Six Years Into This Parenting Gig and I’m Still Learning to Adjust My Expectations


I’ve always had a soft spot for NYC.

My father was born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island, and much of my extended family is also from there. My husband, although a native Vermonter, also has family living in the Big Apple. I fondly remember taking trips into the city for shows, shopping, and eating at fun restaurants as a child. I shopped for funky clothes at a store called Reminiscence and wore them at my country-bumpkin high school thinking I was hot sh*t. And finally, I lived in the city for over 6 years. I worked full time at Estee Lauder in their design department and by night I was an actor. I met my husband while performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Needless to say this city is very special to me.

When we left NYC and moved to Chicago, I mourned “my” city and was grumpy about the Midwest. As time passed I grew to love Chicago. Our son was born there and became a true city child…playing with the hose in the parking lot of our apartment building. He was pushed in a stroller to and from daycare every day: rain, shine, sleet, and snow. A hardy city kid. Yet, the feeling of missing something increasingly grew within my husband and I, and we knew we wanted to move to the country. It was as if I was weaned from the “city”.

I still yearn for the city now and then. I can’t figure out if I’m yearning for the city itself or for the life that I used to live while living in the city, without children: Late nights, brunch on Sundays, rambling around various neighborhoods, sleek clothing. Deep down inside, I’m happy that our children are being raised here in Vermont. It’s a good, solid place for them.

Last weekend, however, we went to NYC with both of our kids. The purpose of the trip was to attend my husband’s grandfathers 90th birthday. We decided to make a long weekend of the trip and stay with Karl’s aunt and uncle live in lower Manhattan. Now that Henry is six I was super excited to show him “my” city. I wanted to show him my old office building on 5th Ave, my favorite coffee shop, the farmers market, china town and its stinky fish…all of it. All he wanted was to go to the park.

traveling with kids in nyc

Parenting has taught me so many things.

One thing in particular that, is that despite giving endlessly to my children, sacrificing so many of my own needs…in the end, I’m still a tad self centered. After all, I am an only child. I wanted to experience all of NYC this past week according to the world of Heather. Somehow I thought my children would bend to my whims. I didn’t expect they wouldn’t fall asleep mid-subway ride and that they would want to go back to the apartment and eat chicken nuggets and hot dogs. I spent most of our trip traveling down to the city building up all of the “amazing things we would do” in my mind and then when we got there I was bummed that we didn’t get to do all of the “amazing things.” I never changed my expectations. And as a parent, 6 years into this career, I’m finally learning that I need to adjust my expectations now and then to really fully enjoy a moment or a day or an experience.

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself because we didn’t get to go to Chinatown for soup dumplings, I adjusted my expectations. I started to try and see the city through my children’s eyes. Not how I wanted them to see it. I started having fun. I laughed. They laughed.

HPR adjusting expecations 3

There will be a time when my son will care about my past life and want to know where his mom used to get her coffee every day on the way to work. Until then, I just need to be patient…and let them be the tour guides.

HPR adjusting expections 4

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Heather Polifka-Rivas
Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.


  1. Thank you for this! This hit a spot because even though my little girl is only 8 months old I do too dream about taking her to NY and show her the places that were so close to my heart. Especially the soup dumpling, Shanghai Cafe was my go-to place! I’ll make sure to adjust expectations and try to not get upset (and very very sad) if I don’t get to go to the places I’d love to visit with her!


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