when you feel all out of sorts, and how God’s heart is reflected in such steadiness.
Husbands – Understand the differences about how this adoption process impacts you and your wife. Offer grace when it seems she’s carrying a giant heavy burden…because she is. When seemingly out of nowhere, she tells you how hard it is to endure all of this, and wonders if you even care. This is your chance to be as manly as you were hoping you could be. Not by rescuing your child just yet…but by scooping up your wife. Reassure her. Pray with her. Use that focused amygdala to your advantage, and let her cry on your shoulder. Dig deep into the compartment of adoption emotions and try to communicate what you’re feeling to her. Be thankful for the depths of her emotions, and see how Gods’ heart is reflected in their mystery and force.