My thoughts on stuff. Here they are. (This profile originally appeared in The Parent du Jour’s online “book” project featuring parents from around the world on how we parent today.)
See? I’m an expert.
AGE It’s not polite to ask a woman her age, but fine – I’m 38.
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? I’m a native New Yorker, but I was raised in central, NJ. I now live in an undisclosed location.
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two and that’s plenty.
DAY JOB Freelance writer/mother/household manager/laundress/short-order cook/cleaning lady/personal shopper/chauffer/nutritionist/social coordinator/tutor/event planner.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? I don’t. It can’t be done.
Well, it might be possible but only with constant anxiety, struggle, stress, mental wear and tear and massive amounts of effort, energy and determination. After a decade of trying to solve this conundrum, I still haven’t come up with a really good answer – I mean one that doesn’t cause me a heart attack daily.
When I had my first child, The Kid (now 10), I reduced my hours at my job in New York City but with the commute it still amounted to full-time work, plus I suffered chronic panic attacks running for the bus home everyday. The situation wasn’t working and because I couldn’t find a way of combining work with parenting I chose to stay home full-time with my daughter. For me that was a bad decision (my therapist told me so).
While I believed my husband or I should be the one raising our daughter, I missed work terribly and became depressed. It took years of struggling on my own (my husband was obviously the one making rent so there wasn’t much flexibility there) to try to find a viable solution. Honestly, for about five years I could not see a way to combine motherhood with my career. When my kids went to preschool I took any job I could (which meant working at their preschool so I’d have the same hours as them) just to be working. I wasn’t working in my field, but I was working, and it felt good to be productive and have an outlet aside from parenting. When my kids went to elementary school I started working for free at a parenting website, Barista Kids, just to get back into writing. Eventually that led to paid work, and now I’m a blogger extraordinaire. OK, maybe not, but give a girl a chance.
I think the key is mothers have to put themselves up there with their husbands and kids. At least for me, I wasn’t willing to say my needs and wants weren’t as important as everybody else’s in the family, and I had to carve time out for myself. Now I work when the kids are in school and when they get home it’s all kids, all the time. After they’re in bed sometimes I pull a third shift. Author Arlie Hochschild never mentioned a third shift, but there is one.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Parenting led me to see the world as a completely foreign place. When I left for the hospital on that cold February night the world seemed in pretty decent shape, but when I returned just two days later, everything had changed. Did you know people throw their garbage right on the street? The same street my sweat, innocent, perfect baby was going to live on. And people curse? Right in front of her tiny, little ears. And somehow over a weekend regular, network T.V. and pop music became filthy. Why is everyone (by that I mean celebrities) always half-naked? Put some clothes on for God’s sake. There are children out there! Overnight the world became an unfit place to raise kids.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
I think parenting is hard on a relationship.
Let’s face it, there is no amount of time or attention kids won’t try to suck out of you, and there’s only so much of me to go around. Usually, I’m spent by the time my husband gets home from work.
When my first child came along I desperately missed spending time ALONE with my husband. My daughter was born 9 months after our wedding, and although we had dated for five years before getting married, I still felt I missed out on our newlywed phase. We didn’t have family nearby so we didn’t go on date nights. For the first two months I didn’t even leave the apartment – I couldn’t seem to manage it.
To spend time together we planned short weekend trips starting with our first anniversary when we could leave the baby with family. Eventually, as the kids grew we settled into the routine, and time away didn’t seem as crucial or as possible given various commitments, but we still try to plan trips when we can. For a strong marriage I believe it’s always important to spend time away together to remember you were people before you were parents.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
I would say my strengths are patience (well, at least I have more than my husband) and maybe my toughness – but in a good way. I don’t think I tolerate a lot of nonsense from my kids. I mean it’s easy to get suckered by the sad eyes or the adorable, little faces, but kids are devious. You can’t trust them. They learn from an incredibly young age (birth I think) how to manipulate you, and they’ll run hog wild if they can. But I believe kids need and really want discipline even though they’ll fight you every step of the way. That’s just the nature of child rearing.
I don’t have any weaknesses. OK, maybe one or two. I definitely allow stress to get to me, and that affects my kids. When I’m overwhelmed I get grumpy, and then I snap at everyone. I’m not good at mood regulation, but I’d like to work on that. I’m also a control freak, and I think I need to step back a bit and let everyone do his or her own thang sometimes.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
I would say my husband’s strengths are his calm demeanor – you cannot get that man angry – and his easy manner. He is extremely accepting and tolerant of everything when I am extremely unaccepting (not a word, but should be) and intolerant of everything.
Although Kevin’s perfect, if I had to I suppose I could come up with a few weaknesses. He can be a little under-motivated where household and child maintenance are concerned, and while he’s not a hypochondriac, he’s a wanna-be hypochondriac. He never actually gets sick, but he always thinks he’s getting sick and demands sympathy for that.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
My husband really steps in on the weekends and in the evenings when he gets home from work, and we occasionally have a sitter on a weekend night, but other than that it’s pretty much me.
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK?
Anything by Dr. Seuss for obvious reasons – the man’s a genius. My kids and I love anything that is funny and clever so of course we love the Diary of a Worm, Spider, and Fly books by Doreen Cronin as well as 10 Minutes Till Bedtime and Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. I’d also like to throw out two lesser-known books I have come to adore possibly more than my children do: Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino, a sweet story about a little Pug who was made to feel inadequate by the other animals around him until he meets a friend just like him, and Do Not Open This Book by Michaela Muntean, which tells the story of the book being written as it’s being read and uses the reader as one of the characters.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
It’s funny my kids actually helped me with this.
When I got this questionnaire I thought what the hell am I going to say, but then The Kid asked me what some of the questions were. Of course, after that she demanded to know the answers so I had to do some thinking. It turned out I didn’t even have to think that hard. My worst parenting moment was easily when my husband and I took The Kid, our new 6-month-old baby, to Brooklyn Bridge Park near our apartment. Kevin and I were taking in the view with The Kid in her stroller when we heard a strange, unnatural sound. It was a dull, hollow thud. We turned around to see her on the concrete sidewalk. She had wiggled out of her stroller and fell on the cement. And she was STRAPPED in. The sound we heard was that of her head hitting the sidewalk. I remember staring at her on the sidewalk for a split second, my brain unable to process the situation. We raced her to the hospital where the doctor examined her and reported she didn’t have so much as a bump on her head. So we learned early on she was hardheaded, which continues to be true to this day.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
My best parenting moment: Can I say two because there is one for each child? With The Kid it was the day she came home from school recently and informed me of her assignment that day in class. She had to name a person she admired. She said she admired me because I was the smartest person she knew (she doesn’t know many people, but still) and added I was like a walking dictionary. She had unwittingly given me the best compliment I could ever ask for and let me know I was setting a good example for my kids.
The other best parenting moment was when my family became complete with the adoption of our son, Crazy (now 8), who just may be the sweetest, kindest, most joyful soul on the planet for which I can take no credit.
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