Living With Kids: Megan Isennock

I’m so excited for you all to meet Megan today for Living With Kids. Megan and her husband, Rob, and their two kids live in a super cool apartment in Baltimore that used to sit on top of an event space/ gallery. And now that we are stuck inside for the foreseeable future that space has become a kids gymnasium/ play space/ lounge. And I am sure you can already tell from the intro photo that Megan and Rob’s house is full of some impressive and amazing artwork. Welcome, Megan!

Hello! My name is Megan, and I live in Baltimore City with my husband, Rob, and our kids Lou and Edie. We are tolerated by our two cats named Roger and Lizzie, and they in turn are taunted by three fish (though- in the name of responsible journalism- I think the tank will likely be down to two by the time you read this). 

Rob and I met in college as housemates. It took us about a year to realize we liked each other, and after breaking my foot on what I thought was our first date (Rob was, charmingly, still on the fence) we started going out. We’ll never know for sure which siren song he responded most to- my bright green knee-to-toe cast, or just relentlessly being together during my ten week recovery- but we started dating, and fourteen years later are still together.

Rob is artistic, analytical, and if you squint after a glass of wine, has a Jason Statham-meets-Stanley-Tucci thing going on. A testament to his very unique mind: Rob was an Art History major who planned to open a gallery and instead took a hard left and now owns a manufacturing company. He’s a great leader and is super smart, and I hope he’s as impressed with himself as I am. As many of his contracts are government-related, his company is considered essential, and we’ve been incredibly fortunate that his work has stayed steady. Especially since mine has not!

I worked for Downtown Baltimore’s business improvement district for many years, and left in 2019 to start my dream company. I signed my first client (a big one!) on March 13, and the next day Maryland completely shut down. My business, Wayfinder Baltimore, helps Baltimore-based companies recruit employees to the city. The companies sell candidates on the job and I sell them on the city. Through hyper-curated tours, I show candidates what their life here could look like. Once they’ve accepted the position, I help the trailing family/spouse with social on-boarding. It’s hard to break into friend groups or make meaningful connections while looking for work, even in a city like Baltimore where most people are friendly and help enthusiastically. My job is to show off Baltimore, and help people fall in love with living here. Or, it will be once I can safely be in a car with strangers again.

It’s been a struggle to not work. Adjusting to pandemic parenting and having no idea when things will return to normal is not easy. I constantly remind myself how lucky we are to be in a position to have one parent safely working, and one able to manage the kids and house- I realize many, many people don’t have that luxury. But I’m also allowing myself to feel the temporary loss of my business, especially as it was taking off. 

And that brings us to our kids, Lou and Edie. Lou is a handsome, brilliant grump. At 18 months he was building little vehicles with articulating hinges out of Tegu blocks, and at four, his work has gotten much larger and more detail-oriented. I am equally impressed and annoyed with his living room-wide projects. They are to be admired but NOT DISMANTLED. He gives very detailed instructions about how we are to to handle ourselves around his work, and he will occasionally set traps to see if I’ve messed with anything during naptime. He’s got an incredible memory, talks more than anyone I’ve ever met, and I am superficially really jealous that he’s both tan and freckled. Doesn’t seem fair. 

Edie is almost three, and she’s a ray of sunshine. She’s really even-keeled and the kind of kid who can play by herself for hours. Her independence is mostly amazing- she feels confident enough to use the potty or get snacks or dress herself for the day, but if you try to help at the wrong moment, she sometimes snaps. Lucky for her, she’s got the best smile and gorgeous dimples and it’s really, really hard to stay mad at her. Lou has spent a significant portion of his young life on the time-out steps, but Edie excels at toeing the line and wiggling back to good enough behavior before the sentencing is handed down. She’s smart, loving, and really, really funny. And though her wit sometimes seems beyond her years, no one on this earth loves a poop joke more than Edie. 

We live in Mount Vernon, which is a neighborhood on the northern boundary of Downtown. It’s really beautiful — the architecture is stunning, there are tons of trees, and because Baltimore is a secretly hilly city, we’re at a high point and have great views. Our section of the neighborhood feels a little like Brooklyn with brownstones, tons of young families, and great shops and restaurants. 

Pre-covid, we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Baltimore is an amazing city, and we’ve lived a really wonderful life here so far. We’re super social, and loved being able to walk the kids to early dinners, or run into friends on a stroll and end up in someone’s back yard for an impromptu play date/happy hour. For many years, living here felt like an elevated college campus experience. Almost everyone we liked and everything we wanted to do was within a ten minute walk. 

