A Freelance Journalist and World Traveler Shares Her Expert Tips for Flying With Kids

After years of working as a gossip reporter in the entertainment news industry, journalist Jordi Lippe-McGraw decided to let her love of healthy living and travel guide her into a freelance writing career. A bit later (while on a European road trip!), Jordi got a huge surprise when she found out she was pregnant with her first child — but being a mom to nearly one-year-old Wilder hasn’t slowed down her work or her travels around the world. In fact, her little guy has already been on 14 flights and visited three countries with his jet-setting parents! Scroll down to learn more about how Jordi juggles being a working mother in New York City, find out the extraordinary location she announced her pregnancy, and read her expert tips and tricks for traveling with a baby.

 

Name: Jordi Lippe-McGraw, Freelance Journalist and Host of Diaper Baggage Podcast
Age: 33
Location: New York, New York
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University
Children: Wilder, 11 months

 

First, can you walk us through how you got to this point in your career?

 

Today, I’m a full-time freelance writer. I cover mostly lifestyle topics: travel, architecture, design, and wellness. I’m also a certified holistic health coach, which comes in handy with my writing. I also write a lot of entertainment stories because I have a background in celebrity news. I was a gossip reporter for six years — I worked at Life & Style and In Touch magazines — and was an on-the-ground person interviewing celebrities and basically stalking them. I still use that experience now in my career when I interview celebrities but today, I do that for outlets like Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, TodayDepartures, The Points Guy, and Gotham. I actually went to school for broadcast journalism — I went to Boston University — and I thought I wanted to be a local news reporter. I actually got some job offers after I graduated, but they were two hours north of Syracuse, NY, working nights and weekends, and working for under $20,000 per year. I thought I’d just be really unhappy doing that, so I decided to take a job at Life & Style instead. I was fortunate that I got to do a lot of TV appearances through that job like on The Wendy Williams Show and MSNBC and now, as a freelancer, I’ve gone back to those places as a travel journalist.

After being at Life & Style for six years, I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. I wanted to wake up early and go to the gym, have time to cook, make my own schedule, and have the freedom to be able to travel more. I worked really hard to build up freelancing clips while I was still working at the magazine and was able, by February 2015, to finally have enough outside work to leave and go full-time freelance and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

I was also the reporter that interviewed Stormy Daniels years ago, so I randomly returned to the gossip world a year ago when that whole story came to light once Donald Trump was president and Stormy Daniels was paid off to not talk about their affair. [It was a wild time, and I was super pregnant.] I was on these TV shows being interviewed, talking about our president and a porn star and an affair, and I’m sitting there very pregnant and the baby’s kicking me, and I can barely get up on the chair and it was just a very weird moment in my life but hopefully my son, Wilder, will one day think it’s pretty cool.

 

 

What does your typical work schedule look like?

 

Being a freelance journalist is a blessing, but it’s also difficult because I don’t have a set office space to go to every day and my hours are a bit more malleable. That also means my work life and personal life blend together. It’s already hard for a mom to switch between work mode and mom mode, but my situation can be even more challenging because I’m in and out of our home throughout the day. If I’m in my room working and I hear Wilder laughing or crying, I want to know what’s going on with him. 

Right now, we have a nanny Monday through Wednesday — sometimes Monday through Thursday — from about 10:30 am to 6 pm. We found someone who is willing to have flexible hours because, sometimes, I need to cover an event at 9 am or stay out until 7 pm, and my husband doesn’t usually come home from work until 630pm. On Fridays, I get to be with Wilder alone, which is great, so I basically condense my workweek into four days. Sometimes, I have to work during weekends or squeeze things in during his naps on Fridays but, for the most part, it’s a four-day workweek and we have a nanny for 25-30 hours per week. I work really, really hard and intensely Monday through Thursday because I do have a lot of writing to get done but I have the flexibility that if the nanny is running late, or anything else comes up, I’m not rushing to get to an office. I have to be good at setting my own schedule and being able to walk away from Wilder and do my work, so I actually try not to work from home because it’s too distracting to have him around.

