3 Reasons Not To Vilify My Kid’s Birth Mother.

There’s often an assumption that since our children are adopted, or have been adopted from the foster care system, their birth mothers must be bad people, or have done some really bad stuff. The truth is, this is an unfair assumption to make about a human being.

Mother cradling the feet of her newborn baby

We’ve often wondered how someone, who knows very little about our children, their story, or their birth mother’s story, can point a finger and judge. It’s not in our DNA to do this to any human being. Certainly not the person who gave our children life. We believe birth mom’s should never be vilified. Here are some big reasons why..

Reason #1- Mom’s are off limits!

  • Yo Momma so dumb it took her 2 hours to watch 60 min.
  • Yo Momma so old she was a waitress at the last supper.
  • Yo Momma so poor she can’t afford to pay attention.

Remember “Yo Momma” jokes? Who doesn’t? I have to admit, there is a small part of my humor that is still stuck in Jr. High. There’s something about momma jokes. They’re funny, clever and a little risky. We all know it’s ok to poke fun but most of us will admit that insulting a person’s mother is cause for a schoolyard brawl.

More often than not, the conclusions people draw about our children’s birth parents are far from funny. They are not flattering and they are often teetering on the line of curious and rude. Unlike momma jokes, the exaggerated insults are assumed to be true. Maybe you are wondering if your comment about a child’s birth mother is inappropriate. A good rule of thumb is to return to the middle school way of thinking: You can tease someone about their clothes, you can raz someone about their grades, but do NOT make fun of someone’s Momma!

Reason #2- Mom’s are part of a child’s identity and therefore off limits!

Conversations about my child’s birth mother aren’t inherently bad. Sometimes questions are great. Some questions or observations just show interest. My kids like to talk about their birth mothers, just like I love to talk about my mother. I love when someone notices that I have my mom’s freckles or my dad’s blue eyes. My children feel the same way. They love to hear that they have their birth mom’s beautiful smile or talent for drawing. All of my children know the good and the bad of their own story. They are also just like you and me. They want to know that they are tied to something good. They do not need you to color their story with your uncalled for vilification.

Reason #3- I will never ask about your mom’s baggage because Mom’s are off limits!

Did your mother do something bad? Do you want to talk about that right now? Do you want me to discuss every shortcoming your mother has at the next church picnic? No, of course not. Because that’s called gossip and it is inappropriate. You deserve discretion. Your mother is a human and she deserves respect. For some reason foster and adoptive children are not afforded this privacy or this regard. The good and the bad of their story is theirs alone to tell. Do not ask if she was using drugs. Do not ask if she was a “crack-head.” If you are about to say or ask something about someone’s birth mother, stop and run it through your own head. Picture your own mom as you formulate your thought. If it would insult your mom, don’t say it about my kid’s mom.

My children’s birth mother is not a saint. Neither am I. We both wholeheartedly admit to our own shortcomings. I also know that my children see themselves mirrored in my reflection. They are watchfully creating opinions of their own identity based on what they see reflected in their birth mom, in me and in the world around them. Please remember that when you vilify my child’s birth mother you damage my child’s tender heart.

Question: Have you encountered judgement aimed at your child’s birth parent? How have you responded? Share your answer in the comment section. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Melissa Kugler

    Than you! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I had been an alcoholic or drug addict or homeless or incarcerated when I gave birth to Isaac. Many people may not actually use those words but they insinuate or make comments that cause me to believe that they think those things of me. I am thankfully very open and honest about my past and my life and where God has brought me. So I quickly am able to squash any false perceptions people may have in a conversation with me. But I wonder about the people who don’t talk to me. Who are too nervous to ask a question that could answer their wondering. I also wonder about the birth moms that are not as open and honest. That struggle with her past and lack the courage and the strength at that time to show people her heart. I hope more people gain the same perspective that you have written about. The same perspective that you and your wife obviously share. The same perspective that my birth son’s parents have.

    • Melissa, we are sitting here in our hotel room with tears in our eyes reading your comment. Kristin and I believe that birth family are our family. Plain and simple. You are awesome! We need to get you on our podcast sometime in the future. 🙂

      • Melissa Kugler

        I would be honored!

    • Kristin Berry

      Melissa, How do you keep your cool when someone implies those things?! I’m about to come out of my skin just thinking about it.

      • Melissa Kugler

        Ha! At the time I am praying that my initial shock, disdain, and frustration is covered up by my desire to educate those that are honestly so uninformed they only know what Hollywood portrays or the horror stories people tell on soctal media. I am strong enough to see that people don’t mean to hurt me with those questions. But many birthmoms are not. Many are rocked to the core when confronted with false perceptions. It is challenging to have grace. But…so many people shed grace on me in my worst…who am I to do anything different? I do not think God would be so thrilled with me. Lol.

