My Littlest Co-Workers
by Dana Klosner
I was talking with a Communications Director of a non-profit today, who is a working mom with two small kids. When my kids were little I envied people that could make that work. But, after a couple of bad experiences with day care, I was gun shy. So, I didn’t farm my kids out anymore. I loved my kids more than anything else in the world, but some days I was sure I would just go insane.
That’s why I always kept up with my feature writing. It was the perfect combination. I had contact with the outside world, but I only had to leave the house in short bursts to interview sources. When I got an ongoing freelance gig at “The Baltimore Sun” my kids were 2 and 6. I hired a babysitter to come twice a week for two hours and everyone was happy. I did all the writing late night after the kids were asleep.
It wasn’t always that easy. My son was born when we were living in Monterey, CA. Can’t complain about that. But, my husband was in The Naval Post Graduate School and stayed at school a lot of late nights to finish his thesis. Before moving to Northern California, I was a staff writer at free local weekly papers in LA. In Monterey, I went for the “Big Time.” The daily “Monterey County Herald.” People actually had to pay to read the paper! After bugging the features editor for weeks she finally agreed to give me a “spec” article. Write it, and if she liked it she would buy it and publish it. Being a new mom, my first article was “Where do Babies Go?” Not the real title. I offered tips on everything from bringing babies and toddlers everywhere from restaurants, to bank lines and libraries and how to keep them quiet and happy while out in public. She loved it! I became a contributor, writing features every week.
I loved features. I never really was a news person. Especially when “news” meant covering Town Zoning Board meetings that would go till 2 in the morning and endless City Council and School Board meetings. So, I would do almost anything to keep this job.
Funny thing was I couldn’t find any consistent babysitters. This was the mid-90s. If there was such a thing as the Internet no one was using it. We didn’t even have e-mail.
So, I conducted interviews over the phone when my son was under a year old. He was a very active baby. He sat up at 4 months, crawled at 6 months and walked at 8 months. And never napped!! He was always by my side. He never liked to play by himself. So, when the phone rang – no caller ID – and it was a source, I had to climb up on the back of the couch to keep him from grabbing the pen out of my hand! When he was about a year old, he picked up a phone, cradled it between his ear and his shoulder, and using his finger took pretend notes. I wish I had a picture, but in those days you had to actually find your camera – no cell phones. So, alas, no proof.
Then, there was the time I was writing about an afterschool homework help program. I had a babysitter lined up and thought I was all set. But, as usual, she bailed. So, I took my ten-month old toddling son with me. Adults were amazed at how I could take notes and never actually look at the paper as I never took my eyes off my baby. The kids in the program were all fascinated with the baby and kept trying to pick him up. There was a fifth grade boy who was dying for his 15 minutes of fame and wanted so badly to be quoted in the article. So, in exchange of the promise of being quoted he was my elected babysitter. I told him, “I promise you, you will be in the article if you don’t let anyone pick him (my son) up.” You never saw such a good sitter and yes I quoted him in the story.
So, by hook and by crook I got the stories done. Then there was the issue of actually getting the copy to the office. As I said, there was no e-mail and we still had floppy discs. Hey, at least we didn’t use chisel and stone.
So, I had to physically drive the disc to the office. I can’t remember how far it was, but at the time it seemed light-years away. Fortunately, the baby liked to sleep in the car. So, I would drive to the office, if my memory serves me it was out in the middle of nowhere, transfer the baby to the stroller, by some miracle he usually stayed asleep. Then bring the whole thing into the office. It was actually kind of fun; everyone would marvel at my baby. They would say how beautiful he was and asked how I got him to sleep. If only they knew. And, I must say he was a very good looking baby. You should see him now.
Anyway, cut to a couple of years later in Columbia, MD. Right between Baltimore and Washington, DC. My son was three and I was VERY pregnant with my daughter. I wasn’t writing for a publication yet, at this point we only lived there about a year. But I was taking a feature writing class at the Writers’ Center in Bethesda, MD. My husband is a snorer. The suck in the walls hear the snores down the block kind of snorer. So, I decided to write a query of a snoring article for the class. Through my research I found something new, Sleep Apnea in Kids being mistaken for ADHD. The teacher liked the query. I sent it to “The Washington Post” Health Section never expecting to hear a thing. A couple of months go by and now I am eight months pregnant, huge, and my son was three and a half years old. I’m at home playing with him, or as much as you can play when you’re that pregnant. The phone rings – again no caller ID. I answer and the person on the other end says she’s from “The Washington Post.” I thought it was a sales call and I was about to hang up when she said, “I loved your idea about Sleep Apnea in kids and I would like to go with it.” I couldn’t believe it! She went on to start to give me notes on how she thought the story should go. I couldn’t really hear her because my son was tugging on me and trying to get me to continue building Legos. I tried to walk down the hall away from him and he kept following me saying, “Mommy, your shoe’s untied. Mommy, be careful, your shoes untied.” Somehow I heard the editor. And yes, I got the story. And yes, I was published in “The Washington Post.”
From there, I got the job at “The Baltimore Sun.” Like I said, my kids were 2 and 6. The morning I went in for the interview I left them with a friend’s full time Nanny. My kids were not used to being left with anyone. They pulled on me, pulled my hair, the little one threw up on me, just a little. They cried, I cried. It was my worst nightmare. By the time I got to the interview I thought there was no way I could do this. I sat down at a conference table with the Assistant Bureau Chief and the Bureau Chief. They had my “Washington Post” article in their hands. The Bureau Chief said something along the lines of “This is a great piece, very well researched. What are you doing now?”
And I just said, “I’m a full time mom, I guess I shouldn’t even be here.” And I started to get up. Well luckily, the Bureau Chief just became a grandfather and he said, “We love moms, please have a seat.”
I was one of 20 people interviewed. They had us each write a bio as an “audition.” I got the job.
My days got easier as the kids got older. Once they were both tucked away in elementary school it was a snap. And if you believe that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Things are always complicated with kids. But I will always look back on those early years with humor, fondness and a little bit of awe.
For Dana Klosner-Wehner her kids are her top priority. As an older mom, she appreciated how quickly the time would pass. She wanted to be there for all their milestones, but, at times her kids would drive her nuts. So, she turned to writing. Her kids are both in college now, with more time on her hands she began writing essays. Her essay, “My Mom the Worrier,” is in the new “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.” Next Avenue.org will be publishing her Father’s Day essay called, “The Mafia in the Family” in June. She is thrilled to be a regular contributor on Motherhoodlater.com.
Dana’s features, which have been reprinted internationally, have appeared in “The Washington Post,” “The Baltimore Sun,” “Newsday,” “Care.com” and lots of regional publications. Visitwww.DanaKlosner.com.