Anyone who’s a fan of Real Simple magazine knows it’s full of helpful tips to make life for harried families more organized and easier. Having a third child at age 42 when you have an 8- and 11-year-old would hardly seem the way to accomplish that, but that’s exactly what Kristin van Ogtrop, editor of Real Simple, did. It was something she and her husband had talked about for about for a decade before finally deciding to go for it.
Three children or not, van Ogtrop knows there are countless mothers just like her: “Women who want to succeed at work, and do what’s best for their children, and who — when those two goals seem to be most at odds — find a way to flip the advantage,” she writes in her just published book, “Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-insane Working Mom” (Little Brown, April 2010), a humorous look at motherhood, work and the ever-illusive balancing act.
Before joining Real Simple in 2003, van Ogtrop, 45, worked at Vogue, Premiere, Travel & Leisure and Glamour — all positions she says she got serendipitously. She lives outside of New York City with her husband, a New York Times editor; their three boys, aged 14 1/2, 11 and 3; and a menagerie of pets. And, she happily admits, with chaos.
In a column you wrote for the Huffington Post, you wondered if the women in your office judge you as a mother as you used to judge women when you were younger. Why do women worry about what other women think?
We, men and women, worry about what people think of us. For women, it’s the most important job, and you want to think that you’re doing a good job. There have been so many shifting models of what it means to be a good mother over the years. The way to be a good mother in our culture, on the superficial level, is constantly changing. It’s really confusing for women.
How has being a mom challenged you, and in what ways has it made you become a better person?
It has challenged me in more ways than I can begin to discuss. It’s forced me to be more patient, which I am not. I think being a mother has made me be more empathetic, it’s made me realize how hard things can be. By experiencing life through the eyes of my children, it made be empathetic. It makes everything more exciting, even something as boring or tedious as driving a car. If you have a child approaching that age, you think, yeah, it is cool.