Interview with Holly Vanderhaar by The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
It’s great. I tend to think in “personal essay mode” anyway, and I often find that, in the process of writing my entries, I work through the issue and I find answers to questions I didn’t even realize I was asking. I’m also honored to be able to contribute my voice to such a wonderful community of families.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
Wow. This is a tricky question. I expect that we’re like every other family in that we have our ups and downs, moments of tension and turmoil and not liking each other very much, mixed with laughter and adventures and moments of being completely in sync with each other. Those are the extremes, and most of the time, we just kind of roll along and live our lives. My job is to try to make the positive extremes outweigh the negative ones!
I think every family is unique, though, so pinning down how ours is different is tougher. You could argue that we’re unique in that I’m a single mom by choice who has identical twins; I only know a couple of those, even counting my wide circle of online acquaintances. I think my membership and participation in Single Mothers by Choice (an international organization started by Jane Mattes) makes me feel like I’m part of a huge community of “like” families. But we’re different in the same way that individuals are different.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not, explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
Yes, my family has been incredibly supportive of my choice to become a single mom, even if some of them had their doubts in the beginning. I get a lot of help, even though we don’t live near them anymore.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
Not well, I’m afraid. I feel like I’m constantly three steps behind, remembering appointments at the last minute (or not at all), and I often end up working after my kids go to bed. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a flexible schedule, so I can pick them up from school and help with homework and violin practice, but that means that I end up working after they go to bed at night. I do try to focus on them for those few hours, but I’m not always successful, and if I have a deadline looming, I end up working on the weekends when I’d rather be hanging out with my daughters. But I’m not an organized person by nature, and my house is a mess, and I’m constantly shamed when I drop them off for play dates at their friends’ immaculate houses. My fantasy is to live in a spotless, uncluttered, and well-run house, but I’m afraid it’s probably destined to remain a fantasy.
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
I think generosity is incredibly important. Generosity of time and attention and support as well as generosity of material goods. Compassion. Thinking of others and not just ourselves. Approaching life from a position of abundance and gratitude for what we have rather than what we lack. Taking a long-term view: what kind of world are we leaving behind for future generations? And a love of learning. All of these are very important.
I think we have lost sight of the importance of the common good, of sacrificing some things to help those who have less. We’ve also forgotten how to slow down, I think. And we have lost the art–if we ever had it–of disagreeing in a civil and respectful way. We as adults have a responsibility to model mature behavior and civil discourse to our children. We demand it of them, but we aren’t willing to demand it of ourselves.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
Joseph Campbell said it first and best, but my advice is “follow your bliss.” And believe that everything you need will come to you.
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
Not really. It will probably all come out in the blog eventually!