On “good enough” balance: parenting, work, & adoption

In recounting the process that led to his life as a single father, a man with the financial means to give up paid labour describes how he quit his lawyer job and migrated from his homeland to enhance his life as a parent. His young son was born via a surrogate. And his access to savings gave him financial independence that escapes many.

This father concludes his testimony: “Whatever happens next, I will never begrudge giving up my job to have a child. People who have children when they are in their 20s or 30s sometimes feel they missed out on their career and desperately want to go back to it, but I feel I have done everything I wanted to do as a lawyer. I did it to the max. I’ve started a new chapter in my life.”

My adoption journey was different – nowhere near as arduous or expensive. But I empathize with this man’s sense that his new role as a parent invited him to reinvent himself, to turn a page and enter a new phase.

My circumstances were different – I didn’t quit my job as he did – I was well paid but not without a need to work for my supper. Nor did I want to give up my job since it continued to give me much satisfaction. But of course after adoption, my attention oscillated between paid labour and unpaid childcare. My obsessive devotion to my work that had destroyed my health a few years earlier became a more reasonable juggling act as a single parent. I wasn’t really terribly good at anything any more but I was good enough at almost everything.

At a sustainability talk not long ago at the University of Alberta, Education professor Duane Donald spoke about how Indigenous concepts and teachings encourage establishing relations with other living things and with the land. He reminded us how estranged we can become from our body in pursuing our intellectual lives.

So true. I sit reading and writing avoiding going for a walk or a swim or even standing upfor a stretch or a downward dog. My thoughts are that I am getting something done and the pleasure in this “getting something done”propels me forward. I don’t reflect on how my thinking and writing, my brain power and insight, are enhanced with an enlivening physical interruption. The time it takes for my body to move in time can generate new ideas and perspectives.

I remember my thoughts pre-adoption about the impact of parenting, “When I retire, I will have fewer books to my name. But how do I compare this to the profound effects of a child in my life?” Adoption isn’t for everyone, but for me it was my best alternative life. Only my decision to go to graduate school for a PhD rivals the positive impact on my life.

Now I reflect on my books that gather dust on shelves or essays that hide away in archives. Occasionally they speak to me through readers or friends or a revisit with their ideas and narrative arcs. Meanwhile my daughter, a woman, not a typscript or a pdf of storying words but a live action narrative that escapes a books cover and binding.

Somewhere over the Rockies, she breathes and voyages out sending notes from away. Our conversations are filled with life and possibility. A story that unfolds in time. And in our relations with each other.

I am alone again…

…& that’s a beautiful thing.

Home alone with poodle

2 thoughts on “On “good enough” balance: parenting, work, & adoption”

  1. Janice, your writing on choice, mothering and working, thinking and moving, together, connected and alone, a beautifully modulated reflection on life itself. Thank you!


    1. Thanks, so much to say about this lifetime of learning through “mothering, not mothering” as poet Di Brandt would say.


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