Welcome to Boston Mamas Rock! – where we’re giving a voice to fabulous local mamas from all walks of life. Read on for today’s interview with Carol Band, mother of three and nationally syndicated parenting humor columnist and book author. Then go ahead and nominate yourself or a friend!
Carol Band, parenting humor columnist and book author
Christine: Tell us a bit about your background Carol. You’re a long time writer, but have you always been? Any interesting alternative careers you’d like to tell us about? And what was your journalistic beat before becoming a humor columnist?
Carol: Writers always have alternative careers. I’ve been a cocktail waitress (okay, I wore hot pants), a cook, and worked the graveyard shift in a paper cup factory. My first job in journalism was slipping the advertising inserts into the New Britain Herald when I was in high school.
Christine: I understand that you’ve also taken your writing skills to the marketing world. Do you have PR training? Is it at all challenging to transition between your creative and traditional work?
Carol: You have to pay the bills and if it means selling my soul to the dark side, so be it. Before I had kids, I cut my PR and marketing teeth working for agencies, colleges, and non-profit organizations – strictly learning on the job. I still freelance for several clients – and think that all writing is creative writing – marketing, copywriting – humor writing…it’s juggling the words around until they fit. It’s a little bit like a jigsaw puzzle.
Christine: Your column A Household World is award winning and nationally syndicated. When did you start writing this column and when did it become syndicated? Where were you and how did you react when you learned that your words were going national?
Carol: After my second child was born (a colicky daughter), I became a stay-at-home mom and took a part-time job as an editor at The Boston Parents’ Paper. They asked me to write a column and, when the paper was bought by a large company, my column was part of the deal. I was lucky.
Because the column is national, I try not to talk about stuff that is uniquely greater Boston. I try not to gloat about the Red Sox or try not to say wicked pissah too much.
Christine: As a parenting columnist, obviously, your family is at the core of your content. Have you and your husband and/or children (or other family members…) ever had major blowouts over what you have written about them? How have you negotiated your family’s boundaries and sense of privacy with the very content that is so appealing to readers hungry for stories on real parenting?
Carol: I suppose if my family ever really read my column, it might be a problem, but it runs in parenting newspapers – not on Perez Hilton or on Facebook – so they don’t ever really see it.
It’s a humor column so I’m not revealing any horrible secrets – and I try not to make my kids or husband the butt off the humor. They provide the set up – I provide the butt.
Christine: Those with fans typically have at least a few enemies. Do you get hate mail (or, um, “constructive criticism”)? Any doozies to share?
Carol: The grammar police are always out there waiting to pounce on a misplaced comma or to point out that I should have used whom – not who.
But the most hate mail that I ever received was after I wrote a column saying that I would never buy my son a Nintendo. I think that I called it “mind-numbing and seizure-inducing” Hundreds of parents (okay, mostly guys) called me the meanest mom in the world (okay, they called me other things, too).
Christine: A collection of your columns recently has been translated into a book of your column’s namesake. How did this process come to being? What were the biggest challenges of sifting through a decade of work to assemble the final collection?
Carol: Readers have written to me throughout the year and asked for a book. When my syndicate said that they would help publicize it, I decided that the time was right. The challenge was to go back and look at ten years of work and not decide that I should have been a dental hygienist. I updated some old pop culture references, but basically, the essays stayed as they were originally published. You wouldn’t think that would take almost a year to complete!
Christine: You have three children; how old are they? Where were you professionally when your children arrived and how did you negotiate working motherhood, or coming back to writing after raising children?
Carol: My kids are 22, 19, and 15 – too old to be cute but still providing me with plenty of fodder for columns. I was working as a public relations director when my first was born – I took a year off and went back to work until my daughter was born three years later. With two kids – the childcare equation no longer made sense, so I started freelancing and then picked up part-time work that allowed me to stay at home. Working out of the home is tough, but working at home is hard, too – because the kids think that because you are physically there, you are available to make snacks and drive them to their friend’s houses. And the neighbors see you in your jammies at noon and figure that it’s okay if their kids come to your house when there’s a snow day. I have managed to work from my home (with a few brief forays into the workplace) for the majority of their childhoods. I am fortunate that my husband has been gainfully employed and supportive emotionally as well as financially.
Christine: I imagine you work primarily from home. Do you have a creative cohort that you meet up with regularly? How do you stay connected in a somewhat solitary profession?
Carol: I do work primarily from home – although lately, I have been escaping to the Diesel café to write. I like to get out of the house and I like their coffee. I have an online community of humor writers that is very supportive and my freelance work enables me to occasionally speak to grown-ups.
Christine: It seems that more and more moms these days are trying to carve out creative and flexible paths. Any words of wisdom for those looking to become freelance writers, and balance freelance work with motherhood?
Carol: Seems to me that there’s got to be a better way to make a living – I would recommend coal mining or underwater welding… Freelance work is tough, but it does allow for some flexibility…unless you’ve got a deadline. There’s flexibility – unless you have work – then there are deadlines and you have to be able to work at home with the distractions of kids and the phone and the Ben and Jerry’s in the fridge. More than once I have screamed at my kids, “You miserable brats…go away. Can’t you see I am trying to write a humorous column on parenting?”
Christine: And finally, what’s your favorite thing about being a Boston mama?
Carol: The best part of being a Boston mama is having the chance to meet other Boston mamas. There are amazing women here. Plus…Boston is the best place to raise a kid and the best place to be a parent. There’s so much to do – from skiing in the winter to museums and hiking and the beach. It’s wicked pissah. Best of all, kids in Boston can learn to be independent of their parents – they can take the bus or the T downtown – they can take a ferry to the Harbor Islands. We don’t have to drive them everywhere. I know that when my daughter came home from college for the first time she commented, “It’s wicked chill here.” That, my friends, is high praise.
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