SANDY RUSTIN FLEISCHER P is for Parenthood!

AGE   36

HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? I grew up in Glenview, Il (just outside of Chicago), moved to NYC after college and lived there for 11 years, and now live in Maplewood, NJ

@TWITTER   @SandyRustin

ON THE WEB   www.sandyrustin.com AND www.ratedpthemusical.com

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   Two

DAY JOB   I am an actress, writer, and mom.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   I’m married – 11 years this summer 🙂

FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK   My mom is a children’s librarian. So … children’s books have always been a huge part of my life. My favorite book growing up was Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I thought — and still think — that the book was a very funny, loving, accurate portrayal of day to day disappointments and frustrations of children. I also was enamored with The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which my dad read aloud to me. And of course, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, are my all time favorite books of all time!

My children both love Mo Willems and all of his books. Specifically the Knuffle Bunny series. (We’re a big blanky family).

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?

Ahhh … the quintessential question! Carefully. Is that a good answer?

The struggle to maintain a solid balance between work and family is an ongoing challenge that I’m unconvinced I’ll ever conquer. In the midst of opening week of Rated P (for parenthood) I wrote this on this exact topic:
Murphy’s law of parenthood stipulates that when your husband leaves for a business trip, your babysitter’s great-aunt Bertha will die and she’ll have to fly home to Nebraska all of a sudden. Oh – and one more thing – it’s Tech Week for the Off-Broadway debut of the first show you’ve ever written.

I woke up this morning, took my diabetic dog for a walk (I love that dog), made some lunches, got backpacks packed, got my cup of decaf (I’m too riled up these days for the real deal), checked some email, printed up 13 copies of the revised lyrics for the new number at the top of the show, plucked my brows, set out the kid’s vitamins, and made my bed by the time I heard the infamous morning, “Mooooommmmmy” from my boys. To be honest the next hour is a blur of breakfasts, toothbrushes, and a Muppet Movie soundtrack dance party. But somehow we made it to the bus on time. My older son, handsome as all get out without his two front teeth, gave me and the little guy kisses and headed onto the bus with a prized stuffed giraffe “secretly” stowed away in his backpack.

And then appeared Tiffany, my friend’s sweet hearted sitter from Parsippany.

She’s adorable and perky – hell, I wish I could spend the day hanging out with her. But as I walk out the door, leaving my sweet little boy with this pinch hitter sitter wearing stylish jeans, I think to myself – I wish my mother lived closer.

I walk to the train wondering what my life would be if I had gone the route of my mother. Stayed home full time dreaming up magical puppet shows and planning elaborate finger painting projects. She was so very happy in that life. But just as I’m designing the forts I would build using the dining room table, a blanket and some rope, my phone rings. It’s the musical director of my show asking a question about a new lyric, a new tempo, a new rhythm … and I am instantly reminded of who I am and why I do what I do.

I love my boys. I love my work. That’s who I am. So, God Bless Tiffany.

One week before the first performance. Today we rehearsed with the band for the first time. They are INCREDIBLE. When the actors meet the band for the first time, it’s always special … but today I wasn’t the actor. Today, I was the writer. All these people working to bring an idea I had one day on 101st St, to life. “Special” doesn’t even begin to describe it. So I sat in my chair and choked back tears.

I checked in at home on my break. All quiet on the New Jersey front.

Back to the rehearsal studio to pass out those 13 copies of new lyrics. A hit! Within one hour we crafted a number that I think could be a highlight of the show … and then just like that … rehearsal is over. Actors dismissed. Next step – The Theatre.

A quick txt tells me my husband has landed safe and sound, and the boys are at soccer. Tiffany assures me that the roasted chicken I made this morning (part of that blur I was talking about), turned out fine and is now in the fridge awaiting hungry bellies.

I walk with the rest of the creative team seven blocks uptown to the Westside Theatre. The Rated P banner is waving high. The marquis is in place. The trucks are parked out front and tons of electrical looking equipment is being loaded into the theatre. I walk inside — say hi to the staff I’ve known since my days as an actress at the Westside — and step into the theatre.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is where I lost it. The set was up. The lights were on. The band was set. I sat smack dab in the center of my dream and … wished my kids were sitting right next to me.

I could make it home for bed time. So I wiped my eyes — said 1000 thank yous — and caught the next train home. Just in time to find two snuggly freshly washed footy pajama’d little boys ready for book time. (By the way, the house looked great. I’m telling you, this Tiffany gal is a saint).

As I sung “I Could Have Danced All Night” for the millionth time, I thought about my lucky day. With a curly head nestled in my neck, I said my nightly wish. “I wish that your wishes come true.” Mine have.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

Parenting has made me more of myself. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, so now that I am, it’s like a whole secret section of myself that has been dormant all these years got activated! The emotion of loving a child is love beyond love. Once that emotion entered my vernacular, I became a heightened version of myself. I am more in touch with the preciousness of life and precariousness of each moment.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

Watching my husband as a father is the icing on the cake of our relationship.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

Allow me to jump straight to the weaknesses if you will … I am impatient. I wish I weren’t. I wish I had all the patience in the world. I’d love to be the kind of mom who calmly cleans up inadvertently cracked eggs on the counter top while the kids “help” bake cookies for company. The kind of mom who stands aside as my child labors over his shoelaces even when we’re late for soccer. But … alas, I am not. I am constantly forcing myself to slow down my own inner clock to make room for the time tables of my children. I guess my strength is to be conscience of my weaknesses. The goal is to raise children who don’t have to spend too much money in therapy sorting out their childhoods.

WHAT ARE YOUR SPOUSE’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?

My husband is able to use humor to diffuse most situations. Got a toddler melting down? He’s your man. Got a kid who wants a new toy in Target? I got your guy. No situation ever gets too unwieldy if he’s around to make a funny face or do a crazy dance.

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

We have an army of wonderful part-time babysitters that I can call upon when I am working. Occasionally we have had full time help, a couple of times I’ve had sitters live with us for a while if a work project gets really intense. Sometimes our parents fly in to help us out during particularly busy times. It’s a combo of excellent outsourcing, relying on friends and each other, and occasionally calling in the big guns – the grandparents.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?

When my older son, Isaac was almost 4, he was pretending to be a bat by hanging upside down off the arm of our sofa. He fell. I picked him up, brushed him off, and encouraged him not to be a bat anymore. It was nearly bed time, so despite his whining, I calmed him down and put him to sleep. He was up and uncomfortable in the night … and somewhere around midnight, it occurred to me – I THINK HE BROKE HIS ARM! Sure enough, a trip to the doctor the next morning confirmed it. My little bat had a broken wing! He was heeled within a month … but I still haven’t forgiven myself!!

WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?

As cliche as it may sound, I would say the moment of my sons’ births were the two most exhilarating BEST moments of my life. Period. That instant when another whole entire person enters the world is miraculous.

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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