A Child Born to Another, Made her a Mother
Karla Thomas is shown top right, with her wife Stacy and their 2 daughters. (Photo credit: Anita Healy)
“The joy, the beauty, the meaning… it all comes from being a mom, not from giving birth.” These wise words from my friend Ren McMillan came to mind as I worked on this week’s feature. The gift of motherhood is not only given through birth, but also to big-hearted women who have bravely chosen to mother those born to someone else. Karla Thomas knows this all too well. Her motherhood journey is so epic, inspirational and heartwarming, I could not wait to share it. I wanted to highlight the beauty of her diverse family and this incredibly strong and amazing mom.
Karla is the perfect example of a mother deep in the trenches. Her hilarious Facebook posts about her daily life as a mom are a testament to that. But in addition to the regular mommy woes, the many dimensions of her family add extra challenges and joys as well. Part of what inspires me about Karla is how she has continued to follow her passions and dreams, with the support of her wife Stacy of course. Last year Karla traveled to Nepal with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 2015. Karla has an MBA from Kellogg School of Management and runs her own Real Estate Brokerage firm, “Urb and Burb.”
I am thrilled to feature Karla Thomas as our Amazing Mom this week!
On her identity:
I struggle to define or label myself as I’m ever evolving and pieces of my identity seem to take varying levels of importance at different stages of my life. Today, I would say I am primarily a woman, then a mother, wife, and an entrepreneur. Much of my life is focused on my family and work. I am committed to raising two powerful young ladies. I believe that I am responsible for creating the joy in my life. I surround myself with positive people and energy. I have also reached a stage in my life where I will no longer work simply for a paycheck. If I can’t find joy in what I am doing, I simply don’t do it. I own two real estate related businesses, a brokerage and a development company. After 15 years of the corporate grind, I finally feel alive and passionate about the work that I do. I move through the world with curiosity and an eye for experimentation. I am always looking for my next challenge and I am instantaneously bored once I have achieved my most recent challenge, and yes, this drives my wife crazy!
On her family:
My family is the quintessential conspicuous family. My wife and I are a same gender, interracial, bi-national couple with two adopted kids. We get noticed just about everywhere we go, but at home, we are the same circus that every family with young kids inevitably becomes. My wife is the “stay the course”- responsible adult in our house and I am the dream big, color outside the box and break every rule kind of gal. When it comes to parenting however, she is fun mom and I’m the mom with all the rules and boundaries. We balance each other out. My 6-year-old daughter is going to rule the world one day with her charm, charisma and leadership skills. My 4-year-old is likely to be the first female NFL player, who hugs the opposing team members each time, after she takes them down. We are a family of 4 women who could not illustrate any more clearly how radically diverse, complicated, beautiful, and unique women’s personalities and hearts can be.
On becoming a mother:
At the age of 12, I knew I wanted to adopt. I watched one too many Lifetime movies about kids in foster care or orphanages and my mind was made up. As I grew into womanhood, I also realized that I never really got that internal desire to carry a child. When my wife and I started discussing having children, she was close to 40 and was perfectly happy to skip the pregnancy step all together. So, our first and only choice was adoption.
With infant adoption, the birth parent(s) choose the family they would like to raise their child. This can be sort of a daunting process that can leave even the most confident of couples doubting themselves. Unlike other paths to parenthood, you spend tons of time and energy creating a profile to prove to others that you will be good parents while you truly have no solid clue about what parenting really takes on a daily basis.
We were lucky enough to be matched with our eldest daughter only 3 1/2 months after having our home study complete. From the outside, you think of adoption as only a happy event. Nothing can prepare you for the waves of happy, terrifying, and devastatingly sad emotions you experience in those first weeks. You are ecstatic that someone thinks you are worthy and “good enough” to bestow the gift of motherhood. You are terrified because there is added pressure when someone entrusts you with their child. You are stricken with grief when you meet your child’s birth parents and get even a brief glimpse of the heart ache and excruciating anguish involved in deciding to give a child up for adoption. It was important for us to honor all the emotions of that transition into motherhood and not just glaze over the harder ones.
