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Never trust people who give a picture-perfect view of family life and caring for their children on social media. For every carefully edited scene with saccharine music dubbed over it, there will be ten scenes they couldn’t use because the baby or parent was screaming or running around naked with poo smeared on their bum.
Myka and James Stauffer are YouTubers with four young children. Myka Stauffer is a vlogger with a successful YouTube channel with hundreds and thousands or subscribers watching her artfully wash and dress her baby and reveal ways you can make your home, children and life as perfect as hers. Being an influencer is a career, and this “stay at home mom” was good at it. She didn’t film her life for the family archives; she did it for an audience of strangers which made her money.
The bigger your following on social media, the more free stuff you are sent and the more lucrative sponsorship deals you can get. Stauffer got both. The couple decided to up their game. Over 5 million people watched the video of them adopting a toddler from China called Huxley. She recorded this intensely private event and set it to music. The couple used crowdfunding to pay for the adoption process and showed everyone what they had paid for.
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The film was centred around Myka herself, hot-ironing her hair before the handover, fixing her make-up and making sure there were close-ups of her cuddling her new son, supposedly enrapt in motherly love.
Three years later, they gave the child away. They “rehomed” him.
I’m glad. The Stauffers finally did the best for the child they should never have been allowed near.
I don’t trust anyone who commodifies their children. Don’t get me wrong – my son and I took part in an ITV game show and he got a chunk of money which was put towards his future. There are mum vloggers like Stacey Solomon who I find utterly adorable. She’s frank about the hardships of family life and the pressure she feels sometimes. But to set out from scratch and think, “Wait a minute, there might be a few quid in these kids”, is becoming normal and the “rehoming” of little Huxley is the ghastly proof no one wanted that this culture of making money by presenting a radiant view of parenthood needs to end.
Yes, Huxley had medical issues which were undoubtedly hard to handle, and he is autistic. But when you’re a parent, choice goes out of the window and you get what you are given, biological or not. James Stauffer permitted himself to say out loud, “With international adoption there are unknown and things that are not transparent on files. When Huxley came there were a lot of more special needs that we weren’t aware of and weren’t told.” Well, thank goodness he kept the receipt.
Every parent knows that sometimes, parenthood is suffering. Your child is entirely your responsibility and though its life is more important to you than your own, sometimes, it is really flipping hard.
I’d say any small child is in danger of being hurt physically or emotionally when they’re being cared for by people who do not have unconditional love for it.
Elsie Scully-Hicks was 18 months old when she was murdered by her father, Matthew Scully-Hicks. He and his husband had adopted the girl just a few months before and despite several “accidents” where there were bruises and broken bones. Social services were not suspicious of this, by all accounts, articulate and warm-mannered man whose care she was in. He sent texts to his husband calling the smiley, bright-eyes toddler “Satan in a baby-grow” and “The Exorcist”. He eventually shook the child to death. Of course biological parents hurt and kill their children too. Every parent who loses their self-control when caring for a baby should be able to say, “I’m not coping, I can’t love this child. Help this child by taking it away from me.” Which is what I believe the Stauffers did. I’m not excusing it, it’s just that it’s better than the potential alternative.
The Stauffers would not have got rid of a child they had put up for display so publicly if they were not absolutely sure the child was better off without them.
Despite the trauma his disappearance from their life will cause the child and perhaps their other children, they did absolutely the right thing. I’m not a psychiatrist but I use the world “trauma” confidently here because as a mum I see every day the trust a child has in its parents and I can’t think of a greater horror than betraying that trust. They should never have adopted a child. They should never have created an online world portraying themselves as the perfect parents. They ended up believing it, and little Huxley was the one to suffer.