Just four months ago, the thought of having two kids slightly terrified me. We were in a groove then, Mike, Ryan and I. Each of us had an abundance of opportunities for quality one-on-one time with each other. Ryan and I had all day, Mike and Ryan had every evening, and Mike and I had regular weekend date nights.
In many ways, it felt ideal. Looking back now, my new perspective tells me the idealistic part for me was the ability to experience parenthood without it really, truly running every aspect of our lives. Even with all the one-on-one time I had with my kid, I didn’t feel like just a mom. I also felt like a wife, a friend and a writer. I felt like I had layers, I had balance.
One of my biggest fears about going from one kid to two was the way it would divide my attention, both away from Ryan and yes, selfishly, away from myself.
I worried my relationship with Ryan would suffer because I’d have less time for him. I worried about all the moments that might have been that he and I would now miss because there would be another person to consider.
I didn’t expect the opposite to happen. That the lower quantity of time with him would lead to greater quality. That although there are only fleeting moments throughout the week when Ryan and I are alone together – 20 minutes here, an hour there – that I have made a conscious decision to make the absolute most of every second of it.
When Ryan and I are alone together, I listen more closely to his questions and I give more thoughtful answers. We snuggle more, we connect more, I say “yes” more.
Strangely, I think I enjoy Ryan even more now than I did before we welcomed our foster son into our home a few months ago. Maybe I’m paying closer attention to the moments I have with him because we no longer have the luxury of every moment alone together during the day. Or maybe it’s simply the timing of things, the way he has sort of grown into himself, hitting an age where he began naturally maturing right at the same time that the huge adjustment of welcoming a foster brother into his life shone a spotlight on his wonderfully sensitive and nurturing nature.
I also worried I would lose a big piece of myself in the all-consuming experience of learning how to parent two children, one of whom I would need to play a major game of catch-up with. And sure, some things have lost my focus. These days, I often do feel like just a mom. I work less and I make less money. The depth of my layers has shallowed and my balance is all out-of-whack. Interactions with friends almost always take place over play dates in which deep conversation is all but impossible. A “date night” now almost always ends when either Mike or I falls asleep on the couch halfway through a show on Netflix.
I didn’t expect to feel ok about that, though. Before we parented two kids, I knew how quickly these years of early parenthood can fly by, but I understood it in the traditional gosh–I-can’t-believe-how-big-he’s-getting! sort of way. Sure, I tried to be as present as possible, but I also took for granted that if I screwed up today, we always had tomorrow. It felt like I could afford to be short on patience now and then. I could waste a day. I could work too much and let Ryan watch too much TV. I could sacrifice a few moments with my kid in the name of the all-important work-life balance. And I consistently forgave myself for it because, in my mind, we always had tomorrow to do it better, to do it right.
Becoming a foster family has highlighted the fact that tomorrow is never guaranteed. I have to think in terms of right now. The room for error in my parenting feels much tighter. Not only is my time with Ryan abbreviated, but the time I have to make a positive impact in my foster son’s life feels exceedingly compact. So right now, we focus on parenting and we allow the bulk of everything else to shift to the back burner.
And that’s ok. I believe that life is all about seasons. Some seasons are meant for focusing on yourself, some seasons are meant for focusing on your career, and other seasons are meant for focusing on family. We’re in a family season right now. My attention may have divided or shifted drastically this year, but I think for now, it’s pointed in the right direction.