One of the most common questions we get from non-horse friends is how we (attempt) to balance our children’s lives with ours. I should probably start this piece with “we don’t always”. Try as we might, it is a very complicated balance. I would say that for the most part we have found what works for us and try our best to maintain that rhythm.
Two years ago we made the decision to move from Europe to the US full time. That was mostly based on the way we wanted the kids to be raised. Ten years ago we were at shows sometimes 30+ weeks a year. Sophia went to 25 cities in her first year of life. There was a special kind of tired for those years but in many ways it was easier than the ages they are now. We always stuck to her regular home routine on the road and just did our best to combat jet lag. I believe that the start of her life, including all of the travel and adult time, led to her being very independent and adaptable.
As time went on and horses and schedules changed it became more and more appealing and necessary to have a home base for the kids. Something deep down in me wanted that place to be in America. I had been away from home for ten years and though we had made some wonderful friends in Belgium, I never felt fully at home. Over the past two years that switch has been gradual and all at once. Yes, we moved, the kids started school in the States, but we still spent at least two months a year back in Europe at horse shows.
I am sure our kids, especially Sophia, would argue that we go to too many horse shows. Especially in the summer. As they grow up and become more invested in their own communities I think the time that they are on the road with us will become less and less. I have already started shaving down my own show schedule to times that work well for them. It is rare that I am on the road and never for more than three or four days. Rodrigo is more and more in control of his own schedule and always makes a point to come home and see the kids if there are long stretches away.
Sophia leaves school for the winter trimester and goes to a tutoring school in Florida during WEF. She was actually born in Florida and has always done this routine. For those reasons it is familiar to her and she has a second set of friends that she looks forward to seeing when we are there. Luciana also leaves her school in Connecticut to come with us to Florida. She goes to a three day a week nursery school program in both places. I think it is one of those things that we will just have to take stock of every year to make sure that it is still working for everyone. For now, it helps us be together as a family for a long stretch of time and feel at home.
The most important component to making any of this work is really the family, friends and support system that the kids have at home. We feel so lucky to have consistent help with them to make sure that they always feel safe and comfortable. I truly believe that I am a better mom for being able to do something that I love to do. Not only that, but to do it together with their dad. Hopefully someday they will look back and appreciate how much love and effort was made towards making sure everyone’s needs were met.
It is not an easy balance, or a traditional life. But the more time goes on the more I truly appreciate this amazing sport and what it has given us, the people we have met and these amazing animals that we work with everyday. I am sure that the patience needed has carried over to parenting more than once. The truth is we are building the plane in flight, but I guess everyone is to some extent!