DEBORAH QUINN Creating the illusion of one full-time parent.

Deborah Quinn, looking ahead to life in Abu Dhabi.

AGE   47 (late mid-forties, is how I like to think of it….)

HOMETOWN   I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and you’ll still find, under my New Yorker cynicism, that Midwestern “Hi!” attitude. I have lived in New York since 1988, a fact that amazes me on an almost daily basis.  We are about to pull up stakes and move for at least a year to Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, so I’m taking my midwestern feminism and New York irony to a country not known for either feminism or irony.

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   Two boys, almost 7 & almost 11

DAY JOB   English professor


ON TWITTER   @MannahattaMamma


FAVORITE CHILD   *if applicable     “Favorite” is a rotating position best achieved through some combination of picking up all the legos, rubbing my feet, cooking dinner, and slipping me a twenty (not one that’s been lifted from my wallet), but not necessarily in that order.


My husband is also an English professor, so we both have academic schedules that give us more flexibility (perhaps) than more traditional two-career couples. We teach on opposite days, thus creating the illusion of one full-time parent. Each of us takes one kid to school in the AM, and then afternoon pickup is a quilt of after-school programs, babysitters, and/or one of us. It mostly works, but the logistics are daunting and I do most of the arranging. Sometimes I feel like I live in an air traffic control tower, mapping out arrivals and departures with split-second timing. There’s very little margin for error, so an unexpected meeting or a kid home sick throws a serious wrench into the works.


That’s a hard question, actually, because there are so many different types of “worst” moments. There’s the merely disgusting, like the New Year’s Day a few years ago when my younger son called out in panic from the bedroom and I rushed in to find that he’d had a truly epic bout of diarrhea that had blown out his diaper—and that he’d then walked around calling for me, thus spreading little shitty footprints all over the rug. In trying to wipe up the mess, he’d put his hands in the shit, and then trailed those shitty handprints down the wall as I carried him into the bathtub. Happy New Year!

Or the terrifying: My eldest son was born two months early and weighed less than two pounds; he was in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care) for two months. So on the first day of becoming a parent, we thought our child might not survive.

Or the holy-crap-I-am-an-awful-mom moments (more than I care to admit): Losing my temper at my kids and shouting at them after a day of bickering has frayed my nerves to nubs, and knowing (even as I’m shouting) that I could be—should be—doing better.


I have those “wow, that’s my kid” moments, and they are great – Caleb fielding a baseball like a natural; Liam earning his black belt; both of them devouring books and building amazing lego creations. But I think my favorite moments are the conversations I have with each kid when he’s tucked in for the night. Sometimes it’s a long conversation about something that happened that day, sometimes it’s just a few words and a hug. I suppose that’s a bit of a cliché, to say that, but then again, I think parenting itself is kind of a cliché: the worst job you’ll ever love…and never leave behind.

Lisa D

Lisa Duggan is the founder of The Modern Village, and publisher of and

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