Lori BeneytonProfession: Subscription Director at Prevention magazine, responsible for marketing programs to bring new subscribers to the magazine via online and offline methods.
Marital Status: Married
Residence: Hellertown, PA
Children: Edi, age 4.75; Irina, age 3.5; Sam, age 1
Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)? What made you choose international adoption, and why those countries?
A: I didn't get married until I was 39, and had always wanted to face parenthood with a partner. We tried to get pregnant immediately, but after about a year of trying and a couple of early miscarriages, we had a fertility workup and discovered my husband had a balanced chromosomal translocation. Basically, this meant that the embryos we were creating were not consistent with life because our chromosomes did not align. They said there was a slight chance it could auto-correct, but this issue, coupled with my age at the time (40) gave us a less than 10% chance of bringing a child to term. We looked at other options and finally decided on international adoption.
It's not the path for everyone, but for us it made so much sense. My husband is French and had immigrated here after a three year long-distance relationship (very long distance: Pennsylvania to Lyon, France). Both of us have traveled quite a bit, and are very interested in other cultures. We chose Guatemala for our first adoption because we loved the culture as we knew it. My husband's parents had traveled there and loved it, and we were taken with the warmth of people there, plus the great food! (I remember a class at the adoption agency, where each family had to bring a food from the country they were adopting from. I made Guatemalan chicken and pineapple and it was a big hit! The families adopting from Russia did not have such good stuff.) We also loved that the children were in foster care rather than orphanages, and there was a good record of them settling into families well post-adoption. We brought home our son Edi in September 2006 at 13 months, and thus officially became parents. Edi, by the way, was about the easiest kid you'd ever want to parent. Still is for the most part.
We wanted to add to our family again, so pursued adoption again in 2007. At this point, many international programs were starting to have major slowdowns, or were closing, so we didn't have as many options. Guatemala at this time was not recommended for those reasons. So, we finally settled on Russia as it seemed like our best choice among the programs offered by the agency we had worked with before. The Russian process was a much more rigorous one, but in Feb 2008, we received a referral of a 14 month old girl named Irena who was in an orphanage in Moscow. We accepted the referral in early March and were told shortly thereafter that we would not hear anything else until fall due to case backlog and summer vacations in Moscow.
So, we planned to enjoy our summer, took some a trip to the beach, Niagara Falls, visited with family. And in August, I found out that I was 7 weeks pregnant!!!!!!
Many people asked us, once we went public with the pregnancy, if we would continue with the adoption, but we had already come so far, and had bonded to our little Irena, even though we didn't know that much about her yet.
In the fall and winter of 2008, we went to Moscow three times to complete our adoption of Irena, who we renamed Irina. My own mother died in September 2008, and we had to delay her funeral so we could go meet with Russian authorities about our adoption. My French in-laws made 2 trips to the US in the month of December to watch our son Edi while we went to Moscow. Finally, on December 20, 2008, with me 5 months pregnant, we brought our 2 year old daughter home to Pennsylvania.
Baby Sam was born in April. 2009 was a year of many, many transitions for all of us, but probably greatest for Irina who came from an orphanage in Russia to a house in PA, who changed languages, acquired parents and a big brother, and then only 4 months later was joined by a new baby! I commented that Edi was such as easy kid. Irina is not. She is a challenge in many ways. She knows her mind, she doesn't let go of something once she wants it, and she's vocal about everything. She's also exuberant, loves people and interaction, and is a huge hit at every social gathering she goes to.Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? Where do you see yourself heading?
A: I absolutely love direct marketing. I love the ideas and the strategy behind it, and that you can measure your success (or failure) very clearly, unlike some other forms of marketing. I love magazines too, which is good because I started marketing magazines in 1987 and only took one brief step into another field where I was not nearly as happy in my work. And working in publishing is fun for me too, because I'm surrounded by many interesting, creative, and talented people every day.
Since becoming a mom to three, what is most challenging is really the juggling act that is required. I try to give everything to my work that I can, and everything to my family that I can, but on a daily basis, I have to decide where your energy is best spent. And sometimes I really don't have a choice, such as when confronted with vomiting and diarrhea. :)
I do love what I do. I'm not seeking a ton of professional advancement right now. I'm trying to balance what I have in all aspects of my life as best I can. Someday, although not sure when, I see myself in something very different, most likely some sort of philanthropy/non-profit work. I've started contributing in various ways to an organization that supports the Maya in Guatemala, which is my oldest son's origin. The poverty is astonishing. I love feeling that what I'm doing is helping, and I also love the personal connection to the people. I'd like more of my life to be about something like that, but it's hard to fit it all in while dealing with everything else I have going.Q: What have you experienced through motherhood thus far that has also helped you in your work or personal life?
