Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Opportunity Cost of Motherhood

One of the first concepts I learned in Economics 101 (or whatever that fun charting, graphing class what called) was that of opportunity cost.  The definition of opportunity cost is the cost (not necessarily monetary) of the next best, or foregone, mutually exclusive alternative.  In this particular chapter of life, the opportunity cost of me choosing to be a stay-at-home mom is the 'cost' associated with advancing my career.  

Since time is a limited resource and we have to choose how we will use it, there will always be a cost associated with foregone alternatives.  For me, the initial choice to leave the work place did not come easily.  I knew I wanted to be home with my child (there was only one at the time), but I also wanted to continue my career.  I bought into the myth that women can have it all.  I tried every alternative work schedule imaginable before realizing that I needed to be home during this chapter of life.  There was not going to be a happy 'work-life' balance for me, regardless of how much training the Human Resource folks were dishing out.  I am a 100%, all in kind of person.  It was not possible to have it all, at least not at the same time.  Now, I know that some women are better at the juggling act than I am and many, many woman do not have the choice to stay home.  I am not trying to say one path is better or worse than the other, only that there are costs associated with our decisions. 

A recent blog post from a working mom drove this point home.  She sees things through a different lens.  Not the opportunity cost of leaving her career, but the cost of not being able to pal around with other 'mom friends', for lack of a better term.  When she sees the stay-at-home moms dropping their kids off at preschool in 'cute workout clothes', she might feel slightly disconnected, the same way I now feel disconnected from the woman in the business suit in front of me at Starbucks.  I think, "that used to be me" or "that could still be me" or even "will that ever be me again", but I chose for that not to be me, right now, in this particular chapter of life.  And, I can honestly say I am so very happy with that decision.  That does not mean there are not some days when I wonder what my career will look like when I return, but I am at peace in the present and I think that is the key.  If you are happy with your decision or at least at peace with your circumstances, than you are probably on the right path.  I knew God wanted me to be at home with our children and I honestly believe my children need me to at home with them, but it took me testing the waters in order for me to actually hear it, live it, and finally embrace it. 

When I think about returning to the workforce, I would love to teach a class in Mama 101.  In this class, we would discuss real world examples of how women, in particular, are faced with extremely tough life decisions that no college class and very few workplaces touch on.  We are always looking around as if other people have it all figured out.  (They don't!)  It seems we tend to be looking, deciphering, and sometimes even judging the 'other side'.  However, everyone's life circumstances, God-given gifts, and also God-given limitations are unique.  By praying to God for guidance and wisdom, I was able to embrace God's desire for me to be at home and therefore be able to live joyfully in the present.  It took a little time to get to this point, but I am certainly glad I trusted God.  

Psalm 28:7 says, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Open Mouth, Insert Foot. Psalm 19:14

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In Psalm 19:14, David says, "May the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and Redeemer."  I am not sure about you, but this is a verse that I could certainly stick in my purse and pray over throughout the day.  Being chatty is part of who I am.  Being a hot-blooded (I prefer the term passionate, thank you) Italian-German is also part of who I am.  Put those two together and it is difficult to predict what the tongue may have in store.  (Insert God.  Praise Him!) 

A few weeks ago an elderly neighbor, one who has managed to make more enemies than friends in our neighborhood over the course of forty years, and who was concerned about a particular tree in our yard called the county to state her concerns.  Now, we already had THREE separate tree care companies come out and reassure her that tree was not in danger of falling over.  That was not good enough.  She needed the county's reassurance.  And reassure her they did.  Their "urban forestry" manager came out and reassured her that the tree is not dead and not in danger of falling over.  HOWEVER, he did notice a few dead branches that were in danger of falling onto the sidewalk, the county's property.  SO, we received a certified letter from Mr. Urban Forester stating that the dead branches need to be addressed within ten days.  Yay!  At a cost of $500, this was not exactly what we had planned for the next two weeks.  

Upset that she would do this after we have already taken beyond reasonable steps to assure her that she did not need to vacate her home every time the wind blew, I marched over to her home and calmly (honestly, I was very calm) told her we were not happy with how she handled this situation.  Then, I went on to vent, ahem I mean explain, the story to a handful of neighbors, friends, and family members.  I guess I had the unrealistic expectation that just because we were nice to our elderly neighbors and helped them as we could, that they would respond with kindness toward us.  The mistake I made:  having expectations about another person's behavior.  Because those expectations were not met, I was disappointed and in turn behaved like a child.    

Last night, we found out from a different neighbor that our elderly friend had been committed to a mental institution.  Apparently, this past weekend, one of her children had come to pick up her and her husband and bring them to live in an assisted living place closer to where their children live.  This did not appear to be her will and she "lost it" during the drive refusing to get out of the car or do anything requested of her.  I am not sure about all of the details, but this resulted in her being placed, unwillingly, into a hospital where she can be observed.  My silly rant about dead tree branches all of the sudden seems ridiculous and embarrassing.  Had she been upset not about our tree but about the possibility of leaving her 'free' life to never again return?  About moving far away from the home she and husband built never again to return?  About facing the final chapter in her life?  I do not know and will probably never know.  All I know is that I regret how I handled the situation and wish that I would have kept it between our family, their family, and God. 