That’s beginning to change, which has been difficult to watch. Our kid’s school (which was super diverse, international, and directly across the street from us) closed for good. Our favorite restaurant closed forever as well, which hit our son the hardest. We recently drove by and he cried “MAMA I JUST WANT TO GO TO CITY CAFE AND ORDER A MINERAL WATER AND FRIES.” Me too, Lou! 

But for the sake of truly introducing you to where we live and why we live here, let’s pretend mostly everything will bounce back. Our city is so special and fun, and we have the most talented people creating restaurants, shops, experiences, and art here.

Baltimore has an incredible, and interconnected restaurant scene. Overwhelmingly, restauranteurs are friends (or at least friendly) and there are frequent pop-ups and collaborations. Within a few blocks of our door we can eat food from Japan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Korean, France, and Italy. Maryland is quite rural, and the state is nearly cut in half by the Chesapeake Bay, so many of our chefs establish and maintain close relationships with nearby farms and fisheries. When we’re all able to travel again, the food in Baltimore is worth a visit. 

Baltimore is also home to an incredible art scene. In, or directly adjacent to our neighborhood we have the Peabody Conservatory, Maryland Institute College of Art, the Walters Art Museum, two designated Arts Districts, two incredible arthouse movie theaters, a cooking school, Center Stage, the Hippodrome, and Everyman which offer remarkable regional and national theatre, not to mention the many galleries and co-ops.

As I photographed our home for this piece, I realized that almost all of our art is by local artists, many of whom have become friends. Our wedding portraits are by the amazing Erin Fitzpatrick (she gave Martha Stewart a portrait of her with Snoop and Martha shared it on her Instagram!); the large moody piece is by Jon Zwi who not only paints- he holds a PHD from Peabody, and creates amazing light box installations); several of our photographs are by Joe Giordano whose photojournalism, along with Devin Allen’s, have documented the last five years from Baltimore’s riots in 2015 and peaceful demonstrations this summer. We’ve also got a massive gallery wall featuring pieces from hyper-local art duo Edie & Lou, which is the envy of the collector world. 

I should also mention the painting in our bedroom. We call her The Lady, and she was purchased at a very fun pop-up gallery after too much wine. We were quite surprised when we picked her up the next day, because I did not remember her being quite so…vivacious. She’s been moved around a bit and now enjoys her lollipop in the quiet of our bedroom. She has a really lovely view of the church across the street and the cats keep her company during the day, so things mostly turned out well for her.

Even our (many) plants are inspired by a local artist. A few years ago our friend Hilton Carter (a great Insta follow) made fun of the dead plants I had left hanging in a window at our house. Inspired to prove to the both of us that I can keep children, cats, AND plants thriving, I forced myself to turn into indoorsy Mother Earth. Since then, I’ve nearly bankrupted us from purchases at local nurseries, but our house feels lush and bright, and I’ve only killed two and a half plants (the “half”- what’s left of a very sad fiddle leaf- is clearly visible in our living room photos). 

We love living in Baltimore. The city is vibrant and cool and very livable, we’re equidistant to mountains and beaches, and perfectly situated along I-95 making it possible to be in DC in one hour, Philly in two, and New York in three. We’ve got an amazing baseball stadium (our team is perhaps not the best in the league, but we love them) and Ravens games are the most fun way to freeze while you yell and drink overpriced cheap beer. And best of all are the weird, generous, enthusiastic people who live here. 

We lived a few blocks away in a gorgeous co-op building before we bought our current home. Rob and I had just gotten engaged, and our realtor neighbor suggested we look at a property that hadn’t hit the market yet. We weren’t itching to move, but agreed to see the house, and immediately put in an offer. Considering homes on our block sell in the $750-$850,000 range (with several soaring well above the million mark) we got a great deal and paid considerably less. This may be true in other cities, but people in Baltimore keep an eye on the market. Even if you’re not in a position to buy, there are always really cool properties coming online, and we all swap listings like baseball cards. 

Our house is unusual because for over 100 years the first floor was a pharmacy, and the top floors were originally a school. (It’s important to note that I’m certain Tupac, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Josh Charles have all been in our home because it was a pharmacy back when they attended Baltimore School for the Arts, which is around the corner.) By the time we bought the building the first floor was condemned, but the upstairs apartment space had been renovated. Being 26 and having no idea what to do with our sudden abundance of space, we converted the first floor into an art gallery/party venue. For years we hosted big events and parties, photo shoots, Creative Mornings, rehearsal dinners for close friends, etc.

