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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson Marriage Promises Part 2 Opener

Happy Valentine’s day, world. We aren’t typically big “celebrators” of today’s holiday, despite my intense love of all things “romance” and ability to create sentiment out of the most benign situations. But I started this post a few months ago after you guys asked for it, and well, today felt appropriate and kinda sweet. Besides, these days I sure as hell celebrate a successful marriage because I know it’s not something to take for granted. After 19 years, I’m very, very very happy that I still love that guy and actually want to hang out with him. A lot.

If you missed it, a few months ago, I posted part one of  “marriage promises” that Brian and I wrote together on our honeymoon (over a bottle of wine, surely). These promises were meant to hold our future selves accountable to our youthful, innocent and naive ideals. If you are just getting married, I STRONGLY recommend doing this because boy, has it made me ask myself some hard questions.  Holding up a mirror to your own set of past beliefs is nothing but good, sheer, terrifying self-analysis. This round is way less about our marriage and far more about what kind of people we wanted to become, or actually the kind of people we wanted our futures selves to avoid becoming. It’s highly self-indulgent, more like a journal so if you aren’t into reading others self-analysis then come back tomorrow. Meanwhile, let’s see how we did.

Marriage Promises Emily Henderson

Good to know that my penmanship hasn’t changed in 12 years. I should get it analyzed and find out what it really says about me…

#1. Once a week we have a date night.

The original intent: We wanted to make sure that we always connected outside of friends and TV, the other big distractions in a marriage that can make it seem like you are spending time together, but you aren’t really connecting. 

How we are doing: HA. We definitely don’t do once a week, but I’d say at least twice a month (when we are good, when we are in a slump we’ll forget for over a month). This is obviously due to kids because before kids we would do date nights like at least two or three times a week. Right now, Brian is in a play, rehearsing every single night (except for Mondays when I get my break from parenting and he takes over) so right now, it’s extra bad. This is something to work on, but I will say that usually, Friday family night is hard to forego, then often we hang out with friends all day on Saturday so we often just feel like staying in on Saturday nights after we put the kids down. This is the most boring story I’ve ever told. Maybe thats because we have gotten boring. You HAVE to plan them and while many will say even an hour at your local restaurant is a good thing, we have found that in order for us to connect and get over the basic stuff (kids, schools, work, politics), we need a full night (3 to 4 hours) and just going to a movie without dinner doesn’t count. You can’t ask your partner “How are you? No, really? Are you happy right now?” the second you sit down at a burger joint. And that’s the stuff you really need to talk about on a date. Not your kids and not your friends. You need to get to the  “are you happy right now” convo and that takes a little while (for us at least). 

Definitely, need to get better on this.

#2. We do not become obsessed with our kids.

The original intent: We think that was to prevent us from neglecting ourselves, living vicariously through our kids and not letting them be their own people.

How we are doing: I’m not sure. We don’t think we smother them, but we are pretty obsessed with them. They are so little that aren’t you kinda supposed to be obsessed with them at this age and loosen the reins later? I’m not a helicopter parent, maybe that’s what we were trying to avoid? I’m not sure what level of obsession is healthy if any…thoughts? Brian says we are the right level of obsessed, which is “very” but we still have our own lives and go on vacation without them. 

#3. Every decision we make will be good for us individually as well as our family.

The original intent: This is the whole “happy parent, happy kid” thing that we’ve always believed. This was to prevent us from moving to the suburbs where our thoughts, similarities, cultures, would be discarded for a better school district and bigger yard for our kids. This was also to avoid one of us getting a job we hated in order to pay the mortgage. I remember thinking ‘why would you ever do a job you hate just to support your family when you could scale back, rent forever and just send your kids to public school?’ (ha. see #4) It’s not wrong, it’s just very naive because most people don’t necessarily have any other option (or just have different priorities). 

How we are doing: What you can’t predict, what you don’t know until you have kids is that the happiness and well-being of our kids actually largely determines your happiness, and that security and feeling safe plays a huge part in feeling happy. The suburbs do provide things that living within a city doesn’t. True story: Two years ago, we were desperate to move to a suburb of LA to get more of that life before we bought this house, but were deterred by the school district. Our friends were appalled at the idea of leaving “the city” but we just kept saying wait ’til you have two kids and need space and quiet. Listen, with these kids and two jobs, it’s not like we are going to concerts and art openings every night. We are definitely constantly eyeing suburban living, just getting outside of the city and having more space, less traffic and a generally more family-oriented community. We also know that we are idolizing this and we aren’t seeing the failings of such a suburban life. In fact, the reason we haven’t moved to the mountain house is because we know that while the kids would thrive (for now), we probably wouldn’t. We might get bored, miss culture, miss diversity, miss the hilarity and intellect of our friends, so I guess we are kinda choosing our happiness while trying to prioritize them. For now. 🙂 

#4. We will always value happiness over financial gain. 

The original intent: Easy. Choose happiness over money. Duh. We didn’t want one of us to take a job we would hate just to make more money. We wanted both of us to pursue what would make us happy, regardless of pay. The benefit of never having a lot of money but always having enough to get by is that you (or at least we) didn’t really place value on it. Both our parents chose careers that weren’t high paying but made them happy.

How we are doing: It’s complicated. It goes without saying that happiness is more important than money. The tricky thing is finding out what makes you happy because if you don’t know that then, how can you value and prioritize it? And let’s face it, the stress of financial stability can strongly affect your happiness. I’m obsessed with articles about this. Brian first pursued a career in New York theater that made him so so happy, but we were barely getting by financially which made us unhappy. So despite us both being happy, we moved to LA to “make it big” ( $$$ as well as career fulfillment). But pursuing a TV and film career in Hollywood made him EXTREMELY unhappy (daily auditions/rejects is soul destroying).

