Duty ?

Today’s story –

I was privately adopted as a baby. I was raised by my adoptive parents and 2 of their biological sons. My adoptive father was my favorite in the family. He took care of me and loved me and stuck by me, but more so for his biological sons. Even so, I felt closest to him. I’m 52 years old now. I have been taking care of my adoptive parents for about 5 yrs as a live-in caretaker.

My adoptive dad died 2 months ago and now I am stuck with my loveless, bitter, jealous adoptive mother who never seemed to like or love or want me. I believe she adopted me for charity status and attention.

Now that my adoptive father isn’t here to buffer her emotional abuse and filter her words for me, I am living in a nightmare situation. She doesn’t want me here but needs me. I feel like I owe her because that’s how she’s always made me feel. I’m grieving the loss of my adoptive father.

This happens. Both of my parents were adoptees and they both ended up having to care for or make arrangements for the care of their adoptive parents and to administer their estates (which is the most thankless job, I can tell you now because I had to help my dad after my mom died and administer their estate after he died 4 months later). It was my parents examples that allowed me to muddle through it and see it to the conclusion of all the related affairs. My adoptive grandparents were all good people. My mom’s adoptive father died early on and left my adoptive grandmother living alone for decades. My mom did have a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother but my adoptive grandmother’s decline certainly turned some tables between them, which I do believe was healing – somewhat.

One bit of advice for the adoptee trapped in difficult circumstances above (which I do agree with) was this – You don’t owe her anything. Coordinate her care with her insurance and take care of your emotional health.

Being a full time caretaker for someone who mistreats you should never be the duty of any person. This kind of work can be handled by others who are trained to do it. I can understand if there is love and care between the persons but if it isn’t there, it is better to get one’s self out of the role.

This thought occurred to me as well –  She has two sons to take care of her. Where are they? Also there are wonderful old folks homes, where people chose to do this work and get paid to take care of the elderly. This is not your job.

This is not (sadly) an unusual situation – I had that same relationship with my adoptive mom. She was abusive yet felt entitled to my attention because she “sacrificed soooo much” for me. I cut ties with her two years ago. I have no intention of ever speaking to her again. Birthdays, holidays, deathbed, NOTHING. You don’t owe her ANYTHING. If you are able to walk away, do it.. and never feel guilty for it.

From another – You don’t owe her your life and happiness. Is there a way to navigate getting her a state guardian or some other sort of assisted living arrangement? Do what serves your whole-self. And another – At the very least her sons should share the load. People take care of their parents when they age, out of love and charity, not because they HAVE to. You don’t owe her that for adopting you. What you’re doing is selfless.

There is serious truth in this one – Taking care of a parent is hard under the best circumstances. Adoptive and abusive add layers of complexity. I was in a similar situation with my adoptive parents and my mental health improved drastically when I moved out. And truth in this one too – You don’t owe her anything. Anything and everything she did for you growing up was her job and responsibility to do as a parent. Anything and everything she did to diminish you growing up, that was also her choice. If you choose not to sacrifice your happiness, sanity, mental health, and peace to be her caretaker, that’s just a consequence of her choices and actions. It’s okay to choose yourself and put yourself first.

I understand this reality as well – The problem with “put her in a home” or “there are wonderful elder-care homes” is that most of those “homes” are run, often by large corporate entities that own many such “facilities,” for profits and cause much misery and too early death to the helpless folks stuck into them. 

My parents and my in-laws all wanted to die at home with family. I am thankful that all of them were able to have these wishes fulfilled but none of these were cruel and abusive. That changes the choices one must make for their own good. We also had to have the help of paid care-takers in addition to our management of their situations.

Impact Of Adoption On Health

Every adoption is unique and every situation is different.  There have been well studied impacts on mental and emotional health for an adoptee that other people in the general population are less affected by.  Most have to do with a sense of abandonment or rejection.  No matter how much the adoptive parents try to convince their adopted child that they are “special” because they were “chosen”, nothing seems to shake that initial feeling of having been unwanted or not wanted enough for the original parents to work things out.  This is mostly a child’s perspective because they lack the mature experiences of life that most adults acquire.

My dad (both of my parents were adoptees) often accused my mom of being a hypochondriac because of her constant and evolving health problems over the long decades of their marriage.  They were married over 60 years at the time of my mom’s death.  I never judged her that way.  She did have a LOT of health problems from her heart to her kidneys to her pancreas and beyond.  She had a intervention scheduled for a blockage in her esophagus pending when she died just a few days before.

I am a believer in mind/body health implications.  I do believe my mom suffered from low self-esteem.  There is no way to know for certain whether her adoption had an impact but given her belief that she was stolen from her parents and then denied her adoption file and told at that same time that her mother had already died, denying her once again the reunion she desperately desired, there is a good chance that her mental/emotional state of being played a role.

Statistics tells us that 80% of visits to primary care doctors are the result of emotional distress.  Stress kills.  My mom had several interventions for her health beginning younger than I am now.  First a bypass and then angioplasties and stents.  My mom died of a massive heart attack that no one could have saved her from quickly enough.  The coroner said it was instantaneous and thankfully that she didn’t suffer.

Sadly there is a lack of financial incentive for doctors to prescribe stress reduction instead of surgery, drugs or other expensive medical procedures.  I continue to do battle on that front with my own doctors for my own best health as I age.