Lenore Skenazy

Profession: Lenore is a syndicated columnist, humorist and author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry.
Web Site(s): Free Range Kids

Age: 49
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Joe Kolman
Residence: New York City, NY
Children's Names/Ages:
Morry, age 13; Izzy, age 11

Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?

A: My husband has a genetic disease we didn't want our kids to inherit. We kept waiting for science to decode the gene and figure out a way we didn't have to pass it along. Ten years into our marriage, science came through -- with the help of brilliant geneticist Dr. Petros Tsipouras.

Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? What did you do previously? Where do you see yourself heading? What prompted you to write a book on motherhood, and the particular subject you chose? What is the primary message of the book? Was it based on your upbringing or relationship with your own mother? What is your next book and when is it being published?

A: My favorite thing about being a writer is the reporting part -- meeting people, asking questions, putting two and two together. The writing is only fun when I figure out where to put the jokes in. [The most challenging part is] keeping it! YOU try being a newspaper columnist these days!

I've been a columnist for almost 10 years and was a features reporter before that for another decade. "Free-Range Kids" is my first "real" book. (As in, it has paragraphs and chapters. I did write, "The Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook," before, with ditties like, "Hit the Malls" set to "Deck the Halls.")

What I did 1st: womb. Then a whole lot of education. A LOT. Then jobs at Advertising Ad, CNBC (before anyone had heard of it) and the Food Channel (before anyone had heard of it) and 14 years at the NY Daily News (before they canned me) and two at The New York Sun (before it died) and now I'm a blogger/author/hopefully-something-else-sooner, tooer.

Where do I see myselft heading? To bed! No, really, with the death of my favorite medium, print, I see myself doing more video blogs and maybe TV commentaries, even as I get older and grayer. This doesn't seem like the perfect recipe for success, but what is? (Besides the one on the back of the chocolate chip bag, I mean.)

Last year, after I let my 9-year-old ride the subway by himself, I wrote a little column about it. Two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC and FoxNews defending myself as NOT "America's Worst Mom." But if you Google that, there I am. Why? Because I let my son have a little freedom - the kind we all used to have, when we were kids.

Free Range Kids book cover

The message is simple: Our culture has brainwashed parents with fear. We get it from the horrible stories we hear on TV (since TV has to be gripping or we'll turn it off). We get it from the "Baby Safety Industrial Complex," which has to convince us our kids are in peril or we'd never buy half the products they're peddling (like baby knee pads! I swear, those are real!) And we get it from the army of "experts" and books and magazines that tell us how vulnerable our children are, and how much we don't understand them, and how every single second had better be not only safe but developmentally boosting, or our kids are going to end up dead or dull. After a while you get to feeling that the only good parent is one who is present every single second of the day, watching, teaching, saving the kid from, say, an un-organic Oreo.

My mom was a typical mom of her day. She let me walk to school - everyone did. She let me play on the block and make my own "play dates" (we didn't call them that then). She let me sell Girl Scout Cookies door to door with another girl, but without a grown-up, which is what most normal, middle-class moms approved of back then. All of which seems healthy and good!

My next book has nothing to do with kids! It has to do with the fact I used to laugh when my dad would ask my mom, "Who was that dancer in the movie with the one who wasn't Audrey Hepburn?" And my mom would know exactly who he was talking about and she'd say something like, "You mean the guy who danced with Cyd Charisse after the movie about the cruise with the other one?" And he'd know what she meant, too.

And now I do that! And so my friend and I wrote a whole quiz book based on the way we all sound when we can remember EVERYTHING about a person, place or thing…except its name. The example I always give is, "What's that summer resort movie in the Catskills with the guy in the tight pants?" (I hope you can figure it out!) Also: "Who's the one who's not Matt Damon?" Anyway, you can play a sample round of the game at WhosTheBlondeBook.com.

Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?

A: Just being part of this big project that everyone else is involved in, too. It's like learning to drink coffee. Once you do it you realize how many other people drink it, too, and how much it's pretty much a normal part of adulthood. And fun to share.

Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? How much time do you spend daily writing? Have you worked more or less since you became a mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What do your children think of your work?

A: Staring at computer screen when I'm supposed to be waking the kids up. Answering emails when I'm supposed to be making their lunch. Dashing out the door because I got so distracted we didn't have time for breakfast and now we eat a donut from the cart on the way to school. Then blissful quiet for the rest of the school day, when I'm at home doing more writing. Which actually seems lonely until they come home. Then it seems like Paradise Lost. Then I find myself TRYING to write while still being a, "What did you learn today in science?"-type mom - and usually doing a kind of bad job at both. (And then swearing from now on I will FOCUS!!!)

Yes [I work from home]! How boring! Somebody, please give me a job in a fun office filled with charming, literate, busy people! At least so I won't wear my robe EVERY SINGLE DAY.

How much time do I spend daily writing? At least one million hours. Sometimes a million and a half. I'm working the same amount as before kids. I don't travel much.

They pantomime me talking on the phone while typing and think that's all I do. Come to think of it…they're right. For their part, they hate writing, which is fair, since my dad ran a tennis club and I never learned tennis.

Kolman Family Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good and not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What did you or do you most try to teach your children?

A: I probably would have had more energy if I were younger. But my mom was 35 when she had me, so I never had a really young mom myself. All I know is, I'm glad I got to be a mom even though it took a lot to get here and a long time. (And my kids drive me crazy.)

I thought that once I had kids I'd start carrying Kleenex. But I still always forget.

Be kind! No one really cares if you're brilliant or really good at snowboarding or whatever. They care if you care about them.

Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? Do you have a support network and community outside of work? Others in the publishing/journalism field? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you find social networking sites of value? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms?

A: Lately, I like my own web site, because people are always chatting and it's like a smart, feisty community. Otherwise, I really love meeting my friends for breakfast and just wish this happened automatically, every day. My support network consists of old friends. And I mean old!!

Everyone in the journalism field is out of the journalism field at the moment. But we all want back in! Love talking to other moms because it counterbalances the fake view of motherhood you get from TV and magazines.

I like hearing from my friends on Facebook. But sometimes it is hard to keep up a constant stream of little cute things about your life. And hard to keep up interest in theirs.

Do I consider myself a role model? No. Sorry. I think I'm only doing an okay job as a mom and I admire the ones who are more optimistic and ready for fun.

Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?

A: I wish them every bit of luck and I think whatever route you take to motherhood is just as valid as the next one.

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