 

Can you walk us through your daily routine?

 

Wilder has been waking up super early lately around 5:45 am (he usually sleeps in until 6:30 am), but we won’t go into his room to get him until 6 am unless he’s screaming. I’ll go to the gym first, and my husband feeds Wilder breakfast and gets him ready while I’m working out. Then, they go get me a cup of coffee and meet me at the gym, and we go for a little family walk before I drop my husband off at the gym around 8 am. I’m in charge of Wilder until his first nap around 9 am.

I’ll then start working and get myself ready for the day before our nanny arrives between 10-10:30 am which is around when Wilder wakes up from his nap. My husband is already at work by this time, so I touch base with the nanny, and we chit-chat before I leave the house to work elsewhere. She’s usually with Wilder until around 6 pm and checks in with me throughout the day, sends photos, and gives me updates. She’ll take him to a class or the library for story time, and I may pop home in the afternoon while they’re out. I’ll write between three and five stories a day depending on how long they are and who I’m writing them for.

Our nanny leaves between 6 and 6:30 pm after my husband and I are done with work. We only have a one-bedroom apartment, so Wilder actually sleeps in a converted walk-in closet in our living room. Once he goes to sleep, we don’t really have access to our living room. We actually don’t mind it because we have little date nights in our bedroom — one of us prepares our dinner, and we pick a show to watch and just chill. We’re usually asleep by 10 pm.

 

 

Why did you and your husband ultimately decide on an in-home nanny as your childcare for Wilder?

 

The two biggest factors were scheduling and affordability. We needed flexibility because I don’t work traditional hours. Daycare doesn’t necessarily offer that — the child usually needs to be out of there by 6:30 pm and that doesn’t usually work for our schedule. Also, because I have the flexibility to condense my workweek, having full-time childcare was more than we could afford, honestly, whether it was a daycare or a nanny. So, a part-time, in-home nanny just worked best for us and our needs.

 

How did starting a family affect your career and long-term goals?

 

My pregnancy was interesting because I was actually told that I might have a really hard time having children because I had a low egg count. So, my husband and I didn’t really know what the future held for us and we didn’t really know how far down the path we were going to go if we weren’t able to have children. The weird thing was, I got pregnant on the first try. My head was in one space, preparing for not being able to get pregnant and trying to figure out what we were going to do about that, and then, all of a sudden, I was pregnant. So, I really wasn’t prepared.

I actually found out I was pregnant when I was on a European road trip. My husband and I traveled all the time because of my career but also because we just love to travel. We actually made a pact that we would go to all the continents before we had kids. And we were on this European trip and, for some reason, something told me I might be pregnant. We were in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and I was like, hmm, something just feels a little different. When we got to Brussels in Belgium, I tried to take a pregnancy test, but it was inconclusive, so I had to go find another pregnancy test that was a little bit more sensitive. I had to wait until Luxembourg to take that test and that’s where I confirmed I was pregnant — it took three different countries!

When we got the news, we were obviously very happy but also taken aback a bit because we had booked a whole bunch of travel for after that trip because we weren’t expecting me to be pregnant. Two weeks later, we were going to bike around Italy for our wedding anniversary, and we were going to Antarctica in January, so it was a surprise for us. At first, I wondered, “Should I be doing these things?” But I consulted with my doctor, explained my career and our love of travel, and we agreed as long as my pregnancy was healthy and everything was going well that I could go on all of these trips. I ended up actually announcing my pregnancy from Antartica when I was about five months pregnant and that was our last continent, so everything kind of came full circle. My pregnancy didn’t really slow me down from traveling. We’ve slowed down a bit since having a baby, but he’s already been on 14 flights and to three different countries, so we’ve just figured out how to work him into our love of travel, which obviously takes some flexibility.

 

How did you navigate maternity leave while being a freelance writer?

 

I was actually in a very, very unique situation during my pregnancy. While I had been freelancing for years, I actually took on a full-time job that had a fully remote workforce, writing content about personal finance. Aside from having to call into a few meetings, I was still able to make my own schedule and get my writing done whenever but, technically, I was a full-time employee with those benefits. I found out I was pregnant one week after I took that job and I was very fortunate that they had a maternity leave policy where they’d pay me a full salary for three months. So, when I had Wilder, I didn’t have to stress for the first few months of his life. The company was actually later sold, so I no longer work for them, but I lucked out and was able to have a pretty traditional maternity leave after we had our son. He was born in June and, come September, I went back full-time with freelancing.

 

After having Wilder, did you ever consider not returning to work and maybe becoming a stay-at-home mom?

 

We very much live in a two-income household, so me not working isn’t really an option for us. I also wanted to be around for Wilder, especially in his first year, so taking a full-time office job also didn’t seem like an option for me. So after going back to work, I was totally reliant on my freelance income. My husband and I sat down and decided the minimum amount I needed to make to cover our costs, and I’ve been lucky enough to hit that number every single month — sometimes more than that. We had enough savings to hold us over, as well, so I can be a freelancer and a mom.

 

 

Was returning to work a difficult transition for you?

 

I really love what I do, so I was eager to get back into the scene full-time, take meetings, write more, and hopefully travel more. I was excited about being me, not just me as a mom, for at least a few days of the week, and focus on things that make me happy as an individual. My career now is definitely different from how I operated before baby — I was able to write a lot more and do a lot more in a day prior to Wilder. It’s taken me months and months to figure out a reasonable schedule that really works for me.

 

You’re also launching a podcast — tell us about that!

 

My friend Juliet and I used to be gossip reporters together, and she also went freelance covering lifestyle. She has a three-year-old daughter, and we found ourselves having these conversations that we couldn’t have with our other mom friends about our feelings on motherhood and raising children. We realized that when we brought up these topics to other moms, some were stand-offish, but others said, “Oh my God, thank you for saying that, I’ve been feeling the same way and didn’t know how to talk about it for fear that I’d be considered a bad mom.” So, we decided to create a podcast, called Diaper Baggage, to have these conversations out in the open. It’s all about how to get rid of mom-guilt and have an honest conversation about how to manage your pre-baby wants with your post-baby needs. Since we’re both working moms, this is more of a passion project, but hopefully, it becomes something more. We’re thinking of doing an 8-10 episode first season of evergreen topics with the episodes being 30 minutes long each, perfect for a working mom on the go. We just want to make sure women are taking care of themselves, tackling self-care, and making sure they’re still a person besides also being a mom.

 

You’ve traveled quite a bit with Wilder — what are your tricks for surviving flights and big trips with a baby?

 

As every mom knows, a baby changes so much during the first year. Every single trip we took, he was in a different stage because every week during that time he changed. When we went with him to Portugal at 10 weeks, it was actually really easy because, at that age, he would be awake for an hour, then sleep for an hour — there was no schedule, we would just go. Now, he has a nap schedule, he’s much more affected by time changes, and he wants to move around all the time on planes. But he’s also not old enough to fully express himself, so it can be a bit more challenging. I think it’s really helpful to have two parents for one child — my husband and I take turns if he needs to move around while we’re flying.

While traveling with Wilder, we always try to choose seats in the back of the plane, so we don’t piss off a lot of people. We bring toys that we know he likes to keep him distracted, we try to time our flights around nap times so we know that for at least an hour to 90 minutes, he’ll be asleep. If it’s a longer flight, maybe he’ll get two naps in. We’re also just really efficient with packing — we try not to overpack because 99 percent of the places you’re going, you can buy stuff you need. If you’re going somewhere for a week, don’t try to pack a week’s worth of diapers, they’ll take up way too much space. Just bring what you need for a short period of time if, god forbid, your luggage gets lost.

Also, always put your baby in a carrier as you go through security (it makes things a lot faster!) and have a good travel stroller (I love the Mountain Buggy Nano). If you have a really little one and you’re on a long flight with a bassinet seating option, I’d invest in the CoziGo — we used it when we went to Portugal. It’s basically a tent you pop over the bassinet on the plane and it makes it super dark and it muffles sound but is still breathable for baby.

 

 

What has been the most surprising aspect of being a working mom?

 

I didn’t anticipate how much of my mind would be taken up thinking about Wilder when I wasn’t with him. I knew that I would be tired, I knew that I’d be physically exhausted, but I didn’t know how much I’d be thinking about him. I’m always thinking, “Did he nap well today? Does he need diapers? Oh, he’s going to run out of wipes in two weeks!” It’s constant, and that’s been the hardest adjustment, for me, of becoming a parent.

 

What’s been the biggest challenge of being a working mom?

 

I do not function well when I get little sleep, so that’s been a big challenge. It’s been difficult for us to recognize when we need a break and need to step away and take a minute for self-care. And it’s OK to do that — you’re not being selfish in a negative way, but a positive way, and it’s making you the best parent and mom you can be to take this time. It’s also OK to not obsess about all the little things and recognize that everything is a phase. We will get through it!

 

What’s been the most rewarding part of being a mom?

 

Being able to watch this little thing grow and become a person and share our passions with him and, hopefully, we become this great little trio that can go on so many more adventures. It’s amazing to see the world through his eyes and watch how he reacts to new places and scenarios. I can’t wait to do that even more — it’s just been so rewarding. Our sense of family is such a deep-rooted love, it makes me tear up!

 

What are you most confident about and more insecure about when it comes to parenting?

 

I’m insecure about a lot of things, and it changes depending on what stage he’s in. I’m concerned if he’s eating the right things or eating enough. I’m confident in the fact that I’ve gotten to a point where I really do know him best, and if something feels off to me, to listen to my gut. You can get all of this advice from experts or friends, but you really know your child best and if something feels wrong, I won’t do it or ask for a second opinion. I really push for whatever I think he needs.

 

 

What has been your favorite motherhood memory so far with Wilder?

 

I breastfed exclusively for nine months and then weaned, but when we were in Portugal, he was hungry, and I had to feed him while we were visiting this insane castle. I walked over to this little corner where there was this throne thing, and I just breastfed him right there. And I remember looking around and thinking, “This is weird but pretty cool!”

 

How did you guys decide on Wilder’s adorably unique name?

 

We obviously love to travel, so we wanted something that sounded adventurous. We honestly don’t know where we came across the name or word Wilder — I don’t know anyone named Wilder — but some way, it popped into our heads and we put it on our list and kept coming back to it. We really wanted to inspire him to go on his own journey in this world and hopefully travel as well. His middle name is Mooney, which is Gaelic for “treasure.” So, he’s our wild treasure.

 

Can you share with us five mom hacks you rely on to make things work in your day-to-day life?

 

1. Have several babysitters in rotation, so someone is always available.

2. Use a SlumberPod when traveling. I swear Wilder sleeps better on the road sometimes because of it.

3. When I realize I run out of something, I tell Alexa to order it immediately. That way I don’t forget.

4. Go to the gym in the morning. You’re less likely to go after a long day.

5. I’ll put Wilder in the carrier when I’m doing chores around the house to keep him occupied and get things done.

 

 

Jordi Lippe-McGraw is The Everymom…

Favorite family tradition? We don’t have many yet. But creating an annual New Year’s card — we made our first this year.

Easy go-to family meal to prepare? Throw frozen cauliflower gnocchi and chicken apple sausage from Trader Joe’s on a sheet pan. Coat in some EVOO, salt and pepper. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Toss in Trader Joe’s kale vegan pesto and serve with a Trader Joe’s salad mix.

Your dream vacation? No. 1 on my bucket list right now is going gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Not so baby friendly, though.

Last home item you splurged on? A large photograph by Gray Malin for our foyer.

Guilty pleasure? Anything with truffles in it.

Most embarrassing mom moment? When Wilder was just a few weeks old, I attempted to take him to the store and he screamed so much on the street people actually came up to offer me help.

Proudest career achievement? Getting my first New York Times article.

Favorite date night activity? Walking. My husband and I have our best conversations when we’re out for a stroll around the city alone.

Best mom advice you’ve been given? You’re not a bad mom, but sometimes you have bad days.

 

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