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I Don’t Know How She Does It – Donna Freydkin

2012 August 14

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:

Mini Boden quilted jacket

Fresh Sugar lip treatment in plum

Paige skyline ankle peg

James Perse loose-fitting tee

Kettrike Happy Air Navigator

Isabel Marant Bekett leather and suede sneakers

Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter

7 Responses leave one →
  1. liz duncan permalink
    August 14, 2012

    I have so much respect for your friend. Sometimes I think I’ve had a hard day just working a full-time job here in sunny California, with no children. Any mom who can raise a child on her own in New York, work a full time “big girl” job and be level headed at the same time is a kick-ass lady in my book!

  2. August 14, 2012

    Donna, you are a motherflipping rock star.

    Even though the pre-dawn “Row Row Row” concerts aren’t funny for you, I was chuckling to myself reading this because I can still hear Alex’s sweet voice in my head. Good luck with that whole re-transition to the crib. 🙂

    Hang in there, hot mama. I was on my own for several years with Ashley, and things got so much easier once she transitioned from toddler to preschooler. Wish you and I lived closer, but I know you’ve got some amazing friends in NY. Use them well, and take good care of yourself!

  3. James Patrick Herman permalink
    August 14, 2012

    As a fellow widow(er), I am in awe of Donna’s strength, courage and passion for parenting. Nothing prepared me for having to deal with the loss of my partner and I can definitely relate to your feelings of loneliness — what I can’t imagine is raising a child on my own while in mourning. You are truly an inspiration, Donna! I attend a grief and loss support group every other Tuesday and I will be sure to share your inspiring story with my fellow widowers today.

  4. Jennifer permalink
    August 14, 2012

    Donna, as my great friend and someone I love and adore, you never cease to amaze me. And I say enjoy that Alex wants to be next to you every night. There will come a day when he wants his own bed, so relish in the fact that (while you are sleep-deprived), the little munchkin LOVES his mama and the safety he feels with you.

    …and I have to second the above. You are Motherf^&*%$ ROCK STAR!

  5. August 17, 2012

    I’ve been thinking about this post for days now, Raluca. It really puts things in perspective. If you’re a stay at home mom, a working mom, a single parent, etc. you just have to do the best you can with what you have. I guess things are totally relative, but sometimes we (I’m using that word very broadly) worry about things that are extremely petty. Our kids aren’t going to die if they eat a box of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese and do it while watching back to back episodes of Jake and The Neverland Pirates every once in a while. They just need love. Thank you for the reality check.

  6. Basil permalink
    October 14, 2014

    By the way, she is my daughter, and I am very proud of her.

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