Friday, February 14, 2014

Long Distance Love & Parenting Solo



There are so many things swirling around my head at the moment and there are as many titles I could have given this post. I'm really not sure where to begin. I've wanted to sit down and write a post for a few days now. Partially for you-my readers, as I promised I would once I was ready and partly for myself to just see my current reality typed out before me.

If you follow along via Facebook, you saw me post about some big changes our family is going through at the moment. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words (without even knowing the details of what's taking place over here). My friends and family have been truly supportive and I'm so grateful to have so many people who care in my life.

The long and short of it is my husband has moved over 7,500 miles away and I've essentially become a single parent literally overnight as of last Saturday at 4 a.m., as Lily and I dropped him off at the airport, tears flooding my eyes with a lump in my throat. Listening to the sky cap ask Paul how long his visa was for and where he was headed and hearing him reply with the words "one year" broke my heart as I looked over at our precious little girl in her car seat staring up at her daddy not knowing that it would be the last time she'd see him for a long time and for me unsure of when we'd all be reunited again.



Now, let me back up a bit and give you some background if you haven't been a reader here for long. As some of you know, a few years ago my hubby moved to New York to attend a Master's Degree program at NYU. I first wrote about that here, here and here. At the time I had to fulfill some obligations to clients to finish some design work I had begun and it was good for someone to be physically present to tend to the house while Paul was away, knowing we were just a short plane flight away. After he graduated he struggled to find meaningful work or anything in his field given the current state of the economy. After much time searching, he set out again to obtain yet another Master's Degree making the decision that it was better to further his education during this slow time, however this time was a distance program he could complete online which suited me fine and while I was pregnant last year, it was nice to have him present so much. Fast forward to the end of the summer when he graduated and after applying to many companies, was still no further ahead. It was a frustrating and nerve wracking time for both of us but myself especially as I had just birthed a sweet baby girl into the world. With being off work myself to care for a newborn, I wondered what the next few months would hold.

Paul had been looking for opportunities in other countries for a while but I didn't take any of it seriously until he got a solid offer overseas to teach and consult with a school. This one was the game changer. It came after more months than I care to count, he finally had a contract in hand but with one catch....the job was in China. *sigh*  Now, I'm not opposed to travel, in fact I've already visited 27 countries and he has been to 70, so we are no strangers to venturing outside of North America but everything changes when you have a baby. We have our sweet little miss to look out for and the area that Paul's job opportunity resides in has poor air quality, in fact the air quality index for this particular city about 90 minutes away from Beijing is rated as 'hazardous' at the moment which is not at all suitable for an infant. Sadly, it is cold there now, and it will only get worse once the temperature warms up in the spring and summer. The weeks passed by and he looked for other work but time after time it became obvious to him that every door was closing.

Being a Christian family and seeking God's leading in all things, we quickly realized after much prayer and seeing the signs of doors closing all around him as well as knowing Paul's lifelong love for Asia and its people, that God was shutting every door in America and calling him to China for a greater purpose. Paul has ministered in 50 countries and while he is there to teach English and consult with the school with regards to growing its many schools across the country, his ultimate goal is to reach people there in a missionary capacity also. He lives by the scripture: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." ~Mark 16:15. As long as I've known him he's never been content here in America. We've tried to make things work here, but it's evident that there is a new season before us.

After signing the contract, he waited several weeks for his visa and I not-so-secretly hoped and sincerely prayed that something else would come through at the last minute in the meantime but sadly it never did. Finally the day arrived....it was a Thursday and he came into the kitchen where I was working and told me the company had booked his air ticket and his passport with attached visa was arriving later that same day and that he had to leave in 36 hours. I didn't even have the time to give him a proper send off as he rushed around to get packed and tie up a few loose ends. For a while we've been stuck between a rock and a hard place on what to do. Family is very important and we never wanted for our family to be apart but at the moment, until he can get to a cleaner part of China with a new opportunity at a different company or within the same company, Lily and I are staying put. I've even toyed with moving in with family back home for a few months as it has been offered to me. I miss my husband terribly and I know Lily senses something has changed and misses her daddy as it's evident in her behavior at times and even her sleep patterns. The two were so close and have been so cute together over the past 5 months and she is truly daddy's little girl. The next step is for me to apply for her passport and for Paul's company to work on getting us both a visa. There are so many questions I still have. Obviously life will be so very different in a multiplicity of ways even down to the simple things like the fact that nobody can access certain social media platforms like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook from China, then of course there is the language barrier and the 22-hr flight with a baby. Some I'm aware of and others I won't even be able to comprehend until I arrive.



