Meet Later Mom Carolyn Plum LeRoy
AGE: 44 (Turning 45 on 3/16)
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single (divorced twice)
RESIDENCE: Saratoga Springs, NY
CHILD’S NAME/AGE: Emerald Warner Marshall, age 2
I was born in New York City to Warner and Kay LeRoy- creators and owners of Great Adventure, Tavern on the Green, Maxwell’s Plum and The Russian Tea Room. I starting working in the restaurant business in high school and received training from Drew Nieporent (Tribeca Grill, Nobu). who was a manager at Maxwell’s Plum. I worked in two of Drew’s restaurants during college and then returned to Tavern on the Green as a manager. I was eventually promoted to Vice President of LeRoy Adventures, my father’s umbrella company, and became executor of the LeRoy estate after my father died in 2001. Today, I have a separate career but continue to support my family in managing the legacy of the LeRoy name, and by working closely with my sister, Jennifer Oz LeRoy who owns Oz Farm and Events. Since graduating in 2013 with my Master’s in Social Work, and getting my license, I have been dedicated to the mental health and well-being of children and adults in the Capital Region, with a focus on suicide prevention. I worked at Ellis Medicine as a psychotherapist on the inpatient unit of the adolescent psychiatric ward, and eventually as an outpatient psychotherapist at the adult clinic. I loved my job but recently left to launch my business as a sports psychology consultant, Equesting, out of Oz Farm in Saugerties, NY.
What was your road to parenthood like? My pregnancy was a complete surprise- I had reservations, almost opposition, to having a baby since I was an adolescent. In January 2014, I switched from the birth control pill to an IUD. My GYN told me I needed to be off the pill for at least a month and have my period naturally before placing the IUD. (I have since learned this is false.) I was on the pill since I was 18, and I was now 41, so my husband and I decided to not worry about a possible pregnancy. I had always been told that it would take at least 3 months to get pregnant after the pill, so one month would be safe”. (Also false, as I was soon to ﬁnd out.)
My GYN advised me to continue using protection, but my husband and I weren’t that active sexually, so what were the chances, right?! (I later learned that the ﬁrst month off long term pill use makes you more likely to get pregnant.) I got my period a few days after Valentine’s Day, it was a Monday, and I called the doctor to set up an appointment for Tuesday. Monday night there was a HUGE snowstorm. I carefully made my way to the doctor’s ofﬁce for my 7am appointment. The waiting area was empty, but there were a lot of delays due to the storm, so I sat and waited. And waited And waited. Around 10am, I found out the doctor closed the ofﬁce due to the storm. I trudged home and planned to return later that week. The doctor told me to wait another month. I found out I was pregnant in March. My due date was November 15th, exactly 9 months after Valentine’s Day… I have since come to believe that my daughter was meant to be- and nothing was going to stop her from arriving. Not even a silly snowstorm.
How does being a mom inﬂuence your work? It affects it in every way- from the logistical to the physical, emotional and philosophical. The biggest impact was philosophically and ethically. I worked with children, many of them badly abused. I worked with their parents who, like me, were trying to do their best. I empathized with both and found my clinical mindset was more emotional when making decisions. After a while, the work, particularly seeing and hearing the stories of the abuse from the children was too triggering, so I asked for a transfer to the adult outpatient clinic. Sadly, the reality of abuse continued, and the stress of the job made me decide I needed to leave for the sake of my well-being.
What was it like growing up in a well-known entertainment family, your grandfather, Mervyn, being Executive Producer of the beloved WIZARD OF OZ with Judy Garland? It was wondrous, ﬁlled with fantastic trips around the world, art, theater, parties, food and oodles of activities to spark my imagination. It was a wonderful accomplishment by my grandfather, but he wasn’t the only one in my family who was in ﬁlm. My grandmother, Doris Warner, was the daughter of Harry Warner, one of the Warner Brothers. My father, Mervyn’s son and Harry’s grandson, was a director in the theater before he turned to the restaurant business. So you could say show business is in our blood. As fantastical and magical as my childhood was, I struggled to ﬁnd my own identity separate from being “Great Granddaughter of the Warner Brothers”, “Granddaughter of Melvyn LeRoy, who produced The Wizard of Oz” and “Daughter of Kay and Warner LeRoy who created Tavern on the Green and Great Adventure.” I come from a fantastic family, and I am so proud of them, but I was distracted by the idea of how could I ever compete, or contribute as much as my relatives had to American culture. It is something that still preoccupies me, but less so as I grow older.
