Carrie Ellen Adamian’s key to success? She maintains a sense of humor in every facet of life. From raising 10-year-old twin girls, Addison and Olivia, to navigating hectic workdays as director of marketing and ticket sales at The Dallas Opera, Adamian doesn’t take anything too seriously.
“I always tell my girls you have to embrace yourself and keep a sense of humor—and you can survive anything life puts in front of you,” says the 46-year-old University Park mom.
Even through life’s most trying times—like her ex-husband’s battle with a rare neurological form of dementia—she uses humor to cope.
“I never thought I would be handed this to deal with,” she says. “Every parenting handbook became obsolete in our household. I just had to figure it out.”
So she did. Now, well-versed in life as a single mom, Adamian relies on a support system of friends and a stable of trusted babysitters to make it through each day. (And of course, it helps that she loves what she does.)
After two decades of working in performing arts in New York City, both on Broadway stages and behind-the-scenes for the prestigious Lincoln Center, the native Houstonian landed in Dallas nearly five years ago. She’s become a fixture in the local arts scene since—and shows no signs of slowing down.
Where does your love of performing arts come from? I got bitten by the bug when I was in fifth grade. I went to a student matinee of Scrooge and realized that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
So why did you transition to behind-the-scenes work? I was on Broadway for three years while finishing my degree at Fordham University, and it was a really great experience. But I got tired of doing a night and weekend job, so I got into the business side of Broadway. I found being in a marketing position satisfied both sides of my brain. It’s where I’ve been the happiest.
Will you ever return to the stage? I don’t think so, not professionally.
Any indication that the girls will follow in your footsteps? One takes dancing. The other takes music theater classes. I think it would be great if they did find their way to Broadway, but if they don’t I’m fine with that.
How are the girls coping with their father’s illness? He’s in the final stages and in an assisted-living facility. He’s basically been sick since they were about 5. It’s a different upbringing. They’ve certainly become more compassionate and empathetic. This is our path and we’ve found peace with it.
How do you cope? I was completely paralyzed by grief the first two years. When we transferred him to his facility, one of my girls looked at me and said, “Mommy, you used to be so funny and make us laugh. Are you ever going to laugh again?” I thought, “Carrie Ellen you need to pull up your boot straps and move forward with building a life for these girls.”
What’s your parenting style? I call myself a hybrid parent because I have to wear the pants and carry the handbag. I’m tough, but very fair and loving. We make the best of what’s been given to us.
How do you stay sane? It’s hard to carve out time for myself, but I love to go on long runs and listen to classic Guns N’ Roses. It’s either long runs with Axl or a Soul Cycle class. I also rely on my close girlfriends and parents.
Do you get many girls’ nights out? Each month we host something at one of our houses. We pick a country and re-create the environment. The last one was Russia.
What are your favorite spots to take Addison and Olivia to around Dallas? I bring them here to the Winspear. I’ve taken them to Dallas Summer Musicals. We love to go to dinner: Penne Pomodoro, Malai Kitchen, True Food Kitchen. Their favorite restaurant is R+D Kitchen.
Do you have a regular vacation spot? My family has a place in Crested Butte [in Colorado]. We go skiing in the winter and hiking, whitewater rafting and horseback riding in the summer.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I can be very shy. I’m also very private.
Did you always want to have kids? Absolutely. I could never have imagined my life without children. And I’m so glad I have girls. What’s so surprising about motherhood is the humor and perspective it brings to everyday living. I learn so much from them.
What’s the most difficult part about motherhood? Raising girls with a terminally ill father. It’s really hard to help navigate it for them. I’ve had them in counseling since day one. It’s been hard to help them understand that, while their dad is not around, we’re still a family.
If you could go back and give yourself advice as a new mom, what would it be? Always keep your sense of humor and keep your cool. Keeping a good sense of humor is the key to surviving motherhood. You’re not going to be perfect.
Worst parenting advice you’ve ever been given? People say you always need to stick up for your kids. I actually do the complete opposite. If there’s one thing I can do for my girls it’s to teach them to be independent, smart and strong advocates for themselves. I want my kids to feel comfortable speaking up for themselves.
What question do you get asked the most? How do you do it all, Carrie Ellen?
So how do you do it all? I don’t. Inevitably, something is going to fall through the cracks. I finally had to just accept that. You have to give yourself a break.
What’s something you believe moms shouldn’t feel guilty about? Creating perfect family memories. All the best family memories I’ve ever had were the funny, imperfect ones. I finally realized all my girls really want is my time and attention.
What do you want your legacy to be? My legacy is my kids. If I can create two independent, smart girls who have a sense of humor … there’s really nothing else.