Archive | October 2012

Torn Between Family and Career

By Karen Hendricks

Mother’s Day, 2005 – while I successfully balanced motherhood with a part-time position in radio.

It’s probably the most controversial, emotional, gut-wrenching decision every mother will make:  Should I continue my career or stay-at-home with my family?  There is no easy answer, there is no right answer, and sometimes our answer to this question changes through the years.  Personally, my answer has changed what feels like a gazillion times.  I left a full-time position as a television producer—a job I absolutely adored—to stay-at-home with my first daughter.  But a part-time job as a radio newscaster was too wonderful to pass up.  Enter my second daughter and my son. I continued working in the radio business, with a very flexible and understanding employer, until cutbacks ensued.  A part-time position as an event coordinator/PR director was the perfect fit for a while.  That position morphed into a full-time opportunity as a PR director and although I loved the position, it was extremely challenging to be the kind of mom I wanted to be at the same time.  The position demanded more than 40 hours of work per week, and after five years, I made the decision to put my family first and wrestle back control of my time.  Lucikly, I had formed my own LLC a few years earlier, even had a few clients on the side (in my “spare time,” ha ha), and I was able to transition to working at home, for myself.  It is a wonderful feeling being able to set my own schedule, work load and focus.  I think I have finally struck the right balance, allowing me to continue the work that I love, but also being able to devote time to my growing family whom I love more.

I recently picked up the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood by Samantha Parent Walravens.  What an amazing collection of dozens of short essays by mothers who have all struggled to answer the career vs. family question.  It was perfectly-timed reading material, as I was developing the idea for this very website/blog, Off the Merry-Go-Round.

Many of the essays tugged at my heart-strings, as I could relate to the writers.  The author/editor of the book, Walravens, sets the scene for the essays to follow, in her introduction:

After ten years of changing diapers and chasing toddlers, helping with homework and volunteering in the classroom, I decided to reach out to other women like myself to see how they were dealing with the disconnect between motherhood and professional ambition.  … Whether at work or at home, they reported feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, most, if not all of the time. 

I saw an opportunity.

By admitting they couldn’t do it all, women could achieve a sense of freedom.  By writing about it, they could achieve a sense of community. …

As these stories illustrate, there is no perfect mother, nor is there a perfect balance when it comes to kids and career.  Caught between the heady “have it all” idealism of our feminist foremothers and the rigid realities of the corporate world, women today are creating new paradigms to navigate the conflicting worlds of paid work and parenthood. 

Her motivation was right on target with my motivation for starting Off the Merry-Go-Round.  The rest of the book was a page-turner for me!  I’ve gathered a few highlights that especially spoke to me:

My four years of motherhood have taught me that there is no such thing as a perfect balance, particularly for those of us who have been both blessed and burdened with a first-rate education and a work life we care about, or need.  We cannot help but think about the road less traveled.  Stay-at-home moms will wonder about where their career might have gone if they had continued to work, and will encounter the economic vulnerability that comes with not working.  Women who work full-time will feel the guilt of being absent for so many of the tender moments that childhood brings, as well as the pressure to try to “do it all.”  Those of us somewhere in the middle – part stay-at-home mom, part career mom – experience some combination of the two:  regret about not doing more at work, regret about not being fully engaged at home.  (Carrie Lukas, page 22)

The days are truly long but the years are short.  I started to think about all the times I answered an email while my children told me about their day at school or was too busy working to read them a bedtime story.  And while at the time what I was doing seemed so necessary, so important, I was ignoring the posted speed limit for that particular place and time.  (Sara Esther Crispe, page 41)

Today, with the advent of blogs and all other forms of online communication, millions of moms are rewriting the definition of success by telling their own stories.  The real stories from the trenches of motherhood have emerged. (Alaina Sheer, page 81)

Then, there are the people who tell me that with today’s economy the way it is, it is no longer a viable option for women to be home with their children.  I’m here to prove that it is still a wonderful choice readily available, especially for women with intellectual prowess.  We live simply, but with a much higher quality of life…. (Bracha Goetz, page 93)

Learn more about the book Torn by visiting Samantha Parent Walraven’s website.

How have you answered the career vs. motherhood decision?  What happened as a result–regrets, fears, support, contentment?  We look forward to reading your words of wisdom and building a sense of community on Off the Merry-Go-Round.  Please leave your comments and replies below!

Supporting Adoptive Families

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

No doubt as your child’s school year and accompanying activities get underway, you look around and notice a difference in the cultural makeup of families. The 2010 Census showed that interracial and interethnic married couples grew by 28 percent over the past decade. In addition to marriage, families also become interracial and interethnic through adoption. For families who adopt their children, many of the physical and emotional changes that happen for them are the same as for those who conceive their children biologically. Those who adopt are indeed “pregnant in their heart.”

It can take up to three years to receive an adoption placement. During this time, those who are adopting often need extra support from their families and friends. One of the most helpful ways friends and family can support expectant adoptive parents is to uplift them emotionally and practically. Prospective parents make the same logistical preparations a biologically pregnant couple would, yet deal as well with the emotional rollercoaster that is the adoption process.

If you know a couple or individual seeking to adopt, please don’t be afraid to ask how the preparations are coming or what you can do to help. Know, though, that everyone will handle those preparations, as well as the “wait time” involved in an adoption placement, differently. Some may not wish to discuss many details on a daily basis – perhaps even waiting until the legal revocation period is over to announce the arrival of their child. Others may feel a need to chat more about the adoption process as it goes along, and will want your encouragement when they become frustrated or for you to share their excitement as each new step along the way is accomplished.

In either case, if you are not sure what to say or how to react, the best thing to do is to simply yet tactfully ask the expecting couple or individual. You might say something like, “I know waiting for your child must be tough, and perhaps even filled with frustration from time to time. If you would like to talk about it, I am happy to listen.” Or, “It sounds as though you are very excited now that your paperwork is finished. As you wait for a placement, would it be more comfortable for you if we begin planning your shower now or hold one for you once your baby has been born?”

Sometimes, one of the best showers you can give is a “money shower.” Generally the costs for utilizing an adoption agency’s or a facilitator’s services are significant (in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars). Having some of those costs recouped may be very helpful!

Here are additional ideas for how you can be helpful to adoptive parents:

  • Offer to help prepare a baby registry or decorate the nursery (or older child’s room) to the extent that the adoptive couple or individual is comfortable. Although loss surrounding an adoption placement is rare, some prospective parents may not be comfortable preparing a room ahead of time.

    Offer to decorate a nursery for the new arrival!

  • Send a gift card to stores which have items parents will need when their child arrives. Check if those cards can be used for online purchases. This may be a more convenient way for new parents to shop rather than struggling to coordinate trips to a mall around baby’s nap time – especially if they received a placement earlier than expected!
  • Take the expectant parent or parents shopping to all the fun baby or children stores.
  • ‘Fawn’ a bit over the newly expectant couple or individual – “How exciting for you!” It can be very touching and thoughtful for an adoptive parent to have someone ask how their “pregnancy” is going.
  • Call regularly to check in. Ask, “How are you doing with the wait?” Offer to get together just to talk or to help out in some other way.

As an adoptive parent, I know that it helps when family members and friends are supportive of you when you choose to build your family through adoption. I encourage you to celebrate with the adoptive parents you know, and to treat their child the “same” as if he or she had been born from the adoptive mother’s belly. This will help them create a warm, nurturing environment to welcome their new addition!

Are you an adoptive parent who has been helped by family or friends? Are you someone who has helped an adoptive parent? If so, please share your stories and ideas with us!