On bringing her daughters home:
Unlike carrying a child around for 9 months during pregnancy, adoption gives you very little time to develop a bond before your child arrives. Yet everything you see on TV makes you feel like you should have this instant bond and instantly be in love. For me, I think I experienced 2-3 weeks of disbelief. What? Wait? I am a parent? This is really happening? I am responsible for this human being? Yikes! It took almost a month for it to all feel real. The gravity of the fact that a child born to another woman would forever call me mommy had to sink in. The responsibility that this gift and this entrustment bore, probably weighed more on me than love in those first days.
On what she loves about being a mom:
A huge part of being a mother of two young girls, two young black girls no less, is primarily about building their confidence and an unwavering belief in themselves. There are too many other voices in this world that would indicate otherwise, so I have made it my mission to make them the strongest, most-resilient, compassionate beings possible. And so, the most rewarding part of motherhood for me is seeing my kids overcome a fear or a challenge they didn’t think they were capable of conquering. When I see the pride in their eyes, I am made whole. My 6-year-old thinks she is the all-inclusiveness and anti-bullying police at her school. She came home the other day and said that a boy in her class chose the pink pointer to do the morning calendar routine and that the class laughed at him. She stood up and told the entire class that there is no such thing as a boy color or a girl color, and that they were to stop laughing immediately. On days like this, I know my efforts are worth every tantrum and restless night.
On the greatest challenges of motherhood:
When we head into motherhood, we all picture 2.3 perfect kids, winning smiles, and the most adorable personalities. We never picture the work that goes into motherhood, especially if you are a working mother. Balance is undoubtedly the biggest and most consistent issue for me in motherhood. I used to sacrifice many things I needed to balance work and family life. Between work and family commitments, I used to leave it all out on the court. No more! I strategically planned, how I could reduce my work hours without reducing my lifestyle, so that I could bring more balance to my life. It took 3 years, but today I embrace my selfishness. I NEED my workouts, and I get them. I NEED alone/quiet time daily and I take that. “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” When I am balanced, and healthy, I am my best self and the best mother I can be, so I make it a priority to do the things that keep me balanced. The minute I get “out of whack,” I find myself having less patience with my kids and being short tempered. I know instantaneously that I need space, and I take it.
On getting through the tough stuff:
Some people say Jesus take the wheel, I say Stacy (my wife) take the wheel. Sometimes you just have to check out of a situation and re-group. I am constantly in awe of single parents and particularly, my mother, because I have no idea how I would survive if my wife and I were not such an excellent tag team. Let’s face it, parenting is draining, hell life can be draining. Yet, if asked, most parents will not be able to tell you one thing they have done in the last week to “fill their tank”. I have learned to fill my tank regularly and without guilt! And speaking of guilt, I also practice letting go of parenting guilt. I AM NOT PERFECT! I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER! I accepted that early, and my kids need to as well. I apologize to my kids regularly. I tell them that mom isn’t at her best today and specifically how she will try harder next time. I think it’s important for your kids to see you fail, but even more important, to see you pick yourself up again.
On her advice for moms:
I spent years as an efficiency expert in manufacturing plants and the drive to cut “waste” everywhere in my life still persists. While most people are asking themselves, “How can I do more?”, I am constantly asking myself “How can I do less?”. It’s so easy to get into the trap of doing everything for your kids, because, at first they need you to. Then it’s easier to do it for them, than fight with them about it. Time is the scarcest commodity, so I am constantly trying to take things off my plate, so I can free myself up. It starts with simple things you can transfer responsibility of to your kids.
Then taking it elsewhere in your life, I would encourage mothers to think outside the box and ask these questions surrounding work too. We have so many roles as mothers, wives, employees, house managers, the answer to creating sanity is not working harder, it’s working less. Can you afford to work 4 days instead of 5, even if you make it 4, 10 hour days, so you don’t cut your pay. Can you work 2 days each week from home and free up that commuting time? Don’t go with the knee jerk “NO!”. If you can’t do it with this job, can you find another job that you can? This is 2017! The way employers think is different and life /work balance is crucial! My wife and I spent 2 years figuring out how to eliminate our commutes and in my case work for myself so I can control my schedule more. This has made the world of difference in the time we can spend together as a family and as a couple. It has created more balance. I highly recommend it!
If you enjoyed this post take a moment to sign up for updates, announcements and chances to win giveaways from ispeakmom.com
© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.