Why My Son Has Siblings (as featured on BlogHer Moms)

At the age of 3, I was given a gift, a sweet sister. Like most older siblings, I didn’t always feel like she was a gift.

My sister went from being a young toddler following my every move and adoring me to being fiercely independent as a teenager. Lots of hair pulling and squabbles over small things, like our Barbie Doll collection is what I can recall from our childhood.

We lived together as young children then lived through the divorce of our parents. Together, we made a big move to Manhattan in 1980, significantly and visually very different from our suburban home located just 25 miles away.

My sister visited me at the University of Wisconsin-Madison my freshman year and later took my cue and went away to college too, far away from an ever-changing and often stressful family life – first she went to school in Bridgeport, Connecticut and then to Tuscon, Arizona as a transfer student in her sophomore year. 

At age 20, her life and dreams were cut short in the hands of a mentally unstable acquaintance who robbed and then stabbed her and her boyfriend. That was 1991. Watching criminal justice in action in a Tuscon courtroom, significant time to grieve plus a strong support network of sibling survivors of homicide, I have been able to move on.

Through my 20s and up to age 39, I could have begun my own family. I wasn’t ready though. I had ambition and a long bucket list: 1) complete my MBA while working long days in the computer industry, 2) rise up the corporate ladder, and 3) travel with every free moment and dollar I had. 

I was married much of that time though I knew that to have children of my own I would need both a supportive partner and a true desire to give both my time and knowledge to raising a child to grow up to be an accomplished person. My first husband was not that partner. I found that partner in early 2006, we married in December that year.

Having a healthy boy the following year at age 40 and seeing him meet all of his milestones in babyhood was exciting. I felt very accomplished and strong.

Once he was a year old, I began to think about my own status again. I am now considered an only child, having lost my sister in young adulthood. I am also a daughter of a mother who was an only child. She was the sole caregiver for her mother who lived to age 89 and also has no siblings to grow old with. Fast forward and my story would be similar.

Our son should have a sibling, my husband and I agreed. He has 3: two younger brothers and a younger sister. At my age of 41, that proved to be a challenge. I was determined and had my husband’s unwavering support and the amazing encouragement of friends and my temple congregation. 

2009 and 2010 had many highs and lows as we tried to grow our family. Pregnancy followed by miscarriage, three times. A fertility treatment and the challenge of learning how to become a foster and adoptive parent, at the same time during the Spring of 2010, was stressful though giving up was not a choice for us. 

Today our son has 2 siblings: a sister who came into our lives as a tiny infant foster child, an emergency placement and now is our strong, energetic and engaging 2 and a-half-year-old adoptive daughter. She will start preschool this fall.

The miracle baby boy born in September 2011 and now 19 months old, conceived naturally on New Year’s Eve when there was no pressure. He is 25 pounds of happiness, 16 teeth, and loads of smiles.

Our oldest is now five years old, finishing his kindergarten year. He reads, writes cursive letters in French, and plays the cello. He is a confident, bright boy with ambitions of being a spacecraft designer or Egyptologist. His preferences change weekly! 

He plays and teaches his siblings new things daily. They get along well most of the time. They hold hands as we walk together. He will grow up with siblings and his life and ours will be richer because of it.

Cash Flow Then and Now

 

Budgeting!

Budgeting!

It is widely recognized that having and raising kids is expensive. From healthcare to childcare, clothing and toys, most parents make adjustments in their spending budget during planning for having kids and once children arrive.

Because I am analytical, the idea of comparing household budgets from 2003 to 2013 was a really interesting project. (My first child was born in 2007 and I had no plans to have children back in 2003.)

Budgets are stored in spreadsheets (not unlike business or project budgets) but many families use software and online tools like Quicken or Mint to do the same exercise. Really interesting findings.

Pre-kid budgets are filled with numerous entertainment budget line items. in 2003 there were budgets for going out to the movies and dinner. (When was the last time I as a member of a couple with 3 kids 5 and under went to a movie theatre. Did I go at all in 2012 or 2013? Not sure.) Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Red Box are more common today anyway for all lifestyles, with or without kids.