As my career took off, for some reason we thought that he was unhappy because he wasn’t contributing financially and just needed “a good career.” The old role-reversal-emasculation issue. So he went into real estate because it was flexible, and could potentially make money and listen, making money does make you happy to a point because you feel like your time is being valued financially and you have a sense of pride every time you deposit a decent check. You feel important. Two years later, we realized we were very wrong. Turns out just having a job, flexible or not, making money or not, doesn’t make you “fulfilled” and yes, our family as a whole was suffering. We came to the conclusion of what we always knew, that he is an artist and has to create, perform, write and be involved in theater in order to really be happy and it didn’t matter how much money it would or would not make (a sentence of privelige I realize). Our family is happiest when both parents are happy and fulfilled. Since he got back into theater he has been SO MUCH HAPPIER which means our marriage is so much better and our family is just so much happier. DUH. 

Great!

But what about me? I originally chose happiness over money as a prop stylist but is that still true?

What originally made me happy, why I got into this all was because shopping, styling, writing about decor and my life, connecting and having a positive influence on others made me really, really happy. The first five years of this career (TV + design + blog), I worked a ton but really loved every second of it.

Then the business grew, of which I’m so grateful, but I have no actual business skills, both in management and in things like setting up our 401K or say “sorry, one sec, opening emails from my accountant about my monthly P and L.”  But it was all still manageable and honestly still good until I had kids. And then I realized that in order for me to be happy, I was going to have to shove my kids into that equation and I would need to do the creative aspects + the business aspects + forming two beings into productive, kind, empathetic humans. Also, I just wanted to spend more time with my kids because they really made me happy. 

The challenge is all about time, and I needed more of it to be creative and with my kids.

This year, after writing the first draft of this in September and realizing that I wasn’t as happy as I could be (I was just so stressed out), I had a huge epiphany as I realized having this business makes me so happy, but running it really does not. Before kids, I didn’t care that I was working 60 hours, I loved it and I loved the stress of it. But after kids, it all changed. I realized that while I was happy in so many ways, the only thing I truly wanted more in life was more time to spend with my kids while they are young and hell, to go thrifting every now and again. They say you can’t buy happiness but in this case, having more time would make me happier. I knew it.

So I restructured the business with the intent to give myself more time, more help, sacrificing the potential profits. I finally set up an “executive” team that runs departments and answer questions and make decisions for me and you guys, it’s AMAZING!!! It’s like a real business!!! Arlyn, Michael and Sara are killing it. Everybody feels like they know what is happening, what their deadlines are, and what their roles and expectations are. They feel so much more empowered and I know that things are getting done and done well. Investing in people with high-level experience and management skills means I have more time to be creative and actually do the things that make me happy. The profit margin is less, but by doubling my team and really empowering them, I really am so much happier.

So hilariously, writing the first draft of this post (4 months ago) forced me to ask and answer the question, wherein this shift emerged. Money is infinite, but time is finite and therefore it is the most valuable thing in the world. If we don’t have time to be happy because we are trying to be profitable and “successful,” then what is it all for anyway?  

#5. We will always take the subway.

The original intent: We really didn’t want us to be out-of-touch-elitists. (I realize the irony after I just wrote a whole paragraph about my successful business). It stemmed from this: In 2002, when I was a dog walker on the upper east side, we had clients that went from their penthouse to their private elevator, to their car service, to their fancy-ass restaurant with their similarly fancy friends, back to their penthouse and never ever, ever, were around actual people. I even had to take the service elevator so they didn’t have to be in an elevator with “the help.” I just remember it feeling so gross because avoiding humanity does exactly what you think it does, it isolates you and puts you in a bubble and then you can no longer relate, empathize or even acknowledge other’s lives or problems. Duh. I remember thinking that public transportation is the easiest way to do this, daily. While your neighborhood, community, bubble might not be as diverse as you wish it were, being faced with true diversity (both racial and economic) an hour and a half a day keeps you grounded a bit.

How we are doing: Well, LA certainly isn’t the bastion of transportation. We went on the metro here once as a joke for a “subway pub crawl.”  It’s just not set up here to work as well as in New York (or even CLOSE) and rarely makes sense to take.

Obviously, we’ve failed at this public transportation promise, but that wasn’t really the point, was it Past-Emily? Nope. It was more a challenge to combat the larger problem that everyone faces as they get older: to not surround yourself with people just like you. But that means that we have to actually seek out others different than us. The blog is a HUGE help because so many of you comment from diverse backgrounds. I’ve told you this before but your comments about why you voted for Trump and why you own a gun or why you are okay with a closed border really elevated my thinking and opened my eyes and I know so many people from “my bubble” who read every comment.

We’ve also started attending this community church that is really diverse and the kids have been involved in volunteering there. At the beginning of service, everyone goes around and says “hi” to everyone, with the intent of welcoming, connecting and meeting someone new, and while it’s very intimidating, I’m always happy that I made that small new connection to someone who is likely outside of my bubble. I don’t want to go too into it in this post (it’s a whole thing, guys, I can’t wait to tell you) but I will say that having the kids help make a meal for a lower income family in the church and being there to hand out the cookies they’ve made to the homeless is the thing that I feel most proud of as a mom right now. Just when they are fighting over the last cookie in front of the families and I’m embarrassed and frustrated that they just aren’t getting the bigger message, I’ll get an email from their preschool teacher about how they said they like “making food to help the families” and I just want to bawl.

So I suppose we are trying but lord knows everyone could be doing a lot better. Brian hopes that by choosing public school next year, our kids will get some of the diversity that we want for them. It’s just hard because we self-segregate. I’m attracted to the mom at the playground who dresses like me. We don’t really want to seek out really socially conservative people whose views go wildly against mine and ask then over for dinner. Subways force daily interactions and connections that you otherwise have to seek out in LA and it’s hard. Maybe it’s time to start taking the bus? 🙂

#6. We will never live in a gated community.

