Lindsey Buller Maliekel has been passionate about theater since her acting debut at age eight. In her role with NYC’s New Victory Theater, she oversees the theater’s teaching artists, youth development programs and family programs and content. We chatted with Lindsey about the transformative power of theater, the difference between teaching kids and raising kids, and a must-try hack for getting little ones out the door in the morning.
Congratulations on your success at The New Victory Theater. What sparked your interest in theater?
There is a family story that I was such a shy kid that I would hide in the closet whenever the doorbell rang. When I was about eight, I went to a new elementary school where the teacher, Ms. Bloom, hosted a yearly musical review attended by hundreds of community members. I was chosen for a solo and I sang a song from Caberet wearing a spangly red costume and very red lipstick.
I stepped into the spotlight and found that I could exist on stage in a totally different way than I existed in my real life. It was a way to transcend my shyness. Over the years, theater has given me the gift of bravery and transformation. The shows I have seen, especially at the New Vic, have given me the gift of awe and a better and broader understanding of the world.
What’s surprised you most about becoming a parent after working with youth for several years?
At work, I’m an expert at taking any kid situation in stride and have always prided myself on my equilibrium when young people tested the limits. At home, it’s hard to be that unflappable all the time. My own kids experience as much of me feeling flustered as they do my “expert equilibrium”…and a LOT of hugs.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Picking up the toys at the end of the night (I mostly just don’t do it).
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
A book and blissful quiet.
What is your best parenting hack?
We pretend to be different animals when we are trying to get our kids out the door. When I need them to leave the house quickly, we ask them to pretend they are cheetahs or rabbits. When they are acting a little wild, we pretend to be turtles or sloths to slow things down.
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
“I love reading you this book about superheroes. Again.”
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
I grew up in Seattle with a family that camped and hiked quite often. My own kids’ childhood is turning out a bit more ‘city kid,’ so my husband and I have committed to camping with the kids several times each summer. On our last camping trip, I decided it was time to add in a hike as well! My kids can scoot a mile to school each morning, but somehow lack the energy to walk on their own two feet for more than a city block. I tried all the tricks my mom used on me, and I STILL ended up carrying the three-year-old on the entire hike! But I was proud of myself for deciding it was important to me and convincing my family to do it…and for being strong enough to carry the little guy for 3 miles!
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Choose kindness, create joy and be yourself.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
Take a deep breath and accept all the help your village is offering. The more people you have to love and interact with your kids, the better their life (and yours) will be. I sometimes find it hard to accept the help – or to ASK for it – and every time I remember to gratefully say yes, my whole family’s life improves.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
I got good advice once from a woman I really respect: “Don’t make your job so small that it stops being interesting to you.” Many moms start to turn down opportunities that they fear will take them away from their kids or will be hard to manage, and end up with only job tasks that are manageable…and boring. Instead, identify the parts of your job that really excite you and figure out how to make them happen! It is easier to try and negotiate a work/life balance if both parts bring you joy and satisfaction.
Last year, I wrangled my whole community to help me figure out how I could take a two-week work trip to Australia to give a keynote at a conference. My husband had to rearrange his schedule, my in-laws stepped up, and our amazing babysitter increased her hours. Once I was able to figure out how to make it happen, I could then figure out what I could miss at work to ensure I could spend a lot of time with my family leading up to the trip and after returning from it.
If I was trying to create a 50/50 work life balance every day, I wouldn’t get to do the big, fun projects. And knowing what things I’m prioritizing at work also makes it more clear what I can de-prioritize so I can focus on my family and my life.
What was the last book you read?
Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Om face lotion for men.
Favorite Form of Exercise:
Pushing the double stroller almost a mile to their schools every morning.
What is on your DVR?
We don’t own a TV, but I search for old episodes of International House Hunter at least once a week.
Zillow—for window shopping only.
Favorite Kids Store:
The Liberty Science Center gift shop – it’s not specifically a kids store, but they often have the best stuff for kids!