Alex McCord, the Brooklyn-based “real housewife” of New York, is generally the most reserved one of the lively housewife bunch. This season, however, she’s standing up to the outspoken NY women, who have recently been engaging in some seriously dysfunctional behavior. But let’s put the drama aside and focus on Alex’s new baby – her book that is – aptly titled, Little Kids, Big City, in which she and husband, Simon van Kempen, wrote about the ups & downs of raising kids in NYC. We caught up with her to chat about how her kids are affected by her reality show, what annoys her the most about New York moms, and why she doesn’t think there are that many seasons of RHONY left.
You and your husband were both focused career-types who didn’t really want children. What changed?
We saw ourselves getting old! Seriously, after being together for about three years, Simon and I felt that our love had grown and we wanted to share it. We’d seen that our relationship was solid and that we thought maybe, just maybe we might want to have kids after all. Once we realized we’d become ambivalent, we decided we’d better jump right on it as Simon was a few years away from turning 40 and wanted to be around to see them graduate college and still be young enough to run around the backyard with them.
You trusted your own instincts during your pregnancy. What advice can you give to women who have a constant stream of unsolicited advice coming their way?
I researched everything and constantly asked questions, then took it all in and made up my own mind. There’s a lot that happens during pregnancy that can be addressed with good old common sense, and women shouldn’t feel pressured by the tidal wave of sometimes-conflicting information out there. It’s your pregnancy, and what works for your neighbor may not necessarily work for you. Remember that mammals have been giving birth for thousands of years. One of the chapters in my book is called “Does a German Shepherd need a birth plan?” Go with your gut – it’s often right.
Favorite vacation spot: St. Barths, of course!
Favorite exercise: I don’t exercise. Does carrying the children count?
What makes you cringe? Bad behavior. I cringe a lot when watching our show!
Weirdest habit: According to Simon it’s leaving a large wad of toothpaste in the bathroom sink every time I brush my teeth.
I couldn’t wait to… find out Johan’s gender – we found out François was a boy by accident, but the second time around I could barely contain myself until we knew we had a Johan or a Lola!
Do you worry about the effect that being on a reality show will have on your kids?
We began this reality show craziness when the boys were 1 and 3, so for them the cameras and crew being around are normal. They aren’t old enough to read blogs and everything that’s written about their parents, and Simon and I agreed that if we’d had ‘tweens or teenagers we may not have done the show. At this stage they’re still relatively unaffected by it, and we’ll continue to monitor our involvement on a year-by-year basis. I can’t imagine there’s that many more seasons of Real Housewives of New York!
What annoys you the most about New York moms?
Moms who forget they live in New York City. If you are going on the subway or to a crowded area, travel light, or if you can’t, plan ahead! I’m amazed at the number of times I see a mom struggling on the subway stairs with a double-wide stroller and too many bags. Tourist mom? Understandable. Native NYC mom? What were you thinking?
What are some of your favorite things to do in New York with your kids?
There’s so much going on in NYC that you can do something different every single day, whether it’s a museum, cooking demonstration, or a concert in the park. One thing I love is that our kids have an ongoing relationship with NYC monuments that kids outside the city might only see once in person. The boys see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, etc., nearly every week when we are out and about. They wave to the Statue when we cross the bridge and check out the piers for incoming ships.
If you could teach your children one life lesson, what would it be?
Trust yourself. If you’re not learning, you are not growing.
How do you manage a public tantrum?
Try and remove the child if at all possible. Don’t give in just to stop them. I’ve been the lady in the supermarket with the screaming toddler in the cart. Just because you have lungs doesn’t mean you get candy.
What shocked you most about parenting?
How undignified it is. How I didn’t magically turn into another “grown-up” person when the kids arrived.
What’s off limits in your house?
Rudeness, shouting, the medicine cabinet and the wine fridge.
Your favorite dinner/recipe meal for your kids?
On the weekend when there’s more time, I make pizza with the boys, including sauce, crust, the whole nine yards. During the week I want them to have good, homemade food but often lack the time, so we make large batches of homemade Bolognese sauce and portion them out for spaghetti, or chicken tikka masala over rice. For breakfast, I’ll make a big batch of waffles and freeze them to toast before school.
What do you wish you knew as a new parent?
That I didn’t need to panic about little things (like brands of diaper cream) as much as I did!
If you could be any TV/movie parent, who would it be?
Fans of the show have said that I remind them of Elizabeth Montgomery; I’d be so excited to be able to twitch my chin or nose like Samantha Stevens and either clean the house or hog-tie the well-meaning morons we talk about in our book!
What’s been your biggest challenge as a parent?
Disciplinary consistency. Never making a threat you can’t follow through on!
How do you find “me” time?
Often I end up losing sleep over it – literally. I stay up for an hour after everyone goes to bed to have a glass of wine and read or idly surf the web or TV.
Who’s the bad cop – you or your husband?
Bad cop changes from situation to situation – they never know which one of us is going to be the heavy so they don’t automatically run to either of us as a soft touch.