The Little Sacrifices
We hope Lennie Dusek is serious about one day writing her memoir. It would be a story of ups and downs, great love and disappointment, strength, self discovery and a great lesson on how to be an amazing mom.
By Amy Gordy
Lennie Dusek is mom to Corinne, 15, and Vincent, 13. She chose to have a home birth for both of her children—her first at age 29. “With Corinne, my pregnancy was so great. I’ve never taken such good care of myself in my whole life. It was the picture-perfect delivery. Vincent was a whole other story. He was over 9 pounds, and came out with the cord wrapped around his neck. He was ultimately healthy, but ripped his way into the world, and I decided that was my last pregnancy,” Dusek said.
She was a stay-at-home mom to her babies for the duration of their early childhood. “My then-husband ran for governor in 2006, which was huge for our family. In the years prior he was campaigning, and we were also being filmed for a documentary by a professor at UCA. It all filled up a good chunk of our time.”
Dusek’s husband was not elected and the two divorced in 2011. Up to that point, she had modeled locally and worked part time at the Museum of Discovery, but after her divorce she began working full time at the museum where she is now the volunteer coordinator and early childhood specialist.
As a single mom, she’s discovered new obstacles in her parenting journey. “My kids were 9 and 7 when I divorced. After the divorce, I had a four-year, long-distance relationship that really opened my eyes to how my personal life can affect my kids. The relationship was serious to the point that the kids and I were going to move to another state. We had chosen a house and school district. He had moved into that house, then on Memorial Day weekend of 2015 he sent me a Dear John email and just broke it off. It was such a ‘sudden death,’ it took me a year to get over that.”
Two years out from that, Dusek has recovered and is in a new relationship that turned into an engagement on Valentine's Day. “For the first time, it’s just easy, and I’m really excited about it.”
Dusek said one good thing that came out of the breakup is that it taught her a big lesson in being a single parent. “It’s a lesson in what not to pursue, and to listen to the red flags. I understand the decisions I make in my personal life can really affect my kids. More than anything, I don’t want my decisions or anything I do to affect them negatively,” she said.
Dusek’s kids had always shared a room in her two-bedroom home. Part of the excitement surrounding the family’s intended big move was the promise that each would finally have his and her own bedroom. Dusek kept her promise by giving her bedroom to her daughter, and setting up shop in the living room. “I found a beautiful vintage sofa that folds out into a bed!” she said, laughing. When asked if it’s comfortable the answer was, “Meh.”
“It’s the little sacrifices you make as a mom. You figure out how to make things work. Same thing with my divorce—I didn’t have a job at the time, but I had exhausted all the avenues of making that relationship work and I did what I had to do.”
Dusek described making the choice to be a stay-at-home mom as a luxury. “When they were young, I chose to let go of financial luxuries to have the luxury of being with my kids. They know I can’t afford to take them on big vacations or weekend getaways, and they get it and appreciate the bigger things more. They appreciate what I do for them, and I love our relationship. Especially now that they are teenagers, some parents complain that it’s hard to talk to their kids. Thankfully, I don’t feel that way. I have a really good relationship with my kids.”
THE INSIDE SCOOP with LENNIE
IF YOU HAD A DAY FREE FROM ALL OBLIGATIONS, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I'd go for a hike. Get a massage. Have lunch with a friend. Sleep in! Make a fire in the pit. I'd write.
WHICH QUALITY DO YOU MOST HOPE TO INSTILL IN YOUR CHILDREN? Empathy. Also, as Joni Mitchell sang, “A heart of humor and humility will lighten up your heavy load.”
WHAT DO YOU WORRY ABOUT MOST? Whether I can maintain, day after day.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY BALANCED? I exercise my body and mind. I value good rest, though often don't get adequate sleep. I laugh it off. I feel love and gratitude every single day.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO MEAL TO PREPARE THAT MAKES EVERYONE HAPPY? Having one vegetarian kid and another who could live off meat and potatoes makes meal planning tough, but I've found fried tofu and vegetable egg rolls strikes a happy chord for both.
WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL GIRLS NIGHT? Gathering on a front porch with a cocktail when the weather's nice is the best.
WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL DATE NIGHT? Cooking with my fiancé, then eating together. Et cetera.
WHAT'S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT PARENTING? Mom guilt. I worry if certain decisions I make will negatively affect my kids.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU NEVER HAD THAT YOU WANT FOR YOUR KIDS? The confidence to talk with me about anything, without fear of retribution, dogma or disinterest.
WHICH OF YOUR OWN QUALITIES DO YOU SEE IN YOUR CHILDREN? Courage, forgetfulness, tenderness, diplomacy and wonder.
WHAT DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH MOST AT THIS STAGE IN YOUR CHILDREN'S LIVES? Knowing how much leeway to give my teens. WHAT
MAKES YOU MOST PROUD OF YOUR CHILDREN? When they exhibit thoughtfulness through their words and actions.