May's CultureBaby Mom ~ Amanda
This month we are thrilled to feature Amanda as our CultureBaby Mom of the month. Amanda and daughter Nina are our very first family formed through international adoption. We asked Amanda or "Ama" as she is now known, to tell us more about how Nina has been adjusting to life in the US and the challenges and joys of building a global family together. You can continue to follow their adventures at their blog, Red Square Tantrum.
When and where did you adopt your daughter Nina?
I adopted Nina from Russia in November 2012, just six weeks before the ban went into effect.
How has she adapted to life in the US? What surprised or delighted her the most about her new home in Brooklyn?
Has learning English been a challenge for her?
She has been amazingly resilient and adaptable. She seems most delighted by our pets, Minnie and Frieda, all the restaurants that are at our fingertips (yes, she is already a New Yorker), and taking public transportation (especially buses and ferries).
How do you plan to keep her native country, culture or language present in her life?
Nina is deaf, so she is learning ASL first. She had a cochlear implant but it wasn't functioning when I brought her home (we have no idea how long it wasn't working). She didn't have any language skills when she arrived. She is going to a special school where they encourage total communication techniques, so she is immersed in sign language and is also learning to speak.
How has your work/life balance and perspective on this issue changed since you became a mother?
We're lucky to live close to a vibrant Russian community called Brighton Beach. It has lots of restaurants and cultural events. Depending on how well she does with speech, I would like her to learn to speak Russian, or at least read and write it. I grew up a polyglot and it was advantageous in so many ways. Also, I've enrolled her in ballet. She loves watching it on YouTube and always, always picks the Bolshoi performances. My dream is to take her back to see the company live some day.
Is raising a global citizen important to you? How do you think Nina's background will impact her worldview as she grows?
As expected, this event turned my work/life balance on its head. In some ways that was welcome: I wanted to re-balance things so that my personal life could become even richer and more meaningful. That said, I love my work and I have a thriving consulting business as well as several other ventures, so it has been very, very hard for me to adjust to all of the demands. I'm more exhausted than I have ever been in my whole life. I'm still figuring out how to make it all work while being present for each activity. This is going to take some practice.
The Lean In conversation is very real to me because I am ambitious and driven — and, as I already said, I really like working; it gives me a ton of satisfaction to collaborate and be creative. The hardest part has been figuring out the childcare dilemma — how to afford it, how to make the best use of it, and how to plan around its availability (which is not always guaranteed when I need it most). I'm single, and my parents are not close. I'm working on building new support networks and tapping into my community resources (like the amazing Park Slope Parents listserv.)
I'm lucky in that I have more flexibility than most in some ways because I do have considerable control over my schedule; but in other ways, I have less flexibility because my work requires that I be responsive to my clients so my schedule can change at the last minute. I have no idea how women with more kids and less control over their jobs/careers do it. It really boggles my mind.
Yes, it is. I grew up living overseas and it made me both aware and open to differences in people and culture. Moving at an early age made me comfortable with change. I want Nina to feel at home in different countries and embrace all of the wonderful diversity this world has to explore. I hope that I can continue to travel with her as I did before she came into my life. She's already been through a bigger transition than most people experience in their whole lives; I hope she comes to see it as a gift and continue to pursue adventures, take risks and follow her passion.