An Ordinary Life

I had been pondering about what to write about for my next post, but could find little in my life that jumped out at me screaming ADOPTION. I could have left it there and waited until something recognisably ADOPTION came up in my life. However, on further reflection I thought that this would give a rather skewed idea of my life as an adult older-child adoptee. Indeed, a hazard of writing a subject-specific blog which never strays is that it can make it seem as though that is all you do or all you are.

It’s also very rare that media stories featuring foster-care adoptees have anything but a very, very bad or a very, very smaltzy ending. There is either a family massacre or everyone skips off into the sunset. Very few of them bore your socks off.

I therefore decided to write about what was going on in my life even though it wasn’t ADOPTION. But in doing so I realised that adoption is wound up in a lot of what I have been preoccupied with. This hadn’t been immediately obvious because what I have been thinking about is both boring (although important) and also features in the lives of many non-adopted people.

In short, I have been worrying about my parents (for clarification I mean my adoptive parents). They are getting older and I am thinking about what the future holds. The health of one of them is declining and they still have caring responsibilities of their own. I have started to think about how I might – and if it is even possible – support them in their old age. I think that I may need to move closer to them. But how does this fit into my own plans? My partner’s plans? And what will I do if they need a full-time carer? How does this even work financially? What do I do if they need to go into a care home? How does this fit with my own career and family plans? Can I afford it? What on earth do I do?

But that is not all. I have also been worrying about my parents (for clarification I mean my foster parents). One of them is extremely ill and may not be here long – as least in mind. I want to spend more time with them than I can afford in either money or time. It kills me that I can’t stretch myself and also be there.

But I’ve also been worrying about my relatives (for clarification I mean my birth relatives). They are getting older and one of them is very, very ill. They’re going through a bad time. I support them as best I can but there is so much I can’t do. I just can’t do everything.

I feel as though I am trying to think through a million things. I am trying to see into the future in order to discern what I should do. I feel as though I am a hair’s breadth away from responsibilities that could overwhelm me. The sort of responsibility that could compromise my own ability to have a family or career or a life of my own.

Very rarely – if ever – do you see headlines like:

‘Adult adopted from care tries to figure out how to support their adoptive parents in old age whilst also having a career and a family’.

I guess it wouldn’t sell. But this is wound up in foster care and adoption. My parents are my parents because they adopted me. I’m thinking about these things because they adopted me. And now I am doing what people are doing up and down the country – worrying about their ageing parents – because they adopted me.

It’s also wound up with adoption, in my case, because my parents were also quite old when they adopted me. And I’m also thinking about all these things because as a foster-care adoptee I have more family than most. I am in normal, everyday contact with them all – by which I mean a phone call here, a Facebook like there, a visit whenever I can. There is more worry about ill-health, pensions, care plans, and all the rest than there is drama.

This is what adult life and post-adoption relationships with all families looks like for at least one older child adoptee.

It’s also contrary to what many people might think. For example, far from being a liability, I offer more support to my adoptive parents than their birth children do. These things are by no means clear cut!

I sometimes feel, as an adoptee, that I am viewed as a perpetual child. I am not sure why this happens, although it is extremely patronising when it does. My everyday life is filled with the ordinary things of life that the non-adopted would recognise. There are many, many people in the country worrying about the multiple caring responsibilities they face and getting anxious about how their finances and own lives will withstand the pressure. I don’t know how much research is done on the adult lives, post-25, of those who were adopted at puberty, but at least one of them lives quite an ordinary life – whatever that is.

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Author: Adoptee Corner

I was adopted from care in the UK.

2 thoughts on “An Ordinary Life”

  1. It’s interesting reading your post and thinking about how no two family set ups are the same. I feel for you as you work through the aging parents anxieties as I’m very much in that place myself. I’m part of the sandwich generation, having aging parents and young children and forever torn between responsibilities to them all. It leaves me in the middle with very little ability to think about my own wants and wishes. It highlights also that as an older adoptive parent (now late 40s) that my children will potentially face similar issues when they get older. Having said that it can happen irrespective of what age you are when you have children as illnesses can strike at any time. We’ve just come through a hell of a few years after my father in law died six weeks into our mammoth house extension leaving behind my mother in law with Alzheimer’s to care for an no power of attorney. It’s been an interesting, emotional, and overwhelming three years as we work our way through that plus a daughter with FASD and a young son too. I think I’m highlighting that the overwhelmed feeling you have regarding family can happen at any point and to anyone. There’s a great song by Baz Luhrman called Sunscreen that sums it up nicely. That’s not to say that you don’t also have mega complicated emotions to work through due to the layers of your family and relationships and trying to work out who you choose to live closer to (if at all) won’t be very hard to do. I’d imagine you feel conflicting loyalties and very torn. That’s tough. I like that you say at the start of this blog post that adoption is woven into your life, it’s not everything there is about you. You can be not adopted and still face many of these issues. It’s the conflicting emotions for you that bring more confusion I’d imagine.

