HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Hometown: Brooklyn, NY. Currently live: Brooklyn, NY
ON THE WEB ElanaGartner.com
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two
FAVORITE CHILD if applicable* (we’re joking*) My inner child
DAY JOB Playwright
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
When my son was born three years ago, my husband was working as a financial consultant for a company that allowed him to work four days a week. Therefore, we were able to have him be with my son one day, have me be with my son one day and have a nanny three days and a floating evening (as a playwright, part of my job is attending theater and one never knows when that will be. With my husband’s travel for work being often last-minute, I needed to make sure I had coverage).
When our daughter was born, my husband was transitioning to entrepreneurial work. We continued having one day each with the kids but added an extra night so we can both work late. Now my son is in pre-school three mornings a week. My husband and I take turns dropping him off and we are trying to make sure that we have concentrated alone time with our daughter since we found that to be so valuable with our son.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
I go home earlier. I don’t always necessarily go to bed earlier but I go home earlier.
In my industry, that’s hard. A lot of networking happens after shows and there’s some stigma about being a parent (seriously!) in theater. I hate the moments that I fit the stereotype. My friendships have changed. I am very self-conscious of what topics I talk about with my friends who don’t have kids and we’ve had to parent-date to find new friends who are also parents.
We don’t travel as much to visit friends and that was something we did a lot more pre-children. As for being more careful…I now have to distinguish between when I’m waiting for the sign to cross the street when I’m with the kids (to set such a good example) and when I’m by myself and I can cross against the light as long as there are no cars coming.
Being a good role model is just really hard sometimes.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
My husband and I have spent a lot of time working on our communication throughout our whole marriage. Having children means that there’s less time to work on it but we need it more so we’ve had to work harder to find the time, fortunately with some success. We’ve made sure to build in date nights (my parents are in the next neighborhood over and that is incredibly helpful) and take the time to watch silly shows together.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
Because I’m a playwright, I’m very into reading. I take my kids to the library and look for fun books. My theater background lends itself to funny voices which my son really loves. My creativity lends itself to interesting projects like going and collecting leaves in the park and making art with them or having ongoing photo albums of my son’s family who he may not always see, which reinforces his memory of them.
My weakness is a common one: I run out of patience. My husband and I try to tag team being the patient one in a situation. But when we’re both out of patience, that’s the really hard moment. When you find yourself closing the door after putting the kids to bed and just being grateful that they’re down for the night and you don’t have to deal with them again until the morning, you know it’s been a rough day.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
My husband tends to do more physical things with my son and, being the son of a nurse, is the better person for things that are medically related. We have different learning styles — he learns by reading while I am an experiential learner. So he reads all of the child development books and I figure out when we need to look into more.
His weaknesses? He also runs out of patience. Fortunately, we try to tag team our own meltdowns rather than have them at the same time but that doesn’t always work when you’ve got a three year old and a seven month old who is fussing for some reason and you’ve ruled out all of the normal ones.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Our nanny is the other major caregiver and my parents, after that. My husband’s family is in California and my brother, his wife and their very new baby are in Beijing.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR PARENTING?
My son has a severe peanut allergy and has also had an egg allergy (we’re desperately hoping we’ll discover he’s outgrown the egg allergy at one of his birthday visits sometime). The allergies were a great source of tension and stress for us when we were discovering them. We’ve had to learn to communicate his needs to his friends’ parents and be unapologetic about it (harder than you’d think).
We go to a big week-long party every year involving a large number of families and a communal kitchen. Once we let people know about it, they were enormously supportive which really helped us become more confident in being unapologetic with others.
Now that he’s started school, we got him a MedicAlert bracelet (I’ve got one for my epilepsy) and we’ve talked with him a lot about his allergies so that he knows. With the egg allergy, we’ve gotten baking books with recipes that don’t have egg and given them as gifts to our relatives who might bake for him. As it turns out, some of the recipes are truly awesome. We now have to have frozen cupcakes to take with us to birthday parties and we have to go to an allergist to get his flu shot.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
Just one? Moments when my son mimics behaviors that I really never wanted him to pick up. Those are never good. Dealing with his peanut allergy, even without an actual reaction, has been extremely stressful. Mostly, though, I think that having kids has made me look really hard at the insecurities and fears that I have that I was willing to put up with before but that are now going to hold back or impact my kids.
You never want to pass on your own insecurities to your kids.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
There are a lot but I think the prep that we did for my son getting a sister led to an awesome moment: Circumstances turned out in our favor so that my son was able to meet his sister within twelve hours of her birth. My husband drove him to the hospital. They had to wait downstairs a bit because I was getting some help from the nurses and there was a delay in getting my daughter from the nursery. But, when they finally were allowed to come upstairs, my son burst through the door demanding “Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby?”
When I smiled and greeted him, he glared at me and demanded again “Where’s the baby?!”. As a result of our preparation, he moved rather smoothly into the big brother role and incorporated her easily into his every day life.
Please feel free to add other stories or anecdotes about your life as a parent.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my son became very empathetic. If I wasn’t feeling well and was lying on the couch, he would announce, while climbing on another couch “We are sick!”, then instruct my husband to cover him with a blanket and turn off the livingroom light so we could sleep.
More recently, when my husband and I were getting the kids up one morning, I went to say good morning to my son first and I was so tired that I crawled into his bed and asked if he would please go get his sister up. What I heard was “No. I can’t.” and I jokingly said “You can’t? Why not?” and he grasped around for an answer and finally said “Because I’m three!”. My husband, however, told me that he looked very alarmed that he couldn’t help me with something that I was asking him to do and so we had to assure him that I was kidding.
My daughter, who is in the process of having her own personality emerge, seemed to think it particularly hysterical to develop a whole bunch of new and startling skills in the 48 hours surrounding her brother’s 3rd birthday. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to mind.
We have had the great fortune of being pregnant at the same time with close friends. During our first pregnancy, two of my husband’s college roommates were also expecting, one within days of us and the second within two months. The second time, a childhood friend of mine was due with her first two months after us.
This has really helped us understand the kind of bond that happens when you go through the pregnancy together, have the children together and have the great opportunity to raise them together. And it means that we are not just watching our own children grow, but the community that has strengthened because of the commonality of children the same age.
It is like no other commonality. I belong to a listserv for moms of kids born in the same month as my son. The moms are very active, October is a huge birthday month for all of us, but it was so helpful when, for example, we were all diving into the school stuff without any knowledge of what we were getting into.
And it is always helpful for playdates on rainy days.