OHBD 2015

OHBD 2015

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Motherhood Lesson: Couple Time is So Vital And Yet So Hard to Find

Couple Vacation – Selfish or Survival:  I read this survey in a magazine while my husband and I were enjoying a rare couple’s vacation in Hawaii. 
I asked my husband what percent he thought said “survival.”  He guessed 70% -- the result was in fact 90%.  Finding time for the two of us has been a struggle for me since becoming a mom.  My husband was my first priority in our early time together although we were both busy with jobs, school and other activities.  We took a number of years to get to know each other before we took the plunge and became parents.  I vividly recall my fear when pregnant with my first son that bringing a child into our relationship might “ruin” it.  We are polar opposites in many respects and had worked hard to find balance and joy in our diversity. 

Our beautiful baby boy, who bore a striking resemblance to his handsome dad, of course did not ruin anything.  I remember seeing my spouse’s eyes fill up when he was handed our son in the hospital.  And I couldn’t have felt more love for him than I did at that moment.  That scene, baby to dad, dad’s eyes fill and my heart swells repeated itself with our second and third children although the last hand off took place in a house in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  In many ways, becoming parents brought us closer and took our relationship to a much deeper level as we saw ourselves and each other exhibited in various ways in our children.  But making quality time a priority was challenging in the context of a two working parent household.  We have only rarely taken a trip together.  And date nights are not a frequent occurrence either with all the kid and work activities.   When we did a good job of getting out together once a week for a period, it was unusual enough for our eldest to ask why we all of a sudden needed to spend that much time alone together.
When we lived apart for ten months in 2005, we learned how much we loved being in the same physical space and reveling in the little moments of each day.  But even following that experience, we struggled to keep balance between our familial relationships.  Kids’ needs are immediate and demand attention.  As a working mom, I prioritized those in the time I had.  I recall when we brought a baby conure (a small parrot) home as a pet for my eldest.  We previously bought a parakeet from a local pet store that died within the year which devastated him.  Dimitri did his research to determine what type of bird he wanted and I did mine to find a reputable a breeder.  Any baby has special requirements, even an aviary version.  We needed to acclimate it to our home and teach it skills which took time and patience.  And those duties fell to my eldest and me.

About a week after the little feathered one joined our family, my husband said to me in his deep Greek accented voice.  “I know I went down in your priorities with the birth of each of our boys.”  Our daughter had not yet arrived.  “I am okay being number three behind them.  But if I am now below the bird, we have a problem.”  I laughed out loud. Although looking at his face, I could see he was quite serious.  It is a line I remember when I realize I am starting to take our relationship for granted. 
We have our whole lives so it is easy to think I have time to focus on it later.  He is a big reason for my success.  He is the one I want there by my side for the triumphs and tragedies life brings us.  As we strolled around the stunningly beautiful grounds in Hawaii, we still enjoyed each other’s company without the craziness of three kids.  We have come far together over the decades with successes, struggles, laughter and tears.  We chuckle when we hear a child misbehaving, and one of us can say, “Not ours!”  Although our children and jobs are always frequent topics of conversation, taking time specifically for ourselves away from both is necessary and good. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Motherhood Lesson: Ignorance Is Empowering

Some say what you don’t know can’t hurt you.  I know that is not true in many respects.  But I found when I faced certain choices, there is a benefit to not being fully aware of what all they will entail.  Some are life altering choices like getting married.  I had no idea of the compromises, ups, downs, twists and turns we would encounter when we decided to join our lives.  I could never have anticipated the joys, discovery, support, love and laughter either.  Having children is another.  I found there are many consequences of becoming a mother through biology or adoption that weren’t even in my consciousness when I decided to make those choices.  I joke with friends that those who already have children don’t share all the gory details until you are “in the club” and it’s too late to turn back.
There are also less momentous choices.   

When I struggled during my early years in college, I dropped out and moved to Europe.  When I returned to the US, I had no specific plan.  I thought I would just figure it out as I went along.  Had I known how lonely and daunting it would be to put my life back on a career track, I might have chosen a safer path.  But as it turns out, I met my husband at the University I chose because it was walking distance from the apartment I could afford.  And after graduating and getting married, I went on to law school.

I used to think my approach of making decisions and then learning what they meant was tied to youth.  But I still do it.  And I may even do it almost intentionally now (my husband is convinced of it).  I wrote about “the anatomy of an accidental auction”.  I volunteered to chair an event to support two great organizations working in my daughter’s birth country of Ethiopia.  My inspiration is pictured with me after an Ethiopian New Year celebration. 
Somewhere in the back of my head, a little voice said, “You don’t have time.  This will be hard.  You don’t know what you are doing.  You will fail.”  But I jumped in and committed to a venue and date in part so I could not get cold feed.   I saw a recent quote attributed to Van Gogh that made this point powerfully, “When you hear a voice in your head that say you can’t paint.  Paint and it will be silenced.”
As I work to silence my little voice, I thought about choices I made over the years without complete information where the same kinds of doubts echoed in my mind.   Deciding to “go all in” is part of the formula for success for me.  Once I cross a certain point, I am committed.  I think another part is being an enthusiastic optimist. I paint a vivid image in my mind of the desired outcome – in part to drown out the little voice.  I touch it, see it, smell it, hear it, and even taste it.    If I hit hurdles, I view those as indications I need to dig deeper -- be more creative, work harder, or ask for help.  I am not above doing whatever it takes.  Plus I am known to have a stubborn streak – admitting the little voice was right means giving into fear. 

Although I don’t like to fail or let my kids fail, I learned failure often painfully provide the biggest growth opportunities.  I have jumped in multiple times.  And I survived and even thrived.   I now remind myself of the successes when panic threatens to overwhelm my optimism.  This moment is almost inevitable when, somewhere around the half way point, the chance for the success I envisioned seems remote. Holding the faith and plowing ahead often reveals options and support I couldn’t see around the corner.  Ignorance may not be bliss . . .but I have found it can be empowering.