    I was thinking about your feeling of being always seen as a child and I can see two reasons for this. Firstly, and probably most importantly all parents see their children as children forever. We don’t mean to but we hold those memories of your development and still want to protect that younger child in you. I think as a parent of an adopted child we worry more. We worry because our children have a great emotional load on their young shoulders. We worry because often our children have additional challenges such as FASD as my daughter does. We worry about your emotional development and how you feel about being adopted. We worry because every adoption book we read tells us that there is nothing we can do to make it right for you and that you will always be in emotional pain and self harm etc (whether this is true I don’t know). We see the history of your pain and how you’ve managed that in the past and don’t always keep up with your healing because we’re scared about how you’re feeling. We worry we’ve made things worse for you and feel doubly responsible for every time we’ve shouted or got cross or undermined our family attachment. All of that keeps us in parent mode rather than moving to join you as adults I suspect. It’s not deliberate. Modern adoptive parenting is scary stuff believe me. We’re told we get it all wrong all the time.

    I will say that non adoptive families can be just as confused. I haven’t seen my mum in over 25 years. I’ve gone through many similar emotions to the ones I read about in the Primal Wound. I understand that it’s always there. It might only be a small scab but it still gets picked at every single day, even if it’s only a little scratch and I can say it’s possible to live a full life with that scab. I feel it’s pushed me to self develop so much more as a result. Being curious about yourself can help there.

    Anyway this is a long reply and possibly gone off topic but I think I wanted to just agree that your life is normal and complicated in equal measures but that whilst your situation is unique and will bring its own healing throughout your life, you’re not alone there. I hope you’re able to work through the support you want to give but will say to take care of yourself too in all that and keep in touch with your feelings about why you’re doing stuff. I’m a terror for jumping in and asking questions to myself later lol. Thank you for writing your blog. I enjoy reading it and learning from you. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gemlifewithkatie, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your father-in-law and it sounds like it must be extremely difficult with your mother-in-law’s illness as well as looking after your children. Yes, I think these things are felt by a lot of people and especially those at a particular stage of life. It can be hard! That said, it’s easier for me as I don’t currently have children (although given the things that are going on in my life I don’t know if that will ever be possible!).

      I don’t see what’s going on as something specifically adoptee-related. I just think that when adoptees face ‘normal’ struggles that are also faced by the non-adopted this often isn’t written about, giving a strange impression of adoptees’ lives. Nothing “adoption” had been going on in my life and I decided to write anyway – it’s a more honest account of my life than only documenting any existential struggles (mostly unrelated to adoption to be honest!) that I might have. Although it is about adoption insofar as many years later we are still a family and I’m having ‘normal’ worries about my adoptive parents (so kind of adoption-related in a negative way – eg. “nothing to report here”). Some adoptees may feel conflicted – for me, it’s more a feeling of there not being enough of me. I can’t spread myself as I would want and I’m in the midst of trying to make some very big decisions. Ugh!

      I didn’t really mean my parents seeing me as a child, but adoptees being seen as children when spoken of in the public sphere etc. It can be quite odd to be an adoptee 25+ – it’s like being invisible! In some respects I think it’s perfectly understandable as people are children when adoption first happens to them (at least in the UK), but it is still rather odd I think – especially given the focus on adoption being forever and life-long etc. It’s a bit of an aside (sorry, I could waffle for England!), but I always wonder why there’s not a larger focus on the life-long implications and outcomes of adoption, rather than the focus that there seems to be on its implications and outcomes until 18 or 21 or so.

      More generally, I feel that if one were to sit down with them, an awful lot of people would have a story that would break your heart. This isn’t to minimise adoptees’ experiences (or indeed my own), but it is, sadly, something that I’ve found. I also know – at least for myself – that it is possible for someone adopted from care (and everything that that might entail) to live a fulfilling life.

      Like

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