Is there anything harder than being a working mom? One of those moms who puts in her 9 to 5 (or longer) at the office, rushes around to pick up kids and chauffeur them to doctor’s appointments, soccer games, piano lessons…you get the drift. Writer and stay-at-home mom Kathy Buckworth might argue that harder yet is transitioning from powerful workplace player to full-time stay-at-homer. She tells her story in her uproariously funny latest book Journey to the Darkside: Supermom goes home. Here’s our interview with her.
(To read a hilarious excerpt from her book, click here)
Canadian Living: Kathy, in this book, you mention having had an office job. What was it?
Kathy Buckworth: I worked for 20 years in corporate marketing, from packaged goods to financial services. My last position was as director, CoBranded Card Marketing at CIBC.
CL: And why did you leave it?
KB: When I found out I was expecting my fourth child, I arranged a six-month maternity leave. However, my nanny resigned two months into the leave (I like to think it was because she was getting married, but I wonder if the fourth put her over the top!), so I extended my leave to the full year. I toyed with the idea of returning three days a week, but in the end I opted to turn my maternity leave into an “eternity” leave. This was about five years ago. I decided then that I wanted to accomplish three things with my newfound spare time: one, spend more time with the children; two, do something with this “writing” thing that had been rattling around in my brain; and three, get involved with a volunteer association. I spend a lot of time with my children (much to my teenagers’ dismay), have been very lucky to have had three books and numerous magazine and newspaper articles published, and am now on the board of the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee. I love it.
CL: Journey to the Darkside is all about working moms who are ditching the rat race for stay-at-home motherhood. What inspired you to write this book?
KB: As with my first book, The Secret Life of Supermom, which talks about the crazy balance of the working mom, this book came about as a result of my own experiences. I often joke with my husband that I now do everything just to see if there is a book in it!
CL: What’s a normal day in your home like?
KB: Define normal. On a weekday, typically my husband is up at 5:45 and out the door shortly after, to his “real” job downtown. I get the kids’ lunches ready for school (while simultaneously signing forms, doling out money and generally yelling and shrieking). Once the older three are out the door, my four-year-old and I either head to the gym or to the grocery store, drugstore, sports store…you get the idea. Nicholas then heads off to JK in the afternoon and then I generally write, or pitch story ideas, and send gossipy e-mails. I do quite a bit of television right now, as well as public speaking, so those are worked into our daily routine. The kids always seem to have hockey, dance, swimming, ski, or other assorted lessons and homework in the evenings or after school. We generally have dinner together as a family and then the evening routine of baths, cleanup, getting ready for the next day begins. It’s busy but very manageable. We’ve learned to manage things one crisis at a time.
CL: And on that note, how did you find time to write this book? Not to mention your two others, The Secret Life of a SuperMom and SuperMom: A celebration of all you do.
KB: When I wrote my first book, Secret Life, I was on my maternity leave with my fourth child, and my other kids were three, eight and 10. I wrote in 20-minute spurts, as that’s all I could manage. Now I find I have a bit more time, I still only seem to write in 20-minute segments, so I guess that’s my maximum capacity…or maybe time between interruptions. Literally as I’m writing this, my 13-year-old son is yelling from the kitchen that the Cheez Whiz jumped out of the fridge in a kamikaze leap at him, and smashed all over the slate floor. It’s been about 20 minutes. I’ll be right back.
CL: Tell us about your four (!) kids.
KB: I have a 15-year-old daughter, Victoria, in Grade 10, who is into dance, and wants to be a child psychologist when she grows up (not sure if this is an endorsement of my parenting style of not!). My 13-year-old son Alexander is in Grade 8, and is into hockey, snowboarding, and of course his electronic gaming system. He has lots of energy that we are channeling into good instead of evil…we hope. My eight-year-old daughter Bridget (Grade 2) is the only girl on her hockey team and their leading goal scorer. She’s into soccer, skiing and now snowboarding too. She idolizes her big brother, so we’ll see where that takes her. And lastly Nicholas, in junior kindergarten, almost five, and trying desperately to keep up with the other ones. He is into skiing and swimming…and we’re having a hot family debate on whether or not we can take another one into hockey right now — I may convince him to take up chess. Or cleaning toilets.
