Friday, March 16, 2012

becoming our parents: interview with PJ

The last interview for this week-long series is with PJ. I stumbled across PJ's blog thanks to a link on Hither and Thither, and I'm so glad I did: her son Levi is adorable; she lives in Omaha, my husband's old stomping grounds (ever been to a hole-in-the-wall burger joint named Goldberg's, PJ? It was his favorite restaurant as a kid); and she has had a career in the publishing world I'm totally envious of (she got to work with Anne Lamott! Swoon!). Read on to find out more about PJ's childhood...


My mom, dad, younger sister and I lived in a two-story house in suburbia New Jersey about 30 miles outside of New York City. My dad commuted into Manhattan daily, leaving for work shortly after waking us up for school and getting home just in time for dinner. My mom worked for a nearby school system and was home by 4:15pm, so she drove us to our after-school activities—which at one point or another included swim team practice, gymnastic classes, soccer/softball/basketball games and marching band rehearsal. For a couple of years while I was in elementary school, we were fortunate to have several fantastic au pairs live with us and become part of our family. Oh! And we also had a fluffy white Bichon Frise named Timmy, who lived a long and happy life.

How old were your parents when you were born? How old were you when you had your first child? Was your decision about when to have kids affected in any way by your parents' choices?

My parents married when my mom was 24 and my dad was 25 (young by today’s standards), but they waited three years before having me. I didn’t want to be an “old mom,” so my plan was to have a baby before I turned 30 like they did. Of course, that plan went out the window when I didn’t meet my husband until I was 26! We married two years later and wanted to enjoy “alone time” as a couple before bringing a child into our family. Throw in a couple of deployments (my husband is in the military), and the next thing I knew, I was having my first baby at age 31!

What are your plans (if any) about the number of children you hope to have? Is your decision about how many children you'll have affected in any way by your parents' choices?

I loved growing up with a sister but sometimes wished we had more siblings. The more the merrier! Right now I’m thinking I’d like to have three kids, but if our second child is a girl, maybe we’ll stop at two. Our first kiddo is a boy named Levi. I would love to have at least one of each!

How does the place where you grew up impact your own decision-making about where to raise your family?

I can’t imagine not raising my family on the East Coast, either in the suburbs of New York City or Washington, DC. Omaha is a fantastic town, but that’s what it is—a town. While I appreciate the wholesomeness of Midwestern life, I miss the fast pace and culture and travel opportunities that come with living near a major metropolis. I also miss my parents! Growing up, my own grandparents lived within an hour of us and because of that I had a close relationship with them. I’d like the same for my children and their grandparents. 

How does your role as a disciplinarian reflect on your own upbringing?

There’s no disciplining an 8 month old. At this age, he’s the king! (At least that’s what his pediatrician says.) As he grows up, I do want to make sure he views me as a parent first and foremost, not as a friend. I haven’t given much thought to how I will handle discipline when he’s older, but I do know that I don’t plan on spanking. I think I was spanked once or twice as a kid, but that’s not what I want to do. My husband, on the other hand…

Do you have any memories from your childhood of moments when you thought "I'll never be like this as a parent" or "I hope to be just like my mom because..."? If not, describe a moment between you and one of your parents that you think was a defining one for you in some way -- explain a little bit about why.

I think I always sort of idolized my father. He really could do no wrong. We share many of the same interests—photography, pop culture, music, movies—and because he was a psychology major, I would go to him for friend advice because I thought he was good at staying objective. My mom and I fought as mothers and daughters tend to do. I think it was because we are both equally stubborn and because she was home more often than my dad. She was also more outwardly emotional than he, and even if she wasn’t yelling, she was SO LOUD. I remember being embarrassed by how loud she would be in front of my friends, and I promised to never act that way in front of my own children. Of course, she and I are super close now (but she’s still loud)!

Now that you are a parent, do you find yourself acting more like (or less like) your own parents than you anticipated? How so? Are you at peace with the similarities/differences?

One of my mom’s strengths is that she is able to stay calm under pressure. In the eight months that I’ve been a parent, we have had to deal with a couple of stressful situations with the baby. To my surprise, I was able to remain surprisingly composed even when my husband seemed rattled, which is how I was actually feeling on the inside. My rule is that only one of us can freak out at a time!

How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with your own parents?

I have always been able to count on my parents to get me through tough situations—let’s just say there were many teary middle of the night phone calls during my 20s—and what’s tougher than being a first-time parent? Not much! They have been just as supportive as they’ve ever been, maybe even more. The hardest adjustment for me was seeing them as somebody’s grandparents and not just as my mom and dad. Also, recognizing that I’m not just their daughter anymore; I’m someone’s mother. 


Thanks, PJ! Stop over to Bunny and Dolly to learn more about her life with cutie-pie Levi. And thanks to you all for joining all my interviewees this week while I've been away. Can't wait to be back with you on Monday! Happy weekend, everybody :)


  1. I haven't had my baby yet, but I can fully identify with your final thought, I feel as though I am already mourning the change in my relationship with my parents as I become a parent.

  2. This series has been really fun to read... thanks for sharing others' thoughts on becoming parents!