December 2011 Profile: Lori Hamilton
Relationship Status: Married
Residence: Springfield, OR and work in Eugene, OR
Children: Tracy 11, Ashly 9
Profession: I am a former teacher turned BIT/s Practitioner. I use various Brain Integration Techniques to remove stress from circuits in the brain by using acupressure points, kinesiology, and healing energy. I get to work with children, teens, and adults who want to remove obstacles from their emotional, educational, and physical success. I specialize in adoption related issues since my passion is to help people touched by adoption find peace! Adoption can affect the brain’s development and certainly the heart’s emotions and sense of security.
Q: We understand you were a birth mom. Can you share that decision/experience with our readers?. Do you presently have any contact with the adoptive family?
A: I was a 16 year old Chaplain’s daughter stationed overseas. I held onto denial long enough to keep abortion from being an option. My family’s goals for me were education related, so I don’t recall any other option being discussed. We went to live with my grandmother in Oregon, and Grandma helped me find an open adoption lawyer. I got to choose the couple, and I chose people that traveled and went to ball games like I did growing up. They flew in to meet me, and we walked in the local rose garden together. They were there for the delivery, too. We decided to let the child decide when/if she wanted to meet me.
When she was 17 (in 2005), the adoptive mom, adoptive sister, and the daughter I gave up met me at the airport when I moved back from teaching overseas. We had four magical days, meeting relatives and talking late. We’ve visited each other about half a dozen times since then. She walked me down the aisle at my wedding! She has now finished college and is a teacher. She and I keep in touch as schedules allow via email, texts, calls, and Facebook.
Q: What led you then to become a stepmom later in life? How does it feel?
A: For twenty years, I was single and able to reflect, heal, and unpack my emotional baggage. My goal was to become the kind of person that my daughter (and myself) would be proud to know. As a teacher, I paid close attention to parenting and made many a mental note as to how I would parent if I were ever lucky enough to have the chance again. I dated, but I was in no hurry to marry anyone for the sake of being married. I decided I was going to be happy, married or not.
At the age of 37, I married my husband and became the very blessed step-mom to amazing little girls. It feels wonderful! I don’t take this opportunity for granted! By not having the chance to be there and watch the daughter that I gave up for adoption while she was growing up, I appreciate each of our conversations and milestones, even doing the laundry!
Q: What do you see as the positives and challenges of becoming a 35+ stepmom?
A: I am very glad to have spent time becoming emotionally healthier than I would have been if I had been a young mother. I’m very sure that being a birth mother helps me understand that the girls need time and a strong relationship with their mother. I also feel that my desire to be a good mother this time around drives me to parent very thoughtfully and carefully. This is especially important in a situation where the children go back and forth between their mom’s home and ours every other week for a week at a time. I used to worry a lot about them whenever they were away from us. I found that this worry didn’t actually help anyone. Now, I just send angels with them, no matter where they are.
I need to keep everyone’s needs in mind, including the girls’, their mother’s, the grandparents’, the teachers’, etc. I try to take their input into consideration while also trying to stay true to my husband’s and my parenting philosophies. Plus, I need to remember to take care of my desires, and this is a tricky balance when we have the girls half of the time. During the time when they are not with us, I try to make sure I get some alone time, some friend time, a date with my husband, schedule appointments, work more, and do projects around the house.
Q: Has anything about being a mother surprised you?
• I didn’t think laundry would be that easy. My husband helps. The girls put away their own clothes. They like spotting their clothes. They show interest in learning how to run the machines! Wow!
• Since laundry turned out to be easy, I was surprised when washing dishes turned out to be such a CHORE! “Why do we have to get everything off the dish?…Why do we need to wash the handles of the silverware?…Why do I have to wash her dish?”
• Sometimes time is the key!
• When I think I/we deserve appreciation, I ain’t gonna get it! When I am being myself and not worrying about if they like me, just being in the moment, they hug me and say, “You are a good mom, Lori.”
Q: What do you most want to teach your children? What influence, if any, has your own mother or father had in your life and in your parenting?
• I want them to know unconditional love means wanting the highest and best for all.
• They deserve to be treated with respect and genuine adoration by their boyfriend (or girlfriend). Self esteem determines what you will attract.
• I want to surround my girls with wonderful people that have various perspectives, so they can see the world through many eyes.
• My parents think that it is nice to have adult time after the kids have gone to bed. I find I do need an hour or two to wind down after they are tucked in. My parents are capable of fabulous conversation, so when fabulous adults are around, I welcome the girls to listen and participate. If they don’t want to, then they can go to bed at their bedtime, so the grown-ups can have quality time. I don’t have to feel guilty about this. Rest for them and de-stress time for me/us is helpful to our physical and emotional health.
• My mom said, “You can’t please everyone all the time. There are some people that you can never please. You might as well be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are worth pleasing, too.” I’m still trying to give myself permission to be happy, even if someone else isn’t.
• My parents took us traveling. I want my kids to see the world and know that we can do and live differently and that that is ok. There is a lot less right and wrong and more what’s right for each person or each culture or each time period.
Q: Where do you turn for support as a stepmom? How important is to connect with mom peers? How do you think an organization like Motherhood Later…Than Sooner can be helpful to later families?
A: I have a lot of friends and family that are supportive and a husband that is a good listener. I basically get to go to counseling everyday. However, I think that sometimes they feel helpless when they can’t relate or fix things. I think that moms that have similar experiences can make it so I don’t feel so alone. I also appreciate on-line communities that can specifically relate to the issues we are facing right in the moment we need them!
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a parent later in life?
A: The 20 years I waited, whether on purpose or by fate, were the best gift I could ever give my children! The wisdom, maturity, healing, and authenticity are now something I can offer the daughter I gave up for adoption, instead of giving her my immature and tired self. The time gave me a chance to hone my parenting philosophy and decide which values are really important and which ones are not worth battling over. I am now more capable of handling things carefully and appropriately for daughters with special emotional needs. I don’t know how I could have handled all this before.
Q: When you became a stepmom, did your own mother or father share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you that you’d like to pass on to your children or other parents?
A: Find out if you and your children are extroverts or introverts and read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know what each needs and how damaging it can be to be ignorant of their particular needs.
Be willing to stand up for each person’s boundaries. Different generations have different ideas about what is or is not proper, acceptable, or necessary. Do research about the topics that your elders bring up that bristle you and share it with them. Hairstyles and clothing styles change and so do parenting philosophies. Be willing to let your father tell your daughter he didn’t recognize her with all that hair in her eyes, instead of trying to cut her bangs before he says it, even though it has lead to numerous arguments. The first time someone offers advice, decide if you ever want to hear anymore advice from him/her or not and have prepared a response that will gently and directly let the person know that you have put a lot of thought into that matter and are comfortable with the way your family has decided to handle it. Then change the subject by asking the person what helped him/her feel most loved as a youngster. The next thing you know, he or she will tell you about some special time or person when someone just listened without judgment, etc. Tell him or her that that is what you and your child need from him or her. P.S., know that your children may not want to hear your advice about what to wear either!