Travel, including overseas vacations and cross-country trips to see family had big budgets in 2003. The speedometer went from 60 m.p.h. to 0 by choice. (I say that I will start to venture out with kids when a) all are potty trained, b) they can go all day without a nap and c) each can carry their own luggage.)

Dining out or taking out. Few fine dining experiences for my family of 5 these days. Take out once or twice per week is as close as we get to a restaurant. We avoid fast food for our kids and try making simple home cooked meals instead. Our grocery basket is fuller and the kids grow.

Education, both for daycare/preschool and saving for college are the biggest new line items in our household. My husband and I work full time and early childhood education is our priority. Our childcare expenses run year round. In 2003 I had completed paying of my graduate school loan by contrast.

Saving for our retirement. Yes, both then and now. Fortunately a lot more saving then, plus the effects of compounding interest and a few good years in the stock market.

Pet budgets for grooming, boarding, vet care, vitamins, and fancy food are now gone. While we mourned our dog Fluffernutter’s passing in 2011 and miss him greatly, we don’t miss the bills. We’ve elected to wait to get another dog until our oldest is at least 10 years old and can help us care for a dog.

What other changes have you made in your household budget?

If you’d like to see the highly usable budget worksheet write us and we’d be glad to share it with you.

Multilingual Dreams

Long before I had children, I had a dream. If I had kids, I would give them an international education, including significant exposure to other cultures and early language immersion. My understanding that such a background provides no better foundation for being a global citizen and many unique skills, no matter what paths they take in life. Fortunately I live in Austin and it’s 2013.

Like so many other kids of my generation, I studied Spanish starting in the 7th grade. An American teacher with the best intentions but a poor accent left me able to read much Spanish but speak little. In high school in New York City my teacher was a native of Spain and took us on field trips to Spanish live theatre productions. My accent and listening improved but I had limited use for Spanish outside of some family travel to Latin America.

Had I studied French as a child I likely would have qualified to enter the United Nations International School in New York City. I was not admitted since I spoke no French as I moved there and entered the ninth grade. (This is no longer a requirement I read.)

The French school, Lycée Français de New York was across the street from the small, private school I attended from 9th through 11th grade. I enjoyed walking past their school on my way home during my teen years, listening to my peers speak the beautiful French language. I still think about it, now in my mid 40s.

Two of my close friends during my senior year of high school were from Tokyo. Emi and Noriko shared a lot of their culture, food with me and I became fascinated with the Japanese language. In the mid-1980s, Japan’s economy was booming. Japanese multinational firms like Toyota and Sony were gaining significant market share and established a large presence in the U.S. Japan was in the business news daily. I was motivated to learn more and was encouraged by my parents.

In college I decided that I wanted to spend a semester in Japan, learn about Japanese business first-hand and get to see my good friends again. Learning Japanese in college was a big challenge and I only progressed a bit when in the country and when native speakers had limited English proficiency and took the time to talk with me, slowly. Living with a family outside of Osaka was an incredible opportunity. The Kajis opened their home and lives to me, an American 20-year-old, who at 5’9” with blonde hair. I was certainly noticed by the neighbors and fortunately made friends easily. I learned a great deal and had some of the best times of my life in Japan.

I went on to work for Japanese multinational companies based in New York and California in my 20s, leveraging all that I had learned as a young adult. My experiences grew and were valued.

What if I had I been exposed to other cultures and languages earlier in life? What other path might I have gone down?

I want to do better for my children and give them this incredible multicultural and multilingual advantage sooner in life, starting at age 3.

Sharon’s son attends the Austin International School and her daughter will start this fall.

 

 

 

 

The Past is Prologue

By Sharon Munroe

I came of age in the 1980s, an exuberant time in international business. My aspirations were to jump on the corporate ladder and quickly climb it as my father and grandfather had done. I was inspired and motivated for career success. I chose a joint challenge of doing this in New York City first and as a woman in a Japanese multinational company.

My boyfriend during those early post-collegiate years had similar aspirations though a very different background. Our common ground was that we wanted to move fast and gain great business experience in New York; his chosen field was executive search. We excelled at work and got rewards for our achievement. After four years together, we decided to marry. Marriage at 27 was a compliment and not a deterrent to our dreams.

