I was reading some instructions in my all things adoption group and something there really hit home for me personally. I want to begin saying that in this particular group there is a hierarchy – adoptees and people who have experienced foster care as a youth are given unfettered freedom of expression. Below them, next come the biological/genetic parents. The lowest level is the adoptive (even if only hoping to adopt) and foster parents. It is as it should be. Those at the top have spent much of their lives without personal autonomy or control over their daily experience – in effect – they have been marginalized in a society that lifts adoptive and foster care parents up on a pedestal.
I did not intentionally give up parenting my daughter but it happened. As I have become more informed about adoptee issues, my daughter and I have discussed how very like having been adopted her experience of growing up without me after the age of 3 was, very much like having been given up for adoption. At the end of my marriage to her dad, my self-esteem was low. I really didn’t know how important a mother was. I thought any of the two parents one was born of would be equally good (but at least birth parents still involved – and I did remain involved at a distance). I know better now but it is what it is and life doesn’t give us do-overs. Thankfully, I remain heartfully and decently close to my daughter, though I have not earned that, I am thankful she accepts the realities of her life and knows that I always have loved her immensely. That is the point of today’s blog.
There were no role models for absentee mothers in the early 1970s. I felt very alone in that regard and definitely felt judged as though – if I was not raising my daughter, I must be a terrible mother – and I still struggle with some belief that I was terrible as a mom. Having my 2 sons late in life has convinced me that under the right circumstances, I could have also been a good mom to my daughter. Still, I cannot recover all that I lost during those years.
From my all things adoption group today, it was said to the custodian parents (adoptive, foster, etc) – you are in the power position. Don’t expect moms to jump for joy when you offer visits, calls, etc. just because you think they should and you think you are doing something good for them. The thought of that is likely OVERWHELMING for many moms and it’s coming from someone raising their kid, essentially giving them “permission” to see their own child.
Can you understand how that might feel? I certainly do. I gave my daughter a telephone calling card, so that I wouldn’t cause her trouble at home by calling her first. Sometimes, I had to wait a very long time for the next phone call. I always felt judged. If I didn’t get her back from a visit by the time I had been expected to return her, I could feel the judgement as well.
It is true – society drives the expectation that a mother is supposed to love and nurture her child. A mom who loses her child to the system, or gives her child to someone else to raise, is automatically and instantaneously dealing with the shame that comes with doing that. It knocks their self-worth, and that was likely not so high to begin with, lowering it further down many pegs. It can cycle into greater depression, self-loathing, anxiety, self-harming behaviors and a general feeling of just giving up. It takes A LOT of work to build that sense of self back up. Some never do.
Moms DO love their kids – even if, for whatever reason, they are unable to raise them. That was always true with me.