Updated: Oct 28, 2020
This overwhelmed mom thought her capacity to care for more people was full. Then an unexpected support system showed up—and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Photo: Joy Jordan-Lake's daughter and three of the other girls who became a part of their "village." (2nd from right)
By Joy Jordan-Lake October 1, 2019
It indeed takes a village to raise a child—or at least, that’s the richest, most beautiful way to do it. But I had to learn this all over again with my third child, when everything
in my life seemed to argue for circling the wagons and defaulting to what my family
threatens they will have etched someday on my tombstone: I can do this all by myself.
With two biological children and two busy careers, my husband and I were in the midst
of a harried midwinter move from Waco, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee—and we
would soon find ourselves stuck with two houses after buyers pulled out of the sale last
minute in Texas.
But far more important than real estate woes just then was our flying to China to bring home our third child, a precious adopted daughter. Back in the U.S., my father was suffering from early Alzheimer’s Disease and my mother needed help not only with care but with knowing what to do, where to move, how to proceed. My husband’s mother was in L.A., and we needed to get out to see her and help more often than we had.
In the midst of the move two weeks after returning from China, the two older children and I fell ill with mono. I had a deadline looming for a book that would become Working Families.
In addition, I took a part-time teaching job in our new town and my husband worked long hours, both of us struggling to pay the two mortgages. Life had spun beyond busy into the realms of a blur.
Let’s just say that the last thing I was looking for was more extended family to keep track of and care for. When the eight other families who adopted at the same time from the same orphanage in rural China began planning annual and then more frequent reunions and formed a Facebook group and texting thread and began referring to our group as an extended family, I was exhausted—and, quite honestly, resistant. I liked them all immensely, and I understood that our daughters, in the orphanage together for the first 11 months of their lives, shared an unusual bond we needed to honor. But my care-for capacity was already overloaded. My calendar was already over-full.
In the friendliest, most loving and understanding way, they would simply not let us go. I am teary as I write that. Because despite our living hundreds of miles from each other, they became a village for our family.
Raising kids, and raising them well, is tough enough, as we all know. But helping
adopted kids navigate the extra questions they have to face adds a whole extra layer of
wisdom required. As our families gathered, we discovered the strength and connection
our girls seemed to find in each other’s company—and that we found with each other.
We adults held broadly different jobs, from realtors to writers to bankers and teachers
and accountants. Our girls, who as toddlers looked so much alike from behind with
their nine heads of long, glossy black hair and our dressing them to match, grew into
vibrant teenagers with vastly different styles and interests and talents. Yet even the
differences seemed to make the village-bond stronger.
We adults found we could be vulnerable with each other. We could share parenting
ideas and challenges. We could ask each other the hard questions of how you answer
your daughter when she wants to talk about adoption—or for that matter, matters of
faith or culture, what college might be a good fit or what future career.
Maybe I’m clumsier at parenting than most, but quite honestly, I find it the most gut-wrenchingly hard as well as the most spectacularly beautiful thing I’ve ever done. So
now as the veteran working mother of three kids, two of whom have launched to
college and grad school with only one left at home, I offer this advice to younger moms:
I know you’re busy. I bet you’re exhausted, your calendar and your care-for capacity
way past full.
But don’t let the crazy-much of your schedule make you shut out the village that is all
around you, that is ready to help you raise your child. That can become a storehouse of
wisdom for you. That can become a cherished even-more-extended, not-letting-you-go
kind of family.
Here’s to you, fellow Working Mom. And here’s to the villages that won’t let us go.
A Crazy Much Love
“How MUCH is the crazy-much love?”
This simple question is answered as two parents recount the journey of adopting their daughter and the many milestone moments that follow. From the child’s first bath and first time riding a tricycle, all the way to her boarding that big yellow bus, the crazy-much love grows SO MUCH that it spills out the windows and busts down the doors. A warm, lyrical celebration of the deep love parents hold for their children, and a comforting message for kids about how there can be only one special YOU.
“The standout illustrations burst with energy and are as saturated with color as the subject of the story is showered with love. A perfect gift for an adoptive family—and every family that has a deep and abiding love for their young children.”
“An honest and encouraging story about a transracial adoption.”
“Although adoptive families will especially appreciate this book, all families will enjoy the message of how crazy-much parents love their children…” —New York Journal of Books
“Vibrant and bright images fill the pages of this genuinely charming story. This is a realistic portrayal of a modern foreign adoption from the adoptive parents’ point of view. Eye-catching and heartwarming, this is an excellent choice for anyone wishing to share the loving bond between parents and their children.” —School Library Journal
About the Author
Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. Learn more about the author at www.joyjordanlake.com.
Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.