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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Having It All Project: Leslie and Adrian Gonzalez

Okay, so it's the day after Valentine's Day, but you're all still feeling the love, right? So in the interest of all things sappy, I offer up Leslie and Adrian Gonzales, one of my favorite couples. Parents to four children from a seventh grader down to a pre-kindergartner, they share below how they make it work. Here's how Leslie and Adrian are having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Leslie: I live a very simple life. I have a traditional marriage where my husband works and I am ‘home’ with the kids. In today’s world, I believe that is unique. I actually feel very fortunate regarding my decision to stay at home for 2 reasons: I can stay home, financially speaking; and I want to stay home. In fact, even though I worked very hard in school and went to a great college, my ultimate dream and goal was to be a mom and be at home with my kids. I never had any conflict with my decision to stop working.


Adrian: I am a first-generation American of Cuban decent, who grew up Catholic and speaking Spanish in Brooklyn, NY, above the bodega my father and uncles owned. My paternal grandfather was illiterate, my father got as far as the 5th grade, and I‘m a Cornell grad with a degree in engineering.

I met my wife Leslie almost 20 years ago in the Arizona desert, and today we have four beautiful children who don’t speak Spanish (my fault) but are learning Hebrew, and I am as Jewish as you can be without being an official member of the tribe. I even keep kosher at home, except when my Cuban genes flare up and I sneak in a rack of pork ribs (outside the house, of course).

My ancestors cut sugarcane in Cuba. I write a blog and host an online video talk show.

Unfortunately, as you can see, there is nothing really unique about my life.


What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 
Leslie: Keeping it ‘simple.’ With 4 kids, that is not easy, but it’s necessary. It is very easy to get caught up in the parenting frenzy of over-scheduling kids in the name of doing what’s best for them. But I firmly believe that less is more. It is good for kids to feel ‘bored’ sometimes and to figure out how to entertain themselves. Our job as parents is not to constantly entertain our children, or model them into the best athlete, artist, Spanish-speaking mathematician.

In addition, the kids know that our family is a team and we all need to chip in and help out around the house. So, each of the children has a designated ‘job’ and they are also responsible for taking care of their personal items.

I also make sure I have some time to myself- exercising is very important to me. I’ve always made time for it by either getting up very early in the morning, or exercising while they’re at school.

And finally: Carpooling!


Adrian: Taking a step back and realizing that there are plenty of people in this world who would gladly trade their chaos for mine.

If that fails, I shut down email, give up on multi-tasking, and focus on getting just one thing done for the day. Better to finish something than nothing.

Learn to say “No” more often (except to my wife). I don’t do it enough, but I should. There’s only so much chaos a person can handle in a day.


Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Leslie: My oldest daughter and I joined a mother-daughter book club when she was in third grade. At the first meeting, the girls were asked to introduce their moms, and tell a bit about them. My daughter introduced me and had no idea what to say about me. The other 4 mothers in the group all work- either part time or fulltime. I’m the only one that does not have an outside career. All the girls were introducing their moms by her career. Having my daughter stare at me with nothing to say honestly broke my heart. I felt awful…

From the time my kids were born, I was volunteering: for Hadassah, for my Temple, for the Nursery school, and elementary schools. It was my outlet for exercising my brain and keeping contact with the adult world all while contributing to making the world a better place.

When my daughter had nothing to say about me, I knew that I had to start educating my kids about what I do during the day, why I am ‘playing’ on the computer, what meetings I’m going to at night and why. I want them to know that although I really love my full-time mommy/ wife job cleaning, cooking and schlepping, there is more to me than just those things.
 

Adrian: I threw up just about every morning during the spring semester of my junior year in college, and I barely ate for a few weeks, losing 10 pounds (which I couldn’t afford to lose) in the process. I think I was depressed, either by all of the crazy engineering courses I was taking, by the long distance relationship I was having with a girl who was all wrong for me, or by both.

I got through it by calling my parents one night and letting it all out. It felt good to complain out loud. I think it was the first time they had ever heard me complain, which is why my sister called me the next morning to tell me everyone in the family was worried about me – and that several care packages were heading my way.

When the semester ended, and the day after I broke up with my girlfriend, I spent a long weekend with my friend Jonathan at Lake Powell. Jonathan and I were roommates freshman year, and then
he went off to Japan on a religious mission, so I hadn’t seen him in two years. Maybe it was being in the company of a good friend (who years later would be my best man), or spending a few days away
from civilization, but when I got back to shore, I vowed never to let anything or anyone drag me to the point of vomiting every morning ever again. And I’ve been happy ever since.


Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 
Leslie: No, not really… I think it’s just how I was raised- the values instilled by my parents. I do avoid doing too much- but by the time there’s a sport, religious school and an instrument, you can see that that is pretty much impossible!
 

Adrian: I avoid yoga.

In terms of balance role models, I look up to my wife. She doesn’t give herself enough credit, but managing a household with four young kids (five if you count me) plus managing all of the volunteer work she does is inspiring. The first time she went away with her mom and sister for a long weekend and left me in charge, I nearly collapsed from exhaustion trying to keep the kids and house in order. And that was just the first hour.


Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Leslie: That’s a tough question… I don’t seem to remember much! Just snapshots over the years! I think my life is generally as I had expected while the specifics are a little different. When I was 18, I fully expected to fall in love and marry someone who was Jewish. Well, that didn’t happen- but I fell in love with and married my best friend. The fact that he is not Jewish but open to a Jewish life has also created an unexpected outcome- we live MORE Jewishly than I did growing up and more than I expected I would as an adult. Because he didn’t grow up Jewish, we learned together, created a Jewish home together and chose our own traditions independent of family pressure. I am very proud of the Jewish life we have created for our family.


Adrian: When I was 18, the future seemed so far away, like Pluto, which was still a planet back then. Aside from hoping that one day I would fall in love with a girl who would fall in love with me, I didn’t spend much time thinking about the future. Maybe I wanted to be surprised. And what a pleasant surprise it has been.

Relate to what Leslie and Adrian are saying? Leave them some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

3 comments:

  1. Love the post! LOVE THE POST! Having it all. What a wonderful couple, and watching them in real life is amazing!

    Thank you so much for interviewing them, and for them opening up.

    Thank you to all of you.

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  2. Thank you for a post from a traditional family. Leslie is my soul mate (except for the part about exercise...;).)

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  3. you both are looking really great, nice couple. God bless both of you and yes thank you for sharing your post.

    ReplyDelete