A: Oh, motherhood has quenched a lot of that yearning for something more that I always felt. I wasn't sure who I was, or what I was looking for. Now I know, because it's presented to me every day, and I really don't have time to seek out other options and ruminate about them. In terms of my work, it has made me focus much more at the office. I cannot put in the hours I used to, so I try to be more productive in the time I have.
I also have the least amount of clutter at home that I have ever had. It's not my strong suit, but with three little ones adding to the chaos, I really find I must pick things up every day or it would just engulf us! I also got a cleaning lady too after #3 and don't know what I would do without her!!Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Have you worked more or less since you became a mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your children?
A: A typical day involves getting the kids up, fed, dressed, loaded in the car and off to daycare. I am lucky to have on-site daycare that I absolutely love at my work. I put in my eight hours, which sometimes includes working through lunch, or I could run to the grocery store for some dry goods during lunch, or I could go for a walk....I pick the kids up by 5:30 and go home to cook dinner, we play a bit, watch TV, read books, and the kids are usually all in bed by 9:15. Then I do the clean-up, throw in some laundry, other household chores. Sometimes I actually read a book before bed, or communicate with friends online. But I will say there is not much ME time in my life.
I work fewer hours since I became a mom. The daycare schedule really dictates it. I do often answer emails from home, and if I'm home with a sick kid, I can usually put in a half day from there. But as I said above, I really do think I'm more focused when I'm at work than I used to be. I don't socialize as much as I once did. I'm more nose-to-the-grindstone in the time I have.
I rarely travel for work. An occasional daytrip to NYC, which is about an hour and a half away. I do not take the kids. My husband will fill in with daycare drop-off and pick-up if I need to go to NYC. But I really try to avoid business travel unless it's required or very meaningful.Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences to date as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most want to try to teach your children? What influence has your own mom had in your life and in your parenting?
A: Well, there was the incident last week where an older child on the daycare center playground said to me, "Whose Grammy are You?" That was not so good! That has happened a couple of times, I will admit. I just made an appointment with the dermatologist and committed to losing some weight, so maybe it had some positive impact anyway....!
I'm probably more tired than I would have been if I had kids at 25. I'm usually in bed at 10 or 10:30. All the multi-tasking is exhausting, and my memory is not good. It never used to be like this!! I have to write everything down.
But then, at 25 I was really not ready to be responsible for molding young lives. I really appreciate and value being a mom at my age, because it was hard-won and long-delayed for me. I'm also in a financial position to be able to offer my children international travel, the best of daycare settings, etc. And I've lived a bit and gained some life experience and wisdom, which I hope I can impart to them. At 25, I was a pretty sheltered, closed-minded individual compared to who I am today. And much less self-confident.
There are a few important things I think I am uniquely positioned to teach my kids: That they are children of the world, and that all people are equal, no matter how they came into a family, where they were born, the color of their skin, or the language they speak. That family is so important and the connections of family last a lifetime. That they are unique and special and loved, and that I know they will find their own path to happiness and success in their own way and their own time.
I miss my mom a lot. We had just told her I was pregnant a few weeks before she died. I often wish she were here to offer advice and support. But, she did a good job being my mother for the 43 years I had her, and her biggest example to me in life was in the way she cared for others, often in spite of herself. She was 36 when I was born and 39 when my brother was born (we were a 2nd family, I also have a brother who is 14 years older), so the idea of being a later mom was not a foreign one. She did that for me too.Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? How important is it to connect with other 35+ mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms? What about for those considering adoption?
A: I definitely get support from other moms at work and at the daycare center. There are some who are older like me, and even several other adoptive parents. It is important to have the support of people who are walking the same walk you are!
I do see myself as a role model in both those categories. I think we're often role models even when we don't know it, and are influencing people all the time. Sometimes you see the results of your influence much, much later. I hope to leave good things with the people I come in contact with.Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life? What do you see as the upside to becoming a parent later in life? Any particular challenges?
A: Being a mom is joy, embrace it at any age. Just live it and make it work, and don't worry too much about the small things.
The upside is the beautiful children you get to live with every day, and claim as your own! But it's also some of the things I said before.....you're wiser and more centered and you have so much to offer a child at this point in life. Okay, so maybe it's not the spring in your step, but there are things a lot more important than that.
Sleep deprivation does not mix well with a full-blown career. Nor does snot on your shoulder.....but you know, it's all worth it. It's not easy, which is true. People ask me all the time, "How do you do it?" They mean juggle a full-time job, plus three small kids (they're all within 3.5 years of each other), plus retain my sanity. The real answer and the one I always give is, "You just do it."Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your child?
A: My dad was big on "Integrity." I remember so many supper-time lectures on that subject! One other thing that was part of my upbringing and my husband's as well: family mealtime. We always eat lunch (when home) and dinner together, at the table. I was always read to as well, and am still an avid reader. I try to read to my kids as much as I can, and hope they will have a love of reading like I do.
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