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Catching Up With First Lady Katie O’Malley


KatieOmalley webCatherine Curran (Katie) O’Malley is a mother of four, Baltimore District Court Judge, and Maryland’s First Lady. How does she juggle these three major roles in her life plus ambitious initiatives as First Lady and still find time for herself?

CF MARCH 2011 cover FBby Mary McCarthy

Maryland Governor Martin and Judge Katie O’Malley have four children: Grace, 20, Tara, 19, William, 13 and Jack, 8.  The girls are in college and the boys attend area private schools. I heard her speak at a function, and was completely amazed at how warm, funny, and relaxed she was. So in celebration of Women’s History Month, I asked her for the interview, to ask the all-important question: HOW DO YOU DO IT?!

CF: How did you decide to make a career of law and become an Assistant State’s Attorney and Judge?

KO: Well, I was very bad at math so there was no way I was going to become a doctor. My strengths were in reading, logic, people, and problem solving. I love the law. I grew up going to court with my dad as a kid and loved seeing criminal law in the prosecutor’s office, the jury, the trial- everything. After I started having kids, I went from circuit court with felonies like homicides back to the district court where there isn’t so much trauma. As a mom, it can be hard. When someone’s child is dead, you are working as a Judge, but you’re fighting back tears as a mother.

Bank robberies have always been my favorite. No victim.

CF:   How do you deal with the line between your husband’s political career and your children’s privacy?

KO:  It’s always been hard. Going to the National Governor’s Convention and speaking with other governors’ spouses was really helpful to me in terms of how to draw that line. Martin’s really great- he loves cashews, but he knows better than to come home and go “Where are my cashews?!”
But my kids have definitely been bullied- one kid just kept coming up to my son and hitting him and saying ‘what are you going to do, raise my taxes?’ It was awful. There isn’t much you can do to shield them- you just have to do your best to give them the skills to deal with different situations.

I learned a lot from my dad (Judge O’Malley’s father, J. Joseph Curran, Jr., was the longest serving elected Attorney General in Maryland history), who is so wonderful about politics when I was growing up. Our house got picketed by the KKK and our milk bottles were smashed- so I can help my kids deal with it because I dealt with it.

Once during a parade, we were stopped and a guy drinking a beer kept yelling at us on a float. It seemed like forever before the parade started moving again, but when it did, my son, who was only 6, turned around and yelled back at the guy.

We are always learning to balance. It’s like the saying ‘if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.’

CF: How over the years have you learned to balance career and motherhood?

KO: I am not sure I’ve learned it yet. It was more difficult when Martin was Mayor of Baltimore because the kids were younger- I couldn’t have done it without my mom. There’s no one right answer for one person- we’re all just trying to get by. I love yoga and working out. You have to find time for yourself. Find something you like- whether it’s swimming or walking- find some alone time. My guilty pleasure is online shopping- I love the clearance sections at Banana Republic and Sundance. And for me, pedicures at (local Annapolis salon) Bella are a great way to relax, too!

CF:   Is there one particular parenting or motherhood lesson you’ve learned over the years about raising kids?

KO: You can’t be too rigid. In my life, with four kids and full time politics, you can’t demand that everyone sit down together for dinner at five. Bedtime can’t be at the same time every night because our schedules have to be flexible so the kids can spend time with their dad and me.

I recently attended a function for one of my kids and we approached the registration desk. The woman looked at my eight year old and said ‘you’re on my bad list’ because we hadn’t turned in the right paperwork. I mean, I’m barely keeping my head above water and she’s publicly blaming an 8 year old and then mentioning aloud to the next kid who was also on the bad list that ‘the governor is also on my bad list.’

It would be nice if we could all be less rigid!

CF:  What are your thoughts on the so-called ‘mommy wars’- women who stay home full time versus those who work outside the home?

KO: Staying home with your kids is great if you can afford it. We couldn’t, so I’ve always worked. Women may speak against other women out of jealousy or unhappiness, but we’re all in it together. Motherhood is a blink in time- before you know it, they’re grown up.  

CF:  Let’s talk about your initiatives as Maryland’s First Lady: Bullying Prevention (you recently did an “It Gets Better” video), Healthy Eating, Truancy…

KO: The suicides among kids are so sad. 4th graders should not be jumping out windows. Kids can be so mean, but when bullying is leading to suicides- it just needs to stop. We need to take action. Once a year is not enough to be reporting bullying in Maryland- the policy needs to change.

I’ve been working as a volunteer through the University of Baltimore School of Law’s truancy prevention program. We sit down with kids who have lots of absences from school in a non-punitive setting and we just ask them what they need. Sometimes they’re being bullied, having learning issues, sometimes it’s as simple as a TV that needs to be moved out of a kid’s room, or a new alarm clock needed. There are some very hardworking kids out there if we can just help give them the tools they need.

We were inspired in our healthy eating initiative by First Lady Michelle Obama. We’re promoting ‘eat local, buy local,’ growing our own food in the new vegetable and herb garden here at the house on the same spot where the Victorian Victory Garden used to be. We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and we love showcasing local products in an annual farmers’ market on the lawn.

The Swiss Chard is doing really well- we have a LOT of Swiss Chard. We have cucumbers and onions and peas…the tomatoes were definitely better the second year, and this year we have a new beehive as well.

CF:  And finally, a question from one of our readers on our Facebook page: Given that your husband Governor Martin O’Malley was in a band, have you had any other boy band crushes besides your husband?

KO: He was officially my first major boy band crush, although I always liked Bono from U2. If I could have lunch with any two people, they’d be Ghandhi and Bono. I met Martin in a bar when he was playing music and my friend introduced us. He was playing these Irish folk songs with a big Irish flag hanging behind him and I thought ‘what a geek’- but I thought he was really cute.

Mary McCarthy is the Editor of Chesapeake Family.

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