Having kids put a dent in our willingness and ability to throw open our doors for big events, and for a few years the first floor was like a carless garage. But COVID forced us to rethink our use of space, and we’ve added an indoor playground and more furniture. Our house still feels a bit disjointed, but we’ve really come to appreciate the motion of “going downstairs” and treat it like we’re actually doing something exciting. 

Our lives, like everyone else’s, have changed drastically. I’m best-suited to be a working parent, and though I’m grateful for this time with our kids, it’s challenging. Furthermore, this is not a typical “stay at home parent” situation. We can’t run errands together, meet up with other kids, or even go to playgrounds. Right now, I fill every role in their life- teacher, parent, cook, cleaner, friend, disciplinarian, coach, mediator, punching bag- and on top of all of that, I have to keep them masked and scrubbed, and still add some magic and fun to their days because they’re 2 and 4 and deserve to feel dreamy and silly. There are no breaks, ever. And as much as I miss work, and feel an enormous loss from losing that part of me, I can’t imagine also being accountable professionally while pandemic parenting. I’m in awe of the parents who are.

in our lives we’re jealous of people with lawns, which is something our urban-dwelling brains couldn’t have conceived of a few months ago. All the reasons we love to live in a city have been removed indefinitely, so it’s hard to rationalize staying here sometimes (even though we absolutely will). The pandemic opened our eyes to the amazing parks in Baltimore, so our daily life now consists of pool hopping when our generous friends with pools aren’t home and going on hikes or doing a little school work on a blanket in a park. None of us are particularly outdoorsy, so it’s been good for me to force us into nature and take advantage of all the greenspace we’d been neglecting for 14 years. 

I wish I’d had a better understanding of how drawn out this would turn out to be. There was a “snow day” quality in the beginning. It felt like if we all stayed off the roads and helped dig each other out once the storm passed, everything would go back to normal. I remember watching videos of fitness instructors giving free classes on Italian roof tops and thinking how cool it was that everyone was taking care of each other there. But in America, people are refusing to wear masks or comply with safety mandates, and there will be no end in sight until we start looking out for each other and following the science.

This experience has already changed us- in some big ways, and smaller, unexpected ways, too. When we watch movies, one of us either wistfully points out the packed restaurant or unmasked subway riders, or we cringe and yell, “SIX FEET APART!” It’s still so strange to think about how deeply we took for granted the ability to hire a sitter, get a little dressed up, and meet friends at a nearby bar or restaurant. I always felt grateful that financially we could do that, but I had no idea the freedom and safety to do it could be stripped away. I hope when we come out of this, we appreciate community more. I miss our friends, our nanny, our neighbors, shop owners, indifferent bartenders, rude baristas, bored art school kids- literally anyone with a pulse who used to cross my path. 

I’m learning lots of little things about my kids. Or maybe, it’s less learning and more noticing? Our time together pre-COVID when we were working and in school was sacred, and I felt like we had to have fun and pack in as much as we could. But now, time just stretches out, and we’ve slowed down so much. I see little things like how Edie dances from spot to spot, and rarely just walks. Or how Lou is terrified of our cat Roger and will go to great lengths to avoid him, even when Roger is passed out on the floor and a threat to no one. They notice me in a new way too. I’m brought into their games and conversations more, and they’re starting to ask for my opinion, and not just my permission. 

I hope our kids remember us being curious together. We take their questions and musings seriously, and make a big deal out of doing the research together. Lou (sloooowlllyyy) types the words into Google, and we snuggle and watch videos and read articles together. Sometimes they’re super engaged, and sometimes they wished they’d never thought to ask how bees make honey, but either way we get to the bottom of things. Young children have brilliant, boundless minds, and I want Edie and Lou to always feel that their questions deserve answers. 

And I hope they forget the isolation and codependence of this time. They were both incredibly social and independent before the pandemic, and I don’t want them to lose those beautiful pieces. At two and four, so many important traits are forming, and the reinforcement of being without peers and other authority figures worries me. Kids are resilient, and we’re doing our best to keep Edie and Lou engaged and happy, but there are so many important things we can’t give them right now. They went from having busy, rich lives living in a diverse, cool city with a million things to do and people who loved them, to being stuck in the house with one person who can’t possibly recreate all the things that made their life before COVID so wonderful. 

