Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Another AltMama: An Interview with Maura Nguyen Donohue
Maura is the mama of Sasa, 6, and Jet, 4, and lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side. She's also Artistic Director of the NYC based troupe, Maura Donohue/inmixedcompany.
> How does being an artist impact your life as a Mama?
It makes me want to live a more integrated life with my children, it
also let's me chill about whether my kids are in dance classes or
music classes or drawing classes all the time because I know they're
growing up surrounded by it. They've been in shows and studios since
day 1. It also means that my favorite rainy day activity tends to be
dance party in the living room/kitchen area under the disco ball and
fake stage lights for one another's entertainment. It's also meant an
activity-based (versus stuff-based) lifestyle due to lack of funds and
a serious recycling (hand me down/thrift store) agenda.
> What are some challenging choices you’ve made as a Mama recently?
Going back to grad school - moving the whole family up to Western Mass
so that I could get the MFA to get the teaching job to offer the
family some level of financial stability. It was incredibly time
intensive and took us out of our community. It paid off...
> A lot of Manhattan mamas have nannies. What’s your alternative, and how do
you make that work?
My kids are in preschool and First Grade - so 1: we pay for a co-op
preschool for the boy now but we juggled college student helpers in
between my courses and teaching load during the first semester of grad
school, then got the kids both into a daycare/preschool up in W. Mass.
Prior to that I was officially a full-time mama who brought my kids
with me to rehearsals, put them in my shows and on tour (to Vietnam
once with Sasa while pregnant with Jet and Hong Kong with 2yr old Sasa
& 6 month old Jet) or brought in a Grandma for intensive performance
> What’s the most exciting thing about being a mama?
The dramatic change in my priorities - my scope expanded outside
myself in a way that is still forming. It moved me to make stronger,
bolder choices about how I want to live.
> What’s the most boring thing about being a mama?
Hmmm... I love my children and I love Play - but I found playgrounds
to be deadening during the early years - I used to need to spend hours
out of the apartment because Perry was tuning Shakuhachi flutes or
giving a lesson and I'd walk all over the city which was great when I
was walking with my sister. However, when I was stuck in an UWS
playground for hours with Sasa, I'd dream of getting a blackberry - 1
yr olds are adorable but not much for intellectual company.
> How do you and Perry share/handle parenting and household responsibilities?
It's good having a hard working but flexible partner - I bore the
brunt of it for the first 2 years while he scrambled to make money and
support the family. But, then when I went back to grad school he
eventually found himself spending many nights home alone with the kdis
while I was rehearsing or performing. We keep a calendar and divide
school drop offs and pickups as evenly as possible though these days
it leans more heavily on him. I do most of the cooking, shopping,
laundry and general keeping up with medical and social appointments
but I make him handle most playdates, which are often beyond my
patience and ability. We work to walk an equal path but I tend to be
the organizer. He's more one-on-one with the kids - patient and
> How have you changed as a mama over time?
Well. I was one of the righteous many - y'know "I'll never let my kids
do this or that." Anyway, we all eat those words eventually. Both of
my kids were born naturally, mid-wives, no drugs the whole deal. Both
breastfed and Sasa's baby food was all made at home by me with organic
veggies n all that. Perry and I boycotted the fast-food chains for a
couple years when we saw people feeding their toddlers french fries.
No candy. Limited TV access. So, now she's 6 and he's 4 and we still
eat organic, veggies mostly at home, their weeknight TV is 30 minutes
but I'm over the whole righteous thing - we'll do McDonalds happy
meals on a drive to the grandparents in RI or I'll bribe my kids with
a lollipop in exchange for good behavior in some public setting. Those
are two things I swore we'd never do...
> What's your best advice for new Mamas?
You have to cut yourself a break and chill sometimes. It's hard enough
getting through the whole thing of keeping them healthy and happy so
why listen to all the other voices (in your own head mostly) telling
you to be perfect. Screw supermom, shoot for happy. Get yourself a
copy of "Bad Mother" or "The Bitch in the House" if you think you're
going mad and need to be reminded that you're not alone - we aren't
all made to mother all of the time. I've got a sister in Westchester
who is doing it full time with 3 and going for 4 and loves it. It's
what she wanted. Another sister with 1 and is the main income
generator of the family. My mom had 6 in 7 years. Each of these moms
has a different story than mine and each has its intense struggles and
overwhelming joys. Try to remember that it's hard for everyone and
cut each other some slack where you can. AND remember to do things
that make you happy - get in "me" time and find support in friends,
family, or professionals.