The original intent: The idea of exclusivity was disgusting to us and not allowing people into your neighborhood felt mean. Everyone should be welcome. (This also stems from me moving to a very wealthy suburb of Portland when I was 16 where we were the poor kids and I think I’m still scarred from some of them).

How we are doing: We get it. Pre-kid notions of safety and how you think you’ll raise your kids are always hilarious. I still don’t want to live in a typical gated community, but sure a neighborhood that is always safe sounds pretty darn attractive to me. There is one near us, in Beachwood Canyon, that is gorgeous. It’s all these old craftsman and mid-century homes. Nothing fancy, just charming, and due to tourist traffic up to the Hollywood sign, they got permission to gate it. See? I can get my head around that and you can start rationalizing your way into exclusivity. Soho House is another example: on principle, it feels elitist, but let’s face it, it’s just so fun to be around all those cool people in such a beautiful space.

Additionally, the lake that the mountain house is near is owned by the community, thus private and not accessible at all by tourists (basically gated) and while I HATE the notion, I secretly love that there aren’t used condoms on the beach and knowing that all the strangers that are near my kids likely also live in our community is nice. So…I get it now.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this one: Is the country club (or a modern version of it) coming back? I think yes. It’s just in the form of social clubs like Soho House where you can only be a member based on finances and status/relationships. Is this a good or bad thing? God, each ONE of these could be a blog post. Is it a cop-out for you to want your friends to join these clubs so you can enjoy them, but not actually join one yourselves? Probably.

#7. I will not spend more than $500 on a handbag. 

The original intent: That was kinda the beginning of the Kate Spade era, where people were OBSESSED with name brands. I was just not into status symbols so it was less about expensive handbags and more about valuing status.

How we are doing: You see a theme, here. Did I stick to that? Sure. I have never spent more than $400 on a bag, if that, but that’s only because I’m not that into bags (I’ve been using this bag for THREE YEARS and still love it). It doesn’t mean I’m as grounded as I should be.

Pretending that I don’t have some snobby taste is stupid and acting like I don’t splurge or care about my “status” is not the truth. I’m a kid of the ’90s and status symbols and brand names make me uncomfortable. But I get a thrill when I open the ice machine at the mountain house and it’s the small balled ice. When I turn on that microbubble bath, it makes me feel VERY good as I suppose I know it’s a luxury. So I’m no better. I still misplace value on material possessions, it’s just that current Emily values high-end reclaimed wood flooring over handbags.

#8. We will always support young artists.

The original Intent: As young artists, we wanted support and we promised that if we ever had money, we would use it to support up-and-coming artists. This was more Brian driving this one (he was probably sick of me talking and dominating the last three).

How we are doing: I think we are doing pretty well, Brian even more so then I am. He goes to a lot more plays and indie movies than I do.

Does this mean I can buy some more art without guilt???? YES!!!! I hope because of this blog, we have helped promote young artists and I really hope that many have seen a bump when we post and tag/link. But no reason not to be better at this. One of the things we want to do this year is a larger program around artists, kinda like what we did in Portland but all year, in every project. The artists got a lot of exposure, many of their pieces sold and we got to use amazing original art in a project which elevated it tremendously.

Thanks for reminding me to do this more, Past-Emily. We are on it.

#9. No matter what, like a greek army we will make it work.

The original intent: I’m pretty sure that was written at the end of the bottle of wine “Like a Greek Army, We will make it work”?? Who says that?? I like the sentiment, it’s just a very determined comment and I don’t actually know what the reference is. I suppose we knew that there would be ups and downs and we wanted to remind ourselves to stick through it.

How we are doing: We have STUCK with it and while there have been a lot of ups and downs the last 19 years right, now it’s really really good. I could talk about this for hours and hours “how to make a marriage work.” It’s literally my favorite subject and I’m learning so much right now from those close to me whose marriages are struggling so I feel like just talking about marriage is a real thing right now.

I’m writing this from Minneapolis, having left Brian and the kids for a few days to work. I think about how marriages have changed so much since women have entered the work force and boy is it better. To have a husband that is so supportive and can handle two small kids on his own while his wife went off on business trips is just not what happened 30 years ago (well, he’s in dress rehearsals every night so his parents came down to help at night so they were around family at least, but typically he’s by himself and fine). I’m seriously grateful for that guy and our marriage and while we need to go more on dates and work on some of the above, our family unit feels tight right now. Ugh, I miss them so much.

Happy Valentine’s day, Brian. I love you VERY VERY VERY much.

  1. Happy Valentine’s Day to you two! I really enjoyed your thoughts and the transparent way you approach your life, as I always do. A lot of this stuff is on our mind right now too, as parents to 3 year old twins who are sponging up EVERYTHING – especially the part about seeking out diversity. We live in a suburb of Dallas with a lot of people who look just like us, so we’ll need to be intentional about this as they get older.

    My parents did this very well when I was growing up. One way they did it was signing us up for sports leagues in other neighborhoods (away from our school friends) to diversify our friend groups and give us a broader perspective. When I was in high school, we lived on the border of Texas and Mexico. My dad and some other dads created a volleyball club team and hired a coach from Juarez, Mexico (who didn’t speak English) to coach us. Half of our team were white girls with no Spanish, the other half were from Mexico and spoke no English. We would drive across the border and play against collegiate teams in Mexico. Those were some of the best years of my life; I realize now what a unique experience that was.

    I went on to play college volleyball, and we had one of the most diverse teams around. My roommates were Nigerian, “Blackanese” (her term), and Guatemalan. At the time I thought nothing of our differences, because our team was a great bonding force. I’ve thought about this a lot as I’ve gotten more involved in diversity and inclusion efforts. Sports can be a great equalizer when it comes to race and culture, and I’m grateful that these experiences shaped me during my formative years.