My favorite thing about living with my kids is how much Rob and I like them. I assumed we’d love them- that whole “growing them in my body” part really ignited some strong feelings- but they really dazzle me. Edie is such a cool person. She’s a performer, super funny, whip smart, and really content on her own. When she brings me into her little world it’s like standing in sunshine. And Lou is totally his own guy. He’ll work diligently for an hour recreating a house he saw on TV out of magnatiles, and he’ll demand you take his work seriously while wearing a bathing suit, pipe cleaner wings, and a PJ Masks mask. He’s also taken to drawing happy or angry eyebrows in marker on his forehead to reinforce what I consider to be already very clear nonverbal communication. 

The thought of them one day moving out and starting their lives is so exciting (I can’t wait to see what they’re like as adults), and that I might one day actually sleep again is a dream I dare not speak aloud. But I’m already bored and lonely thinking about them not being here all the time. 

I wish someone had told me how much of your own past gets worked out through parenting. I often find myself over-correcting (or completely ignoring) behaviors and it’s really unfair to our kids. It takes a lot of work and communication to recognize unhealthy patterns, and it takes even more work to trace those patterns back and unpack them. We owe it to our kids to let their mistakes and successes be their own, and not mired in emotions or expectations that have nothing to do with them. I hope that part will get easier as they get older, and I can try to explain my reactions, and apologize. 

And this is so obvious, but I wish I’d been able to fully understand how fast the time goes. It took two years and some science to get pregnant with Lou, and that all happened six years ago, somehow. We were so miserable then, wondering if we’d ever have kids, and now we have two! And they’re becoming actual people! Children make time race forward at a heartbreaking speed, and there are a thousand little things that happen every day that I want to remember. 

——

Thank you, Megan! It was so fun to get to peek around this house. The bright colors, the art and plants everywhere, the unique spaces. It truly seems like it would be a lovely place to raise a family. You can tell Rob and Megan (not to mention Lou and Edie) have big personalities and this is definitely the house to match that.

I really appreciated what Megan said too about how this isolation might be impacting her kids. It’s easy to be really focused on getting through the day or through the summer or whatever the next milestone is, but I think Megan is right that this pandemic will have long lasting impacts on most of us, not least of all our kids. I think so many parents, like Megan, are doing their best to manage schedules, meals, together time and alone time and also try and give their kids some sort of growth and enrichment. It’s a lot for everyone.

What have you tried to do to keep your kids involved and engaged and home? Or are there days (weeks?) when they spend a lot of time on their phones and iPads? How are you keeping yourself engaged and involved? Or are you still in survival mode?


Home styling for the shoot by Adel Ainsile. You can follow Megan on Instagram. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram too.

Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at features@designmom.com.

20 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Megan Isennock”

  1. Yes! Baltimore represent! We have been in Baltimore City for 10 years now, and have had 2 kids within that time. It’s a great city for families, has a ton of parks and so much fun free stuff to do. It’s true that so many longterm restaurants and shops here are closing one by one, and it’s getting depressing some days. I’m ready and excited for when people can come see how awesome this city is.

  2. What an amazing home! I’d gladly quarantine here with family…. it’s incredibly large, homey, colorfully stimulating, & I could see myself sitting in a comfy chair reading, drinking coffee & looking out the windows as the weather changes.

  3. This is a lovely house tour and beautifully written by Megan. I love it when she talks about spending more time with her kids and their changing relationship: “they’re starting to ask for my opinion, and not just my permission”. I only know Baltimore through Anne Tyler novels but it certainly sounds like a great place to live! ;-)

  4. Hi Megan! I probably live 15 minutes north of you in the ‘burbs. I’ve this city and the way you spoke about it. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your school; and restaurants and stores (Trohv!).

    I was just speaking to my husband how our kids had independent lives before all this and now it’s been taken away. It is part of their growth as children and without it, what do you do? How do you foster independence for a 6 yr old without school?

    1. My dad often sent me to the corner shop to buy him a pack of gum, etc. When I was 8, even going to make copies of homework felt hugely independent! There are so many little tiny ways. You could even ask your kid what feels scary to do alone and support them to do it.

  5. What a cool house! Love the open space and bright colors. Every image sceams, “happy.” Thanks for sharing, Megan.
    “They went from having busy, rich lives living in a diverse, cool city with a million things to do and people who loved them, to being stuck in the house with one person who can’t possibly recreate all the things that made their life before COVID so wonderful.” I really feel this (from here in NYC) – but also bet you are doing a pretty wonderful job!

