Moomah the Magazine
The Modern Village: Lisa Duggan

The Modern Village: Lisa Duggan

So much has changed since the days when our parents were raising us. Some irrefutable differences are the ways we get our information, where we find support and how we communicate with one another. Or, rather, how we communicate with one another’s devices.  It’s no wonder that parents often express feeling isolated and disconnected from any sort of meaningful community.

Lisa Duggan, founder of The Modern Village, seems to think that one of the causes for this feeling of disconnect is due to the change in parenting roles. "We’re just not home anymore", Lisa explains, "not just within individual families, but our neighbors, too, are gone most of the time. Working parents and afterschool activities mean we all have very different daily schedules. You have to work harder to connect with people. I call it 'community by appointment'".

This "community by appointment" situation, however, can leave lots of parents feeling very alone. The idea of parents being unable to call or visit another friend with children was one that Lisa just didn't find fair; why should the modern parent, just because the times have changed, go without experiencing a sense of community for themselves and their children?

So she created The Modern Village, a new website dedicated to "a continuing education series for parents". Here, parents are able to really create their own community or "village" from scratch. Most exciting about The Modern Village are the classes that Lisa has begun to design, all held in New York City and soon to be streamed online for a global audience. The classes, run by experts in many different fields, will help parents to learn how to create relationships with caregivers, help children with anxiety, navigate separation, divorce and remarriage, and much more.

This year, classes begin April 16 and we encourage all parents interested to continue their own education in parenting and perhaps form a new community of their own. Click here to see the class schedule, with the first class held by our very own contributor, Dr. Anne Marie Albano.

We caught up with Lisa to learn a little bit more about her experiences parenting and the inspiration behind her work.



On your website you noted a change in community from the time you were growing up, to the present day. What was your community like when your daughter was born?

My husband and I moved out to the New Jersey suburbs in 1999 and continued to commute to Manhattan every day. Our social life kind of stayed in NY and our closest family was in Staten Island and Queens. So, we didn’t know many people when Alice was born, in 2003. The first thing I did was join my local Mothers and More chapter so I could meet other new moms — I used to joke that I had to pay people to be my friends. I also joined two playgroups. I had stopped working to stay home with Alice, so we spent our days in town, at the library, the coffee shop, Music Together classes. Having a baby put me right in the center of my community and I met lots of moms and dads who were also staying home.

How has your community changed now that she is older?

We met our closest friends in the childbirth class our Doula gave, and we’re still friends with the other few families we met when Alice was a baby. It’s frustrating because Alice’s friends live all over town — they go to three different elementary schools. It takes lots of driving to keep up her friendships. And ours. So do we lots of family dinners, TV nights and take vacations together. 

The world is slowly shifting completely online, as you are aware since you moved your magazine from print to blog. What do you find to be the biggest benefit to this change for parents?

Oh thank god for online communities! It alleviates the isolation parents feel — whether they’re staying home or working. There is nothing as comforting as being able to get online, at 2 in the morning, and ask a parent whose ‘been there’ about the croup.

How did starting the MotherHood Magazine help you as a new mom?

I started the magazine because I had no idea what I was doing, as a parent! I wanted to learn from other parents, many who, I knew, were going through the same things and having the same conflicting feelings that I felt. Stepping out of corporate America into stay-at-home parenthood is like entering “mommy-world” — there are no men! Except the UPS guy.  Even though my neighborhood is blessed with a greater ratio of stay-at-home dads, many who became my friend, the moms still rule. It’s like an estrogen ghetto.

Your program, The Modern Village, has some great classes scheduled for the next few weeks - all so relevant to parents today. Which upcoming class are you most excited about?

That’s kind of like asking me to pick my favorite kid. I really love all the classes and our teachers are amazing. CV Harquail talks about bonding with your nanny or au pair. For you — not your kid. I love Al Hoffman’s simple rules for technology consumption, like, no screens an hour before bed. Dr. Albano really surprised me in her class on children with anxiety disorders, when she told parents not to accommodate the anxiety. (It seems counter-intuitive, right?) Rachel Fisch-Kaplan is a genius, explaining how speech and language issues affect all areas of a child’s life, not just his progress in school. Our divorce and separation team — a lawyer, a mediator and a family therapist — really cover every angle of that difficult transition for a family. And we’re very excited to have Thor Snilsberg, the Executive Director of CityScience, teach our class on scientific literacy!

We love that you will be streaming classes online in 2014. What do you think we can learn from parents around the globe that we may not be able to learn from our own communities?

American parents, and Americans in general, always think they’re the first person to ever experience something! “I’m a new parent! Ack! I haven’t showered in days! Can’t we do something about this? Isn’t there an app?” I’d love for us to stop re-inventing the wheel. The Europeans must know something about work and life balance. They have six weeks vacation.

At 5 years old, your daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. How did this affect your parenting and what changes did you make for your family?

I’ll never forget getting the call from the doctor. June 21, 2008. We were shopping in Macy’s with my mother. My knees buckled. Alice had been so sick, since December, and increasingly so. I was convinced she was terminally ill and so I was tremendously relieved to learn it was Celiac’s, and that she would get well just by changing her diet.  I learned then that I’m also a Celiac (a Silly-yak, we say). That made it easier to change the way we shopped and cooked; my husband will eat anything I cook.

What has been the biggest challenge in raising a gluten free child?

We made a decision early on to treat her disorder very matter of factly — to de-emphasize the problem. We never wanted Alice to feel, or anyone to treat her, as if her dietary requirements were insurmountable, or anything greater than just a pain in the ass. There are many, many children with far greater medical problems that are less easily solved. That being said, it has made me a fierce advocate for more rigorous food labelling. At school, we get out in front of the “problem”, by talking to teachers and other parents at the beginning of the year, and making sure they have plenty of GF treats on hand. We also send gluten-free pizza and desserts to class parties and birthday parties. She feels it though, and expresses regret sometimes — she wrote about her Celiac’s for an in class exercise.  I imagine it will get harder as she becomes a teenager.

What are your favorite gluten free products on the market?

We couldn’t live without Glutino’s bread. And Udi’s bagels. And I can’t say enough good things about Whole Foods; they have an entire in-house line of GF products. I shopped there before our diagnosis but now I’m there everyday. It’s my Tiffany’s. Nothing bad can happen to me there.

How do you and your husband combine work and family life? Do you have any tips for other working parents out there that want to be equally as involved in parenting as they are at work?

My husband and I are pretty good about splitting the chores, although I do more of the childcare, because I work from home and he goes to an office each day. But that’s changing now as my business ramps up. Here’s the secret sauce, the thing no one — not Slaughter, not Sandberg, and certainly not Mayer — talk about when they talk about having or doing it all: the emotional work of parenting.
We can split or outsource the cooking, the laundry, the homework — the physical tasks of taking care of a family, but most women fail to recognize the tremendous emotional and mental work they do, and that don’t share with their spouse. What do I mean by that? Well, when my daughter was two I realized I was becoming my mother. I was the sole parent who knew her inside and out, because I was home with her all day. I didn’t trust my husband to be able to take care of her “properly”, and he doubted his own abilities. Dangerous territory. So, I booked a trip to Chicago to see my friend.
They had a great time without me, and although they ended up in the ER, for croup, she didn’t die. They formed a tight bond that continues to this day. They learned to trust each other and I learned to let go.



Posted in: Parenting   

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Recent Comments

Anna said…

Such a great read! And I agree, the emotional work of parenting is so hard to measure, but is as important to share equally between parents as is the laundry or the driving.

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