Downtown Mom, Heather Ross is a children’s book illustrator, an author, and artist. Our Lifestyle and Family Editor, Denise Courter, recently had a chance to learn more about her business and family life in Lower Manhattan. She lives in the Financial District with her husband and daughter, which is also where she has a studio. Her studio is located at 139 Fulton Street and according to Heather, “is filled with creative professionals and studios and offices, which makes it the perfect space” for her to work in her creative field. She is a children’s book illustrator and author and has created some memorable children’s book covers, such as “How to Behave at a Tea Party”, written by Madelyn Rosenberg. She also is a portrait artist. She is in the midst of some new and exciting projects and continues to innovate and design in Lower Manhattan.
Q: What is your perception of the Financial District today, compared to when you moved into the neighborhood, seven years ago?
A: When we came to this neighborhood, we thought it would be just for a year or two. We realize now that we never want to leave, and are looking to buy something in the Seaport area or FiDi, soon. We’ve put down roots in a way that you don’t expect to in a big city, and love being a part of and witness to what is happening in Lower Manhattan. My husband and I realized recently that we have lived in our apartment longer than either of us has even lived at the same address in our entire lives.
Q: What is the best parenting advice/phrase you were given?
A: A very wise woman once told me that there are only two things a woman never regrets: a swim, and a baby. When I was pregnant, I really appreciated the random woman who came up to me and whispered in my ear: Don’t worry, it’s more fun than it looks.”. I’ve passed that one along a few times.
Q: Did you grow up as a city kid or a suburban kid?
A: I grew up in a few different places, mostly on a Vermont mountaintop, right on the Canadian border, but also in Middleburg Virginia, Santa Cruz, California, and San Miguel De Allende Mexico. It was the seventies. If a place sounded exciting, we put everything important in the car and went there.
Q: What are your favorite things about being a City Mom?
A: Never having to get into the car, unless it’s on the weekend and we are getting out. I love always being about fifty paces from a snack or a bottle of water. The amazing options for educating our kids, especially in this neighborhood, commuting to school by scooter, and admittedly, I’m a sucker for crazy, overblown, themed destination birthday parties. The more ridiculous the theme, the better.
Q: What are the challenges of being a working Mom in the city?
A: I was on the West Coast for ten years before moving to New York. You aren’t really succeeding there unless your quality of life is just as good as your career. It can actually lead to whole other category of stress, but it helps keep things in balance, too. In New York, people work themselves as hard as they can. I respect and admire that, but if I try to live that way, I start to stumble a lot as a mother, which makes me miserable. My friend Sara said to me recently that I should really read the Sheryl Sandberg book, Lean In, since I think its probably relevant to me. I’m so leaned in that I’m bent over! I thought that pretty much summed it up.
Q: What is your favorite Summer family activity?
A: We are in the Catskills in the summer, where we have a grand, but dusty and crumbly old lake house. We are in the water as much as we can be, but we also spend a lot of time hiking and foraging for blueberries and mushrooms. We are also obsessed with tracking our local wildlife, and the family of owls that comes and goes in our woods. My daughter has the confident, haunting, Barred Owl hoot of a master, life-long birder. On rainy days we make and decorate paper boats and race them in our stream, which is much more fun with cousins and friends around. It’s a wonderful break from the City, but we are always ready to come back and newly appreciative of being here come fall. On sunny days in the city you’ll find us at the elevated green-space down at the piers near the seaport, being barefoot on the grass and watching the boats and helicopters go by, feeling very blessed.
Q: As a dog lover and Mom to your dog Lobo, what can you tell us about him?
A: Our dog Lobo spent his formative years in a gang on the mean streets of Quito Ecuador. He’s the most urban one in the family.
“Favorites” List of Questions:
Favorite Downtown Playground is –
The Imagination Playground, especially now that the El Luchador restaurant has arrived.
Favorite Downtown place to get a cocktail –
I just recently fell in love with The Hideaway in the Seaport. It’s going to be my spot now. I also love Warren 77 in Tribeca, and the bar at Felice in FiDi is great, too.
Favorite Downtown Mommy and Me activity –
My daughter Bee and I have been pretty obsessed with seeking out big piles of fruit tree blossoms, and then throwing them up in the air and pretending that we are in a New York City Snowglobe. But that’s this week. We love a good chopstick-practicing outdoor lunch at Sutieshi, and “just browsing” at the Petlands pet store on Nassau Street. We are also longtime supporters of the Downtown Community Center, and Imagine Swimming. Bee and I do a lot of baking and cooking together, too, so trips to Whole Foods or GreenMarket for more obscure items can consume an entire afternoon.
Favorite mode of transit –
Bee: on the scooter, Heather: running alongside with a pocketfull of Dora Bandaids. We like the subway, too, but since our home, Bee’s school, and my studio make up a five block wide triangle, we can go most places on foot.
To learn more about Heather and her current and upcoming projects, please visit her website.
-by Denise Courter
Denise Courter is the Founder and Publisher of FiDiFamilies, a website for Lower Manhattan