    I share this random backstory just to say that I believe we can help diversify what our kids see by intentionally signing them up for activities that may introduce them to kids from other walks of life. That kind of stuff can make a lasting impact.

    1. I love this story so much. Thank you! and i think your parents ideas are spot on (and so progressive). Thank you thank you.

  2. You are very self aware. I enjoyed your honest analysis

    1. thank you. i’m actually self-indulgently self-aware. It’s like nobody has ever liked to “reflect” as much as I do and at times I fear its cloying 🙂 But man writing this post made me realize so much and where we need improvements. xx

  3. Thanks for the insight into your life. I’m always interested in improving our relationship, and being due with our first child in a couple months, this was particularly insightful. We talk about the type of parents we want to be and the kind of kid we want to raise, but writing it down seems beneficial. And great blog content years later. Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

    1. WRITE IT DOWN. We did this for parenting (well, I did :)) and there are only a few things that i’m ABSOLUTELY shocked by. I keep meaning to write the post but the older they get the better that post would be (as the more experience parenting I’ll be). For instance I had NO idea how conservative (parenting-wise) I was going to be and did I EVER think I’d go to church? hmm…

  4. This is lovely. Look at all the wisdom you have gained! Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned.

  5. Love this post! Quick note from a writer: in the headline it’s “faring” not “fairing” Just a heads up!

    1. oh really? Ha. that was me. I actually didn’t know that. thank you 🙂

  6. I really love this! I admire your transparency and how you evaluate what Past Emily meant and how you really are doing with it. Food for thought for me today.

  7. Your comments about raising children in the city really reasonate with me right now. We live in an inner city neighborhood in a 2 bedroom condo with our toddler (and in a few weeks an infant too!). We love living in the city. We choose it for many of the same reasons. And the city has proven a wonderful place to have a small child. There are so many things we can do with her for free within walking distance or a quick metro ride away. It has actually made me like the city even more. But as our toddler nears starting public school (in a not great school district), and with a recent uptick in crime in our neighborhood, I also understand the lure of the suburbs. Our idealized notion of raising our children in a diverse neighborhood and attending an integrated public school is so much harder when you are actually looking at a school with an awful rating and a rising violent crime rate. And the local suburbs, with their (basically) all white neighborhoods, great schools, and incredibly low crime rates look more appealing than anticipated. For now we are staying, but who knows what we will do as our kids grow. All of my friends with children left the city for the suburbs prior to having kids, so its not something they can really relate to anymore. Anyways, it’s nice to hear from people who experience the same kinds of tensions. Let’s you know you’re not alone.

    1. thank you. Yah its hard. We were the biggest public school proponents for our entire lives but of course now when its our kids its hard. Our elementary is FANTASTIC its just the jr and high (literally a block away from our house and SO BEAUTIFUL) that are still up and coming. Our hope is obviously that by the time our kids go it will keep improving. Good luck on it all. So many tough choices. xx

      1. I wanted to suggest this organization, Integrated Schools, for thinking about school choice and making decisions for our kids that not only help them, but help the community at large. Often, a school rating doesn’t tell the whole story–test scores aren’t the only useful metric. It’s worth exploring your local public school options (beyond elementary school), and considering what impact you can have as a person of privilege in this unequal world–and how these choices can benefit your kids, as well. I’ve got two kids, and I totally understand the anxieties surrounding school choice, and I don’t mean to devalue them. I just think it’s sad how many “progressive” people give up their values when it’s about their own kids.

        https://integratedschools.org/

        Either way, I so appreciate your honesty and candor, Emily!

        1. So glad you brought this up! My daughter just started kinder in the LA outskirts this year at a low-preforming school where every student gets a free lunch (because like 97% of the students qualify) that just started a really awesome dual-language Spanish/English immersion program instead of transferring her into a district that receives a 10/10 on all school benchmarks. So I make the drive to a different part of town, depend greatly on Google Translate, and have learned that I may not have a ton in common with the parents of other kids in her class but we share the bond of loving our kids and wanting nothing but the best. Despite all the fears I harbored about whether or not I was giving my kid “the best opportunity”, she is flourishing academically and socially; learning what it means to not be part of the majority (her blonde hair makes her stand out like a sore thumb); recognizing and celebrating diverse cultural traditions; and developing a sensitivity to the struggles experienced by her peers. And, though of course I want the best for her, that is the icing on the cake because it is also the best thing for all the other beautiful, smart, engaged students whose parents did not have the privilege of “school choice”. All that to say, as much as a progressive perspective recognizes the impact of our consumer purchases on others (is it biodegradable? can it be recycled? what is the carbon footprint? is it fair trade certified and organic?) it is important that we also recognize the impact of choices that we make in the education and community involvement of our children on other kids and families who are just as valuable as our own. Definitely inspired by some of the ideas in this comment section!

          1. I love your comment, I wish more parents would figure this out. I have a 20 year old daughter and a 10 year old daughter. the oldest attended a bilingual program because she already spoke spanish by kinder so we enrolled her in this school. (20 miles from our home) I loved the fact that she understands what it is to be in the minority. My 10 year old is currently enrolled in this same school and she is learning the same lesson. She actually started not knowing any spanish so for her it was a bit more stressful but she also has a more timid personality. Despite this she is thriving. As a parent, I love this community. The community is friendly, welcoming, supportive and just real. (no drop off drama) and just for reference the test scores are really low:)

          2. i just want to say as a person who was born and raised in an low income area – these comments are painful to read. My partner and I make almost double the median income but we choose to stay in our community – provide and contribute because we have the means to. “im progressive but…” doesnt mean anything when you take the privilege you have and use it to contribute to inequitable outcomes for the people you value so much to provide “diversity” to your kids.

            While im here I do want to reiterate that gated/private communities are elitist as hell no matter how you slice it. Especially since these neighborhoods are higher income and primarily white due to redlining.

