MARY BETH COUDAL I am a thief of time.

AGE   49ish (I overheard one of my daughters tell her friend, “My mom’s old, but pretty.”)

HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?   Park Ridge, Illinois / New York City

@TWITTER   @MaryBethC

ON THE WEB   MBCoudal.com
on NYC: My Beautiful New York.com
on fitness: Running Aground.wordpress.com
on writing: Getting My Essays Published.wordpress.com
Bootcamp4writers.com/

(I’m a web overachiever, what can I say?)

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   Three (ages: 12, 12, and 15)

DAY JOB   Senior writer for a faith-based organization; afterschool creative writing teacher; freelance journalist; co-owner of Writers Book Camp.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Am on my second marriage. My husband (and the father of my kids) is an actor who has Parkinson’s Disease. It’s complicated and difficult. At times, I feel like a single mom without the benefits.

FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK   What children’s book is a favorite in your house and why? What book has made a great impact on you or your kids? Was there/ is there a story that was passed down from generation to generation?

We like the picture book Go Away William, by David Carter, because we can use funny voices when we read it out loud. It also reminds us that we need to make a special place and room for each other.

We found a first edition 1909 The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter in my mother-in-law’s book case. The story of a young, poor naturalist taught us that nature is restorative and hardship builds character. This made a great impact: we must embrace nature and face our struggles. Life is not easy. But life is a great and character-building adventure.

Also, in my mother-in-law’s shelves, we found the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Sharmat. So clever. We like the way those books don’t talk down to kids.

In our mother-daughter book club, we just finished Deenie by Judy Blume. We talked about how girls view their bodies and how parents put too much pressure on their kids. These two good discussion topics were sent to us via direct message on Twitter from Blume herself! We were psyched to connect through social media with such an amazing author.

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner, arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?

Some days at 3 pm, I leave my office light on and my computer humming, then I grab my jacket, which I have stashed on another floor, and I sneak out of the office building so that I may get to my kids’ shows or sporting events or parent-teacher conferences. (I hope my boss doesn’t see this.) I steal time from work to be with the kids, and, at times, I steal time from the kids to be with work. I am a thief of time.

And I wake up very early to write. And I try to go to bed by 10 pm.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

Before I had kids, I was the star of my own show. After the kids, I became the wardrobe mistress, the driver, the walk-on part. Very few people dig me as much as they dig my kids. I’ve been forced to learn humility.

An upside — I discovered a ton of new subcultures — I had been totally unaware of the amazing childcare workers, swim coaches, music teachers, musical directors, pediatricians. There are so many brilliant people working with our children.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

I see it this way – my husband and I co-founded a company called The Kids. We toil for that company. Especially with my husband’s declining ability due to his illness, we no longer really work for each other in the romance department. However, we still share a great deal of love and respect for one another. We have a great partnership and our corporation continues to grow.

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

I am funny. I am impatient.

WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?

He is funny. He is slow.

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

When I went to work full-time, we had a live-in college-age nanny. Then, we had tons of babysitters and daycare arrangements. The kids are now old enough to babysit. And it’s saving me a fortune, which I am now able to use for their orthodontia.

DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR PARENTING?

My son had several heart surgeries — ablations. He had SVT (supra ventricular tachycardia). It made me very grateful for my daughters’ and my good health. And grateful for great docs. I try to have gratitude for each and every healthy day.

Even with my son’s heart procedures, I never wanted to wrap him in bubble wrap. I never wanted to be a mother who hovered over her children like they were hot-house flowers. In fact, I may do the opposite. I may push too many activities on them — or so they tell me. “The museum, again?”

WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?

I said “F— You!” to one of my kids. Yes. That’s bad. That’s low. But in my defense, this child really pushed my buttons, pestering me in front of extended family to jump on a trampoline in the pitch dark. I have also cried too many times out of sheer exasperation in front of my kids. The depth of my anger and sadness has surprised me. I have always considered myself one of the nicest, gentlest, most patient, and most optimistic of people. Uh, not so much.

WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?

Almost every night at our family dinner, one of the kids will ask another, “So, how was your day?” When they express curiosity and kindness to one another I feel all warm and fuzzy. And when I catch my daughters holding hands or leaning against my son as they watch TV, my heart sails with their spontaneous affection for each other and for life.

And, of course, I love when they clear their plates without being asked.

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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