Friday, March 29, 2013

Military Wife, Adoption, and Working from Home

I cannot tell you how much I admire this woman. They made the decision after lots of prayer and desire for a child to adopt. They are such a testament to the power of love, prayer, and putting family first.

I think that SO many people are:

1. Curious about adoption (especially for all my military friends)

2. Wondering about the process in your heart and effects on marriage and career

This is a GREAT read. Congrats to Marcus and Maureen on their growing family :) We miss you guys and trivia night!!

Here's Maureen's story:

I'm Maureen, and I'm happily married to my hubby Marcus, who is an Air Force officer. Our 12-week-old baby, Maxwell, is as cute and can be, and we're half way through the process of adopting him. We were blessed to be at his birth, and we love being new parents.

I both stay and home at home with Max and work. I'm working from home as a Financial Counselor teaching people how to handle their own finances by getting out of debt, budgeting, and saving/investing. On a side note, I have always appreciated when people have asked me about this as follows "Do you work outside the home?" It's a small thing, but it's made an impact on me every time I've heard it. It just seems kind and respectful over a delicate issue, especially for the 2 years that we were married without kids and I wasn't regularly employed outside the home.

Those two years were tough. When I married a military man (and moved right away), I knew that it was highly unlikely that my law career would go anywhere, so I made the decision to find another field and job that interested me and would be flexible with my hubby's constantly changing location and a hoped-for family. I considered all sorts of things - some related to law, some not. The base where we were stationed was on a hiring freeze, and I wasn't licensed in the state we had moved to. Moving right after getting married hasn't helped in general - I left my job, friends, our church, and felt rather alone in a new place and growing in a new marriage.

It took me about a year to land on Financial Counseling, but so far it's been a really great fit. It was weird to be back in "school", but I love the work. I find it practical with broad implications, and therefore fulfilling. I love that I can take it anywhere (even overseas!) and I can do it after my morning cup of tea or during Max's naps. I can take on more work or less as my schedule allows.

Is this the best choice for my family? So far this arrangement seems to work. I spent a long time in school - B.A., M.A., J.D. - and I've always been the goal-oriented, active and involved type. Maybe that's why, in theory, we're going to have 6 kids. In theory. I wonder sometimes if I'll still want to - or have time to - do Financial Counseling with a passel of littles (or bigs, as they will become). I wouldn't be surprised if I do want to continue it since I enjoy the challenge and the work. Even now, I find that the time focusing on putting someone else's financial affairs in order energizes me when I need to return to baby care. It probably has a lot to do with the satisfaction I get from completing a task or project.

Being a mom is a long and wide job with few landmarks along the way. Calculating how much someone needs to save to meet their retirement goal gives me a completed task with useful information in a couple hours.
More than number crunching, I just love being Max's Mama. The transition for us has been different from most since we're adopting Max. But I also think that our struggle to have a family makes us appreciate the blessing of it more - and perhaps more importantly, focus more on the fact that our baby is a blessing rather than bemoaning all of sacrifice and adjustments that come along with children. Sure, taking shifts on the living room couch because baby sleeps best on our chests and changing a poopy diaper at 2 am after JUST changing a diaper and having warm, curdled spit up flow down the front of your shirt and into your unmentionables when you need to leave the house is all annoying. I have definitely grunted in frustration and moaned aloud at getting out of bed in the middle of the night. Perhaps the kicker is that my time is no longer my own. Or at least it's thrown in my face now. That one hurts. But I know, deeply know, like it fills my whole being know that what I am dong here - what hubby and I are doing as parents - is eternal. It's not just poop, pincer grasps, and play dates. I am charged with caring for Max's soul. In humility, I hope that I am able to show Max every day that I love him because I've been so loved by Jesus. This is a heavy and exciting task, so it requires much of me, but I desire so much - so very much - to do this.
Important days with big questions and important talks will come, but right now, my favorite thing is insisting to Max that he's a genius. Really, though, Max has just started to laugh, so I tickle him a lot. I also like to smell his little baby head and rub my cheek on his soft baby hair.

I've found so much support in friends who have kiddos and work hard to raise them. This may be the biggest surprise of parenting for me - the great importance that my fellow traveler's companionship on the journey is. I've always been a "I'll figure out what I need to know and do it myself" kind of person, but parenting doesn't seem to lend itself to this approach. So I enjoy the time spent with these ladies. It's refreshing. But if I were to spend a day away from Max, a spa day is at the top of my list - lavender oil and lots of time wrapped up in towels, please!

I think - and hope! - that my choices to parent and work from home will positively affect our kids. I'm still early in this whole parenting thing, but the plan is to perfectly communicate to my children that they are very important to me without pandering to them or inflating their egos. So maybe taking time to work is good because they have to learn that Mama won't always be there for every little thing. We'll see how that turns out. Regardless, I know that I'll mess up, but I hope that my kids will have learned the importance of forgiveness so that our relationship doesn't suffer.

Regarding the hubs, he is wonderful beyond reason. He works hard and provides for our family. I support him in his career, he supports me in mine. It does not escape me that staying at home with Max is a luxury, and I'm grateful for it. Without a doubt, a great strength of my parenting is that it's really our parenting. We get that we both have a 100% responsibility to parent our small ones. Marcus gives Max a bottle not because he's doing me a favor, but because he's Max's dad. Knowing that we're doing this together gives me confidence, peace of mind, and, you know, even a sense of freedom. Don't think it's perfect! We, ah, disagree, sometimes emphatically, and I tend to over-express my emotions. But the transition to parenthood has been made easier for me in seeing that Marcus has taken on fatherhood enthusiastically.

Why is there such a big stay at home mom vs. working mom debate? I don't know - it's weird to me. I mean, I'd give moms - at home and at work - the benefit of the doubt that we all want to raise our kids well and give them good things. Maybe there's some elusive idea of giving them "best" things, but everyone defines that differently, so then there's no basis for comparison. So maybe that's what the fight is over - my best vs. your best. Is there an absolute best? Regardless, any choice we make to do something is simultaneously a choice not to do something. Opportunity cost, people! I'm not working as a lawyer, and if I were, I wouldn't be home with the kiddos all day. There's a loss on either side. I don't think it's valid or fair for me to become defensive over my choice or continuously bemoan the thing I gave up. That, lovely people, was a lesson long- and hard-learned. I spent many a day sad and sometimes mad over my job-less state and then many a day sad and sometimes mad over my baby-less state. As I was plunging headlong into bitterness, I learned that the only way out was to be grateful.

I had made a prayerful, thoughtful, and informed decision when I married a military man and decided to not practice law. So the best thing I can do is be thankful for the choice I've made - the good and the bad - and be glad that I had the freedom to make it. You're probably thinking it - trouble getting pregnant was not my choice. But I wouldn't trade what I've learned about God's goodness in the midst of sadness. Once, that sadness was overwhelming, but it becomes so small in seeing that, all along, Max was meant for us and we for him. So, yes, that is me with a baby on my lap, drinking a latte and getting a pedicure at 1:30 in the afternoon. And I'm enjoying every minute.

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