Debra Jaliman, MD
Dr. Jaliman is a mom of a 20-year-old daughter, a dermatologist in private practice, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, and author of the “Skin and Hair” chapter in the book Woman’s Health for Life
What’s your favorite parenting tip? Don’t compare yourself to any other parent or your child to anyone else’s child. People are so competitive. There will always be someone out there who will tell you things that may or may not be true, such as that her daughter walked at six months and talked at nine months. If you compare your child to other people’s children, you will drive yourself crazy and feel like you’re doing a bad job.
What has surprised you most about parenting? No matter how good you’re doing as a parent, your child is going to criticize you. And that is very hard to take. When my daughter told me, “I’m not happy with this,” I was stunned. You have to realize there’s no such thing as a perfect mother. You just do the best you can and take any criticism in stride.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? I gave my daughter exotic, unusual foods from a very early age. Even as a baby, she ate artichokes and asparagus! We always have a wide variety of healthy foods in our home, such as fresh raspberries, blueberries, and chanterelle mushrooms.
But on the other hand, I never made any foods forbidden. Although less-healthy foods aren’t mainstays of our diet, we do have some of them in our house, and we do eat them on occasion. When I was growing up, a friend of mine wasn’t allowed to eat junk food at her house, so she’d come to my house and sneak chocolate and ice cream! She became anorexic, and today’s she’s an eating disorder expert. I didn’t want that to happen to my daughter.
When I was at work, I made it easy for my nanny to also feed my daughter the way I would feed her. I typed up lists of the healthy foods we had in the house, arranged by category in columns. I told the nanny she had to give my daughter something from column A—such as an orange, pear, kiwi, or raspberries—something from column B, etc. When you have a child, you have to be organized!
I think that kids gravitate toward the foods their parents eat, even the foods their moms ate when they were pregnant. So it’s very important to set the right example. For example, when I was pregnant I drank a lot of coffee milkshakes. When my daughter went to birthday parties and was offered chocolate or vanilla ice cream, she asked for coffee ice cream instead! To this day, her favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? When my daughter was a baby, I walked both with friends and with my daughter in her stroller. When my daughter got older, I was able to go back to the gym.
One thing that I thought was very important was teaching my daughter how to swim. I knew kids growing up whose baby sisters or brothers had drowned. I took my daughter to one of those throw-your-baby-into-the-pool-and-she’ll-swim classes. It worked great, and today’s she’s a strong swimmer.
I also taught my daughter how to ski and play tennis very young. She was on skis at age one and a half! Today she’s’ a better skier than I am.
How do you recharge your batteries? I get a massage at least once a week. If I could get one every day, I would!
I also enjoy walking my dog in the woods. That takes away a lot of my stress.