Believe it or not, "Real Housewife of New York City" Alex McCord is, in many ways, a typical urban mom from around my way -- an involved parent in a hectic place who struggles to balance work and family. In the new book "Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City" (which she coauthored with her husband, Simon van Kempen), McCord casually mentioned indulging in a glass of wine or two while pregnant -- and rapidly came under fire for it. She set the record straight with me over a lovely, local lunch last week.
momlogic: How long did it take you and Simon to write your book?
Alex McCord: Actually, I started writing the book in 2004, in between babies. We came from the perspective that we were going to be DINKS [double income, no kids] just running around the world, doing whatever we wanted to do. We weren't anti-kids at all -- just anti-kids for us. Over the first three years we were married, we slowly but surely changed our minds. So we decided to jump on it before Simon turned 40. I started obsessively reading everything I could get my hands on -- the doctor books, the psychiatry books, all of it. The things that I responded to the most were stories from the trenches written by other moms and dads. I read a mommy blog and thought that I wanted to start writing our stories for our kids to have. After Johan was born and the show began, we spoke with a literary agent who asked what we'd write about if we wrote a book, and I mentioned the stories. So we decided to make it a he said/she said, because that's what people responded to on the show.
ml: Reading your book, it seems like you guys have a pretty chill approach to parenting.
AM: You choose what you want to be rabid and Type A about. Everyone in N.Y.C. is hard-charging to some extent. I'm very much that way about business, but not how I raise my children. If I tried to control every little last thing they did, I'm taking their power away. They'd never learn how to do for themselves. My mom says, "Never lose a chance to break an arm" -- not that you want them to!
ml: But how else will they learn not to climb a fence? I've done it! If you always rescue your kid, they're never going to figure it out.
ml: What's it like raising kids on a reality show?
AM: Because we've had this crazy progression on a reality show, a lot of people didn't like us [in] season one. They thought we were weird, wacky and crazy. A part of it was because you have no control over the editing process. There was an episode that season where they wanted us to bring the kids to a dinner; we didn't want to, but we agreed. It went two hours past the time it was going to run, and we kept saying we needed to go. They kept asking us to stay five more minutes, and the kids got crazier and crazier. In reality, they got a time-out, but on the show you didn't see the time-out. If you turned it around the other way, they could've shown him doing something normal, and then we're yanking him for a time-out and I'm an abusive mother. They have to make it entertaining. So you just do the best you can. There are things on the show and in our book that maybe people might want to talk about, but we've nothing to hide.
ml: What's up with the whole drinking-while-pregnant controversy? Hey, I had a glass of wine or two during the latter part of my pregnancies ....
AM: The thing that annoyed me was that they took out one or two sentences from a paragraph from our book, but it's not really the whole story. I certainly wasn't boozing it up! When I was pregnant, I did research on everything that people say is even wrong or questionable -- mayonnaise, hair dye, coffee, tuna, soft cheeses ... the list goes on and on. I listened to my body, and in the first trimester with both kids, I lost my taste for booze, coffee ... pretty much everything. All I wanted was cheese and spinach. Eventually, I did occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner, but not every day! I couldn't get through an entire glass, even if I wanted to. But I'd literally just have it and sniff it. A glass of Burgundy goes well with a really nice steak!
I spoke to my midwife and OBs about it, and they all said it was fine! So I made the executive decision that I wanted to have a taste of wine here or there. It's not the same as going out and smoking or smoking crack! After that article came out, I got tons of e-mails from pediatricians and OBs saying that everything in moderation is key, and that they'd never condemn me for drinking an occasional glass of wine. They'd even say they had one while pregnant, too! And these are doctors! I suppose what it was is that the article got reprinted everywhere online. And if you look, most of the comments say everything in moderation is OK ....
ml: You were supported?
AM: Yes, I was supported. I guess it just got a lot of play.
ml: What's a day in your life like?
AM: I get up at seven with the boys and make them breakfast. I do drop-off in the morning, and then I work from home as much as I can. I'm also stoking the book and doing book signings throughout the summer. We have a caregiver who works with us after school Mondays through Thursdays, but Fridays I really try to stay close to home. I volunteer at my son's school lunch, do pick-up and really just try to stay on top of all the work stuff. Simon and I really try to switch off when the boys come home.
ml: There are so many evening events on the show! How do you balance it all?
AM: That's one of the biggest misconceptions that people have had -- that we go out all the time. We try not to go out two nights in a row, but if we have to, we'll try and get home in time to put the boys to bed. If we're shooting or it's a crazy time, we try and structure it so we're out one night and knock out four or five things in that night, or we'll come home, put the kids to bed, then go out again. With the book tour, we're trying to structure it so that we're never away from the boys more than two days -- and so they never miss more than two days of school. But because we're both authors, we both have to be at the signings.
ml: Describe each New York City "Housewife" in one word.
AM: Sonia is the life of the party. LuAnn is ... well ... when she's LuLu, she's great; when she's the Countess, not so much. Jill is needy. Bethanny is driven. Ramona is unfettered. Kelly is contradictory.
ml: Well, congrats on the show and the book!
AM: We're so thrilled about the book. I hope people will consider it for a Mother's Day gift. It's not preachy or how-to. It's not designed to make moms and dads feel bad. It's life, it's ridiculous, it's crazy but it's so rewarding. And that's what I hope that moms take from it.
To learn more about Alex and Simon, visit their website: mccordvankempen.com!