Few people who knew my husband and I very well ever asked if we had kids or were planning to start a family. It rarely came up. We were living in New York, New Jersey and Southern California, moving for better job opportunities and gaining rich experiences. We worked hard and played hard, traveling to Europe and South America when we had extra time and money.

It was only when I was asked did I offer my personal life plans. None of them included having kids. We never wavered in this choice and I felt this way until age 38 when we grew apart and separated. No regrets. I was glad of our decision when we divorced. I never looked back and was ready to start a new chapter of my life. A new journal was waiting to be filled. That’s where this project comes in.

One Path to Motherhood at Age 40

Fresh out of a midwestern university with my college degree, I took the first plane back to New York City to launch my career. I was going to leverage my degree in journalism and public relations and experience of living in Japan as an exchange student in corporate communications for a leading Japanese electronics company. It was 1989. Working high above Fifth Avenue I learned a great deal about myself and what I wanted. I wanted to be that career girl. I dated, had fun weekends with friends but ultimately my 20s were a time to learn a trade. No thoughts of starting a family or a timeline to do so.

As somewhat of a traditionalist, at age 27 I married my longtime boyfriend on New Year’s Eve 1994 in a ballroom overlooking the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. We had fun, enjoying our honeymoon, and vacations that took us all throughout the U.S. and abroad.My work took me to Central New Jersey. His job transferred us to Southern California. There I worked some 55 hours per week on a high-volume marketing communications team promoting the latest notebook computers during a fast-growth period for that industry. I worked on a MBA degree at night and got to travel with my class to Hong Kong and China just as the two were re-uniting as one country in 1997. Still no thoughts about starting a family though I was frequently asked about my plans.During the spring before my 30th birthday, I got an interesting email about a job opening in e-commerce marketing in Austin. I had been developing the website for my firm for the past year and online selling was the new frontier. I had never stepped foot in Texas before, unless you count changing planes at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I got a job offer on the spot. Life in Austin was exciting. We worked hard and played hard. I never learned so much in such a short period of time about e-marketing and then in 1998 my new passion, marketing research.

In the dot com boom of 2000, I ventured out from my corporate life into one of being a marketing research consultant. I had a rich toolkit and incredible technology clients who valued my experience and taught me a great deal. Little by little I was home fewer and fewer nights. Business took me throughout the U.S. to work with clients and to supervise their research. My husband traveled for his job as well. We tried to coordinate our schedules to not have to board our dogs and to see one another on weekends. Eventually we grew apart and separated in late 2005. I was 38 and had no regrets. I was moving on. I looked and felt young and was ready to find love again. I was financially stable and confident.

I dated a lot and found what I was looking for quickly. A man who was loving and caring. A man who knew much more than me about children, being the oldest of 4. He has cherished relationships with his parents and siblings. They have strong Irish roots and early on suggested that we all travel to Ireland to the family homestead. (We did later in 2009, which was a memorable trip.)  I could be a part of this family and start my own. I was ready. We married in 2006 and began to try to have a family. I was 39 and birthed my first son at 40.

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A Milestone Moment

Each year with our children there are memorable moments small and large. There are “firsts” such as first smile, first tooth, and many other special times to commemorate in our minds and in our photos. Little things mean a lot too.

On Monday my oldest son turns five. This feels like a milestone. He is now capable of doing so much – having conversations, asking questions, learning, running, and even helping me and his dad around the house when we ask. He voluntarily holds his two-year-old sister’s hand when we are together in a parking lot. Five is a milestone for many capabilities.

  • I visited his kindergarten classroom this week to read to the class as many parents do throughout the year. They sat quietly for most of the 20 minutes I was there. They commented on the material and were attentive.  The children thanked me!
  • As background my son is the youngest in the class with all of the others having turned five already. They were wonderful!
  • (Rewind to just one year ago and this was not the case at all when they were all four.)

Five is a major achievement for parents I feel.

I appreciate every step we’ve taken together in the last 60 months. We’ve learned a lot and have a lot to celebrate too…over Spiderman cake and juice this weekend.

