Michael Bottigliero came to life for me today in the South Loop's Cottontail Park. If you follow social media, you might recognize his name and face--and his daughter, Lily's, too. I have been keeping up with his wife, Blagica's Facebook and Twitter posts ever since we were fellow bloggers on this site. And two-year-old Lily's soft curls and zest for toddler life always reminded me of my almost-30-year-old daughter Molly's same zest at that age. Seeing pictures of Lily delving into a good story about Big Bird, or wrapped up in a towel after her nighttime bath or going through kitchen cabinets to make a great pile of kitchen cabinet stuff always touches my heart and sends me on a sentimental journey into the past.
Blagica is Global Director of Social Media at Motorola
. And works very much outside their South Loop home
. Michael is at home with Lily on a regular basis. Dressing her in darling clothes, feeding her lots of fruits and vegetables and grains and beans, taking her to the park and all kinds of activities in the neighborhood. Making dinner for his wife. He is truly a Mr. Mom kind of dad. As well as a multi-certified sommelier
Trouble is, we moms don't really think about life as a Mr
. Mom. It's a little lonely out there, I found out today. No real chance to bond. The dads are a little like fish out of water. When Blagica expressed displeasure recently because the South Loop Moms N Tots group
meant just that--South Loop moms (and some nannies thrown in for good measure), but no dads--the group listened. Initially, the moms who ran the group wanted a safe haven for discussing personal issues--maybe childbirth, women's health, that sort of thing. But after Blagica made some noise, the group changed its tune. Dads are now welcome to go on outings to theaters and parks and such. (But still not welcome at meet ups with moms in private homes.)
There aren't a lot of other dads out there, Michael explains; but he also says he hasn't been quite as aggressive as he could be in bonding with the dads who are around. Or in joining in with a city-wide dad's meet-up group. He says his priority is to get involved with other moms and dads so Lily has the opportunity to meet other kids from the neighborhood and make friends.
Michael is soft-spoken and patient. He stays by Lily's side if kids wrangle over sandbox tools, for example, explaining in a nice tone of voice that she must share with other kids. And she does. He follows her from one piece of fancy playground equipment to the next, letting her spread her wings sliding and jumping and swinging, but keeping her safe, too. He teaches her Italian (Blagica teaches her Macedonian
) and French
and Spanish. He teaches her piano and she goes to Sherwood
for music class. She's taken soccer
. And they attend a parent/child class at the Women's Park field house at 18th and Indiana.
His own dad died when Michael was 13. His mom comes over to babysit her only grandchild when Michael has a daytime wine event; he goes to keep up with the market, the industry, the profession, in general. He has a website
and a blog
and he conducts wine tastings and events
of all kinds--from bachelorette parties to corporate functions. He makes contacts and gives wine advice to those contacts. The online work can be done while he's home with Lily--but he says one of the big surprises of parenthood for him was how much time his daughter takes to care for.
He left his job at the Intercontinental Hotel
just before Lily was born. (He worked at Smith & Wollensky
when he met Blagica.) He and Blagica decided when Lily was on the way that he should be the one to stay home--it just made more sense--and they were totally disinterested in day care or employing a nanny. It's worked out well. "The first few months it was a tough adjustment," he says. But he settled in.
Lily might start pre-school soon. But maybe not. If she does, it will probably be just a couple of days a week--for a few hours at a time. To meet other kids and have some fun and learning, too. "I'm a full-time parent," Michael says. "Lily needs a full expanse--of exercise, learning...I want her to learn to read by the time she's three. I want her to learn two or three languages. She wouldn't be able to learn these things without a full time parent at home. I have a real vested interest in her--and I want her to have a life that's even better than her mom and dad have."
As we said good-bye, I showed Michael pictures of Molly when she was Lily's age--and he said he liked them and agreed that they looked alike. Especially the curls in their hair. And then he was off to Overflow Coffee Bar
--and then home. He was going to get an espresso for himself at the coffee bar. And for Lily? She would have a healthy snack.
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