Did you ever think about working in the industry? I had a short time when I wanted to be in the ﬁlm industry, but more often than not, I shied away from it because there was no way, in my mind, that I would ever compare with The Warner Brothers and my grandfather. The pressure seemed immense. My parents started me and all of my siblings very young in the restaurant business, so there was an implied career trajectory growing up. But they wanted me to be happy in my career and never put pressure on me.
What if your daughter would like to? I would entirely support my daughter in doing whatever she wants. To be honest, and I hope this doesn’t sound too arrogant, but I am more worried that the entertainment industry is going to ﬁnd her. I worry that someone will want to do a reality show about her or something ridiculous like that. She is, after all, Emerald Warner, Great great granddaughter to the Warner Brothers, Great granddaughter to Melvyn LeRoy (and named after The Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City) etc. For some people that is a wish, but not for me. I want my daughter to have a peaceful, healthy childhood for as long as possible without the stress and pressures of being in entertainment.
What inspired you to get involved in farming? My sister, Jenny, owns Oz Farm and Events- so it isn’t your typical “farm”. It is a premier destination for weddings and parties in the Hudson Valley, and it is also a horse farm where professional, amateur and semi-professional equestrians house and train their horses. My sister is the one who inspired me to turn my talents to the athletes in the equestrian world. I was an avid rider for most of my life and I love the horse world. And I love my family. To have both in the same place is a dream come true. To offer my daughter the chance to grow up on a farm, surrounded by family, nature, professional athletes, and gorgeous parties- what could be better?!
Do you think it’s tough for women to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits? And, if so, how do you achieve balance? Tough? It’s like having your arms and legs stretched in opposite directions, your head surrounded by 25 TV’s, all on different channels at their highest volume, and your heart and stomach on a 24 hour rollercoaster. These days, I save the word “tough” to describe steak. What I have learned about myself is that I can do two roles at a time and be fully present (mother and wife, or, professional and mother etc.), but three roles (wife, mother and professional) is overwhelming, and either one will suffer from my lack of time and energy, or each one will get 30% focus, attention and energy. There just isn’t “enough” of me to go around.
Honestly, one of the best things about being a single mom is not having to worry about that third “role”. There are downsides too, but not having a relationship has made my life a lot simpler. For me, balance is a psychological state rather than a physical deﬁnition. When Eme was young, and I was ﬁrst on my own with her, I had three distinct sections of my day- before work, work, after work. Most days I woke up and felt that I would never be able to get through a whole day- I was just too exhausted physically and emotionally. So I stopped thinking of “a whole day” and broke it down into parts. All I had to do was get through one section of my day. That was it. 10/10 times if I could get through one part, I could get through two. And if got through two I could get through three. Some days all three sections would get 100%, some days they got less, and some days the work section got 90% of my focus and energy, and the other sections got the rest.
For instance, the “before work” section consisted of a variety of tasks that I *had* to do, and others that I *like* to do. I had to take a shower, get dressed for work, get the baby dressed and fed, get her to daycare and get myself to work. If there was time, energy, etc… I liked to have coffee, check my email, go on social media, put on makeup, have playtime and snuggle time, eat breakfast with Eme, etc… But what I liked to do didn’t *have* to get done every day. If I didn’t get dressed, I couldn’t work and bring in a paycheck. But, if I didn’t have coffee or breakfast, I could get some at work, bring snacks, leave early for lunch etc…. Same with emails, social media, and even make-up. Playtime and snuggle time might not happen in the morning, but I would be sure to give her at least 15 minutes at night. Or if I knew I wouldn’t have the physical energy at night, then make sure to engage 100% with her in the car on the way home. Making the difference in my mind between need vs. want allowed me to reach a state of balance.
Who do you turn to for support? The people I turn to ﬁrst are my mom and my two sisters (one older and one younger). I’ll admit it- there was a lot of growing that had to be done on my part in my relationships with my family because we didn’t always get along. But it has been worth every second. I value my single parent friends the most because it is a unique experience that no one can understand unless you are going through, or have been through, it. I also have a number of mother friends who I turn to for emotional support and guidance. Some of them have the same age child as mine, and others have kids graduating college. The balance of those in the middle of toddlerhood and those on the other side of raising a child helps keep a great perspective.
