I've never been one to plan anything and am terrible with making choices.
After a deep and thorough self analysis, the best that I can come up with is that I crave organization, but if I try to plan too far in to the future, I get overwhelmed.
As a result, I've blossomed this full fledged "Que Sera, Sera" type of persona.
When I discovered that I was pregnant with triplets, not once did I consider how we would take care of three babies nor how those three babies would impact our lives and professional careers. Yet, five years later, there is no doubt that our decision to embrace "Whatever Will Be, Will Be", has been the best decision we could have ever made.
We didn't just stumble in to this mindset.
Now that I look back, I'm fairly certain it was a conscious decision.
One day, when the triplets were about two months old and Charlie was home with me on paternity leave, he and I were taking the babies out to have their newborn photographs taken. He was driving and I was sitting in the far back, so that my worried eyes could remain on our rear-facing, still premature, infants.
Charlie was severely sleep deprived, I was severely sleep deprived and hormonal, and he was rapid firing me with questions about what we were going to do once it was time to return to work. Would we hire a nanny? Would we put the kids in daycare? Would one of us quit our job?
HOW were we going to do this?
The future was pressing upon us!
Why didn't we have a plan in place?
We had to make a decision. Now!
And seeing as I don't like to make long term decisions particularly as it pertains to my precious children, I fired at him, with as much triplet postpartum passion as I could summon, FOR GOD'S SAKE! I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL WE'RE GOING TO DO. BUT WE WILL FIGURE IT OUT WHEN THE TIME COMES. I HAVE EVERY FAITH THE ANSWER WILL PRESENT ITSELF. QUE SERA SERA! UNTIL THEN, RELAX. ALRIGHT?!
What were these words that I was speaking?
We'll figure out assimilating newborn triplets in to our lives as we go?
Que Sera, Sera?!
This was crazy talk.
I knew it. Charlie knew it. But I also knew, and he quickly realized, that I was desperately afraid because I had absolutely no clue what the future held. And so at that moment, when my fury and frustration and fear was unfurled on to my husband, it was like our minivan had been hit by a cyclone. The car swerved. The windows shook. The babies cried.
And Charlie's weary eyes bulged as he looked at me in the rear view mirror and with raised eyebrows said, "Okay then. Maybe we should talk about this later. Maybe you'd like some lunch? Or a stiff drink? How about a tranquilizer, SWEETHEART?"
At that moment, all I knew is that not one of the options that he presented sounded good to me. Nothing was palatable. The thought of a hiring a nanny was out of the question. The thought of putting our babies in daycare was out of the question. The thought of one of us quitting our highly coveted jobs was out of the question. And while I had absolutely no idea what the future held - or what we'd do - I felt fairly confident that we'd figure it out, once we got there.
Five years later, we're still figuring it out as we go.
One day at a time.
There is no doubt, our schedule has been rather dynamic these past few years.
In the early days, we both negotiated with our employers a part-time work schedule, so that when one of us was working, the other one would be home with the children. After less than 18 months of that arrangement, Charlie returned to work full time while I stayed home for almost a year, following the birth of our fourth child. Who, by all accounts, is a miracle among miracles. And remains the most shocking of surprises.
This past year, I had to return to work full time. While I sometimes struggle with my busy work schedule, I frequently think about the fortuitous timing of my immersion in to the full time work force, since a few weeks after I returned, my husband was laid off. And there was the briefest moment where we felt like everything was out of control.
Now, I see it is a cosmic comedy because up until that point, we had both been concerned with how we would juggle one full time job, one part time job and the homeschooling of our four children? And yet once again, the solution to our problem presented itself.
These days, I work - from home - and Charlie is the primary caregiver. It wasn't long ago that I was physically and emotionally pained by the thought that it wasn't ME with them, all day, every day. But what I've come to realize is that this really is the best possible arrangement for our family for a number of reasons, but most notably:
1) My husband has a lot more patience with the children than I do. He isn't flustered when they try on every single article of clothing within their possession and play with every single stuffed animal they own. All at once.
2) My husband is a much better cook than I'll ever be and he enjoys preparing meals for the family. When he cooks dinner we have fresh salmon and long grained rice. When I cook dinner we have pizza. Take out.
3) Since I work from home, I'm almost always here. Although I do need to travel every so often, most days, I'm able to stop what I'm doing and read the children a story, or sit with them for lunch, or scoop one up on my lap and give them a tight hug. It's the best of both worlds for both of us. I can play with the children until they start to bicker and then I can retreat to a ... um ... let's see... conference call? I'm fairly certain someone somewhere needs to talk with me. And Charlie, well - he can take the kids to the tennis courts and practice his serve, with four energetic children who are guaranteed to chase after balls.
4) It's a whole lot easier, on both of us, when we're both home. If nothing else, it provides a mental cushion knowing that another adult is only a few steps away and either of us can use the bathroom for more than 30 seconds, without worrying that the kids will get in to trouble. If Charlie was the one working full time, he'd be gone to an office all day - and I'd be home, alone. And while the children are older and life is certainly less chaotic then it once was, I imagine that I'd still be frantically dialing my husband at 4:30 PM every afternoon and pleading, "When are you going to be home? Soon? Please, God Speed, tell me you'll be home soon?!"
Of course, any one who is with children all day, needs to have some kind of intellectual and physical outlet for their sanity. For my husband, he started his own company that he works on at night, or sporadically throughout the day. And several times a week he will either go for a bike ride, a run, a swim - or play softball with our church league.
And while Charlie was initially frustrated that it wasn't him providing the sole financial support for our family, he has come to realize that he IS providing critical support for our family.
This hasn't been an easy shift in mindset, since men are historically, the breadwinners in a family. Sometimes, Charlie feels like there is a negative stigma as a result of what some might consider our "role" reversal.
But with the evolution of women in today's workforce, and the outstanding benefits I have with my company, this life style is our reality. We've both come to terms with this. And that is why my husband might call me from one of his mid-week outings to the beach and tell me, "Jen, this is SO awesome!"
We know that we are fortunate to have our educations and flexible work schedules. But we also acknowledge to live the life that we have lived, we've had to make some big choices.
We've deliberately gone from two full time jobs, to one full time job and as a result, our annual income has dropped significantly. Charlie was laid off because thankfully, he wasn't willing to work full time or relocate our family to a different area. I've turned down numerous promotions that would require me to travel more, work in an office, and live in new home with a new (and probably higher) mortgage. So while we have remained in our same small house, we've watched friends with half as many children, move in to homes more than twice as large.
There is no doubt that our financial situation would be better if both of us were working full time and our children were in daycare or home with a nanny. But even now that our children are older and more capable of communicating with us, the thought of them spending more time each day with people other than us, doesn't sit right in our hearts.
While some might consider our choices to be sacrifices, I think a far greater sacrifice at least for us, would be to ignore our hearts and miss out on these early years in our children's lives.
So what is the purpose of this post?
What point am I trying to make?
I'm trying to make the point that the future is not ours to see.
Sometimes not making a plan, is the best plan.
You should always follow your heart.
If you give yourself time, the most suitable answer will eventually present itself.
Options are available, that you might never have before considered.
Sometimes, you may need to go without "more" to get the "most" out of life.
Men are just as capable as women, of raising children.
Especially if they believe in themselves.
And have a good cheering section.