Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Work or Not to Work???

          I'm still so torn about the whole working mother thing.  I am a finalist for a full-time job that would include an hour commute each way.  When I applied for the job, I thought our adoption timeline was about 18 months.  But when I learned adoption was possible within eight months, possible in as little as six months, everything changed.  Although it's illegal (I think) for an employer to take my impending adoption into account in deciding whether or not to hire me, I told one of the women I would be working with anyway.  I didn't want to blind side her by taking a major maternity leave just a few months after I started the job.  Also, I've waited SO long to become a mother, that I want the option of permanently extending my maternity leave if that's what's working best for our family.  The thought of dropping off my child at daycare at seven in the morning and not seeing him until seven at night just kills me.
          However, my husband feels it's unconscionable to turn down a full-time job with benefits in this economy.  With so many people looking for work, how could I possibly reject this offer (if it happens)?  He's even talked of postponing the adoption for a year for this job.  That breaks my heart.
          I have a part-time job now blogging for social networking site.  The pay is not much, but it's something.  I also get a few hundred dollars a month from the rental of my late mother's condo.  I'm constantly searching for other freelance writing jobs, with the hopes of creating a family-friendly working schedule for myself.
          So now I'm just waiting to hear from my possible future employer, to see if they still want me to come in to the final interview, knowing my family situation.
          What to do?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chris Matthews on Obama: "I forgot he was black."

          As the future parent of a black child, I must view things differently than I did before.  Would something like this statement hurt my son or daughter's feelings?  How would I explain a statement like this?  How was it meant, versus how it was taken?  I am a fan of Chris Matthews, and find him to be a very bright and witty man.  I believe he was trying to say that President Obama's speech was so powerful, that we might finally view him as our president, instead of "The Black President."  We tend to view people as "that Chinese guy" or "that Mexican girl" or "the Jewish lady," describing someone first and foremost by their ethnicity.  We don't call George W. Bush "that white president," although I could think of a few other names for him.
          But is that how my child would view things?  If Chris Matthews had said about a Jewish president, "I forgot he was Jewish tonight" or an Irish president "I forgot he was Irish tonight," it would sting, because it somehow assumes those qualities are negative.  I would be offended.  I supposed that's hypocritical of me.
          I'm torn.  Here's the video...what do you think?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Little Ethiopia

          One of the many questions in the Personal Data Form I must fill out is:
"How do you plan to include the culture and traditions of the country you have chosen in your family life?"
          I know there is an Ethiopian restaurant in San Diego, because I used to drive by it all the time.  But a visit to a restaurant isn't exactly a thorough way to make sure our child has a sense of his own heritage.  So I was delighted to discover that just two hours north of us is a Los Angeles neighborhood called "Little Ethiopia."  Every year there is a street fair, with all sorts of coffees, spices, and foods available, with locals performing traditional music and lots of dancing.
          My mother was Russian-Jewish, and my father is Irish-Catholic, and my sisters and I were raised without a sense of either culture.  One of my dearest friends is Indian, and I envy how much comfort she gets from the food, music, religion, and traditions of her culture.  I want that for my child.
          What's interesting is Little Ethiopia is located in the Fairfax district of L.A., which is a Jewish neighborhood.  How very fitting for our Jewish-Ethiopian child, as we hopefully will give him a strong sense of both cultures.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

OK, maybe not so much...

     I'd like to thank all the women who responded on the message boards about yesterday's blog post.  Many of you set me straight--that adoption does not necessarily even out the workload between the genders.  Some women even experienced the inequality before the adoption, with the push to get the paperwork completed mainly the woman's responsibility.
     I'd love to hear from women about their experiences with the division of labor in the household.  I'd love to hear from stay-at-home moms, women with full-time jobs outside the home, and anything in between.  Does their workload differ from what their mothers experienced?  Do they believe their daughters will have more equality with chores, or less?  

Monday, January 25, 2010

Adoption as Feminism

          The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."  As mothers or mothers-to-be, don't we want our daughters to have as many economic and political opportunities as our sons?  
          And yet the University of Wisconsin's National Survey of Families and Households finds that among dual-earning couples, women do about two-thirds of the housework.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make roughly 75 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
          So many of my friends with children complain that their husbands simply do not do their fair share of the work.  I would imagine it all begins when the woman becomes pregnant.  Nature dictates that she alone must deal with all the physical changes and discomforts a pregnancy brings.  She alone must give birth to the baby.  And in many cases, she alone must nurse the baby.  From the very beginning, the woman takes on the lion's share of responsibility in bringing a child into the world.
          I felt this burden during my one round of IVF.  I had to put up with injections three times a day, the weight-gain, the mood swings, the nausea.  My husband could empathize.  And he surely had to deal with my mood swings.  But I had to carry a much bigger burden of bringing our child into the world than he did.
          But it is so different with our adoption journey.  We both have an equal number of forms to fill out, an equal number of personal questions to answer.  We both had to get fingerprinted last week.  We both have to go to the doctor and get him to sign a form saying we are healthy enough (physically and mentally) to adopt a child.  There is just as much stress on him as there is on me.  We both have to participate in the home study.  We will both fly to Ethiopia to meet our child, and we both will fly home with our new baby, caring for him or her on extremely long plane flights.
          I wonder if this gender equality in the adoption process will translate to a better sharing of chores as we raise our child.  It seems we're already starting out on the right foot.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy Heart