What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over? Right now, there are a lot more positives than negatives! There are 2 major negatives- a) fear of illness or early death. I don’t know if every parent thinks this way, or if it is because I am a single parent, but my greatest challenge is maintaining health so that I don’t get ill and die. My goal is to make it to 90 years old so I can see my daughter’s 50th birthday. Anything less will not be enough time for me with her. Because this is so important to me, the challenge comes in eating healthy, getting enough sleep, working out and keeping stress at a manageable level. I haven’t been able to do any of these well yet- but I keep trying.
The second negative is a more selﬁsh one- b) dating. Who wants to date a 40+ something, twice divorced, single mom? Enough said.
The positives are endless. First and foremost- patience. I have a ton of it. Tantrums don’t phase me. Hearing her say no over and over and over and over doesn’t rufﬂe me- I wait it out or move on to something else. A cranky morning does not mean the whole day is gone- I wait to see how things are a few hours later. And so on. Second- perspective. I know what is important to survive in life, and what isn’t, what to focus on and what not to focus on. It is essential that my daughter have empathy, emotional intelligence and feel comfortable in social situations. It is not critical for her to be in new clothes vs. hand me downs, to be in pinks and purples vs. green and blues. It is crucial she brush her teeth, but not that she have her haircut. And so on. Third- less regrets. I have had decades of going out with friends, celebrating holidays and occasions, and been on at least 60 vacations. Now, if I don’t get to do those things, I don’t feel like I am missing out. I want to celebrate those moments with my daughter. Fourth- focus. I can focus on Eme and not think about anything else. I lived before the time of cell phones, cable, MTV, laptops, social media and bottled water and had a grand time. Putting technology away does not paralyze me, and it is something that I make a part of everyday. Fifth- quiet time. I used to be someone who had every minute packed with something to do. I was a “human doing”, not a “human being”. Now, I know that being quiet in your surroundings as well as in your psyche and soul, is just as important. I make sure that Eme has at least 90 minutes daily of quiet time where we read, color, stare out the window, walk without talking, drive without the radio or talking, etc. etc. Sixth- a healthy relationship with my body and food.
Raising a daughter is always a challenge, but especially in our culture which sexualizes girls from a young age. She looks at her belly button and wants to look at mine, so I let my ﬂab hang out and show her my belly button. Teaching her to be comfortable and love her body in whatever shape it is in is more important than learning body parts. I emphasize her skills versus her looks. I point out how helpful or thoughtful she is, versus being sweet and pretty. I praise her sharing, cleaning, making good decisions, being safe and making jokes versus pressing her to give hugs and kisses to strangers, or even to me, when I ask. I want her to know that she is strong, smart, generous, feisty, funny and brings joy, more than I want her to know she has beautiful blue eyes, gorgeous long, wavy hair, perfect teeth, looks great in the color blue, *should* wear a skirt more that pants because it shows off her legs etc, etc, etc.
I extend that philosophy to her relationship with food. Do I wish she would eat organic vegetables, fruits and ﬁsh everyday? She is offered a variety of options throughout the day, but is never forced to eat. I don’t keep around candy or heavily sugar items. No soda or juice. No fried foods and junk foods. (I am no saint- I use the microwave a lot.) If I get too emotional or reactive about food, she will pick that up and her relationship with food can become unhealthy.
What advice would you offer to multi-tasking overwhelmed moms? The most important thing I tell my mom friends is: Sleep. Sleep when your baby sleeps. It really sucks sometimes to do that when you have SO much to do. I hate it and had to essentially train myself to do it- but I can’t stress enough the importance of sleep for health, stress relief and overall functioning. A good night’s sleep (even if it is only for 5 hours) can make your whole life feel different. More energy, clearer thinking, less mood swings and irritability and so on. I say this as a single mom, and as a psychotherapist.
The second thing is to keep life as simple as possible. My goal everyday is to get myself and my daughter dressed, fed, laughing and then to sleep at night. If I have done that, I have done a fantastic job for the day. I try to feed her a healthy diet, but you know what? If she wants to eat nothing but pasta for 2 weeks I don’t stress it. She’s 2 years old for goodness sake. She goes through cycles and always passes through them. If she wants to sleep on the ﬂoor in the middle of the living room for some reason, and she is warm and safe, I let her sleep there. If she wants to wear grey for weeks instead of colorful clothes, I let her.
I work to keep us both safe, healthy and joyful, and I don’t let anything get in the way of that. I don’t get to go out with my friends, or go to the movies, or go to a party, or even get to celebrate holidays for more than a few hours- but none of that matters much as the well-being of myself and my daughter. How long do I really have with her at this age? It’s totally worth it.