Drawing on Motherhood

"The Pajama Diaries" comic strip creator Terri Libenson discusses the challenges of being a working mother through her alter ego, Jill Kaplan. She recently talked (and drew) to us about her life, career and appearance in newspaper funny pages

Exhaustion is typically the result when a woman tries to raise two small children while working two jobs. And while Terri Libenson may be tired, she’s turning her experiences into a comic strip called “The Pajama Diaries,” which recently debuted in about a dozen newspapers including Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In addition, Libenson, 36, works part time as a greeting-card writer and illustrator for American Greetings. We caught up with her at her Lyndhurst home for a chat about motherhood, minivans and maintaining her sanity.  — CM


Q: You and Jill Kaplan (the strip’s narrator and main character) both work and are raising two young daughters. Are you one and the same?

A:Jill is a lot like me, but I think she deviates a little bit in certain ways. I think she’s much more of an extrovert than I am. I tend to run more on the shy side.


Q:Do you, like Jill, drive a minivan?

A:Yes. I have a bad back and it’s easier to get the kids in and out.


Q: How long does it take to write a typical strip?

A.Anywhere from two minutes to two hours to come up with the idea and about three hours to execute it.


Q:You’ve said you’ve been inspired by recent books suggesting that women are trying too hard to be the perfect mother. How so?

A:The character Jill really struggles through this. Like myself, she’s a perfectionist and a worrywart. I think what my comic strip is trying to do is disassemble the superwoman myth. Maybe you can’t give 100 percent, but you try and do the best you can.


Q:What’s the best part about being a mother?

A:Experiencing childhood again through your kids’ eyes.


Q:What do you lose when you become a mother?

A:A cup size. [laughs] Other than that, I don’t think I lost anything. I think … a lot of women feel like they lost a sense of themselves. “Pajama Diaries” is about a woman who tries to keep her identity.


Q:How did you keep your identity?

A:For me — I hate to admit this — I identify myself with my work, probably because I’ve grown up kind of shy. Throughout my life I’ve always had a love of art and writing. It’s the way I’ve expressed myself throughout my life.

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