Meet Later Mom: Mary Ostyn
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married to my high school sweetheart, John
RESIDENCE: Nampa, ID
CHILDRENS NAMES/AGES: Amanda 26, Erika 24, Jared 22, Daniel 20, Lidya 19, Zeytuna 16, Josh 16, Ben 16, Emily 12, Julianna 9
I am the author of three books: Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, and A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family. My Amazon author page feaatures links to all three books: I’ve been blogging since 2006 at www.owlhaven.net.
What was your road to parenthood like? We were practically babies ourselves when we first became parents. John was 21 and I was 20. We had 4 kids in 6 years, and thought for a while that we were done. But when we were 30, we started talking about adoption, and ended up adopting 6 kids over the next 9 years. We have 2 boys adopted from South Korea in 1998 and 2000, and 4 girls from Ethiopia, adopted in 2004, 2005, and (2 girls) in 2007. These days, four of our kids are grown and 6 are still at home. Our two oldest daughters are married, with two babies each, and our oldest son is engaged to be married next summer. I’m loving the grandbabies, but also really glad to still have relatively little ones at home. My 9 year old still climbs on my lap for snuggles, and I just love it!
What do you see as the positives and challenges of adopting kids at age 35 or over? POSITIVES: The great thing is that I know I’ve grown in wisdom since my early years of parenting in my 20’s. I’m more patient and flexible than I used to be, and less likely to overreact when kids misbehave. CHALLENGES: Sometimes I have to remind myself to make a big deal over Christmas programs and other similar events for my younger ones. Just because I’ve been attending these things for a couple decade,s doesn’t make them less exciting to my 9 year old. On the other hand (according to my teens), she gets away with lots of stuff the older ones didn’t, just because she’s my baby. So maybe it balances out. :)
How did becoming a mom both younger and later in life differ? I think the greatest advantage of maturity is perspective. As a young mom, I sometimes made worried assumptions about a kid’s future based on their behavior as a very young and immature little person. These day,s I understand that a hard stage does not make a bad kid. There’s always opportunity for growth around the corner. Yeah, three years from now there will be new challenges. But this thing that’s overwhelming me now will most likely have passed. We will survive and be stronger from the growth process.
Has anything about being a mother surprised you? If so, what? What do you love the most about it? I know that a lot of people think of motherhood as boring and short on mental stimulation. But what has surprised me most about motherhood is the tremendous emotional and mental energy it requires, especially as kids grow into the teen years. They’re all different– they need different approaches and receive love best in different ways. Certainly there’s physical investment too: cooking and chauffeuring and shopping. But it’s the mental investment and the need for very creative thinking that has been the greatest surprise for me.
What I love most is being important and necessary and to know that I do make a difference in a child’s life. This morning, I got love letters from my 9 year old and text messages from my 22 year old, both making it clear to me (in totally different words) that I am important and cherished in their lives. That is priceless. (It also balances out the teens in the middle who currently think I’m not all that great.)
Can you share a funny or AHA parenting moment with our readers? Awhile back, one of my sons was reading a biography about Harry Truman, and found out that Harry Truman was born in Missouri just like me. Very earnestly he asked, “Did you know him, Mom?” After feeling shocked and telling him I wasn’t that old, I did the math and realized Truman and I actually had been alive at the same time for five years, during which time we both lived in Missouri. Theoretically, though I don’t remember it, I could have met him. Dang, I am that old.
What do you most want to teach your children? Love for God, love for each other. That and a grace-filled way of looking at the people around them. We all have our baggage, and I hope that they will be the type of people to treat those around them with gentleness and an awareness of the fragility that sits very close to the surface in all of us some days. I also hope that they won’t get out of the house without knowing how to work hard, and how to be positive contributors in this world.
What influence, if any, has your own mother or father had in your life and in your parenting? From both my parents I learned to love and value children. Not all people can say that these days, so I think that was a huge gift, and (most likely) part of the reason John and I had 10 kids ourselves.
Where do you turn for support as a mom? How important is to connect with mom peers? My mom and a dear friend of mine are my closest supporters besides my husband. They are both moms of many, and have both experienced parenting teens, which is the area in which I need the most encouragement and perspective these days. I also am a member of a Facebook support group for adoptive parents, which is full of wisdom and perspective. I think it’s hugely important for us as moms to get support in a variety of ways, and these days the internet offers lots of viable options, even during the mothering years when it can be hard to step away regularly to recharge.
What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a parent, particularly if they’re 35 or older? I would just encourage them! Older parents have much to offer children, and children are such a great gift to us. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s exhausting at times– maybe more so as you age– but in the best, most heart-expanding way possible. And those grandbabies that will most likely come later? Well, they are the whipped cream with the cherry on top: pure joy.
When you became a mom, did your own mother or father share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? My mom is one of the wisest people I know. Her most frequent counsel in times of stress is to take a day at a time, to avoid hasty decisions, and to sleep and see how life looks the next day. Things always look brighter in the morning. When it comes to difficult relationships, she encourages me to assume good intent in the other person, because guarding my own thoughts makes it easier for me to love that person well. She is a tremendous ballast in my life, and I hope I can be that kind of wise adviser to my kids as they mature also.