HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? I call Toronto, Ontario (well, actually it’s the ‘burbs just north of Toronto) home, but was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa (apparently my accent is as strong as the first day I arrived in Canada). I decided that I wanted to live in Canada from the time I first visited in 1984. Ten years later, I made the move along with my husband, who I married in 1993.
GOOGLE+ Jodi Echakowitz
ON THE WEB Echo Communications
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two (son is 14; daughter is 10 going on 20)
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK
Books? You’re assuming my kids read books instead of playing on an iPad, laughing at YouTube videos, hanging out on Facebook, immersing themselves in CloneWars or watching TV? Ha! But seriously, while my daughter loves to read, I (and most recently my hubby) typically end up reading the novels we buy for my son.
There are however two books that were a great hit in our house when the kids were younger (and which we sometimes refer to today). The first is “The Little Engine That Could.” I still use this as an example today to remind my kids that they can do anything that they put their minds to. The second book is “Something From Nothing”. This is one of the books they loved to read over and over again, and with my daughter’s “blanky” (yes, she still has one) starting to look a bit tattered, the book may just be inspiration for its next incarnation.
DAY JOB I’ve been in public relations my entire career and last year celebrated the 10th anniversary of the PR agency I founded. Seeing as though I’m a bit of a geek, the clients we work with are mostly in the tech and mobile sector.
I’m happily married to the man of my dreams and soul mate. We met when I was 15 (he was 18), and got married 7 years later. Crazy to think that this past December, we had been together for 25 years!
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
My hubby and I always joked that I would go out to work while he stayed home to look after the kids. But of course, that never happened! As I run my PR agency from a home office, I have the flexibility to be involved in my kids’ lives (i.e. do carpool, attend school plays, drive them to after school programs, etc.) and at the same time, support my clients’ needs. Of course, if I didn’t have a nanny/housekeeper (who has very bravely been working for us for almost 10 years), no one would ever have food to eat or clean clothes to wear, and my house would be one big cloud of dust.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Being a parent has taught me to be more patient (most of the time). I now also have an appreciation for what my parents went through raising my brother and me, especially the part about money not actually growing on trees. What I’ve also learned is that kids aren’t the only ones that need a time out every now and then!
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Like any good marriage, we’ve had our moments. But when it comes to parenting, we make a concerted effort to present a united front when disciplining our kids and making decisions that involve them. That said, I don’t always agree with my husband’s approach to parenting my son (he’s way stricter than me), and I’m still learning to keep my mouth shut. Parenting itself however hasn’t changed our marriage, but it has meant that we have to be more disciplined about making time for one another. For example, until our regular babysitter went off to university three years ago, Saturday night was always date night.
I think the thing that has affected our relationship most though, is my mother moving in with us after immigrating to Canada five years ago. (Yes, he’s a saint!) This has definitely been the biggest relationship challenge for us, but one that has brought us closer together. (Of course, I’m the optimist who figures she’ll move out one day, and he’s the realist who’s figures he’ll never get his basement back again.)
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
My strengths are my compassion and love for my kids. I’m always the first to defend them when they need a savior, but sometimes to the point where I get too involved. My weakness is my fear of letting go. I’m definitely over-protective and find it hard to see my kids growing up and wanting to do more things that foster independence. I’m sadly also quite a pushover when it comes to discipline (I like to leave the bad cop stuff for my hubby!)
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
My husband is a gem of a man, who will always put others before himself. He puts up with his mother-in-law living in the basement. He makes the best cup of tea ever, and does (or did) things that other husbands shake their heads at e.g. orchestrate surprise gifts for milestones such as anniversaries; he used to do my laundry (even while we were dating); cooks (he actually taught me to cook); clean, etc. He loves his kids more than anything, but I wish he were more flexible when it comes to disciplining them (see, I’m the pushover).
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
We have a live-out nanny who started working for us when my daughter was around three months old. This spring, she will have been with us for 10 years! She’s an integral part of our family as she practically runs our lives, and takes care of all our needs. She cares for my kids so that I can work from home; she cooks (she decides what to make for dinner every day); cleans; does the laundry; and even makes sure that I eat during the day (if it weren’t for her, I would work through lunch every day). I’ve always said that as long as I can afford to pay her (even when the kids are grown up), I would love to have her working with us.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR PARENTING?
Both my kids have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) but for different reasons. My daughter is highly gifted and attends an enrichment program one day a week.
My son has been identified with a number of special needs, with the primary one being Asperger’s Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder). He also has ADHD (medication makes this more bearable), Social Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorders (medication definitely helps to take the edge off), and a mild Learning Disability. There are so many positive gifts that come with having these special needs, and we work very hard to ensure that the labels don’t define him.
Raising a child with special needs is incredibly stressful, and I’ve spent countless hours crying because of the challenges my son faces each day and many more hours shedding tears of joy as he overcomes obstacles that stand in his way. His needs and the support I’ve gotten from others are just some of the many reasons why I volunteer my time for two non profit organizations – one focused specifically on Asperger’s Syndrome, and another that supports individuals on the autism spectrum.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
One day, when my daughter was in nursery school and my son (who was around 7 at the time) was home from school, I looked at my watch and realized it was time to pick my daughter up. Not thinking anything of it, I grabbed my car keys and headed out the door. When I got to the school, I saw our nanny there (she had also gone to pick up my daughter from school). I took one look at her and panicked when I realized that my son was left home alone. We raced home, only to find him watching TV. Thankfully, he didn’t even realize that he was left alone. (Of course, he still reminds me of this crazy time in his life!)
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
For me, every day presents an opportunity to be a proud parent, especially when I see what wonderful, well-mannered, articulate, kind, warm and loving people my kids have grown up to be.
That said, because my son has Asperger’s Syndrome (along with anxiety and ADHD), practically every day of his life reveals some kind of a challenge.
But along the way, there have been so many proud moments that other parents take for granted, such as seeing him participate in a school play, learning to ride a bicycle, going to overnight camp for the first time, being mentioned in the principal’s speech at his grade 8 graduation, his eagerness to work with and support a young kid with Down’s Syndrome, and many more.