The Privilege of Attachment

I never once thought about my attachment to my family. It never occurred to me that there was a word for the inherent trust I felt that they would take care of me. It never occurred to me that there was a word for our mutual affection. It never once occurred to me that the unspoken elements of our relationship even needed a descriptive word.

I know now how privileged I was, and am, to have that experience.

Wikipedia defines privilege as “the sociological concept that some groups of people have advantages relative to other groups. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly with regards to social class, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.”

I’ve written about social privilege before, as well as other social diversity dimensions I’ve tripped over on my adoption journey. Chalk attachment up as another privilege of intact biological families that are, at least, reasonably functional.

I now know what it is like to not have the privilege of attachment with my daughter. I mean, we’re working on it and I would say we are more attached than not. But oy, it is tough.

I can’t and wouldn’t speak for Hope, but the range of emotions I feel as I try to form a healthy attachment with my daughter are powerful, overwhelming and, honestly, often unpleasant. When it gets rough, which it has been lately, I spend a lot of time willing myself not to miss my pre-Hope life, willing myself not to be resentful, willing myself not to just practice avoidance. I often have to force myself to spend even more time with my daughter because I know that’s what she needs even though none of my emotional needs will be met…not one.  I have to swallow my feelings when my feelings are hurt because our attachments are weak and because, as a teen, Hope’s narcissism game is real. A lot of the time, I feel emotionally starved.

Dang. Yappy and I have a stronger attachment, I think. Well, I know he does…#separationanxiety.

I cry. A lot. I go for walks. A lot. I cuddle with Yappy. I go to therapy…more frequently than we go to family therapy.

I try to check my emotions. I try to curb my anger. I try to hold back my tears, because well, when my emotions betray me and Hope sees the outburst, it only serves to push her further away. I actually find that honest emotion from me that is not anything but sparkles and rainbows is detrimental to our relationship. That is an enormous burden to shoulder; it’s heavy and it’s painful.

At nearly 43, I can still sit on the couch with my mom or dad and curl up and put my head on their shoulders or lap and feel loved and safe. Hope doesn’t and won’t do that. It is like she can’t, not just that she won’t. It is so painfully rare for her to just run up and hug me, a long, lingering hug. Those moments are so incredibly precious. I don’t want them to end because at least for that moment, I’m really mom and I can save her world. I feel like my mothering is making a difference. Those moments are rare.

Don’t get me wrong, we have come so very far on our journey. The reality though is that we struggle with attachment. We don’t enjoy that privilege. It is something we are fighting for; something I know we both want even if we can’t always articulate it. But it really is something that we don’t have in large supply.

I am hopeful that we’ll get there. In the grand scheme we haven’t been at this mom-daughter thing very long. We’re not even 2 years old yet. We’re barely toddlers. It is a journey. Wishing for a speedier process is like being 7 and wishing I could get a driver’s license. Not going to happen.

I am thankful for how far we have come, but I can’t help wishing that we were able to move things along and that both of us, me and Hope, could make and sustain the emotional connection that we both desperately long for. I think that is probably my greatest wish as I begin considering my wishes for 2016.


About AdoptiveBlackMom

I'm a single Black professional woman living in the DC area. I adopted my now adult daughter in 2014, and this blog chronicles my journey. Feel free to contact me at, on Facebook at Adoptive Black Mom, and on Twitter @adoptiveblkmom. ©, 2013-2022. All rights reserved. (Don't copy my ish without credit!) View all posts by AdoptiveBlackMom

8 responses to “The Privilege of Attachment

  • barbaramarincel

    I just can’t imagine how difficult that must be, and how unutterably lonely. Prayers for both of you!

  • Suzanne

    Wow, thanks for the way you put words to this struggle. I write and talk about privilege in my professional work and also in my everyday life, but my focus is on privilege connected to skin color, socioeconomic status, country of origin, and cultural capital. As our family continues to work through and live in the challenges of adopting through foster care, I find this idea of the privilege of attachment helpful for me tonight. Thank you. And have a blessed Thanksgiving.

    • AdoptiveBlackMom

      Suzanne, like you, I work on the same issues related to privilege. I’m finding it helpful to apply the same concepts and frameworks to the adoption journey. It is “simply” another complex diversity issue. It helps me name things, see parallels, reframe to a reference point that makes sense to me. I’m glad it helps. You should check out my post on microaggresions from this spring.


  • Lynn

    I, too, have a daughter with attachment challenges. It has gotten better throughout the years – her affection has moments of sincerity – so there is hope, but I feel your pain. I have never thought about attachment being a privilege because I assume it’s a right. But like so many things that are rights (food, safety, shelter), not everyone gets those things. Thank you for your perspective, it has opened my eyes. I am going to share this on Twitter and follow you. Have a blessed Monday.

  • TheChroniclesofaNonBellyMama

    Callie could have written this, word for word. Mary was attached to me a lot more quickly (IMO) because she never had a dad and I’m as close to “dad” as it gets. I toss her around, and play video games with her, teach her to fish and fix things, and do the things that dad’s would normally do. But with Callie, it’s almost like, “I already have a mom, so what do i need you for?” and I think that Callie takes lots of Mary’s actions as personal attacks. I dunno…i just want them to love and appreciate each other, and I can’t help but feel like that are so far from that. This possible adoption thing puts us in a really weird spot….

  • Julia Benson

    Yes. What you said in this post and on Support Group Side Eye which showed up in my newsfeed this morning. In solidarity with you with my just over a year attachment process with my 14 year old.

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