HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? I’m from New York, but I currently live in Seoul, South Korea
NUMBER OF CHILDREN One
DAY JOB I’m an indentured servant to our little boy. He’s a benevolent master, though.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK We have two favorites. The first is On the Night You Were Born. I cannot make it through that story without crying. Every time I get to “if you ever doubt who loves you, how near and how far …” I just lose it. I can’t bear the thought of my son ever doubting that he is loved. Our other favorite is Zen Shorts. Stillwell the panda is a very wise bear.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
My husband and I decided before we started a family that we would only have children if we would be able to arrange our lives so that one of us would be the primary caregiver.
When I got pregnant we both worked full-time, but my position was very flexible and I was going to be able to arrange my work around my life. But then, my husband’s job brought us to Korea before our little one was born, which changed things for me. I ended up leaving my position altogether and am now exclusively a stay-at-home mom, something I’d never imagined as a possibility.
I realize now that I never had enough respect/empathy for stay-at-home moms. It is a blessing to be able to be with our little one, but it is also a challenge. I miss my work, and I think I went through a bit of an identity crisis in the beginning, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Overall, this works for our family.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Before I was a parent, I never feared death. I wasn’t in any rush to die, and I didn’t take unnecessary risks, but I also never worried or thought about my own mortality. Now that I am a mother, my biggest fear is dying before my son is grown. I still don’t fear death in and of itself, but I do fear leaving my little boy. So, I find myself not taking my good health for granted. Things I used to do more for vanity – eat well, exercise, wear sunscreen, etc. – I’m now doing to increase my odds of being around a long time.
The other big change is that I now see virtually every single person I meet as someone’s baby. Not sure how I feel about this change. It’s great on the compassion and empathy fronts, but it does make me feel as though my bleeding heart is going to burst at any moment. I think this will temper over time. I do appreciate this new perspective, but it is hard to operate in the world feeling so tender.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
The overall impact on our relationship has been good. It has certainly brought us closer together. Our birthing experience was just beautiful and I feel like it set the tone for our co-parenting. After his birth, we both had a newfound respect, admiration, appreciation and just a whole new level of love for one another.
But, as every parent knows, any challenges you had in your relationship before a child, are only exacerbated once the child comes. Communication continues to be a challenge for us. We have two very different communication styles, and we come from very different families. Our other challenge is carving out time and energy for each other. Time is becoming easier but energy is still very difficult. After caring for a little human all day long (and one who is still almost completely dependent on me physically) I don’t always have much to give at the end of the day.
We often find ourselves saying “I miss you” to each other. I guess it’s good that we each miss the other. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, yes?
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
This is a hard one. I think my greatest strength is self-awareness. I’ve had to do a lot of work (and still do) to become aware of patterns of behavior from my own upbringing that I did not want to replicate in our family, and I think so far, I’ve done a good job of honestly examining my actions and reactions. I work very hard to always be present for my son, in the moment, and acting from a place of love.
My weaknesses are many.
The two things I need to work on the most are patience and surrender. I get very frustrated, for example, when the little one is teething and in pain and there is little I can do to relieve it. I just have to learn to do my best to comfort him and know that this is totally normal, every child experiences it, and the only way past it is to go through it. And patience … I need to be more patient with myself, with my son, with my husband, with random people walking down the street … patience is a big one for me.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
One of my husband’s strengths is his playful nature. He loves to play and create and build – all great things for children. He and our son have so much fun together. And weaknesses? Well, if I have to pick something, it is a challenge for him to choose the difficult thing that our son needs, when the fun thing is so much easier. For example, before bedtime he needs help winding down, but it’s so much more fun to throw him in the air and listen to him squeal.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
One of the downsides of living on the other side of the world from family and friends is that we do not have the built-in support system that so many new parents do. As of right now, it is just me and my husband who provide childcare.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
Oh dear. My son is only 8 months old, so I’m sure my worst parenting moment is yet to come. Having said that, I’d say I’ve recently been in a series of bad parenting moments. We took a trip to the States to introduce our little guy to his family. My husband was only able to come for a portion of the trip, so I was traveling all over the country and back to Korea by myself.
It was, needless to say, exhausting (single parents are INCREDIBLE human beings!) and by the time we got back, I was just done. Like, capital D done. The week after we got back I was impatient and short with him, quick to frustration, and probably not terribly sensitive to his needs as he struggled to get back into our time zone and routine. Looking back, it was a week of learning. It made clear for me the things I really need to work on.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
Again, I hope this is yet to come. So far, though, I think birthing my son has been my best. I did everything in my power to make sure his transition from belly to world was peaceful and welcoming. Another great moment in my parenting was hiring a housekeeper. Actually, as I gaze upon my freshly-steamed floors, it may have been the best parenting decision ever. I was getting so stressed about taking care of the house and myself and the baby … having someone else come in has not only given me more time, but relieved so much stress. It’s made for a much happier mama, and by extension, baby.