You’re working toward a master’s degree as a Child Life Specialist. What kind of work is that?
It’s a position in pediatrics and we basically provide psych or social support to patients and their families in the hospital, when the child is in the oncology ward, or if a child needs to have an MRI. We prep them for those scary tests, using play therapy or art therapy. Also, you’re sort of advocating for the patients and their families when they’re put into the hospital environment.
You did volunteer work in this area, didn’t you?
I worked in a cancer center in New York City, volunteering.
What appeals to you about this kind of occupation?
I’ve always—this is going to sound strange—I’ve always been fascinated by hospitals. I like hospitals. Obviously, I don’t like to be a patient. But I do find hospitals really interesting, and I love working with children and their families. I found it really rewarding. I have two more classes left, which I hope to finish up by the end of this summer, and then I hope to do my internship next year.
You are also very eloquent when writing about the guilt and anger you felt after your husband’s suicide in December 2010, especially since he had already attempted it once before [in October 2009]. How do you answer those who ask why you left him alone with your son those few days last December?
It’s an interesting question, and I kind of look funny when people ask because at that point, Mark was in such a great place. He had started a job that he loved. We were looking towards the future. We were talking about where we might want to live. We were discussing even having a third baby. The second anniversary of Bernie’s arrest truly was not even on our radar.
He was so excited for me and Audrey and my mom to go on this girls’ trip [to Disney World]. My daughter’s obsessed with the Disney princesses. And there were absolutely no signs at all. I wasn’t even worried for a moment, “Oh my gosh, is he gonna”—especially after that first suicide attempt. He was so embarrassed by it, and so sorry and so ashamed.
How do you cope now going forward. Did you join a survivors group?
No. I did not want to, and I do not want to. I feel I have a lot of support. I have a therapist. I have a ton of support from my family and my friends. And you know I get through this because I have two young children to take care of and they truly bring a smile to my face every day. And I hold onto the hope that things are going to get better for us one day.
Can you imagine marrying again some day down the road?
You know, right now I am heartbroken. But you don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life. I know I have a lot to offer. And I know my children have a lot to offer. And we’re really a great family, the three of us. One day, maybe. But today my heart hurts.
You’re going by the name “Stephanie Madoff Mack.” You and your husband came up with “Mack” as the name you’d use in your post-scandal life. Tell us how you came up with it.
Mark and I took M from Madoff and ACK was the Nantucket airport code. And Nantucket was the place we loved the most.
Is there anything that you want readers to know about you, Mark and the kids?
I think if Mark were here he would want everyone to know that he was a very trustworthy, honorable, good guy who got duped by Bernie. As far as me and the kids are concerned, we’re hanging in there. My kids are happy children. They love each other. And we’re not letting life stop because of all of this. I’m not gonna let Bernie Madoff ruin our lives any more than they’ve already been ruined. I’m not gonna let any of this define who my children are for the rest of their lives. Or define who I am anymore.