Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH
Dr. Thompson is a mom of 13- and 8-year-old daughters and 12- and 10-year-old sons, a radiation oncologist with 21 C. Radiation Oncology, and the inventor of the Mommy Bag, filled with supplies for moms-to-be having C-sections, in Scarsdale, NY.
What’s your favorite parenting tip? Be flexible and your children will understand when things don’t work out the way they or you have planned. Don’t make “no” your initial reaction to a ridiculous demand. Rather, say “explain to me why that is so important or why you need that.” Your children will draw the same conclusion as you once they think it through, and if they do not, you will buy yourself some time in negotiating.
What surprised you most about parenting? I never doubted I would be a good, devoted mother, but the first six weeks were challenging for me. I could sew people up, treat cancers, drive a stick shift, but I couldn’t hack breast feeding or incessant crying. We had four children in five years. I loved having babies and being a mother. I regret not having a fifth.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? When my kids were toddlers, I tried to cook as much as possible. For me cooking is a joy, but if I don’t have enough time to do it, it becomes a burden.
“Home” meant great smells from the kitchen and comfort foods, not fast food. Each meal, I tried to give our kids adult food and one carb, one protein, and one vegetable. I tried. I wasn’t perfect.
One of our boys is incredibly picky. He refuses to eat any vegetable other than broccoli (so I served it every night) or fruit other than dried strawberries (dug out from the Special K, initially). Rather than focusing on what he won’t eat, I try to feed him the healthy foods he will eat.
My pediatrician told me that one pea or one bite of green vegetable was enough for the week when my son was little. He is healthy, off the charts in height, so I have no worries about malnourishment.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? When my kids were young, I took exercise any way that I could get it. Exercise is essential for my self-esteem and mental health.
When my oldest was a baby and toddler, I ran behind her pram in Central Park, and I walked everywhere with her in the Baby Bjorn. When lived in the city, and I only took a cab when it was absolutely essential. Otherwise I walked everywhere.
When we moved to the suburbs, I figured out that exercise was just as important as eating and sleeping. I ran on a treadmill, and I walked as much as possible. My husband helped me to accomplish this. He would find time, even after work, to “liberate me” for an hour to exercise.
I figured that exercise made me feel good, so it would be good for our children as well. So it was my mission to wear them out physically, every day.
My husband and I were both early risers. He covered the Europe and Emerging markets so he was up and out around 5 am. I would feed my daughter, pack our pool bag, and we would go to Asphault green where she loved swimming in the 90-degree rehab pool that was open to the public from 7 to 8 am. Then we would come home, she’d eat again, and by 10 am she’d take a nap. I would work out on a Stairmaster in our living room and read.
How do you recharge your batteries? Sleep is the key to being a happy parent. Also, date night or connecting with your spouse without the children present is really important.