Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Adoption fears

I was reading the news today and ran across this article about Ronald Reagan. You may have heard that one of his sons wrote a book that suggests he started showing signs of Alzheimer's during his presidency. This post is not about Reagan. And its not about Alzheimer's (although it's a topic that I pay attention to since my grandmother had it). This is about my fears around adoption.

Let me back up. It is common in academia to speak about the impostor syndrome. It may exist in other occupations; I can't speak to that. But in academia we are all supposedly experts in our field. And we do have a great deal of knowledge about the topic of our research. But the impostor syndrome is the fear that one day someone will rip the mask off our face and reveal that we are not really experts. We don't really belong here. I admit that I suffer from the impostor syndrome. And when I get the courage to express that fear to others, they admit that deep down they feel it too.

It was the fear of the impostor syndrome that reared its ugly head as I read that article about Reagan. Even 66 years after his birth, Michael Reagan's relationship to his father is still qualified.

The former president’s son, Ron Reagan, has just released "My Father at 100," a book about his father’s life. (The younger Reagan resists calling it a memoir.) The book’s revelation that Ron now believes his father had Alzheimer’s disease while in office has already elicited a furious response from Michael Reagan, the son adopted by Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman.

Now, maybe I'm missing something here, but I don't see how it is relevant to the story that Michael Reagan was adopted. But yet the writer inserted it in an article when the general thrust seems to be that only Ron Reagan (and not the merely adopted son Michael) is able to speak about his father.

That is my adoption fear. That I will just be an impostor. That one day, many years down the line, someone will rip the mask from my face and reveal me as not the real mother. I don't really belong here.


On a side note, I had no idea that adoption played such a large role in shaping Reagan's family. His first wife was "unofficially adopted" and raised by neighbors after her father died when she was young. They adopted Michael. And their oldest daughter adopted a daughter from Uganda. They also lost a baby who was born premature.


  1. Not many know this, but my father adopted me. I am with my birth mother, but my father did not conceive me. It absolutely amazes me to think he has this fear, which I know he does. He was always afraid I would walk away from him as my father. I cannot even fathom this. I have a dad, his name is Ross Whiting, and even though we do not share the same DNA I would not have it any other way. If anything, it makes me realize more so how special parents are. I'm so proud of my Dad.

  2. Thanks for sharing an adoption fear - I can definitely relate. I love the term impostor syndrome and how you connected it to being an adoptive parent.


  3. I think that with an adopted child you can never say you are the biological mother, but if you raise the child and do everything you can for them you can certainly say you are his/her's real mother.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Missy. We have thought about adoption and I have this fear as well.

  5. This is a thought-provoking post. I guess I have never had this fear of myself feeling like an imposter, but possibly of my child ever saying, "You're not my real mother!" in anger. I will definitely have to think about this in the next little while.


  6. That's an interesting connection. I know the academic imposter syndrome well enough... and I sort of understand that adoption may cause the same fears. Although I think that, in both cases, you *have* done all the important work, and this is mostly our mind playing tricks on us, playing with our secret fears.
    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.


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