In celebration of their "Make Every Day Mother's Day" campaign, ONE invited me to contribute some thoughts on motherhood for their website. The following is my submission. I hope you enjoy it. And of course, I hope you consider becoming a member of ONE (non-US folks click here).
I had actually never intended to become a parent.
By the time I met Marcus, I had already been married once before, and was quite enthusiastically enjoying my life as a single woman again in London. I was in my mid-thirties, and had never felt that "biological urge" to have children that I'd heard so many women my age tell me about, with longing in their eyes. My biological clock wasn't only not ticking, it was blinking "12:00."
I don't know if Marcus sensed this, but soon after we began dating, within days I mean, he suddenly turned to me out of the blue: "Hey. I don't know where this is going, but I just wanted to tell you that if, for some reason, you don't want to be a mum, I'm okay with that."
"Hmm," I thought for a second. "Well, that's strange that you would say that, since we've never talked about it before -- but yes, to this point, I've not been that concerned with having kids. Still," I continued, watching him carefully, "if we change our minds, I'd really like to consider adoption. I have cousins who were adopted when I was very young, and I've always thought that adoption was a very cool thing."
"Adoption, huh?" he said slowly. "I'd never thought about that. But yeah, that's cool."
"Great," I smiled. "Okay. So probably no kids. But if we change our minds, we'll look into adoption."
"Deal," he said. And we never spoke about it again.
Never, that is, until about a year after we were married and had moved to the States. That summer, we traveled back to England to attend his brother's wedding, and while there, I watched Marcus play with his sister's kids with wild abandon. It was during that time, though he had never said a word to me, that I became convinced that Marcus was made to be a father. When we returned from our holiday, I raised the subject with him. And that September, we walked into an agency to begin the process of adoption.
Six months later, on Alex's birthmom's invitation, we were in a delivery room, witnessing Alex's birth.
Needless to say, parenthood is one of the very best decisions we ever made. And even though I hadn't given it much thought, in many ways, it is nothing like I expected it to be. For example, I always assumed the tough part would be discipline; however, "they" never told me that the emotion while watching my child fight an illness would be singularly the most miserable feeling I'd ever experience. Also, while I absolutely knew if I became a parent that I would love my child -- and how I do -- I don't think I ever understood how much I'd like my daughter. At 7 years old, she's fun. Like, she's really funny. On purpose. She is, without a doubt, one of my most favourite people to be around. And despite my initial ambivalence about being a mom in my younger, single days, she makes me want to be as great a mother as I possibly can.
One of the things that has become really important to me in raising Alex is helping her to develop a global worldview. Part of this, of course, is due to the fact that both Marcus and I don't live in the countries of our birth. But, honestly, it's more than that. It's the fact that as time passes the world becomes smaller. Technology plays a large part in this: I mean, back when I was a child, if I had a pen pal on the other side of the world, it would literally take weeks for my letter to arrive; now, if Alex wants to send a message to a friend on a different continent, she can use my computer to send an email and it willbe received virtually instantaneously. I want her to grow up not just having a theoretical understanding of different races, peoples and cultures, but a visceral one. I want to her to understand that we're all connected. We're all in this together. And we owe it to each other to help each other when we can.
And so, of course, we travel when we can; but also, I spend a lot of time talking to her about current events, and ask her opinion about how we should react. She knows all about the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the unrest in Egypt and Syria. We talked about the death of Osama Bin Ladin. We get excited about the Olympics, we read travel magazines together, we discover the different plants and animals around the world, we explore maps. She asks questions, and I do my best to answer them. I show her images created by my favourite international photobloggers. So far, she's been eager to learn about our world and all the beautiful different people and places in it, and I encourage this. A lot.
It's for this reason I've been a fan of ONE's for quite some time. I love many things about them -- like the fact that they're a global organization, and are more about persuasion than asking for your money -- but mostly, I love that just by keeping up with their really excellent blog, I get tons of information and imagery to spark discussions with my daughter about our planet and how we can use our own talents to help. And so, when ONE invited me to be part of their Mom Advisory Council, accepting was very easy.
And then, they invited me to join them on a trip to Kenya: a country, despite having done lot of traveling in my life, I've never visited. I'm thrilled beyond measure: I can't wait to see the place, of course, but also I'm looking forward to experiencing some of its culture, especially the food and the music and the art. But mostly -- mostly -- I can't wait for the opportunity to make a connection or two (or many!) with the people who I'm going to get to meet, who will be kind enough to let a stranger like me have a glimpse of their everyday lives. I'm also wildly nervous: I will, naturally, be photographing everything I'm permitted to, as well as retelling their stories, and I am, quite literally, praying every day that I can do the images and stories of Kenya justice. I've made it my mission to do my damnedest.
But mostly, I'm just excited to collect those photos and words, and bring them back home to share with my daughter. Because I really believe that there's nothing like images and stories to connect, and convince you that you can make a difference.
* * * * * * *
And now, on an unrelated, yet coincidentally, somewhat-related note:
Last week, a friend (who, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with ONE), tweeted me the link for an online store called Nest. It turns out that Nest is a not-for-profit organization "empowering female artisans around the world." All of their products are handmade from international emerging markets, and the proceeds from the sales go to help the women behind the crafts build their businesses in their respective countries and villages. Their products seemed beautiful, and so I bought a little something, and tweeted about it.
Soon after, a representative contacted me directly, thanking me for the tweet -- and mentioned that they would love to have me write about them, in exchange for one of their products. Now to be clear: I get pitches from companies asking me to feature them here on my site all the time (like daily), but I rarely do, because the products and companies involved usually have very little to do with anything I write about; or, more importantly, anything I'm about. But this organization's mission seriously impressed me, so I decided to find out more.
"Well," I responded, "I'm actually traveling to Kenya later this summer, and I've been sort of obsessed with learning more about the country. I don't suppose you have anything Kenyan?"
Turns out, they do:
They sent me this lovely scarf, made of cotton so soft I would've sworn it was silk; the quality is impeccable. And I'm especially grateful to have it, since it's a long scarf (and as a relatively tall person, I can never find a scarf that is long enough).
But even better than all of that: they sent me a second one. And so while it's certainly been giveawayapalooza up in here lately, I'd love to give this second one away.
So just leave a comment below, whever in the world you are, and I'll pick a commenter at random to win the second scarf (identical to the one you see in the image above). And gentlemen, go ahead and leave a comment. Trust me, you will impress the dickens out of a woman in your life if you give this to her (or, actually, if you're a scarf-wearer, this would totally work -- I do love a man in a scarf, and the colours on this are pretty unisex). I'll announce the winner on Monday's post.
(And by the way, please do go check out Nest and their Facebook page. They really do seem to have the right idea about helping make the world a more beautiful, empowered place -- and you know how I feel about that.)
Images: Photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens & a mirror. aperture 1.4, shutter speed 1/100, ISO 640