Each birth parent will have her own unique conditions that determine where she will live. Since each situation is different, I write this from my personal experience and the experiences of birth mothers with whom I interact frequently. There is not really a “yes” or “no” answer to this question, but rather some things to strongly consider before deciding.
I placed almost as far away from where I live as I could have—about 2,500 miles. Thanks to technology and an amazing adoptive family, our relationship stayed strong and has grown to be absolutely incredible. About a year after placement, I began to really consider where I wanted to go with my life. I could have literally gone anywhere I wanted to go at that point in my life. My son and his family lived in an area that had a law school, a nurse anesthetist school, and was near many great universities. I entertained the idea of moving to be near them, and my son’s family was completely on board and excited at the prospect. Soon after looking at the possibility, I met my now-husband and we began to make plans for our own life—one that didn’t hinge on where my birth son lived.
Looking back, I’m not sure that moving to be near them would have been the best idea. Obviously I wouldn’t have my husband, but my birth son’s family moved 1,000 miles closer only one year later. Would I have then moved, too, or would I have settled into a new life away from not only MY family, but their family as well? Independence is great, but I feel that I would have been lonely. Within the first 5 or so years of placement, I don’t think your birth child’s residence should be the main deciding factor in choosing a place to live.
There are some major problems that I have been witness to and foresee in letting where your birth child lives dictate where you live. You know the phrase, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder”? I honestly believe that is true, especially in these situations.
Permanency – As was the case with my couple, people do not always stay in the same state for the rest of their lives, especially in their early years. My very best birth mom friend, Paige, has stayed in pretty much the same area since placement while her birth daughter’s family has moved a handful of times, most recently to the southern part of the state (which, out west, is a considerable distance). Erin’s birth daughter moved to England, Stefanie’s moved to Asia! Had any of us let where our birth children live determine where we lived, we would be chasing people across the globe!
Boundaries – As fun as it would be to live near my birth son and his family NOW, I honestly believe that the distance and geographical limitations were beneficial to my healing. Many birth parents do great with their birth children being nearby and become comfortable with frequent visits and interaction. I am not one of those people. I have an addictive personality, and tend to become obsessed and anxious easily. I would have wanted more visits, more chances to see my birth son, and easily could have started crossing boundaries. I take pride in how healthy and open my relationship is with my son’s family, but if trust had been broken early on then I don’t know that it would be where it is today.
Independence – Birth parents are generally counseled NOT to make any big emotional life changes within the first 6 months to 1 year after placement. Hormones, emotions, and mental health can be all over the board. Finding stability and happiness is the key after placement, and birth parents are encouraged to enroll in or finish school, or begin working, and really focus on themselves and building their life. Setting aside school or a good job to be near a birth child builds a dependence on someone else to find happiness.
These problems are not always the case, and each person needs to take a good, hard look at their situation and consider what they would be sacrificing in order to make their own decision. What is right for me is not what is right for other birth mothers, but I strongly encourage any birth parent to consider permanency, boundaries, and their independence. Will they wind up following their birth child from place to place, unable to put down roots? Will moving closer begin to cross boundaries, either by placing guilt on the adoptive family for not constantly including the birth parent, or making the birth parent feel ignored? Will you, as a birth parent, be able to build a solid life and pursue education or career, uninhibited by others?
My son’s (adoptive) mother and I often talk about how much they would love to move back to my area of the country to be near their extended families, and how much fun it would be to see each other more than once per year. I know I am not a strong contributing factor to that decision; they would never expect me to just pick up my life to be near them. And that is okay! We each do what is best for our families. Following each other across the country is not one of those things.
Have you ever moved to be closer/further from your birth child? What was your experience?