CL: You’re an award-winning humour writer. Do the kids think you’re funny?
KB: Of course not. They think every other mom in the world is nicer, cooler, and probably funnier than I am. Actually my son Alex and I share a similar sense of humour, much to the annoyance of the other kids. I do show them my Humour Award plaque sometimes but it surprisingly has little effect on how they see me. Apparently Adam Sandler and Bart Simpson are funny, but not me. Huh.
CL: You take some gentle swipes at dads; for instance, they think there’s a “Dishwasher Fairy” who magically empties and fills the dishwasher (i.e., Mom). What’s your hubby, Steve, like? And more importantly, are you the Dishwasher Fairy in your house?
KB: Sometimes the swipes aren’t so gentle, but they’re always true, from my point of view. Steve gets a lot of empathy from his friends, some warranted. He tells me that he has no leverage with me, as everything he does “wrong” (i.e., not my way or the way nature intended) will probably end up in an article or book somewhere. I keep telling him not to take it personally, as they’re all the same. Actually he has a great sense of humour and is very supportive — I’m extremely lucky. He plays along with the “husband who does nothing” shtick almost too well. I was speaking in a writer’s panel recently and I was asked how I knew if something was funny — I responded that if it mildly insulted my husband, it probably was. I am totally the Dishwasher, and Toilet Paper Fairy in my house — what woman isn’t?
CL: Have you read I Don’t Know How She Does It?, which is sort of The Devil Wears Prada for the supermom set? If yes, what did you think of it? And how would your book compare?
KB: I loved Alison Pearson’s novel. My only complaint would be that I thought the end was a cop-out (she leaves her job to find her balance, and I think we can find balance without having to do that). Her book is fiction, based on fact, and mine is based on my real life — which is a bit scarier to put out there, I think. There are no neat and tidy endings in real life.
CL: For those who don’t yet have children…this book is SCARY. I imagine some women would read this and think, I don’t want to cross over to the Darkside, and I don’t want kids! Any words of encouragement?
KB: I don’t think I’d be contradicted if I said that all of us think that it will be different for us when we have kids, compared to everyone else we see around us. In terms of heading to the Darkside, I do see this book as a bit of a guide for those who cross over, or at least a confirmation that you’re not in it alone — and you can find other women dealing with the same transition issues. Hopefully there’s more than a few laughs in it as well.
CL: What’s next for you?
KB: I’m currently working on my next book, The BlackBerry Diaries: Adventures in Modern Motherhood, which grew out of an article I wrote about my beloved BlackBerry that was very popular. As well, I’m continuing to do freelance work for many magazines and newspapers. I’m also a resident expert on Life Network’s Birth Days, and we’re in the middle of taping 26 episodes for this year’s shows — I love it and work with some great people, including sex columnist Josey Vogels, who is also a good friend. In 2006 I formed the Canadian Lit Chicks, which is comprised of me and four other published Canadian women writers. Together we do joint book signings, panel discussion, and public speaking on writing as a Canadian woman, for women and children — it’s great fun. I’m also still very involved with the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee, and in addition to my role as vice president, am responsible for all of the marketing and public relations for our events, which is great for me to be able to dust off my marketing skills and help out a fantastic arts organization. Oh, and in between I feed, clothe, and occasionally bathe the kids. And find a bit of time for Steve too. And clean up any errant Cheez Whiz.
Kathy Buckworth is an award-winning humour writer, and a contributor to CanadianLiving.com. Check out her website at kathybuckworth.com. Her latest book, Journey to the Darkside: Supermom Goes Home, is available April 1, 2007.
This article first appeared in Canadian Living Online and can be found at this link: http://www.canadianliving.com/moms/family_life/interview_with_an_ex_supermom.php