SHARA BAILEY “I get it now.”

AGE   45

HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Hometown: Lansdale, PA. Live now: Maplewood, NJ

ON THE WEB   SharaBailey

I also do online journaling now and again on Livejournal.com under the handle “sebinleipzig”

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   One

DAY JOB   Professor of Anthropology, New York University

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Married

FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK   My mother and father used to make up bed time stories but I remember really liking the first Clifford The Big Red Dog (by Norman Bridwell) book when it came out. I still have it. My daughter’s favorite book changes weekly, but Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathamann is one we come back to regularly.

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?

After I found out I was pregnant, I worked really hard for the next eight months to get research articles in the pipeline. (That included a research trip to Germany and Russia when I was six–seven months pregnant). A bunch of publications came out the year after my daughter was born and, so, her birth did not significantly impact my productivity until after I received tenure.

Now I can step back a little.

I spend one day at home with her and it is “her day”. I do not work, check email or make phone calls. Saturdays my husband and I take turns (I go to yoga and he practices his instrument). Sunday is family day (a lesson from living in Germany). Neither of us work at night (except under extraordinary circumstances). Even though I know it would be better for my career if I worked 60 hrs a week like I used to and like most of my colleagues do, I figure in only two short years my daughter will be in school full time and I want to enjoy this time now.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

One of the most eye opening changes is that I feel like “I get it now”. I know what it’s like to have unconditional love and my family is now the most important thing in my life. Perhaps, not surprisingly, I am less ambitious; what I thought of as my career now feels more like a job. Air travel is more stress producing now because my life seems more precious.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

In many ways parenting has made our relationship stronger. But it hasn’t made it easier.

I knew my husband would be a great father and seeing him with our daughter confirms everything I love about him. But with little time/resources for date nights or getting away together our intimacy has suffered.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT?

I actively try to improve my parenting skills by reading and asking others about their experiences, from recipe suggestions to dealing with the “terrible twos”. I think accepting you can’t be an expert in everything leaves the way open for improvement. I’m pretty flexible: if one strategy doesn’t work I’ll try something else (my husband and I differ completely in this way). That said, I am consistent, which I think is a strength.

I make threats sparingly and thoughtfully and always follow through.

WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

I think in the first two years I lacked confidence and didn’t trust that I knew my child better than anyone else.

I was so concerned about doing things right (e.g. insisting on getting my daughter home in bed for her naps — even in Paris!) that it took the pleasure out of many of our trips. I also relied too much, perhaps, on books and family, second-guessing my strategy even though what works for one child often doesn’t work for another. Now I wish I could have a second child because I’d be so much more relaxed! My current weakness is letting my daughter dictate how I wear my hair (she complains when I wear it up), and what jewelry I wear (none). I’m working on it.

WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AS A PARENT?

My husband gives our daughter his complete attention when they are together. He is playful, funny and makes it clear he adores her. He is more patient than I am. He is also steadfast. Once he’s decided on a strategy for dealing with some issue, he sticks to it. Actually, I can’t decide if this goes in the strength or weakness part. Eventually his strategy usually works but it can sometimes take a LOT of crying before my daughter realizes he’s more stubborn than she.

WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S WEAKNESSES AS A PARENT?

See above comment on steadfastness. Also, he cannot multitask. If I have to work late, when I get home my daughter is either fed or bathed, but he can’t juggle doing both.

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

I have always spent at least one entire day home with my daughter. I had maternity leave for a year so was able to do more than that until we put her in daycare at 18 months. We started with two days a week and my mother was with her for two additional days. Now she is in daycare three days and my mother still comes one day a week (from two hours away!).

Next fall she will be in preschool four days and I will still stay home with her one day. We rarely have the treat of a babysitter…every time we find a good one, they graduate from college or decide to move to the city.

WORST PARENTING MOMENT

I thought the carousel in central park would be an awesome first birthday present for my daughter. We got on together and it started out fine. But what I did not know was this particular carousel goes fast…really fast. I got her to stop screaming by singing songs in her ear but the poor thing was literally shaking with fear the entire time. They were the longest three minutes of my life.

BEST PARENTING MOMENT

Each time my daughter spontaneously says “I love you mommy”, that is a best parenting moment!

The times when I feel like a good parent are when I have figured out how to successfully circumvent potential tantrums by talking through things. (I owe much to the books “How To Talk So Your Children Will Listen and Listen So Your Children Will Talk” and “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”).

Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

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