There is still so much up in the air. We've talked about so many different options but what I know for sure is while I'm capable of it and strong enough for the job, I do not wish to be a single parent for an entire year, a few months is my maximum as it's not fair to any of us. Twelve months is a long time and I have to tell you, I have a whole new respect for single mothers everywhere! I'm only a week in and it is definitely not a picnic! I know many military wives endure these circumstances with the added uncertainty of whether their husband will even come home. I know I'm not alone as many families around the world are separated because of work opportunities to provide for family however I still feel a bit numb about everything.

The first day he left I made a point of surrounding myself with close friends at a church bbq so I wouldn't feel alone. The next day, I met up with another girlfriend and then slowly started getting into my new routine realizing just how much my husband was a help to me when he was here. The house is so unbelievably quiet, not that Paul is really noisy but his presence is missed. The simple things like getting a hug in the kitchen while making breakfast, holding hands while walking around the lake or watching him cuddle Lily and dance with her and sing sweet little songs or blow on her tummy while changing her are etched in my memory. He read to her before bed the last night before he left (as he often did) and I took some photos because I knew she would be so much bigger the next time we were all together again.

Paul's flight was 22 hours in addition to a big delay along the way, he is jet lagged and is still struggling after a week to sync his body with his new timezone of 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. We try to talk via Skype daily, it's important for all of us to stay connected during this time. He e-mailed me recently to let me know that his offer was accepted for a 2-storey 2-bath loft on the 31st floor very similar to the style of a NYC apartment, I'm looking forward to seeing it in person and of course decorating it also. We're currently talking about a month long visit where I can see China firsthand on my own and determine what is best for our baby and of course our family. I will be packing to stay longer with an open return ticket. I'm torn as I've heard so much conflicting advice but at the end of the day, nobody is in our shoes, we must do what is best for us.

The days where Lily sleeps less than usual and she becomes clingy are long for me. I'm lucky to get online to write my daily post to Facebook but blogging has been out of the question. Although she naps a few times per day, it's amazing how fast that time flies by when you're tip-toeing around. We decided to sleep train her before Paul left so this has given me a few hours to myself after she goes to bed however I find myself doing laundry, making dinner, catching up on e-mail or trying to sneak in a moment to file my nails or take more than a 3 minute shower. I enjoy being a mother but it's true what is said about parenting being the hardest job on earth, especially when you're doing it alone, it feels like 2 full time jobs because you can never escape for some "me" time. Thankfully I've had friends and family offer to help give me a break by babysitting when I need it. I can't even image how things will be when she's crawling everywhere! Working has been a bit tricky but I am offering e-design part time and also doing some other freelance writing so I'm very thankful that I can work from home, a luxury that not everyone has.

As cliche as it sounds, all I can do right now is take one day at a time. Some days I'll be able to blog, some days I won't. Some days all will be well and others will have me leaning on my friends and family down here with tears in my eyes. It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the past few days but really for many many months. Our life has been so unpredictable in many ways since we first got married so I should be used to it after 7 years but oddly enough, I'm not. I'm open to whatever this year has in store for my family and I which may mean a move to Asia which could turn into an awesome adventure. It's one continent that I have yet to travel to and how neat for Lily to explore the world at such a young age too. After just one week, Paul has started to build trust with the owner of the Christian school where he will teach. It's a unique opportunity beyond just teaching that I'm certainly praying about. Doors are opening there that have not opened for him here and I know it is for Paul to not only be a provider and fulfill his purpose but to fulfill God's calling for his life also. Thankfully, I can still do the work I enjoy also no matter where I am around the globe. Who knows, someday soon in the near future I may be writing you from Beijing and saying: "Ni Hao" (that's hello in Mandarin). ;)

Have any of you ever lived overseas or more specifically in Asia? What was your experience? I'd love to hear from you!

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day with your sweethearts! I may not be going on a date with my hubby this year but I'm looking forward to spending my first Valentine's Day with my little Sweetie Pea. I'm toying with the idea of starting her on solid foods as she'll be 5 1/2 months old and has been grabbing for every glass I drink out of and watches intently as we have been eating food over the past few weeks. She's definitely ready!

