Needy Mofos

“What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now.” – Unknown

What is an adopted adult really expressing when they make comments about their natural mothers possibly being “needy”? Why would the idea of a needy mother be disturbing to an adoptee and what exactly would define a needy mother? Is needy the correct word to use?  Don’t all mothers need their children?

I have some thoughts on this needy business. Of course, they are based on my own experience, my reading and thoughts from friends.

Like all things adoption, not all adopted adults are afraid of needy mothers. Some want them. Some are willing to take any kind of contact and that includes neediness. These adopted adults are self aware and capable enough to establish boundaries with their mothers – adoptive and first.

Others? Not so much. The idea of receiving any type of emotion from their natural mother terrifies them. They shun reunion, the push away contact, they are passive aggressive, cold, or other.

To me, needy implies unstable.

Maybe it implies the same to some adoptees. The assumption is being made that if a natural mother “needs” her child she is somehow projecting her own aching, empty heart on to her child and expecting the child to fill that gap and lick her wounds for her. Somehow, somewhere, many adoptees get this message about reunion. They feel a huge burden that they are the “fix” to their wounded mother.  To be fair, there is some truth to this fear. I know many seriously disturbed needy first mothers. Does that mean we all fit that stereotype? No. If we aren’t all crack whores, rest assured we certainly aren’t all needy emotional wastelands. Some of us have actually worked through our "stuff" or can respect boundaries.

But why would our children think we would be "needy"? I have a few theories based on my own experience only.  As always, the only experts on what an adoptee would think and feel is an adoptee. I am merely suggesting a few possibilities. I welcome agreement or disagreement from my adoptee friends.

Many adoptees were indeed purchased, adopted, and assimilated to “fix” an infertile couple. The adopters felt a void in their life and they filled that void with a child born to someone else.  How convenient, eh? This dynamic alone can put a tremendous amount of pressure on a child to fix a needy person.

Many of my adopted friends cite the never ending pressure to “perform”. To assume the role of the absent ghost child their parents could never have. They are living in overdrive and exhausting huge amounts of emotional energy to be perfect – the prettiest, smartest, most caring, amazing, thin, uber adoptee imaginable. 

Dance, dance, dance.

Live up to the implied emotional warranty.

Your adoptive parents were promised, guaranteed, that adopting the child of another would be just like, as if born to, and damn you adoptee – you better do that. Make all their dreams come true. Make an infertile woman fertile. (Amazing how this does actually happen. Many adoptive parents miraculously become pregnant after adopting someone else’s child). Turn water into wine.

Dance adoptee, dance. For if you don’t, if you are not perfect, if you cannot keep your adoptive parents happy, fulfill all their wildest parenting dreams, YOU WILL BE GIVEN BACK AND UNLOVED.

Don’t doubt me on this. I have friends who were told this. I have adoptee friends who were told – throughout their lives – if they were not good, perfect, etc. they would be given back. Where exactly is back? Where would they go?  DCFS?

Then dance, dance, dance. Give but never take. Be all you can be – for them. Make them happy. They paid a lot for you (and you should be eternally grateful.)

Dance, dance, dance, dance.

Enter upon reunion and the adoptee is faced with yet another aching wounded mother. A mother who has suffered for years due to loss of her child. Not unlike the adoptive mother of years gone by, the natural mother has been aching for her child.

It is quite possible that natural mother will project her aching needs onto her child and expect the child to fix her just like that child had to “fix” the adoptive mother of years gone by.

I am not an adopted adult but I can tell you that if this situation, or any semblance of it, were to occur in my life, I would run like hell. It would suck. I would imagine adoptees don’t want to be the glue that holds anyone’s emotional pieces together. It is tiring. Exhausting. When you are spending all your reserves making someone else happy, when do you get to think about yourself?

I believe my own daughter feels some unspoken obligation to fix me. Furthermore, I find her insinuations that I am broken, needy and unstable to be HIGHLY offensive. Even though I have told her, point blank, time after time, that she is not responsible for my pain and certainly not capable of assuaging it, I don’t think she believes me. Why?

How could she? She has lived twenty something years in environment that made her the cause and fix of everyone’s problems. She has no other basis for comparison. Since she barely knows me, she can only assume, I would guess, that I will be needy and clingy. She can probably actually see me waving the snot rag and grasping for walls.

Do I need my daughter? Yes. But I don’t need her to fix me. I can do that on my own.

More on what I mean by "needing" my daughter in another post.

5 Thoughts.

  1. [tears rolling down my face]…not sure if the adoptee you describe sounds like me or not… because I was always told that *I* was the one putting pressure on mySELF, having high expectations for mySELF, telling mySELF that I had to be perfect… but which way was it really… did it come from inside me, or was I internalizing something outside of me somehow… so hard to know what is truth, what is real…
    All I know is that right now *I’M* the needy one.

  2. Not disagreeing with any of your thoughts here (although it makes me so so sad to think that any person should exist as a “fixer” for another person), but just wanted to add… do you think part of the “needy” perception comes from the fact that people have different life points at which they’re ready/ open to reunion? And, whoever initiates it first is the one that comes across as needy? So, for example, a child might not have had the life experiences yet to understand the need the first mom’s desire for knowledge and connection? or vice versa if the child seeks out the mother first?

  3. In early reunion, I was ultra needy even though I was the found one. I didn’t know how much I wanted or needed my son till he found me.
    Fortunately, he read some about birth mothers and understood that my neediness was fairly normal, and eventually I settled down. I will always “need” and want my son in my life. But, I have never expected him to be responsible for fixing my adoption issues.

  4. I think you are really on to something here. I think many adoptees, and this is just a guess, but that the adoptees that are imbued with a feeling of being “needed” the most, reject any perceived neediness on the part of their natural moms.
    You have inspired the blog I am about to write, ty.
    and I am sorry.

  5. Suz, I have no doubt that the experience of infertility or whatever other emotional and cultural states lead to the decision to adopt in a given instance may heighten the kind of expectations that you mention. However, I have also witnessed this dynamic of parental expectations play out in families of strictly biological origin.
    Parents by whatever means, too often see their progeny as legacy; as some means to add to their own self-worth through the accomplishments and performances of children. Where is that thin bright line between taking pride in a child’s accomplishments and using them to fill in voids in the parent’s own achievements?
    Sad. Sad. Sad.

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