Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It's Been A Gradual Process, But I'm Finally There

Early on in my career, one of the many things I did for the company I worked for was write blogs. I was also responsible for getting my foot in the door with Mommy Bloggers. That was our target audience. During this time, I scheduled and conducted interviews with Moms of human children. In a way it was awkward because I wasn't a Mom of human children, but they provided me with valuable insight. And, it was always a pleasure to chat with these women from all walks of life.

I was fortunate enough to interview a few women who pushed the boundaries. When I say "pushed the boundaries," I'm referring to choices and decisions that reside beyond what society deems as "acceptable" or "the norm."

These women were, and still are, happily married, had functioning households that, at the time, put my time management and organizational skills to shame, and they mastered the art of frugality, coupon clipping, budgeting, and everything between.

What put these women into the boundary pushing category was the amount of children they had. One had 5. Another 6. The last woman I interviewed had 7. All of these women, and their husbands, had been married for years and they wanted a big family. Their financial backgrounds, culture, religion, and daily lives all varied. However, they all had common ground...how society reacted to their decision to have so many kids.

Some of the comments I vividly remember are...

"When we go to a restaurant, which doesn't happen often, the waitstaff will always comment about how large our family is."

"We very seldom get invited to backyard barbecues or holiday parties. Inviting our family alone would mean the addition of 8 guests."

"Going out to dinner, the zoo, a country fair, or even out for ice cream, is something we have to budget for."

"One time, I took the kids to the park and a woman asked how many kids I had in my daycare."

"A lot of people distanced themselves from us when we had our 4th child. These were people who we considered friends and scheduled play dates with."

"I'll never forget the looks I got from certain friends and family when I announced that my husband and I were pregnant with our 5th child."

Throughout all of these interviews, I always took the stance of being on the outside looking in. I had to remain neutral. I had to put myself in the shoes of all involved.

I wanted to understand where these women were coming from, but at the time, I couldn't. My belief is that you can't fully understand something unless you've been through it or have been there. 

Years later, in the here and now in my Dog Mom world, I'm finally reaching a level to where I understand. I finally get it. I no longer have to put my feet in the shoes of those going through it.

Now, I'm wearing those shoes.

At this point, I'm going to make this adamantly clear that I know being a Mom to human kids and being a Dog Mom is completely different. I'm not comparing these two worlds at all.

When Coco joined our family in August of 2012, there was tension after we had to cancel some plans. Coco's health wasn't good. Lisa and I had to make adjustments to a couple of obligations we had committed to prior to Coco's adoption. That didn't go over too well.

Sophie joined our family, in June of 2014. Coco finally had a playmate. After a week, Coco and Sophie bonded. The response from others was fairly positive, but people's demeanor started changing early on when we discovered that Sophie is beyond terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. She even has a reaction to the sound of the wind. At that point, our plans revolved around the weather. Sometimes we had to cancel plans. Even though we explained why, people took it personally.

Lobo was transported to our home, as a foster, the last week of January in 2015. It was the day after his major surgery to remove one of his hind legs and neuter. He was here to recover. As a work at home Dog Mom, providing 'round the clock care wasn't a problem.

It wasn't until we adopted Lobo, 2 weeks later, that we really noticed a shift. Although we had a lot of support, a handful of friends and family didn't hesitate to share their opinions with us. Why were we adopting a special needs pup? What were we thinking? Why would we adopt a pup who required so much attention and couldn't be left home alone for more than a few hours? How could we possibly "have a life" with the addition of Lobo?

Last week, our family got a little bigger. Willa, a 10 pound nugget o' love, wasn't planned. None of our kids were. The people closest to us, the ones who get us, the ones we shared the full story with, are more than happy for our family. A handful came forth to help us with the transition, provide supplies because Willa is in heat, and to assist with the numerous upcoming medical expenses. We didn't ask. They just did it. We are beyond grateful for their love and support and willingness to assist.

I love and adore our tribe. 

On the flip side, snarky comments have already started trickling in. We expect there will be more as we haven't told everyone about the newest addition to our family. Not on purpose. We have friends and family that we haven't chatted with yet since the addition of Willamina.

I'm at the point where I finally understand. It's been a gradual process, but I'm there.

The comments. Looks. Isolation. Lack of invites. Decoding the shallow I'm-happy-for-you facades. The nagging feeling of having to explain ourselves. Dodging invasive questions. Feeling the prickly sensation when we simply get the look. People distancing themselves.

Yeah, I'm there.

I've even embraced the mind frame of those people I interviewed years ago.

You know, the ones who "pushed the boundaries."

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