I used to think life ended with parenting. Not end like I’d die, just end like the Me who had purpose, direction, career, style, romance, humor, and friends would dissolve into an unrecognizable smear in the parking lot of Babies’R’Us. Or two burglar characters from a movie I never chose to watch would tie that Me up in the newly painted pink and yellow nursery bedroom closet. These intruders, “Mommy and Daddy,” would hold my life hostage.
As if through the slats of the closet, I would hear Mommy telling my friends about stroller brands, bowel movements, childbirth, and Winnie the Pooh. Mommy would go to Mommy Groups. She would read–maybe even write–mommy blogs. She would worry about diaper rash and teething and school districts and choking hazards and at what age a child learns to walk.
She would stop caring about people around the world except when pictures of goopy-eyed African kids suddenly shot pangs in her heart as she imagined her own children having goopy eyes and would send off a $25 check. She would shop for little plastic cups of chopped peaches and Sponge Bob “fruit” gummy snacks and call it enough outing for a day. Mommy definitely, assuredly, would not be Amazing.
I used to think this, and then I found a tiny human being living inside me.
These words launch my chapter in This Ordinary Adventure called “Baby Slaves.” Yes indeed, some days parenting can feel like being enslaved to a small slave-driver with a wailing cry for a whip. But good news–having kids doesn’t mean you lose all control of your life, and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about what happens outside your little family bubble.
Having kids with us around the world not only shaped our two kids for the better but also shaped the difference we made as a family. Their presence opened doors for friendships and put people at ease in cross-cultural situations. We bonded as a family as we relied on each other through car breakdowns, delayed airplanes, and new communities. As we helped them process what they saw in life, we benefitted also by having to clearly articulate our beliefs. We wrestled always with wisely discerning what was best for our family as a whole without straying toward fretting over every detail of our children’s lives.
Yes, children often need extra care and attention when they’re being stretched, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ever be stretched.
And as for us adults, we need stretching and some TLC sometimes, too.
You don’t have to buy any plane tickets for your little ones to get that stretching.
For the next few weeks, I’ll share weekly posts with lessons and stories from our years around the world, specifically on how to raise cross-culturally connected kids. I’ll be honest–it’s a lot harder to put this in practice now that we live in a middle-class neighborhood in one of the least diverse school districts around than it was when our nearest neighbors were from a half dozen different ethnicities.
But the blogging Mommy Me–the one I never thought I’d become–is up for the challenge. I hope you’ll join us.