Most days as I push our stroller up a hill loaded with my son and a week’s supply of groceries and feel the muscles in my arms and legs working, I am reminded of the total body workouts I used to enjoy at my local gym. Not that long ago I lived a very different life — one that included a husband, a charming little house that we owned on a tree-lined street, a fulﬁlling full-time job, a fun fashion part-time job, volunteer work as a board of director for two companies, four weekly gym workouts and a circle of friends for dinner parties or BBQs and occasional travel. Actually, my husband and I had a shared passion for international travel and had visited many key cities in North America, most of Europe and six states in India.
In November 2005, three months before our South East Asia trip, I walked away from our 15-year, unhappy marriage. My ex is a great guy, but not for me. I did not know where I was going or what I wanted, but it was enough to know what I did not want. A few months later I decided to go back to school and to study in my favourite city in the world, London, England. I’d grown up immersed in stories of English history, literature, and royalty, and the chance to study there achieved two long held dreams: a master’s degree and living abroad.
In 2008 as I was completing my master’s degree I realized, to my great surprise, that I wanted to be a Mom. The subject of parenthood had not come up much when I was married and living in the ‘burbs. If I thought of raising children I felt overwhelming indifference, I regarded those peers and friends who’d chosen to have kids with a faint, smug disdain for their perceived boring, orderly lives. Being a mother seemed such a mundane existence and clashed with my feminist nature. Surely there were so many more adventurous and exciting things to do in life then change diapers and serve dinner every night.
But suddenly, as a single, unemployed student in a foreign country, motherhood was all I could think about. I decided to try to adopt a child. I used to gaze up at the stars at night and wonder where in the world my child was.
Once I returned to my home city I registered with a local adoption agency and applied to adopt a child from Vietnam. In June 2010 my mother, sister and I walked into an orphanage in northern Vietnam and there, after months of staring at two little pictures, I met my seven-month-old baby son. I knew from the ﬁrst moment I held baby Binh that I was embarking upon the grandest and most meaningful adventure of my life. I knew that whatever my past accomplishments, whatever I would achieve in the future, nothing was more important to me or the world than raising my child up to be a moral, productive person who would use his gifts to contribute great things.
My son is named Lucan (meaning light and named for Sir Lucan, a Knight of the Round Table) Binh (meaning peace) Tu (meaning star). Lucan Binh Tu is my star bright peaceful knight. We don’t have any family living nearby — luckily my ofﬁce and Lucan’s daycare are close to our home and we have a good transit system in our city so we don’t need to own a vehicle. I get my exercise pushing the stroller up and down hills and running around local parks. I run errands on lunch breaks and do a lot of household shopping and banking online. I book vacation hours for hair appointments and Lucan’s doctor appointments, and thankfully those are not frequent.
It is challenging being a single parent but not awful or overwhelming; one does have to be resourceful and careful with the budget but there are lots of free family activities in most communities year-round. We’re not big chain store shoppers — we shop locally and buy less. Some rainy winter weekend days we take long train rides and local bus trips because getting to the destination is half the fun — sometimes in fact the journey is the most fun. We don’t have a TV so we pay less in utilities and spend more time living life than watching it.
I have to be careful too about ﬁnding a little “me” time. I only ask friends to babysit if I need to work late or on a weekend, otherwise I am with Lucan or at work 24/7. I’ve learned to use some evening time when he’s asleep for movies, books, ﬁtness and other things that interest me. Some weekend mornings Lucan becomes part of my dance routine, which he loves.
I want to take more schooling to upgrade my teaching skills but can’t attend night classes, so I found a diploma program online that I can complete over a few years. Adult personal dreams and goals are still possible but you have to be creative in ﬁnding a way to achieve them and still be a focused and fun parent which, after all, is our most important job.
I have less money, few friends, no time, no house and now buy clothes at consignment stores. But I have a darling bundle of boy and have discovered so much about myself in being Lucan’s Mom; he has brought out the best in me and I have never been happier.