(adoptive) Mother Anxiety?


I would say that, for the most part, my adoptive mother and I have a really good relationship…as long as we keep things in the logical, from the head place, rather than sharing from the more vulnerable heart space. Which means that I can, and do, share about really difficult parts of my life, but am able to distance myself and talk more about logistics than feelings like  sadness, or being overwhelmed with anxiety. So, I figured that this visit would be no different than any other, but boy was I wrong, and I’m still not quite sure what to do with my experiences…

The first, was my offhanded comment about therapy, and explaining how anxiety might be contributing to her asthma. Her response was “I didn’t realize you had anxiety, sweetheart, how long have you had that?” Um…since I was a kid? I tried to not go into a fury, and feel completely mistunderstood and alone, because of that automatic thought “mothers should understand their kids,” and explained to her what diagnosed anxiety was (her follow up was “what are you anxious about?”….um….everything and nothing all at once?).  It’s hard to explain anxiety to someone, but it’s especially weird to try and explain anxiety to someone who is clearly having a BUNCH of anxiety symptoms, ya know?

But the situation that really upset and confused me, was this conversation out of left field while heading to get frozen yogurt. We were listening to the radio and suddenly she says, “I hope you enjoyed growing up in our family.”

Um. What?

I responded with, “wow, where is that question coming from?” Her response was, “well, I just know it’s hard for some adopted kids and they wish they weren’t adopted, I hope you don’t feel that way.”

Wow. Talk about a leading question that backs me into a corner. In my heart I think she was trying, in an awkward way, to connect and open up a conversation, but it didn’t feel safe, especially with how it was worded. My response was “something can be hard and still be what it is, or even the better option, but it can still be hard.” It wasn’t quite my angry adoptee response that I think about, but rarely ever let leak out in real life. I feel proud that I didn’t just give in to her anxiety and say “no no, everything was aaaamazing,” because it wasn’t…it was hard. I’m sure that her question was triggered by the random assortment of adoption-related books that Potamus throws off the shelf when he’s bored.

In processing with Boof, we came back around to the belief, that in adoption the ‘what ifs’ are some of the hardest. I’ve experienced his mother’s anxiety and worry that she wasn’t a “good enough” mother, but there was no other option…she was their mother. So this fear that my mother has, could be founded in reality. I could have had a different life, and while I know that it could have both been better, or worse, it would probably would have just been…different. In some good ways, maybe, and some bad ways, maybe. But this lingering ghost of another life, in another dimension, is clearly causing all of us angst.

I want to believe that she was trying to connect, but a question like that doesn’t leave much room for my actual vulnerability. And it makes me wonder, do I even want there to be that point of connection, or am I okay with the way things are right now? If I do want to move into the more vulnerable region, would she even be capable of holding my emotions and not reacting out of her own anxiety? Could I trust her with my emotions?

Does your mom have anxiety? How do you deal with it? How do you deal with people asking leading questions?


  1. No, mom doesn’t have anxiety at all about the relationships. None – no idea why she is that way. She can also not worry about stuff and that creates a divide because I “should” just choose not to be anxious…which is as normal to my daily life as – oh I don’t know – breathing?

    We don’t do the deep emotional conversations either…

    I do chalk the anxiety up to both genetics AND the fact that stress in pregnancy affects the fetus, and you know our brain starts wiring then. Very interesting studies about this now exist from non-adoption related stressors. Imagine the adoption stress an expectant mother is under…no wonder it seems to be very common for adoptees to have anxiety – we were primed in the womb and then surrendered…

    • Yeah, when I met my little sister my bio dad was concerned because she wasn’t sleeping well and they kept asking if she ‘worried’ and her response was ‘no.’ So I asked if she just ‘thought a lot at night’ and her response was ‘YES!’ So genetics totally plays a role, but yes, I also think the stress in the womb just primes the pump for all of that anxiety.

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