        2. Thats incredible. I love this idea/program. Thank you SO much for sharing. And believe me, I agree with your last sentence more than you know. We want our kids to thrive and be well rounded, we don’t actually care too much about academics or big achievements and definitely not how the entire school tests.. It’s all about the kids, families, environment, creativity, etc. its why we aren’t even looking at private for elementary because I don’t want to see those fancy art and music facilities because it will make me feel bad and likely second guess ourselves. thank you so much for sharing.

      2. Isn’t this is a self fulfilling prophesy?
        If parents wont enroll their kids at a school because it isn’t doing well enough, how will the school ever improve?

        Design Mom has some interesting posts about this whole idea – comparing the pressure parents create in NYC to their plans for schooling in Oakland, where so many people told them they CAN’T send their kids to public school because they aren’t good enough. Totally worth the read!

        1. This is so hard for me to. I consider myself very progressive, I live in a diverse neighborhood which I absolutely love, I am often the only white person at events in my community, I’ve read the research and I know how important it is to support low-performing schools and how affluent parents can really have an impact.

          BUT, I grew up in a very small, rural town and my school was pretty awful. We had no AP classes, minimal technology, brand-new teachers, no extra-curriculars – heck, we didn’t even have cheerleading or a softball/baseball team. Inner-city schools suffer those same pitfalls that I’m still upset I wasn’t able to experience.

          I want to give my kids the best opportunities – how do I balance that with supporting the community I love? Any advice would be so helpful and I will definitely check out integratedschools.org

          1. Such good and real questions to ponder and wrestle with! I don’t know what the right answer is. I think because my local schools aren’t necessarily ranked well but still have the things you didn’t get at your schools as a kid–advanced classes, sports, extras, etc.–it isn’t such a question for me. I think rural schools, honestly, might suffer more than urban ones, in this regard. I do know that my son, who’s only 7 now, is at a “bad” school with low test scores, and that he is one of the only white kids, and one of from an educated well off family. Our PTA really struggles (forget about silent auctions and such–we get by with nacho sales and those terrible wrapping paper fundraisers), and all last year they didn’t even have a library. But I don’t think he lost out. He’s met all sorts of people he wouldn’t have otherwise, and he has learned so much. He also gets a lot at home and I don’t worry too much that he will fall behind or not meet his potential, etc. I do think in this rapacious late-Capitalist economy, where it’s clear that there will be fewer jobs, and fewer good jobs, for future generations, it makes sense that parents would want to curate their children’s lives so that said children maintain the status they were raised in….but it can start to feel a little….intense, and is it really the best way to be–the best way to parent? Of course, a lot can happen, and each family has to figure this out on their own, I just wonder how we might reframe things a bit, by considering the positives of NOT seeking out the “best” for our kids.

        2. OH awesome. thank you. i’m going to read that. I love design mom. xx

          1. @teresa – we need to hang out 🙂
            @person I totally agree. if they are thriving we are not moving them and I absolutely agree that the best thing that affluent parents can do is put their kids in publics school. But EVERY SINGLE PARENT (except one) that has older kids in our neighborhood says ‘i promise you, you’ll change your mind’ and we are like, why? what is so bad? And they don’t really have an answer. I think because there are a lot of kids bussed in from other neighborhoods it doesn’t have that feeling of community that the elementary school does, and there are cliques and therefore all the gross stuff that comes along with those (bullying, some gangs, etc). but I haven’t toured any of them and honestly they look beautiful.. Like I said, we don’t really care about academics. we feel pretty confidant (maybe we shouldn’t) that they’ll be fine and we don’t value achievements. Listen, I don’t even care if they go to college if its not the right fit for their personality. We ARE worried about bad influences and peers at the junior and high school level when they are so impressionable, but honestly we are more worried about rich elitist kids with high allowances than we are anything else (if you can’t tell). World. Please advise (but thank god we have years to help us figure it out and we honestly aren’t stressed about it AT ALL right now, i just LOVE talking about it). xx

          2. @person we’ve talked about this so much. I couldn’t agree with you more. I literally couldn’t care less about being the best or academic or athletic achievements and I think its to the child’s deficit to value this. Does that mean we don’t have discipline, inspiration, motivation and guidance? OF COURSE NOT. but it’s not what we value. Charlie and Birdie are so nice to each other and us. They are curious and kind, positive and so smart, but not even CLOSE to reading because it’s not what our preschool does (its reggio based – which means project oriented, teacher guided but not a lot of in-your-chair academics). There are some times when I know he’ll be behind in kindergarten in regards to reading and it makes me a little stressed for him but I also know that that kid loves to be read to more than any child ever, so once he is actually ready to be taught, he’s got this. Anyway, its refreshing to read all these comments of progressive parents thinking the same thoughts as of in regards to schools and general childhood.

  8. What a lovely piece! I especially like the ideas you have for supporting young artists. You may already be doing this, but I always love to see people and brands making a concerted effort to include people of color in these types of things. The online world of design can feel like a very white space. Seeking out makers and influencers who a don’t fit that mold is part of how I’m trying to expand my “bubble” 😊

  9. I love how honest you are with yourself, and, more importantly, how being introspective made you reevaluate your circumstances and make positive changes. So, two thoughts. One- public school only goes so far in ensconcing your children in diversity. Says the mom that put both her girls through public school. Unless you are driving Charlie to kindergarten in a less privileged neighborhood, he will be sitting next to his neighbors learning how to read. Which is comforting and safe. As they age through middle school, and especially high school, the demographics broaden, but elementary schools are essentially neighborhood children with little outside influence. Not that that is bad, it’s just not the stroke of diversity you may be looking for. Two- Gated communities. Sigh. Love/hate relationship, right? I currently live in the mountain house community and part of why we chose it was because we wanted out of the rat race. We choose when we go into LA or Orange County for our doses of culture and excitement. Which is a lot more when we aren’t snowed in or threatening to flood! But, I have also lived in that suburban type gated community that feels like everyone’s noses are I. The air. No real room for individuality, imperfection, or creativity. My husband and I felt stifled, oppressed, and beleaguered despite fitting into the basic demographic profile. We just both happen to be artists at our core and don’t do well inside the box! May all of us quirky personalities unite! Happy Hallmark Holiday, I mean Happy valentines Day! 🤟🏼

  10. Wow, your honesty blows me away. I really enjoyed reading this post and I can totally relate to all those great pre-child intentions that are so funny and misguided post-child.

