I Don’t Know How She Does It – Donna Freydkin
I have known Donna via email and phone for several years now. As someone in the PR industry, it would be a huge miss if you didn’t. She is one of the most esteemed reporters at USA Today, where she spends her days at the office interviewing some of the biggest celebrities on the planet – and we’re not talking “what’s in your bag” type-features here. Outside of the Blackberry world, we bonded a few years ago via Facebook when we realized we were both due on Christmas 2010 (she with her first baby, me with my second.) We swapped stories of pregnancy aches and heart burn and then when the babies made their arrivals (mine early, hers late) we traded tips on white noise, swaddling and sleep schedules. I enjoyed watching her navigate the incredible course of first-time motherhood in New York City from afar and always liked checking in on her and baby Alex’s progress. Sadly, one day a few months back, her Facebook wall was filled with messages of sadness and condolences as her husband had suddenly passed away, leaving her to take on the most challenging role of all – that of a young, first-time mama, doing it on her own. Here, my friends, is how she does it:
What time does your day start and how?
After my husband passed away, I made a huge tactical error and allowed my son to co-sleep with me because we were both grieving. Now, he won’t leave. At this point in my life, I don’t have the energy to battle this specific thing, so I am simply going along with it. And that means that quite frequently, he wakes me up at around 4am to sing Row Row Row Your Boat. This might sound adorable. It’s not. I refuse to make eye contact (easy to do with blackout shades) and eventually he goes back to sleep. Eventually. We then officially wake up at 7am. I change his diaper. I try to make him eat something that doesn’t have a shelf-life of 20 years. I usually fail. I shower while he plays in the bathroom and tries to throw shampoo bottles into the tub. We leave the house at 8am. I drop him off at Tender Care — his incredible early childcare program, which is like my extended family — and go to work.
What time does your day end and how?
I pick Alex up between 5 and 6pm every day. We walk home through Central Park, watch the horses and cyclists, and play in the grass. We then get home, I try to have him eat something that isn’t pasta or crackers (and usually fail), we do his bath, read a few books involving ducks, horses and pigs, and he goes to bed in my room at 7pm. Usually, friends will come over after he’s in bed so I can have actual adult time. Being a single parent is a lonely job — even the most useless dads are still a sympathetic presence. One thing I feel awful about is that even if I meet someone else, no matter how fantastic he might be, he’ll never be Alex’s father. And that’s just something I have to accept.
Do you work from home or in an office? What is the set up like?
I am based in the New York bureau of USA TODAY. It’s an open layout, composed mostly of news, finance and entertainment writers. My colleagues are, for the most part, smart, engaged and generous people.
Do you see/speak to your kids throughout your work day? If yes, how/when?
No. Alex is in daycare and mommy is working.
What is the best thing about being a working mom? Hardest thing?
The best thing is having a job I love. Every day, I realize how lucky I am to have discovered what I wanted to do back when I had a terrible home perm, and being able to do it. Every day is different. Every interview is different. Every story is different. And let’s face it — there are worse ways to spend a Monday than with Jeremy Renner. The hardest part is doing it alone. There’s no safety net and no fallback plan. If Alex gets sent home for being sick, I have to pick him up — no matter what work commitments I might have. Publicists know that I can’t do interview in the evenings, because I am flying solo at home. I don’t go out at night, because I am alone and financially and logistically, it doesn’t make sense. I guess, truly, the most difficult thing is never having a break. Either I’m in work mode, or mommy mode. And that’s really draining.
Be honest, what is one thing you envy about stay at home moms?
Nothing. Some of the stay-at-home moms I know are angry, frustrated and bored. Some of them seem to visibly resent their kids — which honestly, I can understand because being home with them all day is exhausting. I cannot imagine not earning my own money or having control over my life and finances, especially in the wake of my husband’s death.
Answer the question “I don’t know how you do it?” in ten words or less
I’m raising a healthy, exuberant, loving son on my own.
And here are some things Donna is currently loving, for her and little Alex:
Clockwise from top left: