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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Amy Dooley

Finding a balance as a family

Finding a balance as a family

Amy Dooley's relationship with motherhood has always been complex, but it has gotten her where she is today.

She is pushing herself into a new career via online college course work just as her two daughters push themselves through new arts and other interests into college and their final years of high school.

Dooley grew up on Long Island, where her parents divorced while she was still young.

After the divorce, Dooley was with her mother most of the time. She was a social worker and psychotherapist. Her grandmother filled in gaps created by her mother's busy schedule.

Finding her place

"We were in a very strict Catholic neighborhood. I grew up a bit like a fish out of water," Dooley recalls. "We ended up getting a family weekend house in the Catskills, and when my brother moved up full time, my husband and I decided to move up as well."

As a young woman, Dooley remembers "not a lot of guidance." She left high school young and went to massage school.

"Art and gym were my passions," she says. "I met a man at 20, got married four years later, we bought a house and had kids. Eventually we separated and the girls went with me."

Once a single mother, Dooley ended up finding a career for herself as a realtor. She settled in New Paltz, a community that accepted her in ways she had wished for as a girl.

She immediately found a community among other families. "It was great when the town ended up at the vanguard of the gay marriage movement. It was a big thing for us," she says as she reflects on her own mother coming out as a lesbian after her parents' divorce.

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Adjusting to a new freedom

In her new home she built a new life, eventually remarrying and finding the new freedom to follow her own dreams once again.

At first this meant a return to massage work. But then her love for art started calling and she went back to school, enrolling in SUNY Ulster to pursue a graphics design degree and career.

By this point her oldest girl, Chloe, was excelling in painting and other art media at Spark Media, while her younger girl, Layla, was starting to shift from computer coding towards video production.

"I had gotten turned off to art at a young age," Dooley explains, talking about an art teacher who lost a project she'd spent months working on, and the bad impressions she'd gotten from older friends in art college. "But I always missed it. I kept doing photography, and put a lot into it while I was doing real estate."

Nevertheless, going back to school took some adjustment.

"I was the oldest person in class most of the time," she says. "But it was exciting, and a lot of fun to get out an Xacto knife and glue again."

Her daughters were 14 and 12 when she started four years ago. She found that taking art classes gave her new worlds to explore with Chloe. Meanwhile, her new freedom of schedule and spirit gave her new horizons to be a closer mother to Layla.

A mother above all

One thing that has stayed constant through Dooley's careers as a massage therapist, realtor and now owner of her own graphics design business, has been her dedication to being a mother above all.

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"I knew I wanted to have kids since I was a kid," she says. "I always gave us time as a family. My life took detours for my kids, but I always figured I'd get to where I wanted when I got there."

Dooley is still taking classes and prepping for Chloe's high school graduation this June (Chloe is currently awaiting word on where she'll end up going to college). Dooley adds that she's already working on some
graphic design clients, including High Meadow School in Ulster County and RUPCO's new efforts in Newburgh.

"You know, the balance is good. I love getting through challenges," she says. "But I also schedule my life so we can stay a close family. It's just better, now, that I also have the new focus of art."

Just like her daughters.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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