From emotional excitement and anxiety, to physical fatigue and immense joy, each parent experiences the same daily roller coaster rides in the early days of parenthood. During Adoption Awareness Month, we are pleased to have father of FIVE adoptive children, Jeff Ryan, Managing Director, Client Advisor for UBS Wealth Management APAC, share his experience when a new member joined his family.
1. In two sentences or less, how would you describe your family?
A multicultural collection of unique individuals who despite their differences have bonded into one unit who care deeply for one another and live by the mantra: Ryans never give up.
2. How did you decide to choose adoption as the way to build your family?
My wife and I both have biological problems related to conception, so we chose adoption to build a family.
3. What was the first 3 months like when each of your children arrived home?
We adopted five, so lots of stories. With our eldest, a 13-year-old, when she came into our home, it was challenging as we didn’t have the first 13 years to establish a foundation of trust and authority. We gave her a list of house rules: homework, bed time, phone use, boys — which seemed to her like a set of impossible standards to follow at 13. But in her 30s, she told us the list was not long enough. It gave her security to have guardrails around her life. When our second came at 4 months old, our first daughter had already moved out to work a late-night schedule. It was challenging as suddenly we were parents to a helpless 4-month-old infant. We didn’t have the nine-month-prep that pregnancy gives knowing pretty much when a child would arrive. It was “how do we care for this little girl?”
4. How did adoption leave benefit your family, if any?
There was no adoption leave for men in Hong Kong in 1991 when any of our kids came, so I missed some bonding time at the start which I would have liked to have. I was early in my career, so it was hard to take time off then. My wife Gretchen was able to take time off from her work more easily as she was a full-time volunteer at the start.
5. The concept of adoption is still not well-known or understood in our community. What would you want others to know about adoption?
That it is a wonderful way to start a family. It is not a second-best option; it is just another way to build a family. It will come with some additional challenges as you do not know the birth history and the child has a built in sense of loss, identity and abandonment, that will manifest itself sometime in the future when you least expect it and can feed into emotional challenges.
6. What does the word “family” mean to you?
Family means we form a common bond that unites us via traditions and instilled values, that we as parents cultivate intentionally over their growing up years and holds us together when they are adults. It is a group of people who love and care for each other for life. When one falls down, the others help pick them up; no one gets left behind.