July 2010 Profile: Dana Wood
Marital Status: Married
Residence: Jersey City, NJ
Children: Parker, age 4.5
Profession: Prior to writing Momover, Dana Wood was a magazine journalist for 20 years, including stints as the Health & Beauty Director at Cookie Magazine, and Beauty Director and Senior Fashion Features Editor at W. In addition, she has written for numerous national publications, such as Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health, InStyle and Self. Dana has also spent several years as Assistant VP of strategic development for the luxury products division of L’Oreal USA, working on brands like Kiehl’s, Lancome, Ralph Lauren Fragrances and Giorgio Armani Cosmetics.
Web Site(s): www.Momover.net
Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?
A: I consider myself an “accidental mommy.” Not because of a lack of birth control, but rather just because I simply didn’t get married until I was 40. For me, finding a life partner seemed like a big-enough hurdle; I really wasn’t thinking about much beyond that. Still, it took very little prompting on my husband’s part for me to step up to the plate and embrace the pursuit of a late-in-life baby. And after a few years of going the DIY route, and then two rounds of IUI, we welcomed a bouncing baby girl into the world.
Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? Where do you see yourself heading? What made you decide on the subject matter of your book?
A: I’m deeply smitten with writing — always have been — so I feel blessed that I’ve been able to make an excellent living from it. I was with W for 13 years, and have held positions at Glamour and the now-defunct Cookie, and I found that world to be at times exhilarating, and at other times hugely emotionally draining. You definitely need a thick skin to navigate the office politics at women’s magazines.
Now I find myself much more in “book head,” for a couple of reasons: One, I want to “own” my schedule a bit more, and not head to an outside office every day. And two, it’s a challenge, and I always like to shake things up professionally. I already have my own book under my belt, and now I’m working with others to develop theirs. I guess it’s not unlike an actor who also directs or produces.
My book, Momover: The New Mom’s Guide to Getting It Back Together, sprang from an online column I developed while I was the Health & Beauty Director at Cookie. Positioned as an exploration of “the collision of age and first-time mommyhood,” it was a bit of a superficial lark. The book is much, much more in-depth, and at times much more serious. I really “go there,” delving into the nitty-gritty of the spiritual and emotional turmoil of having a baby, as well as how to restore your abs and ass to their former glory!
Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?
A: It’s such a cliché, but in raising my daughter, I’m getting to revisit childhood and rediscover my inner kid. For instance, NO ONE was more excited by our recent trip to Disney World than I was. Listening to her chatter away about all the things she’s obsessed with — princesses, pretty dresses, television shows on Nick Jr. — is an instant de-stressor for me. And there’s no question that the new “lightness” she has brought into my life has helped me gain perspective on my career, and shake a bit of my decades-long workaholism.
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? 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: I’m very lucky in that we’re financially able to retain a full-time nanny while I work from home. Of course it’s challenging to maintain focus when she wants to bond and hang out in Mom’s office. But on the whole, she’s pretty good about letting me do my thing. And the nanny is amazing at keeping her busy and on the go.
I hope no one sics the Mommy Police on me, but I never seriously considered quitting work entirely to raise my daughter. That’s because work is my comfort zone, and childcare is most definitely not! I’ve been working for 30 years, and have only been a mother for four, so I guess I wanted to play to my core strengths.
At this stage in my career, I rarely travel for work, which I’m happy about. Still, I look back fondly on the years when I was zipping over to Europe frequently for my job. Paris is my favorite city in the world, and I’m happy that I was able to go so much — and not have to pay for it!
As for what my little lady thinks about my work, she really loved to march around and say, “Mommy works for a fashion magazine!” Now, I show her my Momover website when she asks what I’m writing. It’s a little less glamorous, but she’s dealing with it okay!
Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What do you most try to teach your children? What influence, if any, has your own mom had in your life and in your parenting?
Bad: I have less energy than I had when I was in my 20s and 30s. And the first year after she was born was a major, major adjustment for me. I really went through a self-pitying, “where did my life go” phase, which I realize probably sounds so ridiculous. But after so many years of “The Dana Show,” I guess I was just resentful at feeling so tethered to my diapered darling.
Good: I’d like to think that at the ripe old age of 47, I have a better perspective on what really matters in life. My core values are very solid, as are my husband’s, so we’re not trying to “find ourselves” while we raise this young one. I’m also at a point in my life in which I’ve already checked-off a lot on my professional To Do list. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have new goals. I just don’t fret about any of it to the same degree.
Surprises: Now that she’s older (4 ½), I guess I’m most shocked at how much fun I’m having, and how much I really, truly enjoy her company. I tell her all the time that she’s “delicious.” She has expanded my world-view immeasurably.
There are three big qualities / skills that I’m trying to instill in my daughter: Genuine kindness and empathy for others who have less than she has; excellent manners; and self-discipline about learning, doing small chores, etc. My mantra is “Focus, focus, focus.”
Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms or aspiring later moms? Do you think an organization like Motherhood Later…Than Sooner can be helpful to later moms?
A: Luckily, for the first few years after I gave birth, I was working at the parenting magazine Cookie, so I was utterly, literally surrounded by mom-support! Perhaps because of that, I didn’t feel a strong need to join any outside peer groups. Had I been a “civilian” (read: not an editor at a parenting magazine), I definitely would have joined a mom group.
As for the “role model” issue, I do think this: Through both my Momover book and website, I espouse wall-to-wall, 360-degree “mama health” — mental, physical and spiritual / emotional. So in putting forth that information, and the tools to achieve that, I’m definitely leading the charge for super-healthy later moms!
I absolutely do feel Motherhood Later…Than Sooner is hugely helpful to women like myself. We can feel “safe” here, make friends and learn so much that makes us both happier and better moms. What could possibly be better than that?
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?
A: I would highly recommend getting your mental ducks in a row, and really preparing yourself for the massive life transition headed your way. I recently wrote a piece for CNN.com entitled: “The Five Universal Truths for Forty-Something, First-Time Mamas,” and the first “truth” was: “You don’t own your life anymore.”
I am unspeakably happy that I had a child at age 43, and there is no question that it was the smartest personal move I’ve ever made. But let’s face it: It is very, very strange to turn your life and schedule upside-down after so many years of calling all the shots!
Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to your children or other moms?
A: Unfortunately, my mother died when I was 21. She was a very, very heavy smoker (as was my father, who is also no longer with us), and also had issues with alcohol. Frankly, I think she may have had some imbalance problems that were never properly diagnosed. And for that, I feel tremendous sadness.
In a sense, my mother’s legacy to me, which I’m passing along to my own daughter — and which is the absolute core message of my book — is that moms simply must make their own health a huge priority. That isn’t negotiable. You cannot, in any way, shape or form, take good care of children without taking good care of yourself. And I believe that’s doubly true for later-in-life mothers.
How Momover Came to Be
Momover: The New Mom’s Guide to Getting It Back Together (even if you never had it in the first place!) began as blog when Dana, then 43 and pregnant with her first child, was Health and Beauty Director at the now-defunct Cookie Magazine. No one was addressing what happens when women with thriving careers, busy social lives and good self-care regimens suddenly have their lives turned upside down with the arrival of their little Diapered Darling. Dana wrote Momover, a mashup of “Mom” and “Makeover,” to help new moms get off the train to Frumpytown and start taking care of themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.