  11. Wow! Your comment about not really wanting to seek out people that are socially conservative really struck me. What has happened to the idea of people just being friends even if their beliefs are different? My husband and I have friends with different beliefs and it works. I don’t have all the same beliefs as you but I am an interior designer and would have no problem being a friend! Sometimes it’s having some of the same interests that draw people into friendships and not just believing the same things. Life is too short to not have all types of friends!

    1. Does it work long term? I had conservative friends, I was always tolerant and friendly, I didn’t make political or divisive comments. I only kindly corrected their prejudices and hatered. They were judgmental and closed minded, and apparently they didn’t like me enough to stay friends. And it’s not one group, it’s many different friends.

      1. Yes, it works long term. We have common interests, things we like to do and don’t base the friendship on political beliefs. I guess what I’m trying to say is to not put labels on people and your friendships. Be respectful of the differences and be kind.

        1. you guys. I don’t care about political beliefs. I love a good republican that can sway me any direction. I do care about, say supporting love for all (gay marriage), inclusivity (thoughtful immigration), etc. and I don’t go around rejecting any friendships, but to say I’m seeking out people who think that gays shouldn’t marry would be a fools errand as that friendship might be hard to maintain. Some of my family members have different views than I and its fine, but it does affect how much we can relate and feel like we have these common goals on this earth. That said, its always good to understand the other side, but no, you don’t have to pursue false friendships and have dinners that make you uncomfortable. Life is too short.

    2. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself: I too have begun to feel this desire to remove myself from relationships with social conservatives, and I think it’s because the things we disagree on have begun to feel less like political issues (taxes are too high!) and more like human-rights issues (gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry). To me these aren’t something to disagree on, but represent a fundamental difference between us and our respect for fellow-humans and that makes me less likely to listen to other points of view and less likely to want to raise a family around that, because I see a lot of those viewpoints as toxic. I think other people on the other side of these questions see it the same way. I want to say ‘I wish it were different’ but the honest truth is that I’m not willing to compromise and have those views in my life, so I don’t make any effort to make it different. I don’t know the answer! It feels very different in just the past ten – heck, two! – years.

      1. I agree with SSM. I have moved away from conservative people. I tend to be a quiet, shy person and hearing the comments made by family and some friends just really shook me. But in my case, all you have to do is tell them you are an atheist/agnostic and they will run like you have the plague. It’s sad but true. The only conservative friends I have left do not know I am not religious and we also never discuss religion, politics and such.

      2. Agreed 🙂 its not political. Truly. I would vote for Romney right now HAPPILY, if it meant we could have a mid-term replacement. 🙂

      3. SSM, I agree with everything you said. Sheri, I understand where you’re coming from, but I think the issue is one of CLOSE friendships. I have several friends with whom I enjoy whatever activity we have in common (book club etc), but if I know they are socially conservative I probably won’t want to take the friendship to the ‘next level’ if that makes sense. Someone who believes that health care isn’t a human right (or gay marriage, or whatnot) isn’t someone I will choose to become close to. I’m not saying people with those views aren’t wonderful, tremendous friends. I’m sure they are! I might be missing out, big time, by not seeking their friendship. But it’s really a moral issue with me. And since there’s no shortage of people who share those human-rights values that I hold dear, I just don’t have the bandwidth to devote to deepening a friendship with someone whose values are diametrically opposed.

    3. Right, but how do you find people with different beliefs if your work, school and existing friends are all pretty much your own point of view? You would need to find a way to go “find” those other people. And how do you do that? Feels a bit awkward. How did you meet your friends with different beliefs?
      I live in a very liberal city in a very liberal neighborhood and literally don’t know anyone other than relatives who are conservative. I honestly do not know how one would go about trying to meet someone with different views, hang out to see if you even like them in any way, and then try to befriend them.

  12. Dying to know where you honeymooned!

    1. Montréal!

      1. Ha. it was VERY fun. A quick one for 4 days and I think we left the hotel twice. slept so much. but awesome. xx

  13. Having children really changes things! Not all things, but so many things. And you just can’t know that before you have them, haha. And I think that most of us just keep trying to make the best and healthiest decisions for our families as we go, and there is no PERFECT, right? Thanks for being real.

  14. I live about a half hour from Minneapolis and after reading your short post yesterday, I have to comment that even us hardy Minnesotans HATED the polar vortex and I didn’t leave the house unless I had to go to work that week. We all constantly bitch about the snow and cold this time of year as we are sick of it and have cabin fever. Can’t wait to get outside and work on my garden.

  15. I don’t have kids so I can’t say if that would have changed things more for me (I’m sure it would so I use my sister with 3 kids as my reference point). I wrote my college application essay about how I didn’t want to have the same life as my parents. Thing is my parents have a nice life and they were good examples and have always provided and supported us. But the big thing for me was living in a suburban type community so far from things and feeling cut off and isolated from people, especially people who weren’t all the “same”. I love that you have these things written down and are reflecting on them now. Because while we aren’t the same people that we were in our early 20s, we probably still have similar values and intentions on how we want to live our life and it’s important to check in with ourselves and each other to figure out how to express those values.