The unfortunate thing about this string of events was that I knew better.  Not only from a basic Christian perspective, but a perspective that had recently been reinforced.  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Beth Moore simulcast event.   The theme of the day was "kindness".  Specifically, the foundational verse for the day's event was Proverbs 31:26 which states, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness."  Beth even made jokes about the wording of the verse.  God knew she would open her mouth!  Why?  Because that is how He made us.  Verse 31 does not say "she may open her mouth", it says "she opens her mouth."  I should never have opened my mouth to share the story about our neighbor, the tree, our expectations.  There was neither kindness nor wisdom on my tongue. 

God understands the destructive power of the tongue and our inclination to misuse and abuse it.  James 3 is an entire chapter dealing with controlling the tongue.  Verse 5 states, "...though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things.  Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites."  As a woman, verbal communication is a large part of how we connect and interact with those around us.  However, we are also accountable for our words.  Once they leave our lips, we cannot get them back.

Father God, I ask that you guard my lips and let only which is Holy and glorifying to you leave my mouth.  Guard my heart and cleanse it.  Take all which does not come from you and destroy it.  Continue to refine me from the inside out, shaping and molding until I am pleasing in your sight.  Forgive me for any harsh words or unkind thoughts and give me the self-control needed to speak only in kindness.  In you Son and my personal Savior's name, I pray.  Amen!    

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Note:  For those not familiar with Proverbs 31, the entire chapter is written about the virtuous woman.  A standard we all fall very short of, but one that we can certainly strive for.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Adoption Lingo

Now that Ethiopian courts have reopened (after a two month closure for rainy season), the pace seems to be picking up.  Our family has been submitted to court and, God willing, will be meeting our children very soon.  Which also means, of course, that family and friends will be meeting our Ethiopian blessings in the near future.  Yay!

With that being said, I wanted to share some helpful tips we have picked up along the way.  We certainly do not expect our family and friends to be fluent in "adoptionese", but did want to pass along the latest and greatest adoption lingo.  Below are a few common questions and/or statements adoptive families receive and then a few words on how that statement may be perceived.  I have also included some terms or phrases currently used by adoptive families.
  • Are they your real children?  
    • Some adoptive parents may be sensitive to this statement.  It somehow implies the child/children are not real, or fake.  Parents and children come together in many ways, and everyone in the process is very real and has very real feelings.
  • Do you plan to have (or have any more of) your own children?
    • Again, this statement implies that adopted children are not the parents own children.  On second thought, I think most people would understand how this question could be very hurtful, especially to adopted children.  All of our children are our own, chosen by God specially for us.  Praise Him! 
  • Why are you adopting?  Is something wrong
    • To the contrary, everything is just right.  While it is natural and expected for people to be curious about a family's intent to adopt (and most families love sharing their stories), asking if something is wrong is implying just that, that something is wrong.  Families choose adoption for a variety of reasons and unless you know that person very well, understand you may be entering sacred territory.  If you know anyone who has ever dealt with infertility, you know what an emotional experience that can be.  
  • Where did you get him/her/them from? 
    • The grocery store.  While I was out picking up bananas, milk, eggs, and bread, Whole Foods was having a sale on orphans.  Can you believe it?!  Honestly though, we received all of our children as gifts from God.  Each one of them unique and special, and whether they grew in our bellies or hearts, God knit each one of them together and led the way to bring us to one another.  
For those that know me, you know that I am not easily offended.  I grew up in Philadelphia...enough said.  Please, please do not worry about offending me. (Now, if you offend my children, that is a different story...hee-hee!)  Again, my intent is simply to share what we have learned.  We completely understand that most people ask questions because they are curious.  Please just attempt to think of how your words may be perceived.  Think of the above questions as similar to asking a woman who appears to be pregnant when she is due.  When she states that she is not in fact pregnant, both parties are now hurt, embarrassed, or offended.  Proverbs 21:23 states, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity."  As a woman, this scripture verse proves helpful for me in a variety of situations. 

So, with that being said, are there any terms/questions/phrases that are accepted?  Of course.  Here are some positive terms used in the adoption world:
  • Birth Mother/Birth Family:  The family that gave birth to the child
  • Family or Adoptive Family:  That family that adopts the child/children
  • Transracial Adoption:  Adopting a child of another race
  • Intercountry Adoption:  Adopting a child from a country other than one's own
  • Adoption:  A labor of the heart 
  • Family:  Chosen by God to live and grow together in Him
  • Was Adopted:  Our child was adopted into our family (as opposed to "is" adopted).  This suggests that the adoption was a one time event, similar to birth.  
As we inch closer to the day all of our children will be together, our goal is to make this the most positive, uplifting experience that it is meant to be.  We all know how much words can hurt.  On the contrary, we also know how positive words can build one another up.  Proverbs 16:24 states, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."  Our heartfelt desire is that words, especially directed at a child who has experienced so much pain and loss in his/her life, will flow with love and affection. 

Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  Father God, we ask that you help put only words that are useful for building each other up on our tongues, and that you give us the self-control we need to speak only in kindness and love.  
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