Cast Spotlight on Katy Jacob

by admin on March 30, 2012

Our next Cast Spotlight will be on Katy Jacob whose honesty in her LTYM piece had Melisa and Margaret and I reaching for our tissues. We are honored to have her speaking in the show.

Tell us about your family. How many kids? Spouse or partner? Single?

My husband and I have been married 7½ years. We have a six year old daughter and a son who is about to turn three. They are adorable redheads who seem to follow the classic birth-order pattern; our daughter is fairly calm and purposeful and our son is kind of a nut, albeit an exuberant one. Perhaps I should point out that I am also the younger sibling in my family.
Tell us about living in your Chicagoland neighborhood. Where do you live and what do you love about it? What aspects of it are fabulous for families? What would you like to improve?

We live in Beverly, on the far south side of the City. I grew up in Chicago and I absolutely love the City, but I had never been to this neighborhood before we started looking at houses right before we got married. I love the historic homes, the friendly people, the huge yards and open spaces, the schools and the diversity. But we could really use some more restaurants, retail and nightlife out here.  I didn’t have a car until I was 25 and I grew up taking the el everywhere, so it’s difficult for me to get used to the idea of driving to get places.

What is the one thing that really surprised you about being a parent?

I remember when my daughter was born, my first thought was, “Wow. That’s a baby.” The fact that she was a real person was as surprising to me as discovering her gender would have been if I hadn’t already known it, if that makes any sense. That’s kind of how I feel about being a parent. I still think, “Huh. I’m somebody’s mama.” I’m surprised at how easily it came to me, even though I have about zero maternal instinct. I had never even changed a diaper or held a newborn before I held my daughter. Then I turned around, and somehow I had figured it out, and they’re not babies anymore.

What is the biggest reward you’ve found thus far?

I find it very rewarding how much I like my kids, and how much they seem to like me, even though we’re all kind of difficult people. Loving your kids is easy; I think it’s hard-wired into us to ensure everyone’s survival. Liking each other is a bonus.

What wisdom would you pass onto a woman who is entering motherhood for the first time?

Don’t think you don’t know what you’re doing, because no one does, and most people do it anyway. You will do something, probably imperfectly, and it will be fine. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t have time to watch sports or read the paper or work out once you have kids. You can always use this power called “ignoring everyone else,” and that will turn out ok too.

What did you swear you’d never do that you now find yourself doing all the time? Why did it bother you before having kids? Why do you do it NOW? And have you apologized to your OWN mother for the grief you gave her that pushed her to doing the exact same thing?

That’s a tough one. I am extremely stubborn, so I haven’t changed my ways that much with parenthood. I always knew I would mimic my mother and say things like “because I told you so,”  “remember when you were three months old?” “get out of my kitchen,” “do not bother me unless someone is bleeding,” and “at least you have food to eat.” I swore I would never treat boys and girls differently, and I try not to, but I can’t help it to some extent. This mostly manifests itself in me trying to protect my daughter from other people and trying to protect my son from himself. I love them the same, and more importantly I LIKE them the same, but now I understand why my mom did some of the things she did with my brother and I. My apologies to my mom come in the form of constantly admitting how crazy my son is and having her tell me that I was the same way, except at least I had some kind of instinct for self-preservation, which he is apparently lacking. Plus, sometimes I make her dinner.

So you wrote a beautiful and touching piece for LTYM. (Thank you!) What else and where else do you write? Why? How has writing about motherhood/parenthood affected your relationship with your children?

When I was a teenager, all of my friends thought I would grow up to be a writer. I knew that I wouldn’t—at least not in the way they thought. I don’t have much ambition in that area; I regard writing as a way of talking to myself, or remembering my life. I never intended to make a living at it. So, I mostly write policy research on economic issues. Today I work for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.  I started working for a nonprofit think tank when I was 23 and I’ve been doing that type of work ever since.

As far as what I write now, the only blog I could have ever written is katydidcancer. I had never even read a blog when I started writing it, when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer at age 34. I was still nursing my 11 month old son 5 times a day, and my daughter was just 4. I wrote it mostly so that I wouldn’t have to pick up the phone and talk to people, and so my husband wouldn’t have to answer difficult questions. I also did it because I wanted my kids to understand who I was as a person if things didn’t go well and they didn’t have the opportunity to know me for very long, or to remember me.

It turned into something cathartic for me, and my long, ponderous, non-blogs happened to capture some of the essence of motherhood, marriage, mortality, and a variety of other m-words whether I intended them to or not. I don’t think writing the blog has changed my relationship with my kids, but perhaps having cancer has. My kids will always know, in ways that other kids don’t, that I am not an indestructible, powerful Superwoman. They know something about impermanence and suffering. Or, maybe, by knowing about those things, they will, somewhere in the back of their minds, think of me as…an indestructible, powerful Superwoman. Who knows? Hopefully we will have a lot of time to wait and see.

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Katy, you are most definitely a Superwoman! Thank you for the interview and we can’t wait to see you onstage in May!

Tracey March 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Katy, I can’t wait for people to hear what you have to say. Thank you!

Katy March 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Thank YOU, Tracey! Now I’ll just have to find my cape…

Kirstin Wells April 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

Very thoughful piece! Thanks for sharing.

Brandie April 4, 2012 at 11:21 am

Oh, but you are superwoman. Maybe not in the sense you thought pre-cancer, but you are. I know we just met and I don’t know you that well, but I don’t think it takes much time at all to know that. And I have a feeling your children already do too =)

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