Howard Rhee, the managing director of student and alumni affairs at Duke University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative in Durham, and Margaret Rhee, a private practice psychotherapist in Carrboro, have their hands full with Aidan, 11, Callie, 8, and Susannah, 3. On top of getting the kids to McDougle Middle School, Carrboro Elementary School and Little House Playschool every morning, there are plenty of after-school activities to keep straight, too. Aidan is a red belt in ninjutsu martial arts, practicing at Chapel Hill Quest Center, and he also takes guitar lessons from Eric Haugen at Creative Music Studios in Carrboro. Callie is in the Shooting Stars class at Chapel Hill Gymnastics and takes violin lessons from Yolana Murrell in Chapel Hill. We asked the Rhees about parenting in our area and how they balance work, family, relationships and fun.
What do you love most about being a parent in this community?
It’s small enough that it’s manageable but large enough that there are lots of resources. For example, we recently signed up Aidan for Ultimate Frisbee classes [with Carrboro Recreation & Parks], and we had Callie attend the UNC Gymnastics summer camp. Both are fantastic, high quality and fewer than 10 minutes away from our home. In addition, we have the unusual fortune that we have Margaret’s office, Susannah’s preschool and Callie’s elementary school [all] on two blocks of the same street in Carrboro. A lot of great families come to the Triangle for the great universities and work opportunities, and stay for the quality of life and the strong community.
The big question: How do you balance work and parenting?
It’s hard! We think carefully about the new commitments we take on and say no to a lot of opportunities.
We have a weekly date night, which gives us a chance to reconnect. Usually we go to a restaurant in Carrboro or Chapel Hill and sometimes end with the “romantic” trip to Harris Teeter for groceries. We have a babysitter who has been with us for seven years who helps us about 10 hours a week (mostly weekday hours), and helps take the kids to lessons.
On weekends, we spend most of our time together as a family, but we also get time to be independent. We trade out free time, where one parent can go off and do their own thing, like go for a run, or visit with a friend, then the other gets similar time away. This keeps things balanced, and makes us carefully choose which individual activities are really important.
Do you have any advice for new parents?
Parenting is rewarding and challenging. When we first had Aidan, we both tried to hang on to our pre-kid lifestyles (i.e. playing soccer, going out with friends, etc.) but now that we have three, we’re more comfortable with the idea of being “parents.” That doesn’t mean it’s easy – our assumption is that “every day something will happen,” whether it’s someone forgetting to bring homework or someone gets an illness that needs a doctor visit, or one of the kids is upset about something that happened during the day. The normal day is chaotic and usually requires some form of improvisation. It helps that we can talk through the challenges of the day. The kids seem to get a semblance of “independence” around 4 years old (after potty training), and so the physical needs are a lot less around [that time].
Also, sometimes life is difficult, and it can be really helpful to have a trained professional supporting you and your mental health. Seeing a therapist can be a great way to process the big changes going on in your world.
Rhees About Town
Family time for the Rhees means outdoor time. Some of their favorite spots include Bolin Forest in Chapel Hill, Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham (where Howard and Margaret were engaged and married), North Carolina Botanical Garden, UNC’s arboretum and quad, or just going for a walk around Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
Favorite restaurants for the family include Pizzeria Mercato, Acme Food & Beverage Co., Glasshalfull, Carrburritos, Mediterranean Deli, Al’s Burger Shack, Talullas, Mellow Mushroom and bartaco. You can often find Howard and Margaret grabbing coffee at either Open Eye Cafe or Weaver Street Market in Carrboro.