     I've only been to the movies a handful of times since my mother died.  It's a whole new experience without her.
     I'd learned to watch a movie with my mother's tastes in mind.  Is this something she'd like?  Is it too violent?  Is the humor too risque?  Too much full-frontal nudity? (More on that later.)
     One of the questions my mom would always ask when she called would be, "Have you seen a good movie lately?"  I saw one tonight she would've really liked.  It's called Crazy Heart, and it's just the kind of story she would have loved.  She would have said, "My heart feels sad" when it was over, but she would have loved it.  I had to remind myself several times during the movie that I wouldn't be calling her after to tell her to see it.
     OK, so a funny story about my mom and the full frontal nudity.  We saw The Piano together when I was in college.  I had seen a man naked by that time in my life, and she knew it.  However, at the point in the movie when Harvey Keitel's naked bottom is facing the screen, my mother began to whisper loudly, "Don't turn around!  Don't turn around!"  When he did, showing us his manly glory, my mother put her hand over my eyes.  Tightly.  I was unable to remove her hand until the love scene was over.  Miss you, Mom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mom Application

A short post today, as I'm knee-deep in a 16-page "personal data form" I must fill out and send to the adoption agency.  Right now I'm working on this question:

What do you think is important in raising children and what do you think being a good parent means?

I could turn this into a ten-page essay, but I'm pretty sure the folks at Holt want me to keep it to a paragraph.  Here's another good one:

What are your expectations of parenting?

Again, that answer could go in book form, but I must keep it short, sweet, and good.  Another question asks what I like about my spouse.  I asked Alex and he answered, "Your juicy booty."  Just a little levity amongst the adoption stress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Working Mother

What mother doesn't work?  Even a woman who isn't employed outside the home basically provides unpaid labor to society by taking care of her children.  If she didn't, someone else would be making a salary doing it.  Now, I realize that the job of caring for children is viewed so lowly that we pay people (usually women) a wage barely above minimum to do it.  That doesn't mean the work isn't important.  The phrase "the most important job in the world" is bandied about when discussing motherhood, but it's not important enough to view with respect when a woman gives up paid employment to devote herself to raising her children.
Since my days babysitting in college, I have NEVER wanted to be one of those mothers who must work full-time outside the home.  In fact, I put off the idea of even having children, because unless I could be the one to raise them, I didn't want to do it at all.  It may sound spoiled to some.  But I spent too many hours with other people's children, watching them say and do amazing things, things that their parents missed out on.
I also treasure the memories of my very early childhood, on the days when my mom wasn't at work as a substitute teacher, taking walks together and looking at the pansies, eating cream of wheat with brown sugar for breakfast, and watching Sesame Street together.
I read The Feminine Mystique in college.  I strongly believe that women who find their happiness and sense of self-worth working outside the home should do so, with pride.  It is in the best interest of their children to have a mother who feels fulfilled and is happy.
But I have too many friends who are overwhelmed by being a full-time worker and a full-time mom.  The extra stuff: when the kid is sick, or has a dentist appointment, or soccer practice, always falls on the mom to do.  And so many of my friends are plagued with guilt because they feel they don't have enough time to do both jobs to the best of their abilities.
I've been trying to establish a freelance writing/reporter career for myself since moving back to San Diego in September.  Granted, I spent several months out-of-the-loop and dealing with grief.  But I'm moving forward, and applying for freelance reporting jobs right and left.  I want the option of being able to work from home, and make my own hours, if and when I become a mother.
My goal also is to be able to stay "employable" and keep myself relevant in the world of outside employment.  My husband is terrified if he is the sole provider when we have a child and loses his job, that we'll go to the poorhouse because no one will hire me if I'm "just" a stay-at-home mom.
Anyone else dealing with this conundrum?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eight Months!

On Friday we spoke via conference call with the California Branch Director of Holt. She told us the time line for adopting a child in Ethiopia was about eight months. Eight months! The webinar I attended last month gave the timeline as something between twelve and eighteen months.
I have been having so many dreams lately where I become mother, and feel that in-love, blissed-out feeling of being a mom, only to wake up and realize I am still childless. Finding out that Alex and I may become parents in less than a year (more akin to an actual pregnancy) is kind of a dream come true.
For now, we have a boat-load of forms to fill out. There is a 16-page questionnaire that asks VERY personal questions. We need to get notes from our doctors assuring everyone we are physically and mentally fit to adopt a child. We need to get fingerprinted. We need to fill out a form for a criminal background check.
This may seem like a lot of paperwork, but for gosh sakes, it is a step forward for us. For each form we fill out, we are one step closer to meeting our child.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to Ask?

