Three years have gone by. Our family has grown in an exponential way. We have two beautiful daughters that fill our lives. I am eternally thankful and indescribably blessed in this life. I have never been filled with more love and gratitude. I cannot tell you that this journey has been easy, nor do I ever expect it to be. During these years, my wife and I decided I would be the one to work, and she would raise the girls. This has been quite the challenge in many ways.
Reconciling the chasm, to move forward together is quite the task. The daily reality for one is totally different than the daily reality of the other. Yet it is the same. Now we find ourselves at quite a juncture. My wife is amped to get back in the workforce, and I can’t blame her. I have nothing but respect and awe for what she has done in the past 3 years. It is incredible to watch a woman grow a baby, give birth to a baby, and feed a baby with her body. Then she turned around and went back for another.
Speechless and Grateful, is where I find myself.
Now we are beginning to change the roles a bit. I am taking a larger role caring for the girls, which is very new and pace-wise a huge change. I love it, and am seriously challenged by it. This is an area of tremendous growth for me. Lots of learning going on, with lots of questions, and first experiences. Frustration abounds, and when the dust settles, I find myself with a new lesson and an opportunity to grow. To be honest, allowing myself to slow down a bit, and just enjoy the time has been the greatest gift. The space has allowed some perspective, some much needed perspective. Reframing your life is sometimes exactly what you need. In my case, this is true.
My wife is super pumped to start working and pursuing her professional interests, and I couldn’t be more supportive. Caring for children all day can get a bit smothering. It can make you feel as if your life is not your own. Your personal interests seem set aside, and you are now in the backseat. This is quite a realization, a daunting one at times. After awhile it is easy to lose a sense of self. You don’t have to look very far to find some information on this topic, as everyone with children feels this a bit.
A close friend pointed me in the direction of Mark Nepo the other day. This man is incredible to say the least. Along with surviving cancer, he is a philosopher and a poet to the tune of 30 years. Below is his entry, and it provides quite a bit of context to a few parents raising children.
""We Must Take Turns”
We must take turns, diving into all there is and counting the time.
The gift and responsibility of relationship is to take turns doing the dishes and putting up the storm windows, giving the other the chance to dive for God without worrying about dinner. While one explores the inner, the other must tend the outer.
A great model of this is how pearl divers search the deep in pairs. Without scuba tanks or regulators, one waits at the surface tending the lines tied to the other who soft-steps the sand for treasures he hopes he’ll recognize.
He walks the bottom, watching the leaves of vegetation sway and sways himself till she tugs the cord. He swallows the little air left as he ascends. Aboard, they talk for hours, placing what was seen, rubbing the rough and natural pearl. In the morning, she dives and fills their baskets and the counts the time, hands wrapped around her line.
Quite plainly, these pearl divers show us the work of being together and the miracle of trust. We must take turns: whoever is on the surface must count the air time left, so the one below can dive freely. "
Parenting is about growth, its about raising humans. To raise a human, you have to step outside yourself and think for them. One parent is responsible for the kids and the other goes out to pursue themselves. Yet both are part of the same journey. Being at home on both sides of this equation takes some work. I am finding this now.
Success in one area of your life does not lead to less value in other areas of your life. It grows you as a person. It makes you more whole. Don’t pay attention to the lack. Look forward to the opportunity for growth.
Let Go to Grow!
2 years later commentary
We are further down this road now. We have left our jobs and moved across country. My wife has continued down the career path and is navigating the ups and downs of full time work. I see it bothers her being away from the girls so much. I still feel the pull to work some so maybe our answer is some blend of us both working. We still are of the belief that we will take care of our children. Nothing can replace this time, no job, no amount of money, no babysitter or nanny. We firmly believe that investing our time in our children is the best thing we can do, for them and for us.
The days are long as my wife works 30 minutes from the house and we have 1 car currently. So we gather everyone up and make the journey together. It seems a bit much, but not having a car for 10 or so hours a day with 2 restless kids can get a bit rough on the sanity. Plus they enjoy spending the extra time with mom.
I have been searching for games and activities for the girls and this has really been challenging. Toddlers like to go from one thing to the next without cleaning up. I am constantly left in the wreckage of lego explosions and mini doll and dress-o-paloozas. The clean up song is literally a Godsend. The screen time temptation is real. There is something so tempting about finding an activity that consumes your kids, and seemingly takes the pressure off you for a minute. But just as I think to myself and get cautioned by my wife, too much of this and control and attention start to be harder to gain. I literally notice a shift in my girls demeanor when the tv is on. They don't listen, they are short and distracted. You can see it, they almost appear to have become more powerful. Its a trip. Discussing amount of time with them beforehand seems to work very well. Define the boundaries and they do great. Just putting the tv on for relief makes it a bit harder to reconcile.
The financial game of switching jobs and roles gets a bit hairy as well. As the one making the money from before I always felt I had a sense of what was happening, now that I am not this person I couldn't feel more distant. We have really had to work on our communication. Multiple bank accounts, multiple people it takes check ins. For us once a week seems to have some success. Everyone is very different here, but the thread that links us all is systems and communication.
Can you attach today and right now to your direction and focus in life? This has been an important home base to operate from for us. Most things have been new that we experience. So does today make sense as a part of the journey or not? If it doesn't fit, we change it. If it seems to be some version of stripes we must earn along the way we stick it out. Some jobs just don't pan out. Its not about failing, its about finding your fit. Some activities with the girls just don't work out, its not a failure, we just look for new ones.
Watching your partner work their way through something your familiar with is quite the adventure. Because I have the exact same journey but completely different on this side. Truly being supportive can sometimes be a challenge, because I feel the other side of the blade as well. As the poem above says we must take turns. We must pursue our own lives, to be better partners. We must have space to grow. The greatest gift we have (our children) joins us. So we must alternate. There is a cadence to this, and we have been figuring it out.
My heart goes out to all the parents that are out working long days to make ends meet. My heart also goes out to the parent that stays home with the children. Both of these are valiant efforts, and for us its about closing the gap on the different experience. Our days are so different, but we are both driving at the same goal. Empathy and Communication are musts in our life. The days we have this present are much better than the ones where it may be lacking. The equation has many variables, but the constants have to be our connection and our availability for each other.