By Kathy Zucker • Monday, December 23, 2013
That’s how old I was when I moved to Hoboken, NJ. A newlywed with a demanding job in Manhattan, a brand-new driver’s license and almost-new dark blue Honda Accord, I had just won the first of my two national championship titles in épée. For the next couple of years, my life looked pretty much the same as it did when I lived in Brooklyn Heights, a nonstop round of work, fencing practice, and cramming chores into the weekends.
But the seeds were there for major change. Right after I moved to Hoboken, the entire Eastern seaboard went dark for over 24 hours when a series of power outages took out plants supplying New York, Detroit and Toronto. My husband and I were trapped in our offices in midtown and lower Manhattan, in lockdown because we were deemed essential personnel. I changed into my gym clothes and went across the street to check on my 95 year old grandmother in Gramercy Park. Even then, I was prepared for anything, with a fanny pack and a waterproof LED flashlight. My office ordered food from the corner Chinese restaurant, but in a foreshadowing of the future, the St. Vincent’s Hospital staff got there before we could pick it up and outbid us. Dinner that night was cookies and candy pooled on the cherry boardroom table.
After a night spent on my office floor with my brother and two of his friends, I nagged the CEO into having an emergency vehicle drive me to the PATH train, which was the first mass transit up and running after the power outage began. I was frantic with worry about my dog, who by that time had not been walked for 24 hours and was trapped in a high rise rental by the Hoboken waterfront. Despite striking up frequent hallway conversations with neighbors, I never managed to attain the degree of friendship where we exchanged keys. My poor boy had held it in that entire time – when I ran up the 12 flights of stairs to reach him he whimpered with relief and then peed as I held him, wept, and apologized for not being there for him.
I moved to Hoboken right after 9/11 because I felt inescapably trapped on an island surrounded by military armed with AK-47s and constant air patrols. All I could think about was escape, but even if I walked, where could I go except toward the Atlantic Ocean? At least on the western shore of the Hudson River, we could backpack our way deeper into the United States. After the blackout, I knew it wasn’t enough to live in New Jersey – I needed to be based there. So it wasn’t a big surprise that after I became a mom, I also began working from home. In the event of another emergency situation, I would always be near enough to retrieve our baby and then connect with my husband.
The next ten years have been pretty well chronicled on this blog. I had another baby, and then a third. I traded in the Honda for a Subaru station wagon equipped with three car seats across the back row. I bought an apartment, sold it and simultaneously bought another one. Much to my shock, I chose to raise my family in New Jersey over New York. One company turned into three, each one getting bigger than the last. I started getting recognized on the street, to the point where I would eat in a restaurant and the mom at the next table would whisper “That’s Kathy Zucker.” I would peg the absolute height of my career as a Hoboken mom blogger at October 2012, when 1,000 people turned out for my company’s fall expo.
Two days later, Hurricane Sandy hit, flooding over 70% of Hoboken and knocking out the PATH train for months. Everything changed. In the early days after the hurricane, similar to the 2003 Northeast blackout, everyone pulled together. Hoboken was on the front page of every major publication – because I was considered the go to mom in Hoboken, I was fielding calls from the Associated Press, Reuters and CNN. The Sandy attention culminated in a Shorty Award in April 2013 sponsored by New York Life for their “Keep Good Going” campaign. And ever since then, my life has exploded into something utterly unrecognizable to me and everyone who knows me. Literally. When I show people the Dove advertisement where I was photographed by Cosmopolitan Magazine, not one single person recognizes me. Can you spot me?
Of course you can’t. Nobody can. The Jean Louis David hair and makeup artists are masters at their craft – they somehow made me look glamorous. But that is how I have to look from now on whenever I am invited to an event. I have my everyday sloppy attire, when I leave the house wearing glasses without brushing my hair (or teeth) and then I have my public outings when I wear contacts and makeup. The only way anybody recognizes me then is when I have the kids with me.
So who am I? A mom hauling her kids all over Hoboken, a business woman sharing tips, or a public figure who goes on the Today Show? All of the above? There are so many different facets to my life that each get reflected on a different social media platform – I network and talk shop on Twitter, post kid pics on Instagram, joke about never taking showers on Facebook, and write about social media on LinkedIn.
Even though I have a one year old child, I am no longer the mother of young children. I will be a mother for the rest of my life, but I am transitioning at light speed toward my natural persona – a business woman. I was a rising star at my company before having children, and I continued to be a rising star through the following years – I just happened to be working for myself. I don’t think I’m anything special – there are thousands of women out there who are just like me.
But it’s time to spread my wings and go full throttle in the next phase of my life – the post-childbearing years. I hope my readers stick around to watch me reinvent myself. I have loved meeting so many of you and staying in touch on social media. I am admittedly horrible on email, but I always respond within 24 hours on Twitter and Facebook. Please feel free to reach out, I love a good chat.