Friday, December 27, 2013
The Having It All Project: Robin Adwin
"I want to thank you for this blog and The Having It All project. It has been an inspiration. Reading the stories of other working mothers has given me the confidence to stop sacrificing my career ambitions and the courage to believe I can have my dream job and this amazing family."
And it gave me the inspiration I needed to make a year-long commitment to the Project. Thank you Robin. I hope lots of others have been inspired too. I'll be wrapping up the series in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
And now, here's how Robin is having it all.
Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I don’t actually believe that our family is unique. My husband and I work full-time jobs away from the home with occasional overtime. We are the parents of an amazing, insightful, and loving five-year old boy and exuberant boy/girl twins who are just shy of two years old.
When the Having It All project started I never imagined myself being in a position where I could contribute. Life was complete and total chaos. I was searching for a job at the end of maternity leave. I was struggling to get everyone fed and clean and clothed amidst a whirling dervish of chaos. One year later I do believe I am “having it all.” I still have a wonderful husband with whom I share a deep love. I have three beautiful children and am getting enough sleep to recognize that fact. My career is full of successes. I have a job that I love; I am a thesis advisor to a Master of Interior Design candidate; and I am in a position to hire and build a team at my office. I even occasionally find time for myself to practice yoga or take a bubble bath.
What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Being a dual-income family means that the mornings and the evenings can be hectic and I do not want to spend what little time I get with my kids being a giant bundle of stress. I probably make it harder on myself, too, because I love to cook and I try to avoid take-out meals. Sometimes this means that dinner is hot dogs and frozen french fries prepared by me but cooked by someone else; the point is for the kids to see the food coming from our kitchen and to gather the family together at the table for a meal. Due to this priority for me, I have devised some strategies in addition to the hot dog meals. I make a menu for the week, identifying each kids’ breakfast, snack, lunch and then the family dinner. Now that the twins are older and can eat everything we eat, all three kids have the same breakfast and similar lunches. One night a week we have an “easy” family dinner, either tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or a kid-friendly version of wine and cheese with crackers, cheese, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and nuts. On Sundays I prepare food for the kids to take for snacks and lunches at school/daycare.
Another strategy that has seen us through some tough times was learning to ask for help and learning to accept help in whatever form it arrives. I received generous help from friends and family through the years in the form of home-cooked meals delivered to our porch, free babysitting, and one friend who visited frequently with the sole purpose of folding the children’s laundry and a secondary benefit of providing company. Accepting help was the easier step. Asking for help was a bigger challenge, but a necessity.
My husband and I are self-admitted control-freaks; the twins are tornadoes of destruction. Obviously we have had to let go of our control on a lot of things. But there was only so much mess we could handle, so we hired a wonderful person to come into our home and clean it every other week. As mentioned above, it took some soul-searching to admit we needed the help and seek it out. Now we budget the money for this service and it has saved my sanity.
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
I feel like something breaks down every single day. However, I think it truly broke down the first six months of the twins’ life. They were born prematurely and were tiny but strong. Unfortunately I suffered a serious complication that left me weak for months and unable to even hold my new babies until they were 36 hours old. I spent a week in the hospital recovering, visiting my newborns once a day because I was too exhausted for more than that, and missing my husband and older son terribly. Once I went home I had to rely on my husband, my family and my friends to take care of me and my older son. I was simultaneously guilty and thankful that the twins had to spend two more weeks in the NICU building up their strength. I was so weak I could barely walk up the stairs to get in our house. I had post-traumatic stress coupled with post-partum hormones. I could not think more than a day ahead. I was just surviving and doing that took all the energy I could muster.
And then the twins came home. My daughter was a cuddle bug and needed to be held all the time. I felt like I was neglecting her twin brother. I had to adjust to listening to her cry so that I could prepare food for myself, make bottles for the twins, and do all the other things you have to do to support yourself and two newborns in their first months of life.
I got through it with the love and a considerable amount of help from my friends and my family. I saw a therapist once a week. I attended twin-specific mother groups. I signed up for a visiting mom through Jewish Family and Children’s Services. I got a Sleepy Wrap, which is a variation on the Moby Wrap specifically for premature babies, so that I could do necessary chores while giving my daughter the snuggles she required. I availed myself of every resource I could possibly find and forced myself to socialize and interact with other people…until I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. My daughter started sleeping through the night when she was 10 months old. The twins’ nursing reduced from every hour down to several hours between feedings. I startled myself with the realization that I needed to go back to work for my well being and that of my entire family.
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I do not have a singular person that I look to for balance. I try to learn from all of my friends, both parents and non-parents and adapt what works for them to our life. I strive to create for my children the environment of supportive, unconditional love that my parents created for me. Some of my friends excel at self-care and I look to them for guidance on making time for myself. Others share their own parenting strategies from organizing their home to getting their kids to eat broccoli.
I could not be a stay at home mom. At this point in my life, my identity is intrinsically linked with my career. Furthermore our children are very social and thrive in a school or daycare environment. So any scenario where we are not a dual-income family would not work for us.
Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
My life is similar but different in distinct ways. When I was 18 I knew that I wanted to be a mother, get married by the time I was 30, have two kids, and be an architect. I am a mother; I got married when I was 30; I have three kids and I am a registered architect. However, when I was 18 I had not given much thought to the reality of being a working mom. I think I believed I would have a job as an architect but only work from the time the bus picked up my kids up for school until it dropped them off after school. Or maybe I thought that I would become a stay at home mom while my children were young. Reality never aligns with our childhood dreams, but life can be fantastic in ways we never dared to imagine.
Relate to what Robin is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.