When I was 12 years old I started babysitting consistently. I loved kids, and throughout most of high school and college, my jobs involved working with them. Becoming a mom was something I never doubted, I just thought it was a given in life. Not only that, but for as long as I can remember, I pictured myself adopting kids. I don’t think I even truly understood the concept, nor did I ever voice this desire to anyone, but it was just there, waiting to be uncovered.
My adopted nephew came into my life almost nine years ago, and with his joyous presence came the beginning of starting to awaken this long lingering desire within me. From the moment I met him I loved him, and knew that I always would. His brother came along four years later, and again, instant love. Being an Auntie became my life’s biggest gift and blessing, and remains so to this day. Watching my family journey through the path of adoption only deepened my desire to make that a part of my motherhood story.
Yet in all this time, there was one hitch to this plan. I was not married. Despite doing my best to date and navigate the arduous road of romance, I had not found a partner. I had only been exposed to “traditional” families, so it never even crossed my mind that there might be other ways to becoming a parent. I waited, and watched as every single one of my friends and colleagues got married and started having kids. In my job with Cru, being a family was highly valued, dangerously so. If you were in your 30s and single you were the odd man out. (Let’s be honest though, it was typically the odd woman out since women were disproportionately single). Mothers were not expected to work, yet still received a pay check. Wives without kids were given one day off a week to take care of wifely duties, and whole weekend retreats were given to wives and moms to celebrate their unique lives. The single ladies, well, we worked our asses off while being told that we were a constant threat to married men.
At the old maiden age of 32, I had given up all hope of getting married. The single guys in Cru only talked to the younger women, and since you had to marry someone who worked for Cru to stay on staff, I was out of luck. One day, I was sitting in church and I looked over to see a young mom with another tiny newborn in her arms. I realized, that she often held a different itsy bitsy baby, and I put the pieces together, she was a foster parent. I stared at her the whole service and worked up the nerve to talk to her.
“Excuse me, are you a foster parent,” I asked. She answered yes, and I told her that I would love to do something like that, but I was still single so I couldn’t. She kindly corrected me and informed me that lots of single people adopt, and that marital status was in no way a deterring factor. I could not believe what she was telling me. I thanked her and for the next year, I could not get the conversation out of my mind.
Could it be possible to adopt a child and be a single parent? I began to walk through my daily life and schedule and imagined it as a single parent. I noticed every single childcare option on my commute to work, I thought through how I would handle travel and the plethora of conferences. I had the privilege of supportive parents and family close by, so I knew I could rely on them for help and occasional child care. Even though I was fairly certain that I would not be allowed the same benefit of being a mom with Cru, not working but still receive a pay check, I figured that I would at least be given a tiny bit of flexibility with night events, or sick days. I never expected to be given the typical mom or wife treatment. I was choosing something outside of “normal” within the organization, I figured I would be treated with caution.
I spoke with my HR representative, a kind woman who was over-the-moon supportive and excited about this possibility for me. We both knew though, that Cru had some pretty strict rules, and although we had our doubts that it would be allowed, we were hopeful. After all, I was one of the team leaders, leading a successful team on five Orange County campuses. I was respected and had a good reputation. I was seen as a faithful and good leader. I had devoted my life to serving God, through this organization. How could Cru choose to lose such a valuable team member? We waited a couple of months for the decision to be made and I continued to make plans on how I would balance things and make it work.
The decision came like a blow to the head. My HR representative couldn’t believe it either, in order to protect me, Cru would not allow a single parent to be on staff with their organization. It was for the best interest of me and the child. I sat stunned, like in an instant fog. This kind woman offered to fight with me and for me, and I agreed to challenge the decision, but needed some time to figure out what to do.
I woke up the next morning and clearly remember thinking, “everything just changed.” It was the strangest feeling, I suddenly felt foreign in my own life, like I was walking through a fog. I knew, in my whole body, that my life had just drastically changed, without knowing how or why.
I spent a month meeting with christian adoption advocates, my family, and trusted allies to craft a challenge to Cru leadership and ask for an exception to their rule. (Cru Policy Challenge.) I then waited another three months and was told again, No. There would be no exception, and this was for my own protection and the protection of the child. I would not be allowed to stay working for Cru if I pursued adoption as a single parent.
And so, I left. I was horrified that such a policy could exist. Caring for the orphans was one of the strongest values of Christianity. I was no longer considered fit for “full-time ministry” if I chose to parent an orphan without a spouse. This seemed contrary to everything I thought I knew about God and his call upon our lives.
Then the most heartbreaking and eye-opening thing happened. When I shared this Cru policy with those outside the organization, it was met with outrage, anger, horror, and cries for justice. When I shared this news with those inside the organization, it was met with, “gee, I’m sorry, but yeah, that makes sense.” There was no outrage, no understanding as to why I would be so hurt and angry over such a policy. I quickly learned that it was not okay to be angry in front of anyone who worked with Cru.
I was told to trust my leaders, that they were only doing what they thought was best after careful prayer and consideration. I was told that although disappointed to hear their decision, most understood why they would make it. I was wished well and sent on my way. Very few, like maybe three people within the organization , including the HR woman, stood up with me to fight, or even expressed anger. I felt like I had done something wrong. I have never felt more alone in my life. Standing up for myself and something deeply valued by God meant I was shunned, although in a polite way, shunned and no longer welcome. I went from being a leader and an insider, to being an immediate outsider.
Three years later, besides random quick catch ups few and far between, no one still in the organization has taken steps to stay in my life. Although leaving a group I belonged to for 15 years, a group often described as family, no one choose to journey with me. Even through my “closest staff friends” said they supported me and were proud of me, no one called to check in, even just weeks after saying goodbye. I was erased from their lives, as if I never existed. Hurt, wounded, alone, broken beyond recognition, in order to stay connected, I had to pretend I wasn’t angry and that I still supported Cru. I could not do that. So I did not exist anymore.
Within weeks I was asked for financial support at least five times. To this day I am still asked to support an organization that does not support me. It’s horrible every damn time.
Adoption. Single Parent Adoption- this was what pushed me out of a christian organization. It’s the last thing I ever expected.