    Similar to Brian, my spouse is also an actor and has never had a chance to really pursue it as a career. Where we live paying jobs are few and if you have to have a “regular” job to pay the bills your flexibility to take paying jobs is restricted meaning you have even fewer opportunities. After nearly 15 years with a food service job that seemed flexible but really wasn’t he realized he wanted a job he could be proud of that helped people which he now has after working and training for years to switch careers. The job is good but the culture is very conservative and makes it hard to stay positive. And again he has what seems like an open schedule to pursue more acting opportunities but on the other hand really restricts things like theatre where you have rehearsals and shows for weeks at a time. So, we recently have reevaluated our life goals and are making plans to allow both of use to pursue our creative plans. It will take a few years before my risk-adverse self is ready with the cushion to catch us if we fail (to make money, there is no failing making art) but it’s really going to happen and before we’re old 🙂

    1. Good for you re reevaluating and making goals. re the parent things, i was the EXACT same way. I hated where I came from (the suburb, not the small town) but to be fair at the time it was also a VERY conservative rich white suburb. There are some suburbs that aren’t, but offer more safety and community. For now we are here and just trying to MAKE our own community. we bring our neighbors Christmas cookies and they are like ‘what is this the 1960’s?’ but we can do it.

  16. This was so refreshing to read. Here I am in Grosse Point, MI, having moved here a year ago from Los Feliz. My husband and I moved to LA to take jobs at UCLA and USC, my partner a postdoc and me an assistant professer. I had my dream job in the best neighborhood (we lived on Russell right up from the the Los Feliz 3 movie theater and Fred 62). We went out, we had a blast, we got pregnant, we raised our baby boy in our rented townhouse and life was great. All the shop owners knew and loved our son. The folks at Figaro taught him words in French. The owners at La La Ling made him rice crispy treats for his birthday. We had a farmers market at the end of the street. Life was good. Until it wasn’t. We would never be able to buy a house on professor salaries in LA. people were loud and drunk all the time. our boy couldn’t really ride his bike because people would drive 50 miles an hour down Rodney. We didn’t know any of our neighbors even though we tried because people rented and moved every year. And we wanted quiet. And green space. And good public schools. And jobs without an hour commute (because who the hell can afford to live near UCLA? none of my colleagues that’s for sure). So my husband went on the job market and we both got jobs in Michigan. It was a step down for me professionally (I was in a top 5 department) but we could buy a house. take time to enjoy each other as a family. have short commutes. go out on the lake. have another baby. and go out on dates. life is funny. i like that i’ve changed, that we’ve changed our priorities as a couple. and we are happier now and this time in this place. and when we change again, we will assess and make the hard decisions. but like you, I know I want to make those decisions with my husband. He’s all I need.

    1. that made me tear up. seriously. Indeed. there is no long term plan here. as our family thrives or fails we adjust or sustain. we are just trying the neighborhood thing and your comment just reinvigorated me to reach out to three families on our street that are awesome and we should get to know better. we see each other and always mean to hang out, but i’m going to organize something because I can’t keep bitching about not having a community in LA without actually trying to create one (we have a ton of great friends, but its different when its on your block and in your school). thank you xx

      1. We’ve lived in our little historic neighborhood for 11 years now…moved once into another home (same neighborhood—we were so lucky!) bc we had triplets and neede more space. Since we first moved here 11 years ago, the population age has shifted from mostly 80 yr olds to families. We’ve seen a lot of change. One of my friends “stalked me” (we joke) so we were walking/strolling our kids at the same time. Then we met more families. Her husband started a cocktail night where we all get a sitter from 7-10 and meet a a different house for cocktails (kids at their own homes—not collectively at one home). We get together about every other month. It’s nice bc if we all stay here, we know the parents at the homes our kids are playing at. Do we all have the same views? No. The majority of us? Probably. But nonetheless, we know each other a little bit more. Plus alcohol helps lighten the gathering mood. Since it’s started, the older Folks, single folks, and non neighborhood friends have come. Sometimes there’s 6 or 7 people, sometimes there’s 30. In a neighborhood that had a community in the 60’s, died out bc it wasn’t as prestigious when sprawl happened, and then had new life in it again, we’re building a community back up. It just takes a few people to include a few more! And it’s fun!!!

  17. WOULD LOVE TO HEAR more on your thoughts of how to make marriage work / struggling marriages!!! So fascinating!!!!!!

  18. I am so jealous that you have a crunchy ice machine!

  19. Hi, there. My mame is Florina, I have 35 years of marriage and still going very well. I write because I liked your marriage promises so much and I want to encourage you to stay close to them as much as possible.
    It will a difficult journey but staying together is the key.
    By the way : I watched your show on TLC a few years ago, I liked it very much and starting then I know how to fold towels properly 😂.
    Wish you and your family all the best, take care and be creative.

    1. I still fold towels like Emily taught me!

  20. I really enjoyed this article and I plan to spend a little of my own time thinking and writing about the next 10 years. I was also a little surprised that you wrote that you probably wouldn’t spend any time having a conservative over for dinner because your views are too different. Would you not invite someone from India who might have totally different religious beliefs? Wouldn’t you find their different beliefs interesting even though you might not buy into them? Might it be an evening well spent? I think we would do better, conservatives and progressives, if we spent more time trying to see how we are more alike than different. Believe it or not, someday the progressive views that you hold right now will probably get you labeled conservative by the time your kids are adults. Love your blog,love your creativity, love that you are always thinking and inspiring others to think.

