The Parenting Paradox: A Grandmother’s Reflection on Time


Many of you are in the thick of parenting. You are working, your kids are learning remotely, and you are juggling more than you could have imagined before this pandemic struck. Am I getting this right? Parenting, when you’re in the thick of it, feels so urgent and immediate, but at the same time drags endlessly. I think of this as the parenting paradox.

Before the pandemic, life was already nuts. Juggling getting your child to and from school, picking the baby up from daycare, bringing the older ones to various after-school activities, getting dinner together, homework, then bed? Argh! I have a headache thinking about it all.

It takes creativity and ingenuity to coordinate parenting’s tedious race. Who helps you? A partner, a friend to trade off with, or maybe your kids? Your kids! That’s a concept!

As a grandmother, how do I look back at the parenting paradox and wonder how all this went so quickly?

Mother an daughter selfie, wearing a tiera and ski helmetsFirst of all, there was so much to do. I was an owner of a downtown retail store, I was on boards and committees, my husband and I were active members of Lyric Theatre, my social life was brimming, and there were always kids at our house and in my store after school. That apparently wasn’t enough because I decided to add a Mary Kay business to my mix.

I didn’t do everything though. Cooking? No.

When I wanted to renovate our kitchen, my husband said, “Why? You don’t even cook!”

My reply? “Yeah, but I look at it every day.”

I didn’t clean either.

That was a hire-out situation. Note… I do clean my house now because I have the time. It’s not a bad calorie burner either.

Back to those growing up years when my daughter, Liza, was little, I can’t believe they went quickly, but, they did! True to the parenting paradox I had already experienced, every phase went faster than the one before it. Middle school was fast, high school was faster, and college was over in a blink of an eye.

My daughter went to college in Rhode Island. Side note… Did you know that if you are a New England resident, you can go to another state school for in-state tuition if your local state school doesn’t have the major you want? Liza wanted to study fashion, and UVM did not offer that.

When she left home, I felt as though I had lost a limb. I cried the entire week before she left, and I cried when we came home from leaving her at school. Looking at her bedroom set me off. The house seemed so empty!

mother and daughter in biking outfits in front of a farmI got used to it. There were actually things I liked about having an empty nest. No one was complaining that we were eating leftovers… again. I didn’t have to nag her about homework. And this was a big one, I was no longer worried about where she was. Liza was one who would have stayed out until the wee hours of the morning without a curfew. As you can imagine, that was not the sweet spot of my parenting.

I am trying to think… and I honestly can not remember. When she went off, did I expect that Liza would return to Vermont as an adult? I don’t know. I do know that as the years went on, her return to our Green Mountain State became my hope, my dream, but not my actual expectation. Life happens too quickly and people get caught in their lives.

After graduation from the University of Rhode Island, Liza stayed in Rhode Island for many years. Her career started in managing and coordinating events at Brown University. She liked many aspects of that job, but she needed to expand her horizons, and she was craving the Big Apple. Enter New York City.

She started with a PR firm, did a short stint in the fashion industry… heck! That is what she went to college for, and she landed back in the events industry. Her experience was extensive… catering, working for ritzy venues, and event rentals. She met incredible people, created many memorable experiences, and was a fantastic asset to her employers.

Enter the pandemic. The event industry shut down within days. Think of the millions of dollars lost just in that industry, just in that city. Staggering!

Liza and her partner, Irene, were both in the events industry and found themselves unemployed. Instead of hanging around their home in Bloomfield, New Jersey, they headed to Vermont… skis and all. Ski season didn’t happen though. The ski areas closed down the day after they arrived.

mother and daughter and an unidentified woman, in colorful skiing outfits.They expected to visit for a week or so. That turned into six weeks. We took a lot of walks and hikes with the dogs, we cooked amazing meals… well, Liza’s partner cooked amazing meals, and we did eleven 1000 piece puzzles! I laughed more and harder in those weeks than I can remember. The parenting paradox contains some precious opportunities for togetherness.

What happened during that time? Possibilities started to bloom.

Liza and Irene looked at jobs for fun in Vermont, before the pandemic. It was rather academic. They had good jobs in NJ, and as you know, Vermont is not known for its high-paying salaries. Them moving to Vermont seemed like a fantasy… one I wished would come true, but one that I didn’t expect would happen.

As time went on, they remained unemployed and continued to look at jobs in Vermont, this time in earnest. Then, Irene got hired on a temporary grant from the federal government. She was hired to be the director of operations at a linen company in New Jersey that was changing operations to make masks. I was glad she got a job… sort of! I wish it had been something up here in Vermont.

Irene went back to New Jersey, while Liza decided to stay in Vermont for a couple of more weeks. When she also went back, she continued looking for employment in NJ and VT. Irene continued to look for opportunities up here as well.

Finally, it dawned on me. I know tons of people up here. Sometimes I wonder about myself. Why didn’t I wake up to that one faster? I am still the mom, after all. I told Liza and Irene, from now on, let me know any company you apply to. I will probably know someone, who knows someone, who could connect you to the interviewer. Once they had the interview, they were on their own. I was finally able to get my girls what they needed, the interviews!

In October, they both got their wish! Jobs in Vermont! Now it was time to sell their house in New Jersey. Done. On the second day on the market, they received an offer, $21,000 over the asking price.

The story ends and starts here. They are in Vermont. My daughter has moved home. She is a joiner and possesses a strong sense of community which is something she can take advantage of here. Community is a tough need to fulfill when living in a bedroom community outside of NYC.

My girls are currently living with us in Burlington, and I think I am in heaven. The parenting paradox has taken off again, and I love it.

mother and daughter in formal dressOur six weeks together at the beginning of the pandemic showed me that we are good roommates. Now, we will end the pandemic with Liza and Irene. When they find their next home in Vermont, I will be sad to see them go, but also overjoyed because it won’t be five hours away.

Welcome home, baby!

The Parenting Paradox: A Grandmother's Reflection on Time

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Nan Patrick
Nan grew up in Glens Falls, New York, and attended Boston University. She thought of herself as ”very urban” until she realized she enjoyed being a big fish in a small pond. At the very “mature” age of 23, she moved to Burlington, Vermont to open an eponymous women’s clothing store. That was a 27-year run and a wonderful experience. Her store was a place where women felt like they mattered. During that time, she married her husband, Ken, became a stepmom, became a mom, and started a second business with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Now her kids are grown, and she has a 16-year-old granddaughter… what? How did THAT happen so quickly? She was promoted to a sales director with Mary Kay. Life is good. She figured out how to make money, save money, and enjoy what she earned. She loves to travel, spend time with her friends and family, take ballet and yoga, go on fun walks with my dog, and is an avid skier who loves to ski the bumps!


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