For my next guest in the series, a Chef, a Wife and a Child, I’d like you to meet Kerilyn Russo. I’m sure many of you are familiar with her site MarriedToAChef.com. She and her husband have a new little one and I’m so happy she was willing to share with us about life as a mom AND being married to a chef.
Tell me a little about yourself and your spouse. (Please include how long you have been married and what your job is (in addition to being a wife and mom.)
Hi there! Thanks Jennifer for inviting me to share my thoughts here! My name is Kerilyn Russo. (Pronounced like two words Keri Lyn) I am an almost 40 yr old (and loving it!) Highly Sensitive New Years Eve baby, a chatty Cathy, fellow chef wife (married 5 years on 9/26 – See our wedding story here!) We have lived in the Washington D.C/VA area since 1999, until recently when we made a HUGE move South to Savannah, GA just a few months ago, in May 2014. *I went to Art School in Savannah and fell in love with the South!* I am the creator and resident life coach of Married to a Chef, like Jennifer, it is my mission to support our fellow significant others to remember that they are NOT alone! As a Life Coach, my clients are significant others who are ready to release the feelings of loneliness and resentment and ready to create the life of their dreams! I believe we all have what it takes to thrive in our restaurant relationships, it just takes some understanding and a willingness to do the work to make it work for us.
My husband Peter, is the Executive Chef/Director of the 700 Cooking School at the Mansion at Forsyth Park, in Savannah, GA. He’s been in the culinary world as long as we’ve been together, going on 15 years now, and after years of being an EC of a restaurant, I believe I can honestly say has finally landed his dream job. He’s a natural born teacher, and watching him in the place where he is able to use his gift… well I couldn’t be happier.
How many children do you have?
We just had our first child, our son Leonardo (If you’re interested, you can catch up with all his photos on my Instagram feed here!) last October 30th. He is truly THE BEST thing that’s EVER happened to me, and I think Peter would say the same.
What has been the hardest part for you and your chef/husband with the addition of a little one to your family?
Ha. Got an hour? Ha.. no really. Hardest part this past year, has been two fold. First, we both felt (ok, Peter followed my lead) that it was important for Leo (he didn’t have a name before he was born) to be home for the first year. So much development happens that first year, and it was important he was home with me (plus I heard SO many nightmare stories about how babes get so sick while in daycare, no thank you), and so I left the 9-5 (It was honestly a blessing, had been restlessly unhappy for quite a while) two months before Leo arrived. Living on one salary (I am still working on building my coaching practice… and building the Married to a Chef platform to be what I KNOW it’s meant to be. Both financially and in SO many other ways) this past year has been TOUGH on us. As I firmly believe, the ONE primary value of a thriving restaurant relationship is INDEPENDENCE… Peter and I have lived as very independent people for almost 15 years, financially and in our schedule… having to lean on (and being the person one is leaning on) someone else… has been HARD on us. I am NOT comfortable asking for anything, to feel like a burden (You asked for the truth, right?) and so I’d always find a way to figure it out on my own. Honestly, that’s been my middle name… Kerilyn ‘Figure it out” Russo. It not always leaves me a happy camper.
Secondly… Peter and I have two different parenting styles. I’m a very sensitive person, I’m sensitive to noise, and being overstimulated (There’s actually a term for how I am, it’s being a Highly Sensitive Person, take the self test to see if you are too!) Peter on the other hand… has ADD (I KNOW I’m not alone, so many of our chefs CANNOT SIT STILL!! Drives us CRAZY, am I right?) He needs constant stimulation to keep him moving…. and so how we spend time with Leo reflects our own personalities and parenting styles. While I can see how important it is for Leo to have papa time, we don’t see eye to eye on how to keep Leo occupied/cared for… I pay SO much attention to what Leo wants/needs… and I sometimes feel that Peter is more interested in what Peter wants. *I realize Peter is not here to “defend” himself, he is a WONDERFUL papa… Leo is so lucky to have a papa who loves him SO much, who CAN’T wait to take him camping, and do papa and Leo stuff. These are the two areas that we struggle as a couple. Again, you asked!
