Sara Anthony is one of those elusive women who can seem remarkably unrattled in the face of total chaos. With 3 sons, Henry (age 6), William (age 3) and Hugo (5 months) you might suspect her life would resemble the 5pm rush twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps her extensive experience traveling the world (you’ll hear about how much time she has spent in all corners of the globe) or the fact that she was formerly an attorney in high-pressure NYC account for why she's so poised? She’s thoughtful, insightful and we couldn’t wait to hear how she views the hot topic of raising boys in light of an epidemic of school shootings and #metoo. Yeah, we kept it light.
Sara, you’ve traveled the globe. Where have you lived?
In reverse order: Montclair, NJ (currently), New York City where I worked and met my husband, London for a year studying, Oxford, England where I went to law school, New York City briefly for work, Hanover, New Hampshire for college, Westport, Connecticut, Madrid, Spain. I grew up in Connecticut, but spent about half the year in Spain (where I was born) when I was young.
How has living in other parts of the world informed your approach to parenting?
I think it has made me aware that children are raised quite differently in different cultures and, consequently, has made me (a little) more confident pursuing a path that works best for our family...even if it doesn't really follow the mainstream here.
What do you do and what brought you to where you are today?
As a Russian lit major, my career path was not immediately obvious to me (or career services) when I graduated college. So, like many other humanity grads, I took the first job offered. In my case, as an M&A analyst in an investment bank. It cannot be overstated how ill-suited I was for this job, but it did set me on my way. I had the opportunity to train for the job in London, which seeded a real love for that city; I made some lifelong friends and eventual travel-partners; and it funded my subsequent year and half of backpacking through India, Africa and Southeast Asia. At the end of which, I landed in Oxford, where I read law for three years frittering away all my vacation time backpacking again through South and Central America, and the Middle East. Then I spent time in London, again, for a training year. If I hadn't been offered a good job in NYC, I think I would have tried to settle down in London, but as it happened, I met my husband-to-be the weekend before I moved to the city. A year later, in the face of a terrible economic crisis, we decided to do the sensible thing and get married, quit our jobs and spend the next year and a half traveling around Europe. Upon returning, we moved to Montclair New Jersey, and I picked back up as a Trust and Estate attorney in New York City where I worked for another five years. About two years ago, I decided to take a break from law and I am now at home raising my three boys full time. In the meantime, I have fun with a foundation I founded called Building on Brooklyn Foundation, which partners with Brooklyn landowners and developers to provide local artists/artisans with temporary space in which to exhibit and work. We also produce and co-produce events highlighting some of the boroughs artists/artisans.
Your interior design aesthetic in 3 words or less?
Haphazard (in a) classical framework.
Raising boys seems to be a hot topic these days (Michael Ian Black's essay in The New York Times, "The Boys Are Not All Right" is a must-read). How can we as parents help navigate these tricky subjects and instill respect and confidence in our little future-men?
I tend to think that quite a lot of the most important "parenting" occurs on a subliminal level. If children are observing and absorbing our behaviour, our habits, our prejudices and preconceptions, as I think they are/do, then it's up to us, as parents, to do the hard work to ensure we are modeling the kind of outlook we hope to see from them. Luckily, we are parenting at a time when lots of smart and inspiring people are talking about these issues, so we don't need to feel like we're wrestling alone. Perhaps it is the political climate that has lent urgency to these discussions, but I find role models, inspiration and good ideas popping up everywhere. It's an exciting time.
Our boys are still very young so we are very much still figuring this out. What I will pass along is an adage my mom is fond of promoting, and that is: "the best gift a father can give his sons is to love their mother"! Amen to that! But seriously, I think my boys are blessed to have a good role model in their dad, who treats me, their mother, with demonstrable love and respect and kindness. He provides them with what I consider a strong example of "masculinity,” which among many other things simultaneously supports and empowers those he loves, and shows that it is possible to be comfortable and confident in positions of vulnerability.
Generally, I hope that growing up in a loving family environment where there is only a very little bit of seriousness and quite a lot of time together, will give our boys a happy/solid baseline for their own future relationships.
What do you see as being the challenges your boys face right now?
So my eldest son is 6, a little young for some of the larger issues discussed here. But something that preoccupies me, personally, is how I might support his natural curiosity and creativity. Being a dreamy sort of person myself, I find I need quite a lot of down-time to think my thoughts through, or to escape my structured thoughts altogether and become creative. When I think of my own childhood, I remember having acres of unstructured time - afternoons stretched on and on, to say nothing of the summer. I became very resourceful at filling these hours, of losing myself in my own play. I think play is incredibly important for children; and I think solitary play...when a child becomes engrossed in his imagination..contributes in no small part to his or her later mental resilience and focus.
Back to my own children, I find that school is quite demanding of young children (being more structured, more lesson based than I remember my early grades being); and that their afternoons and weekends can quickly be gobbled up by after-school enrichment activities, sports, playdates, birthday parties. There is very little time left to be bored, to be sufficiently bored to start being creative. So I tend to limit all the extras. We pick a single activity to do once a week. Occasionally, we will have a playdate with a friend after school, but most of the time I leave my boys free to play alone or together or play outside with the neighbor's children. And I read to them whenever they want, as often as they want, and always before bedtime.
Thank you, Sara!