Kathy Thiel with daughter Kristin Thiel (age 33 & in 2011)
“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers. New interviews appear every Monday. If you would like to participate, contact Jane.
The following interview is with Kathy Thiel about her life at age 33, interviewed by daughter Kristin Thiel (age 33).
Where did you live?
I was living in a northwest suburb of Chicago with my husband; two daughters, ages four [Kristin] and three months; and our golden retriever.
What was a typical day was like?
I had a job in the city until you were born, and then I decided that raising children would be my full-time occupation for the next few years. I found the job of “mother” to be both more difficult and more rewarding than my previous paying position. My work in the city had been from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. I didn’t need to think about it before or after those times. My new job as mother was 24/7, but oh, so much more interesting, rewarding, fun, challenging, and exhausting.
My day began at 5:50 a.m., with breakfast at 6:30 for all of us. The girls wanted to eat with Dad before he left for the city. Then the day was the usual chores at home, cleaning, washing, cooking, etc. as needed.
I didn’t have a set schedule for most things during the day as I wanted to be flexible so as to fit in walks to the park, playing outdoors and in, and trips to the library. The library was one of our most favorite places to go. It had a wonderful children’s area with rows and rows of books and shelves of toys and puzzles. AND it was air-conditioned, unlike our home.
A benefit of having daughters almost five years apart was that I had one-on-one time with each of you every day. One of my favorite times of the day was when your sister was napping and I could spend time with you. You loved to be read to, and it was also at this time that you began writing your own stories. I spent many hours taking dictation so that you could later illustrate your four-page short stories.
What did you worry about most?
My days were very full at this time. Always needing to do something at the house or something with the girls (pre-school, play dates, an activity at the park, a trip to the library) that I don’t remember ever consciously worrying about anything. I’m sure that there must have been minor worries, but I think I was just too busy to stop and think about the future. My approach was I’d worry about it if and when it happened. At that time in my life, I was solely focused on the girls, not on myself.
What did you think the future held for you?
I knew that I’d return to work (a paying job) at some time. I didn’t know what it would be, just only what it wouldn’t be. I didn’t want to commute to the city again. That was fine while we didn’t have children, but a job in the city meant hours commuting added to the work day. That was just entirely more hours than I wanted to leave my children. I decided that my previous job was not one that I wanted to pursue as a career, so I would need to find something new.
How do you look back on that age now?
As it turned out, a job dropped into my lap four years later. It didn’t pay much, but it had the benefit of having a school schedule. It gave me the luxury of having a job, and being available for my daughters after school and on holidays. To me it was the best of both worlds to have a job that I loved both at work and at home.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.