The balancing act of being a working mom, can be quite tricky. At Real Mom Daily we’re sitting down with mamas around the world to capture a glimpse of how they walk their daily tight-rope and still keeping it together…mostly.
Name: Claire LaZebnik
First names & ages of kiddos: Max-25, Johnny—23, Annie—19, Will—17
Occupation: Book author
Occupation description: I write novels and non-fiction books, and the occasional article and play monologue.
1 How do you balance WORK & being a mom? I’m lucky enough to have a career that I can fit in around everything else I have to do and that allows me to be at home if anyone needs me. When my kids were little, they always came first. Actually, they still do, because I’m very aware that I don’t have all that much time left with them: if my 17-year-old wants to hang out and chat with me during his last year before going off to college, I’m going to drop everything else to talk to him. But I’ve always felt that way. The great thing about being a novelist is I rarely have emergencies that take me away from the family.
I wrote my first published novel when my fourth child was just a baby. I would get the two biggest kids off to elementary school, drive my daughter to preschool, come home and put Will down for a nap. I’d write while he slept, and when he woke up, we’d go back to pick up Annie and I wouldn’t be able to write again until after they went to bed. But it made writing such a delight—I would think about the next chapter the whole day and then write like crazy when I could.
I don’t think I’m as good or successful a writer as I might have been if I hadn’t had kids. They took up too much of my time and energy and I often wrote things with a “good enough” attitude instead of “this has to be great.” But I wouldn’t trade being a mother for all the great American novels in the world and I’m lucky I’ve had the career I’ve had.
2 How do you balance SELF CARE and being a mom? These days it’s not an issue at all—the kids are grown and I can take a long steam shower if I want to or crawl into bed in the evening and knit for hours while I binge-watch some show. But when they were little, I didn’t get much time to myself. I was pretty exhausted all the time and I was terrified of leaving them for a weekend. Actually, I’ve never liked going out without them. Even now, I’d rather celebrate my birthday or our anniversary WITH the kids than go out without them. They’re my favorite people.
3 How do you balance RELATIONSHIPS/ROMANCE and being a mom? My husband and I have been married now for almost thirty years. We had four kids together and I would say that most of our daily interaction is discussing what’s going on with them—which, I’ll admit, isn’t the sexiest topic of conversation. We recently went away alone together for the first time in maybe a decade and had a lovely time. I had forgotten how easy it is to go out for a meal when you’re not considering six different opinions and diets. We knew when we chose to have four children that they would wear us out and fill up our time, but now that they’re almost all out of the house, we’ll have plenty of time to find our way back to more of a one-on-one kind of a relationship.
4 Your mom struggles and or issues: My oldest son is on the autistic spectrum (diagnosed when he was three), my second son has Celiac Disease (diagnosed when he was four) and my daughter has Addison’s Disease and Hashimoto’s (diagnosed when she was five). They kept me on my toes. I spent a lot of time on research, a lot of time on intervening, a lot of time with professionals . . . You think parenting is going to go a certain way and it never does. I couldn’t be the relaxed, creative mom I wanted to be with my oldest son, because he needed more structure and clear directions. (I detailed a lot of our autism saga in the nonfiction book I co-wrote with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel, Overcoming Autism, if anyone’s interested in learning more about that.) I hate leaving the house and especially hate going to the doctor but I had to take all my kids to many appointments—you just suck it up when it’s your kids. And I love to bake but had a lot of learning to do when it came to baking gluten-free for my kid with Celiac Disease. I’m proud to say I pretty much mastered it though. Pretty much. I’m still not happy with my GF bread skills.
5 Sh%tty Moment: (A particular parenting moment that you wish you had handled differently.) Just one? Well, there was the time I poisoned my son with Celiac Disease by feeding him corn tortillas—which are normally safe but this particular brand had wheat added to make them “springy.” I didn’t check the ingredients and he was up all night vomiting—and had a big test at school the next day. Then there was the time I lost my patience with my oldest son and sent him to his room when he was really too old for that, and he was so upset he called the teen hotline and reported me as abusive. Then there was the time I didn’t realize my daughter was supposed to keep going to basketball games at the local rec center—I thought the season was over but they were still in play-offs. Someone told us to come for the last game and then all the other girls on the team yelled at her for skipping out on them when it mattered—and it was all MY fault, not hers. I could keep going but I’d rather not. 🙂
6 Your mom tips: Let your child lead the way. I can’t stress this enough. So many parents cling to the idea that they’re in charge of their kids’ interests and future, and dictate to them about what they should be involved in or lecture them about any subject that comes up, when what your kids really want from you is to let them show you what THEY’RE interested in and tell you what THEY’RE learning about. You can have a dialogue, not a lecture. And don’t force your child to do activities just because you enjoyed them when you were little. What does he/she like to do? They need to figure out for themselves what delights and inspires them and they can’t do that if you’re booking piano lessons and pitching coaches every afternoon. And if they come running to you with excitement over something they’ve discovered, don’t instantly act like you’re the expert and they’re not—let them tell you about it. You’ll learn something and add to their confidence and enthusiasm.
And, by the way, this goes DOUBLE if your kids are applying to college. Let them steer the entire process. Your only job is to take them to as many different campuses as you can get to, and to manage their expectations so they don’t get their hearts set on just ONE particular school. Otherwise, let them take charge of the process. And don’t assume that the college you went to or the one that dazzles you is right for them. It might not be.
7 Unicorn Moment: (A particular parenting moment for which you keep patting yourself on the back.) My daughter wasn’t sure she was ready to go off to college this past fall. She had a boyfriend and a lot of friends in LA and hadn’t spent much time away from us. For a while she really fought the idea and asked if we’d consider letting her rent an apartment with a few other people and stay in LA instead of going to college. We were sure she would love college once she went but knew from past experiences that the worst way to handle this was to get all authoritarian and say, “You are going, young lady, and that’s the end of it!” No choice leads to panic with my daughter and a need to make everything fall apart so she feels free again.
My wonderful friend Ann Brown, who’s a parenting expert, gave us incredible advice. She said, “Encourage her just to try it, but let her know she can leave if she’s not happy. And spend some time nearby after school starts so she doesn’t feel the pain of separation too acutely—she’ll know you’re in the same city if she needs you.” So we followed her advice: we didn’t say “no” to any alternative plans or threaten to cut her off completely if she didn’t go to college like we wanted. We just said, “Give it a try.” And I booked a local hotel for an extra ten days after school started.
It was incredible. She loved college almost immediately (as we had thought she would) and within a few days, was way too busy to see me, which was what I had hoped for. By the time Christmas break rolled around, she wanted to go back to school EARLY because she loved it so much. Oh yes—it didn’t hurt that she and the boyfriend had broken up before school started. That part was luck, but the rest I think we can pat ourselves on the back for. And pat Ann on the back too.
Click here to connect with Claire’s most recently published YA novel:
THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, on Amazon.
If you want to find out more about Claire please check out her website: www.clairelazebnik.com
Have some working mom tips of your own? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org