I had interviewed Sarah Baldwin a few years ago for a story I wrote about friendships for Fast Company. She had started a book club in order to see friends more regularly amidst her busy schedule as a college administrator and parent. She would also occasionally invite a friend to come meet her for a long lunch on campus.
Anyway, I’d kept in touch with Baldwin and was thrilled when she agreed to come on the Best of Both Worlds podcast to talk with Sarah and me about another aspect of her life. Baldwin is a veteran parent; her oldest daughter (who Baldwin had in her 20s) is in college. She then had two more children in her early 40s.
Her youngest daughter, Emily, has Down Syndrome and epilepsy. Both of these have presented logistical challenges for Baldwin’s family — though of course Emily herself has brought an incredible amount of joy to the family (and cuteness. Follow @sarahthomasbaldwin on Instagram for proof.)
This was probably one of my favorite interviews we’ve done for BOBW. Among the highlights:
So much people obsess about just doesn’t matter. Forty-something Baldwin says she would have liked to tell 20-something Baldwin not to worry about most of the day-to-day crises and competitive parenting she lived through. Now that she has little ones when most of her peers don’t, she can just enjoy the kids.
Big jobs are actually good jobs for moms. Baldwin says that back when she was first a new mom, she was pondering whether she should go part-time and scale back her career. She is so glad she didn’t, because now she’s parenting Emily in the context of having a 20-year career with her employer, and a lot of autonomy and control over her schedule. This gives her flexibility. Her team helps support how she chooses to prioritize her time. Speaking of which…
A good executive assistant is key. Baldwin’s assistant makes sure that important things do not happen at times Baldwin can’t be there. This was especially helpful when Emily had a health crisis last summer (a rather horrible epilepsy related complication that led to regression; thankfully she is now recovered from that.) We often talk about home support being important, but work support is too. (Another part of that: Baldwin lives very close to her university, so she can pop in and out if needed.)
You don’t have to go to everything. Baldwin and her husband trade off on specialist appointments. Their nanny manages a lot of the therapy visits, with Baldwin aiming to go to every third one or so, so she maintains a relationship with Emily’s team. (Baldwin noted that Kentucky, where they live, has a program where therapists come to the child for ages 0-3, which is definitely logistically easier than hauling a baby to them.)
A child is so much more than a diagnosis. We asked Baldwin what she’d like to share with other parents facing tough news about a child. Baldwin learned that Emily would most likely have Down Syndrome very early in her pregnancy. She reports that she had a lot of anxiety about this, and fear about what it would mean. But when Emily was born, she got to know her as Emily — an adorable, sweet child whose special needs are just one aspect of her. Her arrival has made life more logistically complicated, but more joyful too.
Anyway, please give the episode a listen! And if you enjoy Best of Both Worlds, would you please give us a rating or a review on iTunes? And tell a friend about us? We really appreciate it!