Harry Bliss is a cartoonist and cover artist for The New Yorker magazine. He has also illustrated several children’s books. Harry lives with his wife and step-daughter in Burlington, Vermont.
Parents: Harry Bliss and Sofi Dillof
Kids: son Alexander, 21; daughter Delia, 15
Parent Co: Who are the parents in your family?
Harry Bliss: Man, I can be pretty immature, so that’s a good question. I would say my step-daughter Delia is way more mature than both myself and my wife. She can be remarkably mature. It’s pretty funny, actually.
Does she know that?
I think she does, I think she’s aware of it.
And does she accept that position in your family?
Yeah, I think she embraces it a little bit, for sure. It can be tricky at times, when we do have to discipline her, and this happened with my son, too - I think it’s a common thing for progressive parents. I’m a cartoonist, so part of my brain is in a state of happily arrested development but we do need to discipline our kids. Because Delia is so smart and so mature, discipline can be tricky.
In those moments, when you’re trying to discipline this very responsible 15-year-old, are you and your wife united - are you both looking at each other, like, ‘how do we do this?’
Not so much, I would say. Sofi and Delia are mother and daughter and I’m like, the step-dad, so I think there’s some of that going on. I tend to be tougher on Delia - and she knows that. A lot of times I’ll just keep my mouth shut when I see things go down.
You and Sofi both have relatively non-traditional work lives (Sofi is a yoga instructor).
Yeah, pretty much. But you know, it’s kind of common in Vermont - or at least in Burlington.
How do you guys navigate this modern family life?
You know, we’re learning that it’s important to take time off to do things together, especially having non-traditional jobs. Most people don’t get the fact that when you work at home, you are constantly thinking about work. It’s tough to find time to shut down. You gotta turn the engine off and spend time away from work, with your wife or your husband. And sometimes that means literally booking a trip somewhere - going away.
That’s really important, because if you don’t, at some point it gets very routine-y, even though it’s not a routine-type scenario, it can get that way.
I understand completely. My husband and I both work from home and it’s so easy to form bad habits. You have to shake yourself out of it - or shake your whole family out of it. I like the idea of getting the family out of the house to do that.
Yeah - it’s almost like that movie “Vacation” where they go to Wally World. It’s like, “we’re fucking going to London, or wherever!” It’s important, that stuff. It’s really about keeping connections alive.
Are there family rituals you have to help with that on a more daily basis?
We don’t, really. I would say one quasi-ritualistic thing we do is that I watch “Jeopardy” with Delia. But we do a lot of eating out and ordering in, and it’s kind of tricky because there’s a lot of after school stuff going on.
Yeah, I can imagine a 15-year-old would have a full life outside of your family.
She does! Totally. So it’s really sporadic. I would say we don’t (have rituals), and that’s not always good. I kinda miss that. I like those ritual things. I think we need more of it. I think going away on trips is maybe a way of getting some of that ritual family time back.
I feel it’s really important for each parent to have their own personal rituals, too. Has that ever been an issue for you and Sofi?
I have a lot of that, actually. I probably have too much of that. (Finding that balance) is an issue for us and it has to do with me. I have my studio in my old house and I go there to work usually six days a week. But in some ways, it is, I’ll admit, kind of a man cave, though technically it’s my work space, too. Being alone has been my work for so many years.
And sometimes those things - whether it’s hockey or drawing for fun or going to my studio to work - those things can take over and I need to give those things a rest and spend time with my wife and my daughter. Lately that’s been happening because i’ve been putting some rituals aside just to do that. Because you have to. These little personal rituals can become more important than your family and that’s not good.
How has being a parent impacted your work life?
Well, right off the bat it makes you work so much harder. You’re just not a procrastinator anymore. That’s been the case with me. I’ve been much more organized.
And then the other great thing is that being a parent provides you with so many stories. There’s so much material - if you’re a writer, or a comedian you’ll get so many gags from being a parent, and I know I do for my cartoons.
I don’t know how you feel about the word advice, but how about wisdom - any wisdom you’d like to share with other parents?
Probably just don’t act in anger. Walk away. Don’t react. And just don’t take it all so seriously. If you can find a way to laugh - do it. And my dad used to always say, the most important thing is your health. That sounds so trite, but it’s true. If everyone in your family is healthy, running late for something is just not that important.
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Visit his website to see his work.