    1. I think you have to read the post again to see that its socially conservative views, meaning things like gay marriage, immigration, social services, etc. and its not about not inviting people its finding it hard to seek those people out. Again, this is not political, its a belief system about humanity. And yes, i love any religious view and am quite into theology so i’m happy to explore that. But if you think that gays shouldn’t be able to adopt children then we have some fundamental differences that simply hinder a NEW high quality friendship. I would never ditch a friendship over it, but I have none of those so its more that those are certainly hard to form. hope that clears it up 🙂

  21. Hi Emily,
    Gated communities aren’t the problem most of the time. I get why people want to be safe. I get up in a gated trailer park on the border. Go figure;) we can always invite the world into our homes behind the gates too. In my opinion It’s the gated hearts that ruin communities. If people just opened their hearts to be kind and respectful to others, reached out looking for human commonalities, and valued new experiences they’d realize that people of all types are great! I find myself drawn to friends with very different views politically, religiously, economically for sure and socially as in culture. It colors life in more vivid colors to have diversity. I’d be so bored with only the same view. I personally feel like both sides of the equations are wrong on their own. It’s the middle that has it figured out on almost every issue. That said, we always feel most comfortable with what we know. When we travel and meet others though, we get to know them and then become comfortable with them as well. Then we seek those once different people and they feel familiar. Exposure is key to appreciating and understanding others that are unlike ourselves.
    I have a list much like yours and I re visited it.
    One of my most important things was to always take the moment to teach my kids an important principal. (Teach them the why’s of kindness, encourage the kids to be inclusive, reprimand unkindness to others and explain why we be good to others). It’s amaxing to watch my boys get that stuff and begin to make it their own.
    Another was to travel and get outside of our comfort zones. (It changes the way we view life when we see more than just our own)
    Another was to air our grievances, say what we have to say and then apologize and recognize our own stupidity and ignorances in the situation. We practice this with our kids And each other and it is amazing what happens with you don’t hold it in and then apologize for being a jerk once you say it. My boys and I still like eachother because if it. My hubby and I are the same story.
    One more…be willing to sacrifice our own wants for eachother. It’s a good thing in life and works wonders in a family. We don’t do it silently though. I will frequently state my sacrifice to the person I’m doing it for and then tell them that they are worth it. It allows others to acknowledge our efforts and makes it worth it. I am always grateful to hear that I was with the sacrifice as well. It binds us!
    Loved the post. Thanks for bringing it up! I’ve set out my list to look at daily as I could stand to be better at most of my early self’s rules for life!

    1. i LOVE all of these points. Totally agree and getting inspiration. And you are right, its about a gated heart. Thanks for the parenting tips from someone who clearly is thoughtful and cares. xx

  22. Emily, I read this post this morning before I went to work and thought about it all day. I loved it. Wanted to write a longer comment but the day got away from me. Now it’s midnight here in Texas and time to go to bed. But just wanted to let you know I relate to SO MUCH of what you wrote, and so many of the comments were great too. It is so hard to find honest, authentic bloggers out there. Please don’t ever change. And while I love the design posts, these types of posts will always be my favorite 🙂

    1. thank you very much. that means A LOT. xx

  23. Congratulations you guys! I thought you would enjoy this Valentines Day segment from VTD about Love Between Equals . https://www.vpr.org/post/what-love-between-equals-looks

  24. I don’t know where you came up with your “young” goals to be written, shared and evaluated later, but BRAVO.

    I predict you will move back to NYC when the kids start middle school. Madeleine L’Engle did that for her kids, moved them from a small country setting back to the city. Her husband was an actor.

    Wishing you many wonderful date nights and Happy Valentine’s sentiments whenever they occur on your busy schedule.

  25. I love your honesty and openness!

  26. I really appreciate your honesty and can relate to some of it. When my sister was still in school, my parents wanted her to attend a better high school, decided to uproot our family and move from Laurelhurst (which at that time was still pretty scrappy – a “transitioning neighborhood”) in PDX to the Oak Hills neighborhood in Beaverton – and yeah, it was weird. We watched in wonder at all the people working on/obsessing about their lawns on perfectly good Saturday afternoons! And marveled at how much everyone there seemed to love shopping – it was foreign to us. All apologies to anyone who grew up in Beaverton, it was/is a great place – but it was weird to see such a difference in lifestyle from a such small move across town.

  27. Long time reader (like brass petal days…is that the name?) and blue moon commenter. We have so much in common but…you are way cooler than me, haha. We recently joined a new church community, too, in large part motivated by our desire for our young children to be exposed to more diversity and to love their neighbors (and God) well. It’s a whole thing.

    I was really struck by your comments about choosing public schools even when it works against our own self-interests. This has been something I’ve become really passionate about lately since I now have a 1st grader. Definitely agree with the above comment to check out Integrated Schools; I believe the founder is herself a Northeast LA mom.

    I imagine a lot of of your readers belong to a similar demographic: moms in their 30s who value creativity, diversity, and social justice. But now a lot of us are having to think about the whole school issue and the reality is that the public schools in the neighborhoods we live in have historically awful reputations. I’m really sickened by the private school conversations that I hear and their racist/classist undertones…and yet that could be me (honestly) once I have to make secondary school decisions. I hope not. I don’t want to be part of the “curated diversity” problem that progressives can be so hypocritical about.

  28. Re: your desire to move to the suburbs to a lower-stress life. I think Pasadena and Altadena fits this bill. It’s like the perfect mix of urban and suburban life (SO many kid activities). I don’t know if it’s my life stage but I try to avoid LA at all costs now…the traffic and parking alone stresses me out.

  29. In busy families, I know it can be hard to be intentional even about the things you value. If you can’t actively meet new people and diversify your experiences, I think books are a great starting point to bring different cultures and experiences into your home. Preschoolers may not be ready for heavy topics, but reading age-appropriate books that feature characters who are different from them will be a starting point for important conversations.

    My cousin in St. Louis is part of an initiative to equip white parents with support and recommend children’s books to have conversations with their children. Maybe there is something similar in LA? https://www.westories.org/#

  30. Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate your honesty, and I as someone in her late twenties I connect with a lot of these. If you’re comfortable, I would love another post or series of posts on your advice for making a marriage work. My husband and I have been together for 8 years (2.5 married), and I see how we can easily spend time together without really spending time together.

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