Sunday, July 09, 2006

Letting People Down

A guest editorial from Karen Marsh

I just had to make a decision, together with my husband, with no good options to choose from. The best advice I received was from my neighbor, who looked me in the eye and said something along the lines of "If you need to make a hard decision for yourself, one that impacts you in a deep and true way, choosing what is best for you is going to be what is best for others." Hearing this was soothing to my soul. When we first faced the decision, which was whether or not to go through with the adoption of two sweet and wonderful girls who have been living with us for the past 3 days, my husband's heartfelt input was, "We made a commitment to these girls. I don't like it, but I think we owe it to them to uphold that commitment." And I think that was also a very valid statement, but it made me sick to my stomach to hear it.

In the time since my husband first made that comment, we have talked at length, and he has talked about his tendency to react to tough demands on himself by ducking down his head and ploughing through, out of duty. I have done that at times too, and I suppose we both know we are capable of doing it. Sometimes you do it because you know that what you're doing will help someone else, or you just got yourself into something that's going to be pretty hard to get out of. I did it to get through summer as a girl scout camp assistant director. I know that my husband has done it to get him through things that were important to me. So, the question is, is it a good practice? I think sometimes yes and most times no. I think it can work for something that has a defined end, preferably not too far off, but if you're not happy, it's going to come out in many ways -- it's like trying to keep a pot from bubbling over if it's too full over a hot flame. You can't. That hot liquid will seep out the top and spill over. And the longer you keep that flame burning, the more likely you are to have a boil-over.

So, how does all this relate to StuntMom? Well, I wrote an article about the importance of acting as a "private instructor" for your kids a little while back, which sparked a bit of dialogue, and it came to mind as I was getting through this. If the choice to stay home with kids or continue to work outside the home affects you in a deep and true way, I think you need to make the choice that enables you to live the life you want to live. I guess that in the end, I am going to concur with a fellow StuntMom reader/contributor, who said it in another way -- "Happy parents make happy kids." I do still think, though, that my neighbor's wise words can be abused. After all, you could use them to justify just about any choice. But we do all know when something hits us in the deepest spot it can. It was a feeling that I hadn't felt for a long time and that I hated to remember. Now that we have reached our decision, I still feel awful, but I no longer feel sick.

In closing, I think I need to explain why the adoption idea started to feel bad, though I still don't know how it will be explained to the girls. Fortunately, there are experts involved who will be guiding the process. In essence, it had nothing to do with the girls and everything to do with me. And yes, all the people who warned us that we were getting in over our heads were right. I am embarassed that I couldn't see that before I was in the thick of it. We have two birth children, ages 2 and 4, and the girls we planned to adopt are 3 and 5. We had not visited with the girls for longer than 5 waking hours at a time until this last visit which decided everything. This time, we were to have them visit for 4 days, and then the girls were going to move in permanently after going back to their old home for 4 last days. The first full day with the girls was honestly the first time I had any doubts about what we were doing, and they were big, heavy thoughts that slammed into me like a Mac truck. All the habits, wants and interests of the girls seemed so different than the routine that we have established over our years together -- it was strangely unsettling and felt like a runaway train. Also, I had really done the math wrong on the volume of work involved. A second child definitely didn't double our work-load. In fact, it now seems easier to have two than one, but with 4 in the house, it seemed that the volume of work increased tenfold; and the number of accidents, too. Of course, there's much more to it, and I've already gone on too long. Bottom line is that maybe I could have worked to bring our worlds together, to love the girls as my own (and I do already care about them deeply), and to reign in some of the tendencies that have likely grown out of the hard knocks they've already been dealt in life, but I think that I would be giving up much more of myself than would feel good, and I think too many other important aspects of my life, and my interactions with important people in my life, would suffer.

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