Tomorrow morning Alex and I have a conference call set up with the California Branch Director of Holt International. The call is supposed to take about twenty minutes, and it's supposed to give us the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions.
This kind of feels like the part of a job interview where the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. Of course you do, but you just can't think of any that don't sound stupid, and you don't want to sound stupid to someone who will be making a very big decision that affects you.
Alex is very good at asking questions. It's what he did for a living for twenty years. Because I was in radio, I just turned on the recorder and let people talk, only nudging them if necessary. My worry over sounding like an idiot overrides my natural curiosity.
But this is too important a call to let my insecurities take over. I'm pretty sure a social worker has never gotten off the phone with a prospective adoptive couple and said, "They're just too dumb to adopt."
I want to know about the political climate in Ethiopia, and if there's a reasonable chance the adoption program there could run into trouble, like those in many other countries have. I want to know about the care the children receive before they are adopted. I want to know how Holt matches children to parents.
Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Want to Believe

I was holding my mother's hands as she died, and could feel the energy leave her body and fill the room. It was such a profound experience that it forever altered the way I view death. I now believe that our energy survives. I'm not sure how. I am not a religious person, and it seems religious people have concrete ways to view the afterlife. I don't have those skills.
In my quest to figure out what I witnessed at my mother's death, and to open myself to any possible relationship I could still have with my mom, I visited a spiritualist today. She is not a fortune teller or psychic, as she will be the first to tell you.
So, what I experienced today with the spiritualist was similar to what I experienced with my mother during her final moments alive. Something. I don't know how to describe it, because I don't know which words fit. And I either believe in it, or I don't. I want to. It flies in the face of what I'd held to be true for most of my life. But I want to believe. And we'll see what happens from there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

He Has Your Eyes

Alex and I visited his sister and her family in Vancouver this weekend. We got the chance to spend some time with our adorable and rambunctious niece and nephew. Our niece looks just like Alex's sister. Our nephew is a clone of his father. It's times like these that remind me Alex and I will never have a child that looks like us. I'm still a little bitter about that. For the most part, I've accepted that we will never have biological children of our own. I try to look at the positives: no labor pains, no episiotomies, no deflated breasts. Remember, I'm wracking my brain for the positives. It helps when I feel that strong pang of envy every time I see a woman my age with a swollen belly and pregnancy glow.
I've heard of adopted children taking on the appearance of their adoptive parents. One of my best friends often remarks how much Angelina Jolie's Ethiopian daughter resembles her. I have to agree. My step-mother-in-law has also reminded me that our child will pick up our mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, and the general vibe of our family. Bottom line: my giddiness about becoming a mother, even if it's not to a child I give birth to, overshadows any petty regrets I have about not having a kid who looks like me or Alex.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Notable Notary

I was in Target yesterday and was able to walk by the baby clothes without feeling sorry for myself. Here's why:
I mailed off the first round of required papers to the adoption agency. We had to get a form notarized first, and so Alex and I hit a notary in Hillcrest on Alex's lunch break. The office was the size of a coat closet. The man had a terrorist watch list posted in his bulletin board. Rush Limbaugh was blaring from the radio. Alex and I signed the form, then allowed him to look it over and apply his much-needed signature. Alex said "I like your storefront" and the man ignored him. Or maybe Rush was saying something particularly poignant at that very second and Mr. Notary didn't hear.
When he had stamped the form with his seal, he handed it to me and said, suspiciously, "What country are you adopting from?"
"Ethiopia," I answered.
His cheeks flushed red, and he said, without a trace of sincerity in his voice, "Good luck with that."
Alex and I left, laughing, as Alex said, "Two Jews adopting a child from Ethiopia. He probably burst a blood vessel."
Ah, the first encounter of many we will have with questionable people who disapprove of our family. It emboldens us in our decision all the more. In the words of a former (thank God) president, "Bring it on!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Congratulations from H & R Block

Alex and I filled out an application on New Year's Day with Holt International to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. The application was online, and I found it easier answering very personal questions by having to type them rather than write in longhand. We emailed it in on January 2. I wanted no part of 2009 attached to this adoption. 2009 was such a dreadful year: my mother died, I miscarried, found out I have such severe endometriosis that I can't get pregnant. The year ended with me hospitalized for pneumonia and possible Swine Flu.
Yesterday I went to H & R Block to get our tax returns from the last three years printed out. We need to send those in, along with a photo of Alex and me, a picture of our house, and a notarized adoption agreement. As I sat down at a tax preparer's desk and waited for the printer to spit out what I needed, I told him we needed the documents because we were adopting. The tax preparer's face lit up, and he shook my hand. "Congratulations!"
It was the first time since the miscarriage that another person congratulated me on upcoming parenthood. It felt wonderful, and appropriate. I haven't felt this kind of motherhood-related bliss since I was pregnant.