What if I’d never adopted? This is a question I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion, usually after a really tough day with my kid or when I hear my kid-free friends are embarking on some exotic vacation. First I feel envious, then I feel conflicted. I chose this path, right? Not only chose but struggled mightily even when the forces seemed against us. I chose to become a mom when I was well past the age most people become parents, old even by standards in the world of adoption where people opt for single parenthood or decide to adopt after experiencing years of infertility. I was, and I am, at the age when most people want to travel the world, immerse themselves in new hobbies, and hang out more with friends without the “inconvenience” of a child. Hiking in the Himalayan Mountains? Sipping Sauvignon blanc at a bistro in Paris? A quiet weekend at home with my husband? Sounds pretty fantastic until I consider tossing my five-year-old into the mix.
What was I thinking does indeed cross my mind when someone asks: “Have you done the math?” which I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, like somehow it never dawned on me that I’m 10-20 years older than most of the mamas with kids my daughter’s age. In hindsight, I confess many of the scenarios I envisioned will not be possible, at least until our daughter is older and maybe never (though I try to banish the thought) because of some of her personal hurdles. Taking a cruise down the Rhone River with a kid who gets antsy five minutes into a car ride may not be the best idea. Biking through Burgundy? Well, first she has to learn to ride and then what to do with her while we’re putting down a few glasses of Pinot?
Yes, I know lots of families travel all over the world with kids in tow, pursue new hobbies while their toddler sleeps and squeeze in the occasional date night. But part of being an older parent means most of our relatives who might watch our child while we go off on a romantic weekend are gone. School schedules preclude lengthy excursions and it might not be long before hobbies compete with homework.
This said, I frequently take stock of things I’ve done (and do!), places I’ve gone, and people who are my close friends and realize most of it came about because we chose to become parents.
- Travel: We made six trips to Armenia with lengthy stopovers in Paris, Amsterdam, and London. How many people go to Armenia, right? Not to mention those travels were the reason I started Pampers and Pakhlava in the first place–thank you Wanderlust and Lipstick! And we still travel, albeit to less far-flug locales and many times with less-than-favorable results (Go the F**k to Sleep! Sorry Mom.)
- Friends: Many of my friendships in Seattle and beyond exist because—and only because—I decided to become a mom. Had I not walked down the path to motherhood, I never would have sought out the moms group in my neighborhood. I started going to the monthly Mom’s Night Out a couple years before I officially obtained the mom title. Although the founding group has long since disbanded, there are a few of us who still relish that night each month when we head out to Central Cinema, order adult beverages and eat too much popcorn. A number of my friendships are with other adoptive moms. We’ve bonded over stories of our journeys and some of the unique challenges our kids face. I have friends who hoped to adopt and then didn’t, mom-friends in general and close friends who are not moms and never will be. But most of the moms I know, I know because I became one.
- Hobbies: I’ve always loved taking pictures. Along with gardening, birds and being out in nature, photography is one of the hobbies that sustains me. But I would not be one of the Mamas with Cameras if I wasn’t a mama myself. I have learned so much from these women. They challenged me to try a 365 Project, answer my many random questions, and are an ever-constant source of inspiration. Just like Mom’s Night Out, I was a regular at their monthly meet-ups before we adopted our daughter. I remember how hard it was, at the end of each meeting, when moms would pass around photos of their kids at a time when being a mom was just a glint in my eye.
Would my life be equally rich had I not become a parent? I’m absolutely sure it would be, different of course, but I know there would be outlets for my passions, close friends and activities I love. I would travel, though it’s unlikely Armenia would have been on my itinerary. But I definitely would not be the person I am now, which is why—for better or worse—I’m grateful this is the direction I chose when I came to the fork in the road.
It’s all about the journey,