For most of my life I rejected the idea of having a child. Not out of fear, but more out of a sense of the tremendous responsibility involved. I learned my ’tremendous sense of responsibility’ from my parents, who adopted me in May of 1968. I have known about my adoption all my life. My parents chose me and had to go through a very conscious and lengthy evaluation process that actually included more than one opportunity to return me to the Children’s Home Society in Virginia. It was a process all parents would do well to experience, one that included a review of their financial stability, ability to care for and raise a child, background checks, and monthly visits from a social worker for the first six months of the adoption. All adoptions may not be as successful as my own, but prospective parents have to qualify to be adoptive parents and those who have second thoughts have more than one chance to opt out of the process. Too often pregnancy just happens - I am a case in point - and new parents are truly unprepared for the responsibility involved - a case in point yet again. Some situations are ugly, where the parents of the pregnant woman go to extreme measures to be sure their ‘shame’ is hidden by forcing an adoption - yes, me again.
I came to parenthood well prepared, and am in awe of the process, but I am not overwhelmed. I see too many overwhelmed parents, parents who are overwhelmed either by financial struggles or the struggles to raise a unique and separate individual who may, or may not, get along with his/her parents. Parenting requires tremendous energy, planning, resource management and constant focus. Love is the easy part, but you can’t pay a mortgage or for quality education with love. Like so many others before and after me, I have newfound respect for my parents and their efforts on my behalf. They were prepared - and my positive and healthy childhood and adulthood reflect their good intentions and wise decision making. I firmly believe much of their success as parents was due to the fact that they were older parents and people who had to work through a stringent process to bring a child into their home. At the time of my adoption, my mother was 27 and my father was 33. He worked for a corporation until he was 45, then he quit and started his own home building business in Greensboro, North Carolina (1980) so he would not have to spend weeks at a time away from his family. My mother stayed home, working only briefly at one time in my pre-teen life. When we moved to North Carolina, she became a realtor and my parents worked in the building business together. I worked for my father from 1980 until I entered college in 1986. My parents were always available and always active in my life.
My own journey to parenthood did not begin until I was 35. By then I had ended my 10 year marriage, found my birth parents, established my career, and reached a place in my life where I felt I was clear about who I was rather than who I was becoming. I had plenty of resources and had met the love of my life, a successful, happy woman named Betsy, who had had a journey similar to my own;married for a long time, divorced, no children, and well established in a career. We met each other in the fall of 2003 and she became pregnant with Maya in May of 2004. Of the many hours we spent talking about the model for parenting that made the most sense, we concluded that should parenting require one of us to stay home, one of us wouldbut first we would try keeping both our careers going, especially since mine would allow me to work most of my hours from home and look after Maya at the same time. It actually worked well for the first year, because Maya was mostly about the business of sleeping and eating and I could work chunks of time undisturbed early in the morning and late at night, but by the second year it was becoming clear that two careers and a child were not going to result in excellence in all facets of my life.
In September of 2007 it was apparent that I needed to quit my position at the university to be a full time, stay at home parent. Betsy’s career was continuing to grow, her income and earning potential were far greater than mine, and she preferred to be the working parent. Even before we found out she was pregnant, I had in fact told her that I would prefer to be the stay at home parent. Following my parents’ model and based on my own observation of family today, I have come to believe deeply that one parent should be at home caring for the child and the home - and it needs to be the parent who wants that role. I know that I am certainly a minority; a recent day running errands in the middle of the day in the middle of the week revealed a 30 to 1 ratio of women to me - not women to men, in most places I went it was 30 to me.
I continue to look forward to a role where I can concentrate on the care of my child and the management of our home. To truly care for a home takes time, especially when one day of cleaning caneasily be undone by active young hands in less than an hour. What have I learned? Choosing to be a parent who wants to give his/her child the best opportunities requires more than love. It requires a deeply conscious choice to parent, involving solid financial management and the recognition that your child will spend more time away from you than with you if you do not choose to have one parent stay home. Families are more isolated in our modern, fast paced society and children even more so as so many parents maintain two incomes just to have a family. I know that Maya would much rather have my time than another new toy. She could care less about the luxury SUV we could afford with both incomes if she can have me read a book to her in the middle of the day. She would much rather have me happy, rested, and patient with her than worn out from an eight to ten hour work day. This I have learned and I hope my experiences will help others who are struggling with the same sorts of considerations I had to address when working to achieve the very worthwhile goal of responsible parenthood.
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Written by Philip Young