How to deal with an adoptive parent who resents your birth parent

watermelon asks: I was talking to my birth mother behind my adopted mother’s back, and my adoptive mother got mad at me because she never wants me talking to her, because she hates her. Now she will not talk to me because I did that, and because I said that I have a (not so great) life, and that my biological mother is my hero. But she did not let me explain why I said it! So what do I do? I am so lost right now!

Hi watermelon –

You are stuck in a very difficult situation. No question about it.


It’s easier for me. I was adopted, but by a human, who would never ever have any bad feelings about my saying how much my birth mother means to me. In fact, my human would absolutely love to meet my mother, and to have her and me reunite. He’d find it fascinating and exciting and beautiful.


But he’d also know that, when that meeting was done, I would want nothing more than to loyally accompany him home. Because he knows he’s my number-one human, now and forever.


And your Mom is doubting that you feel that way about her.


(Note, I’m going to refer to your adoptive mother here as your Mom. Because she’s the one who’s served as your Mom, who’s been there for you, who’s done all the hard work. She deserves that title. Whereas the other woman, who conceived and carried you, and who gave you birth, and who is your first and greatest connection to nature… I will call her your Birth Mother. A title and honor she equally deserves.)


It would be easy to guilt-trip you about this. To say that what you said to your Mom disregarded all the years of work, the sleepless nights, the mess and noise you have put her through, and all the love she’s given you. But I’m not going to say that.


Because in her anger against what you said, she’s not allowing you to express that, even with all that she’s done, you still have complaints about your present life (of course you do – everybody does!), and you have a fascination and deep connection to your Birth Mother that no one else can satisfy.


And you need to feel the freedom to express those things. In order to fully be yourself and live your life.


But, my dear watermelon, part of growing up is learning this lesson: you don’t necessarily need to feel free to express those things to your Mom!


Imagine that you wrote an essay for school about all the things that you find lousy in your life right now, from your social life to what you don’t like about your looks to what’s scary about what your future looks like. And that you also painted a picture of your Birth Mother, pregnant with you. But if, that same day, you walked up to your Mom and gave her a kiss and told her that you will never ever be able to know all she’s done for you, and that one of your goals in life is to be able to give love to someone as selflessly as she has to you. And thank her for all she’s done. Knowing that you’ll never be able to thank her enough.


What do you think she’d do? I think she’d suddenly see your complaints about your life, and your interest in your Birth Mother, in a very different light.


This isn’t unreasonable. We all know what it’s like to feel unappreciated. Like the day I caught a squirrel and brought it inside and dropped it as a gift for Handsome as he was stepping out of the shower… he didn’t seem to appreciate that at all! And I was really proud of that gift!


Your job – now and for the rest of your life – is to try to make sure your Mom never feels unappreciated again. That doesn’t mean you always have to put her first, or to give her whatever she wants, or certainly that you not live and express your own life. But it does mean that whatever you do or feel, you put a bit of thought aside to ask “How will this make her feel?” And if it might make her feel unappreciated, to just take a moment to, aside, let her know she matters, and that you’ve noticed her.


That’s really it. I’ll be sitting by Handsome while he’s working, and he’ll be totally focused on what he’s doing, and I’ll feel ignored and unimportant… and then suddenly I’ll feel his hand come down and scratch my head. And all is okay with the world.


If you can do that with her, I think you’ll find that most of this problem (and maybe all of it) just evaporates. Remember, she wants to believe that you care. Just give her the chance to believe it.






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