Thanks for Reading,

XO




*image source

8 comments:

  1. OMG Karla! Your post made me SO emotional as I remember very well when your Hubs had to study in NY and how hard that was for you. I just can't imagine what you are going through now. Just have faith and believe that everything will work out for the best; it always does (if you trust in the Universe/God). The positive is that after a few days Lily will adapt to the situation much better than you will. She will get into her flow without her Daddy around. The hard part will be for you. But as you say, you must just take each day as it comes. Each day you will become stronger (even if it's just getting used to the quietness in the house). But each small step is important, and before you know where you are, you will be on your way to China, or Paul would have been offered something better in the US. This too shall pass. Sending you hugs and prayers xx

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    1. Thank you, Vannessa. I'm believing that God will work these circumstances for our good. Lily has already begun to adapt to just being around me for the most part. Over the past two weeks I've just been taking things one day at a time and after the first week things became easier in terms of missing him. Now, it's more the management of the home, our little one, etc., on my own while working and trying to remain balanced. He loves the job but the pollution has become unbearable for him. He is looking at options to get to another part of Asia or come home, it wouldn't likely be for a few months due to his contract but we're hoping something will happen so that we can all be together in a cleaner area. XX

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  2. Wow! That's such heavy news! I wish I had something profound to say, but all I know to say is that I will pray that God will redeem this into something wonderful for your family. I know He can and that He will. I admire your willingness to go live there if at all possible. That's a huge undertaking and very selfless...especially for a mother of a young baby. Your marriage will be so strong because of both your willingness to do what is best for your family. Keep us posted! You are amazing Karla!

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    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for your prayers and kind, encouraging words. :) We are also believing that this current season of our life will take a turn in an unbelievable way for our family. I stayed behind last time to manage our home and continue to run my business here while he was in NYC and part of me wishes I had done things a bit differently but that is the past so looking forward I am willing to move and make a change knowing that we have a home in the U.S. when we return. Right now, he's still looking into other cleaner areas in Asia. I'll definitely keep everyone posted on what takes place in the coming weeks/months.

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  3. Karla, I just stumbled upon your blog this morning via Home Goods and the "stylescope" assessment. I understand completely where you are coming from, though I am now mid 50's, I went through what you are going through now. My husband is retired from the Air Force and we had several separations, the longest being for a year. The day we found out about his year assignment, we found out we had baby #2 on the way. We decided that he should go ahead and leave as his orders said and come home for a month of leave halfway through. We thought that would be best and he would be there when she started the crawling, walking, etc. Of course this meant our little girl was born while her daddy was overseas. He met her for the first time when she was 2 days shy of 4 months old. He returned home when she was 7 1/2 months old. Our son was then a little over 3 years old. Then a short 4 months later the Air Force sent him on a "short" 6 month assignment. I was far from home and had no family to help. It is very hard being a single parent....but you have said it perfectly; take each day one at a time! Pray a LOT! It will get you through. Thank goodness for social media, wasn't around in the early 80's; and things like Facetime, etc.
    We were also stationed as a family overseas, Europe for 5 years. It was difficult being so far from family and the grandparents missed their grandchildren so much! However, it was a wonderful experience for us to live there and experience different cultures. The children have some wonderful memories of those years.
    During the 21 years of active duty military life, my husband was gone numerous times; but it made us stronger and helped me to grow personally.
    What will be more difficult, IMHO! and experience; is adjusting when the spouse returns. I had learned to handle things on my own, whether normal everyday life or a small crisis (car problems, etc), deal with the kids, teachers and extra-curricular activities and so forth. Then realize I needed to share the reins again.
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers. May God bring you and your husband back together soon and present his plan for your family. I look forward to stopping by your blog and very thankful I found it today.
    Blessings to you and your family,

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    1. Thank you for sharing Bamamom and I'm so glad you found my blog and left a comment too! Welcome! :) I can't even imagine finding out about another baby on the way the same day you learned of his year long assignment. You are awesome for letting him go and taking all of that on by yourself. Being pregnant and giving birth to a baby is so emotional, you are brave!

      So far, I'm just taking each day at a time and am praying a lot. We are very thankful for e-mail, text messages and of course Skype. He's had some issues with internet so Starbucks became a hangout until things got straightened out, not as clear but at least we could connect.

      I totally agree with you when you say that adjusting to their return is difficult. I did that after Paul lived in NYC for a year, I got so used to living in the house alone, doing this my own way that I forgot about all the little habits he has, etc. It took a few months to adjust but having here to enjoy life with is priceless. Now I have my sweet girl to spend every day with and she makes me smile. I've always been independent so it's true, you have to train yourself to share the reins again.

      Thank you so much for your prayers and uplifting words.

      Warmly,
      Karla

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  4. Oh gracious! I can't seem to get my body on track just flying across the country - I can't imagine flying to China! I'm sure everything will work out in the end, and it might turn out to be the greatest adventure of your life. I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason, even when that reason takes a very long time to become clear! Good luck to you and your family!

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    1. Ha Ha, it's true! I feel the same way when I go from EST to PST, those 3 hours can really do a number on you, 13 hours would probably take a couple weeks to adjust to. I too believe that everything happens for a reason, so I'm looking forward to seeing everything come together. Thank you for your well wishes, Sylvie and taking the time to comment.

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Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)

Warmly,
Karla

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