Mary Gardner

Denise McDonald Dorman

Profession: "To Do Cool Projects with Cool People"
Web Site(s): Write Brain Media, The Devil's Candy Store

Age: 44
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Dave Dorman
Residence: Geneva, Illinois
Children's Names/Ages:
Jack, age 4

Q: Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?

A: I didn't get married to my husband Dave Dorman until age 39 (he was 44), so having a child wasn't really something I counted on, but I hoped we would have a child one day.

Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about your work? How long are you doing it? What did you do previously?

A: I love creating interesting, memorable videos, concepts and campaigns to promote products, services and people. The best and most fun projects involve some humor-based component. The most challenging aspect of my work is the administrative side, which I least enjoy. I've been doing this work since 1989. I've done advertising, marketing, public relations, sales and TV/video production since I graduated college in 1987. I started out as a TV writer/producer for a motorsports series called "The Super Chargers" right out of college. When we lost True Value Hardware as our sponsor, I started my own company, WriteBrain Media, in 1995.

Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life?

A: Motherhood has taught me not to "sweat the small stuff" in business and my personal life. When all heck is breaking loose with a surly client, or I've loaded the dishwasher "improperly" once again, my son's laughter and hugs are THE BEST elixir.

Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more or less since you became a mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What do your children think of your work?

A: I'll describe today, which was typical. I was awakened by my son Jack hitting my right boob with a stuffed polar bear. Next, we argued about who would get to watch their TV show. I won - Good Morning America it was. I gave Jack his breakfast, got him dressed, and my husband took him to preschool at 9 a.m. Today I am creating a proposal for a newsletter and writing copy for a logistics Web site. I am also planning a promotion for Vampire Huntress author L.A. Banks, as I have a separate company, The Devil's Candy Store. And, I am actively trying to find work for my husband, #1 Star Wars Artist Dave Dorman. We are both self-employed and given the current economy, promoting ourselves to get continued work has become a full time job.

I don't travel a lot - just a couple of trade shows per year. Comic-Con in San Diego is our big show - last year we had two booths there on the main floor. We've taken Jack with us to San Diego, with a friend in tow to watch him during the day, but that has gotten too expensive, so this past year, Jack stayed home with his grandparents.

Jack doesn't really process the fact that other parents go outside of the home to work every day. He thinks original oil paintings of Batman and Indiana Jones are normal interior decorating. Someday he will realize that his father is very special. Jack's impression of my work is that I talk on the phone all day and sometimes I get dressed up for business meetings.

MOMZ-N-Da HOOD Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What did you or do you most try to teach your children?

A: I think I am more calm and more centered, as a later-in-life parent. On the negative side, I think that I don't have the energy of a younger mom, but I also have hypothyroidism, so that might be affecting my energy more than my physical age. What surprised me most about being a mom was that I didn't really start enjoying myself in this role until Jack was around 2.5 and able to communicate with me. The infant baby stage wasn't all that fun for me - I found it rather boring. My husband enjoyed that phase of Jack's life, so that really helped.

I most try to teach Jack to be completely honest with me and everyone else. Lying is the one thing I cannot tolerate, above all else. We have also stressed to him the importance of being polite, and "please" and "thank you" are automatically in his vocabulary now because of the hard work we did on the front end. Additionally, we are blessed that our son is very kind-hearted; kindness is a hugely important attribute for both of us. My husband is known as "the nicest guy in comics" and that is very true. We both give a lot of our time to help others and Jack witnessing that has fostered the kindness and patience he extends toward others. He's especially gentle with the elderly, which was seemingly innate for him.

Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? Do you have a support network and community outside of work? Others in the entertainment field? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model for other later moms?

My support network is my parents, who are now aging and not as able to help with my son as they once were, and then there's my wacky network of girlfriends--my "Kotex Mafia," friends I've had since 7th grade. I compare notes with others in the entertainment field and those who are self employed, and we are all equally stressed out, so I know that I'm not alone, and there is some small comfort in that. I don't consider myself a role model, as that should be reserved for someone who is really perfect, and that is not me! I'm not the crunchy granola mom growing her own organic vegetables and making baby food with a food processor. However, I do ensure Jack drinks organic milk and his soy intake (translation: estrogen intake) is limited, so I make his mac & cheese from scratch to protect him in that way. He's had his share of McDonald's cheeseburgers, exposure to swearing and likely too many viewing hours in front of Cartoon Network (on the weekends when we're both on work deadlines). I'm not a perfect parent by any stretch.

Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?

A: Dive in--the water's fine! Don't feel pressured to breast feed if it's not for you. Frankly, it grossed me out and my milk never really came in, so after a month, I gave it up and was never so happy. There's nothing worse than being hooked up to an electric milking machine like Elsie the Cow (my son wouldn't latch on, so that was the alternative). And remember, having just one child is okay - don't listen to the old wives tales about only children being spoiled - it's your parenting style that drives how respectful, appreciative or helpful a child is. It's also your child's genetics. I've seen wonderful parents raise "the bad seed," and I've seen people who shouldn't be entitled to reproduce and vote every four years who end up with really terrific, well-balanced children.

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