  • Juliane

    Still not others business but please write about how to deal with birth Mom’s that are doing very wrong behaviors and are not fit to be Mothers. How do we protect and help our adoptive children face that reality. No cookie cutter answers exsist as each child is different but hearing some tips of how others made it through that appreciated. We adopted 3…a sibling set. The oldest now 17 has RAD…need I say more? His birth Mom is still not on the right road and while his siblings can have a balanced view/understanding of their birth history and families (ie. Compassionate and praying they would chose God’s ways but do not want influenced by them nor think they can change them into good acting people overnight) our RAD boy is struggling to not identify with the wicked lifestyle of his birth Mom. We don’t want to vilify her but painting a Rosie picture is not truthful nor helpful

    • Allisonm

      Our three children inherited all of their birth parents’ good parts–their talents and positive character traits–as demonstrated by the fact that our children have so many strengths and talents. We will never fully know or understand the internal and external forces that propelled our children’s original parents down the paths they took. Yet our children show that theirs is a positive legacy despite the many challenges they have faced and will continue to face as they move into adulthood.

    • Aurora Bolier

      I agree. You could sail a barge up the river of denial my kid has formed around his bio family. We have been addressing it very carefully through therapy, but the only way to do deal with it is to slowly chip away at the perfect fantasy version of his family that he has created. I’m so thankful for our kid’s awesome social worker who helps us suss out the fact from the fictions he has created. Our friends and family know as much as they are allowed to know, but they aren’t idiots. They hear him singing the praises of his bio family and are well-aware that there is no truth coming from his lips. My daddy can spot a lie a mile away. Then they turn to me with a look of helplessness. “How do I help you help him?” is what they want to ask. As far as I know, no one has spoken ill of his bio family in front of him, but that doesn’t mean they believe the lies either.

  • Leticia Barnes

    Yes,this is a tough one. I have unfortunately hurt people’s feeling when letting them know that is isn’t appropriate to make remarks about my kids birth parents. Sometimes they mean well but it’s not helpful. One example : A sweet older lady from church posted on my Facebook page ” The twins are so lucky to have you, I shudder to think what might have happened this them if you hadn’t taken them in.” While my kids are too little to read this the families of our children are not.

    • Kristin Berry

      Oh wow! That comment must have really hurt.

  • sheluvskids

    People seldom remember that good or bad that’s still their Mom. I am thankful that she chose to give birth rather than an abortion.

  • Zazu22

    While “vilifying” anyone doesn’t ultimately do anyone any good, that doesn’t mean some people are not guilty of horrific behaviors. The reality is that something went majorly wrong if the state took children and terminated someone’s parental rights. There is no nice way around that fact. As I sit here with my three foster children who are in my care for the second time and so much more traumatized than they were the last time they came into my care, I am not going to play saint and claim I have no judgement, especially when the parents claim they have done nothing wrong and insist on fighting to get their children back. We all have major faults, but there is a major difference between flaws and shortcomings, and abusive neglectful behaviors. People can do what they want to themselves, but once an innocent person is brought into the scenario, my sympathy goes to the helpless victim. Frankly, I think a lot of people write these articles to make themselves feel like they are fabulous for not judging. I’m not buying it at all.

    • You are right for sure, but I think the intent of the article was to not talk bad about them to outsiders because it’s none of their business and especially not to the child. That’s where they came from. So it can really have negative effects on them.

  • Heather

    I usually say something along the lines of, “She loved her children very much, but she couldn’t take care of them. The foster system is hard on everyone – the children, the social workers, and the birth parents. The birth mom certainly made some mistakes—we all make mistakes—but we all want to do the best we can for the children.” If they keep pushing, I explain just how often a birth parent in the system is judged: I talk about the court hearings where the judge tells them they’re not good enough, the “family planning meetings” and social worker check-ins: so many strangers butting in to the most personal and embarrassing parts of their life. That pretty quickly changes the tone of the conversation.

    However, I’m disappointed to read other foster/ adoptive parents express such judgement on here. I know that it’s hard to see our children in pain, but that doesn’t justify hyper-criticism of the birth parents. If we won’t withhold judgment for the sake of the birthmom, we should at least withhold judgement for the sake of the children. Children feel a natural connection to their birth parents, and they do find a part of their identity in their birth parents. They will naturally look for ways that they are like their birth parents. When we criticize their birth parents, we also criticize our kids’ identity. I know we may not always see it that way, but the kids do and that’s what’s important. This is their mother, and we don’t have a right to hurt them or tell them how they should feel about it.

    As an example, my little one has vivid memories of some “bad” things her birthmom did. And she is ashamed of them, even though none of it is her fault. She is constantly asking me, “what if I grow up to …” So, I try to build up her birthmom as much as I can. I acknowledge the mistakes and her concern, but I also tell her things that her birthmom did well. This helps my little one channels her connection to the positives rather than the negatives.

    • This is a great point you bring up about the child feeling like they might grow up to do the same things. That’s why it’s so important not to talk bad about bio families in front of the kids. But I also want to acknowledge the pain other adoptive parents experience and feel like this is a safe place to be vulnerable. That’s not the same as saying it to their child. But we do have to be careful for sure.