What are the major milestones you have observed? How do you feel about them?

 

Happy Adoption Day!

By Sharon Munroe

It finally happened. Adoption Day was yesterday. What is Adoption Day about? With our attorney and caseworker, Jasmine, my husband and I went to court.

We were in a special small courtroom – one with a very different feel. Balloons, a cake and new stuffed animals were placed near the judges desk. Everyone was smiling!

After our attorney asked my husband, me and Jasmine’s case worker some questions about the petition to adopt – the written request – we got a big smile from the judge who said “yes, the adoption is granted.”

Then, again like in no other courtroom, we got to take photos, with our family friend and the judge.

One smiley two year old – formerly a foster child – is now our very own daughter. Her t-shirt says

  • Loved
  • Chosen
  • Dream Come True
  • Priceless
  • Yes, I’m Adopted

T-shirt from The Adoption Bug.

In Anticipation of an Adoption

Jazzy and Mommy

Almost Adopted

 

By Sharon Munroe

Our journey in fostering and adopting one sweet little girl began over two years ago. There are many twists and turns to our path but now we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Adoption Day is one week from tomorrow.

I never gave up hope that this day would come and that Jazzy would be a permanent part of our family. Her big brother started calling her “sister” as soon as he knew the word. At first I wasn’t certain that they would be forever siblings.

Jazzy is already having a full life with two loving parents and her older brother and baby brother (now 11 months and almost as tall as she is at age 2). They all really play together!

She has grandparents (6! including a great grandmother (a GiGi)). Her birth father came to our home to celebrate her birthday, which was special. We hope he will want to stay in her life. She has friends at daycare and through our social activities as a family.

More to come about this miraculous story…after I turn the page called Adoption Day.

Facts about the Advanced Maternal Age Motherhood

Ready, now in paperback by Elizabeth Gregory

Ready, now in paperback by Elizabeth Gregory

We’ve shared that we find the book Ready by University of Houston professor Elizabeth Gregory to be relevant to our lives in so many ways. Dr. Gregory has just published this acclaimed book as a paperback and updated the preface with some new facts about what she calls “the new later motherhood” (and we call Advanced Maternal Age (AMA). Here are some excerpts from the 2012 paperback.

Some new facts:

  • One in 12 women starts her family later, after age 35, versus just one in 100 in 1970.
  • The overall birth rate fell between 2007 and 2010 fell 7% and most of the decline can be attributed to younger women waiting out the economic downturn. There will be more AMA moms likely as there is often a lag in such trends.
  • In the same period, 2007-2010, birth rates among women ages 40-44 rose 8%. (Data comes from the CDC Natality Statistics.)
  • For first births at age 35+, moms’ ethnicity was 9.05% White, 5.21% African-American, 5.37% Hispanic, 2.27% American Indian and Alaska Native, and 13.3% Asian-American.
  • The average age is 25.2% for a first birth in America.

We’ll be sharing more highlights from this important book soon.

Survey about Adoption Attitudes and Beliefs

Oxygen Media has produced 6-part program on Adoption, focusing on open adoption. Real birth parents, adoptive parents and case workers are highlighted and we get to see the range of issues and emotions, with special focus on the birth moms.

As part of the documentary’s development, a survey was conducted and here are the top line results:

Key findings indicate that there is new openness among Americans around the complex topic of Adoption in America.

The survey, which interviewed more than 1000 people between the ages of 18 and 49 concluded that women are still slightly ahead of their male counterparts when it comes to embracing adoption:

 

  • 97 percent of both genders agree that adoption is a good adoption for those who can’t have biological children;
  • 91 percent of participants noted that adoption gives the child a chance of a better life;
  • 90 percent feel the main reason to adopt is teen pregnancy;
  • 90 percent of females feel it is more socially acceptable to adopt children of different races than in previous times, while 84 percent of males surveyed felt that way;
  • 86 percent of women polled indicated that they are open to single parents adopting a child (compared to 77 percent of males);
  • 73 percent are open to gay and lesbian couples adopting, versus 62 percent of males;
Study sponsor was Oxygen and it conducted by Lightspeed Research.

Read more about this new TV program