Finally, and I mean what I say… I feel like I’m lucky. I rarely have any issues with my husbands long hours while at work. (Seriously) I really do support and know that this job means him working a lot (I honestly think he enjoys being busy) so him working late has really RARELY bothered me. (Plus I really do enjoy my own space/time, even with baby Leo) What sometimes causes friction is his after hours/ on his day off activities… going for a “drive by” (driving around, decompressing with a cigar after work, late at night), meeting his cigar buddies at the cigar shop, etc… that has caused stress between us. I know it’s hard to teach an old dog, new tricks and it’s also important for him to find a way to decompress, I guess I wish we were in sync about how often he makes going out after work a priority. *NOTE: This whole subject has completely vanished since we’ve moved to Savannah – he now has a garage and his own “man cave” to come home to (he’s out there right now, listening to blues and smoking a cigar) so it was more our life in the Washington D.C./VA area. I know when he finds his people here in GA, it might be a topic of discussion again. For now, Leo and I are enjoying his undivided attention.
What would you consider the pros and cons of staying home full time/working part time from home?
Well… I’ve considered both sides recently. My conclusion is it’s different for different mamas & papas. I can only speak from my perspective. I’m NOT a woman whose wanted to be a mom as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I was 30, that it didn’t start to hit me that I might want to have a baby. After we got married, I was 34, by then I felt ready to experience this. It took 3 years for us to get pregnant… I still didn’t have that ‘MY LIFE IS MY CHILDREN’ philosophy (there is NOTHING wrong with this, just not for me) and had always felt my purpose was to help people and find my purpose in the world. Still feel this desire to find my calling… that said… the past 8 almost 9 months have been difficult. I have, what so many new mamas experience as “Losing myself’. Those first few months were ROUGH, I didn’t have the birth I thought I would, wasn’t able to breastfeed, and as I look back, I definitely had post partum depression (Plus, it was winter! Boo!) I was completely overwhelmed and will admit I had thought about my decision to be a mama, more than a few times. I used to sit at my computer 8 hours a day.. working on my business, and then some in the evenings and would spend weekends writing blog posts, etc… Now I am LUCKY if I get 30 minutes when Leo naps. It’s definitely done a doozy on me. I won’t lie. I feel like I’m letting my fellow significant others down, and I don’t know exactly how to ‘right myself’, with this. I’ve just had to let go and know that when the time is right… I’ll be able to pick it back up again. Easy? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
As for the pros and cons, it really depends on each couple. What would be a pro for one couple, would be a con for another. For me, the conversation is about VALUES. What is the VALUE of staying home, vs. going back to work part time or full time. I didn’t know what I didn’t know until Leo came along. My priorities have definitely shifted with regards to what I saw as being a “successful” career woman. Where I am in my journey, being a “success” looks like having a bit more balance between my mission at home, and in the world. Peter and I both were on the same page about the VALUE of staying home the first few months, longer than the typical three. I initially was thinking to stay home a year, but I’m on the hunt for a part time gig (something that makes me happy!), 3 days a week (Leo just turned 9 months), just to get out of the house, be a greater contributor to the family’s finances, and finally (and honestly most importantly) to rediscover me again, after adding mama to my title. Something that I know, will give me the energy to be even more present with my little Leo when I am with him, and… find spots of time in my days at home, where I can work on my business more. I’ve never been one to adapt to change quickly, and this experience is no different
Any advice for young chef couples who are thinking about starting a family?
Talk to your other half BEFORE the baby comes about your parenting styles, how they are similar, how they are different. Talk about how you’re going to handle things when/if you both have differing opinions as to how to handle things when the baby cries, or what the routine is going to look like when he goes back to work after the baby comes (That is if he does get any time off – My husband technically took a week off, and, for two weeks, went in part time 8-3:30-4, through the lunch shift, so he could be home those first few days/weeks *Granted, it was still an 8 hour day.. but thankfully it wasn’t a 10-14 hour day. Made a BIG difference. If you’re going to be home a while.. Talk NOW about how you’re going to handle living on one salary. If you’re like me, asking for money doesn’t come easily… and if I were to do it again, I would’ve had a more in depth conversation about how I would get money from him without feeling like I was a burden. *Honestly, I don’t know how one can make it on a chefs salary and stay at home. My husband makes a decent living, but still… babies (and just life in general, like GAS) are expensive.
(This is Jennifer again.)
I love seeing the same questions, answered by different wives. Don’t you? We all have different stories and I personally can relate to a lot of both what Kerilyn and Alisa have said. (Living on one income . . . UGH!! More on that later!!)
From one chef wife to another,
Also in the series A Chef, a Wife and a Child. . .
Coming Up in the Series . . .
More Interviews with Chef Wives/Moms