  6. What a great tour! I also live in Bmore city and share so many of the same thoughts and feelings about this awesome home. But yes, being stuck inside a small space with two young kids and not able to do ALL the city things we used to do has been tough. It’s been making us think…should we move? Before it didn’t matter if we didn’t have a back yard- we had our city park. Or didn’t have a space to spread out- we were usually out the door and exploring all weekend. I’ve never eaten so many meals at the same table before in my life. I’m hoping this is just a phase. Because charm city is so charming. ps. City café closing, along with so many other favorites is such a punch in the gut.

  7. Baltimore ! Who knew?!? I instantly looked up MICA as a possibility for my smart art loving High School Senior. What a fun city. We can at least visit someday post COVID. Love your vibrant house !!

  8. Such a fun, colorful house! I think your plants look amazing.

    Yes yes yes to so many of the things you said here. Pandemic parenting is hard. My kids are older (13 and 9) and I am totally with you about the lack of independence they now have. Plus social isolation. And yes – my husband and I are now in charge of EVERYTHING for them which I think we’re all pretty tired of at this point. I also have had my (long-running) business take a nose dive. I think it’ll come back eventually, and what you said about not having to be professionally accountable while also running everything for my kids is also true for me. But I do also really miss doing my own deep work and the feeling of accomplishment/satisfaction of work.

  9. I LOVE THIS HOUSE. I love all the colour – it is so collected and looks like fun people live there! I have bought my first home and will be moving soon – I have been tossing up whether I want to embrace my love of colour or go more neutral/natural. I think this home might have sealed the deal! I especially love that incredible trailing plant in the kitchen, the art and that your son draws emotional eyebrows!

  10. Lovely and colorful house. What resonates with me today the most though was “I wish someone had told me how much of your own past gets worked out through parenting.”

  11. Oh my gosh, I just couldn’t love this interview (or this gorgeous home!) any more. Megan, please be my friend! You said so many things here that made me crack up and tear up both – so funny and wise.

    As someone who runs her own company that is somehow thriving during this time, I’m in awe of you peeps who are lead parenting right now. I love being a working mom boss despite the juggle that entails, but the slow pace, the butt wiping, the constant questions and ups and downs of toddlerhood really exhaust me. I can’t imagine not being able to work right now, just for my own sanity, so I commend you!

    Thanks so much for letting us take a peek into your unique, colorful and fun space!

  12. Margaret Scott

    What a brilliant writer Megan is!! I loved reading this. And what a beautiful home and amazing family she has. I hope she is able to continue with her business once Covid 19 is a distant memory for us one day.

  13. Gorgeous home full of personality and such thoughtful and witty writing! One of my very favorite Living with Kids posts.

  14. I grew up in Baltimore City, attended Baltimore School for the Arts and went to the pharmacy where you now live! It’s funny because after living in Atlanta for almost 10 years we are thinking of moving back. One thing you did not touch in is the extreme poverty, deep racial tension and racial inequality that permeate the city. The crime rate is very high and for years I never felt safe as a young woman walking alone in the city. The public schools are notoriously poor ( I know because I attended them🤣) so most people who can afford to send their children to private school, further deepening the divide in the city. I am not trying to be negative and I adore my city, I just think it’s important to be honest and realistic about the hard ships the city faces.

    1. As someone who lived throughout Baltimore for almost 20 years (Homewood, Mt Washington) and then the surrounding areas (Owings Mills, Howard County), I totally concur. There are great things about the city -but there are deep issues (crime, the schools) that other cities seem to have a better handle on.

    2. So true. As a black woman whose husband actually works in Baltimore (though we live just outside DC where my job is), Baltimore has such palatable race and class issues. There’s so much that I love about Baltimore when we’re up there, but it still has a deeply toxic feeling I can’t shake. We don’t live there (despite it being much more affordable than DC) because I refuse to raise my daughter there. DC and Atlanta aren’t perfect by any means, but after having spent my life in places with thriving Black middle classes (which in my experience creates a place – workplaces – in a super segregated society for cross-racial interactions that allow white people to have meaningful interactions with a range of black people that challenge the stereotypes white people believe about black people), I can’t see voluntarily moving someplace that didn’t have that.

      But your home is lovely, and I can’t help but think your services are needed more broadly than just for companies trying to hire employees. It sounds like you would offer really kick ass tours of Baltimore and I’d love to go on one!

  15. A beautifully written family, home story. I’m still waiting for my 20 somethings to ask for my opinion, so well done! : )

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