(46) Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books with Zibby

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Big-time podcaster and writer, Zibby Owens, stops by to discuss the challenges of motherhood, sibling age gaps, the illusion of motherly balance, how the pandemic has changed her parenting, and her favorite podcast interviews with A-Listers.

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Brandy:            Hello Adult Conversation Podcast listeners! In today’s episode, I am talking to fellow idea woman, writer, and podcaster, Zibby Owens, about our shared interest in normalizing the challenges of mom life. We also discuss how the pandemic has taught us to let go of perfectionism, and how there are some things we don’t want to go back to normal. And the universe continues to teach me about imperfection as my mic betrayed me for the last time. In addition to parenting talk about siblings with big age gaps (from Shopkins to vaping), and the illusion of balancing everything as a mom, Zibby also shares about some of her favorite podcast interviews with A-Listers such as Alicia Keys and Anne Lamott. On to the show —

Brandy:            Joining us on the podcast today is Zibby Owens. Zibby hosts a super successful podcast with about a million downloads called Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books on which she’s interviewed authors such as Anne Lamott, Glennon Doyle, Alicia Keys, and more, which we’ll get to. Zibby is also a writer herself and has written for or been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Morning America, and Real Simple to name a few. She is also a mother of four who recently rediscovered the fire that had been stamped out of her — more on that later. Welcome to the podcast, Zibby.

Zibby:               Thank you. Thanks for the intro.

Brandy:            Yes. We met when I found your podcast, and the title alone, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, let me know that you were my people. You were so sweet to read my book, have me on your show, and also to interview me on your Instagram Live when my book came out. The further I get into this author journey, the more I meet these truly lovely, supportive, interesting people like you. I think I’ve told you this, but the way I feel about you is the way that friends have told me they feel about me which is, “How does she do all that she does? She has to be on meth.” {laughter}

Zibby:               {laughter}

Brandy:            I want to talk about this and how you sustain all you do while also parenting four kids, but first, what do the listeners need to know about you?

Zibby:               When I was 25 years old, I lost four people who were super close to me within a year, and my life has never been the same since.

Brandy:            Oh, wow. What?

Zibby:               How was that? {laughter}

Brandy:            Specifically, how did that change you? What was different in your life from that moment on? How did you live differently?

Zibby:               I’ve lived differently ever since. I think anybody who really comes to terms with the fact that life can change from one minute to the next has a different sort of point of view on the whole thing. It’s the only upside I can see in having something traumatic happen to be honest. My best friend and college roommate and my roommate after college died on 9/11 like two weeks after I went to business school. Then that year, my grandfathers died, my stepbrother died, and my best friend from high school committed suicide. It was like the worst year of my life.

Brandy:            Oh, Zibby. {sighs}

Zibby:               I know. It was pretty bad. I went into business school thinking that even though I love to write and my passions were all about learning more about people and understanding behavior and all this stuff and psychology and whatever, I was going to pursue marketing, and this was going to be my thing. I was going to just follow the corporate trajectory and try to rise through the ranks of consumer products, marketing, and whatever else. I quickly realized that I was not going to do that, and if I was going to die at my desk, I better be doing something that brought my whole self to whatever I was doing. So, I changed everything, and that’s how I live now.

Brandy:            Holy shit. Okay, that is like a perfect segue to my first question because there’s so much I want to pick your brain about. This, I think, relates to that, and I would imagine there’s a connection here. I wanted to start with this fire being stamped out of you. I read a recent article of yours and you said, “The fire inside me, what made me me, had been stamped out after a decade of decline.” So, will you tell us more about that, and is there a relationship between remembering those events and maybe remembering the change that it spurred in your life? Are those things related? Will you tell us more about that?

Zibby:               Sure. It’s all of a piece. It’s all related. That was in reference to the life I was living and before I got divorced. I won’t say it was all about my marriage, but it was about who I had become myself. Not to blame my ex-husband in any way, but just the way that I had let life unfold and the way I had handled things and the things that I really cared about that I had allowed to let slip.

Brandy:            What were some of those things? Is it like motherhood stuff?

Zibby:               Yeah, motherhood stuff. I stayed at home, and this was my decision.

Brandy:            I hear you. I hear you. {laughter}

Zibby:               {laughter} It’s not like anyone chained to me to the crib or anything. I had twins, and it was a really difficult pregnancy. I was worried the whole time. Sometimes, I think I’ve never stopped worrying about my twins. Once I had them, I was like, “I’m not leaving their side, essentially, for a while.” So, I stopped everything, and I just kind of stared at them all day.

Brandy:            Right.

Zibby:               Not really. It was very, very busy, of course, and I was still emailing. I was still doing some stuff that was important to me like staying on boards in the community and that type of stuff, but in terms of even writing or expressing myself or seeing friends or pursuing all my sort of entrepreneurial dreams and all these other things that I had been percolating, I just sort of came to a screeching halt. I was like, “No, no, no. I’m throwing myself into this.” I remember after about five years, I finally got involved in this startup. They had come to me for advice on being a mom. It was a daily deal site for moms, kind of like a Groupon for moms. It was called “Gaggle of Chicks.” I remember being like, “Wait, I don’t want you to interview me as a mom. I want to actually run this business and do this and build it and grow it and whatever.” So, I joined the team for a little bit part time. I remember literally jumping up and down in my bedroom being like, “Yes, I’m gonna do something again.” {laughter} Not that I didn’t love being with my kids, and I adore them. I’ve since had two more since then. It was just like — it was a lot. It wasn’t the ideal environment for all of me to come through, and maybe that’s just the time and maybe that’s okay. Maybe we all have to go through times like that. Anyway, and now I’m back. {laughter}

Brandy:            That’s such a great point that you make and a question — you and I, I think, are similar, and this is maybe that way of being that we have where we’re interested in so many things. I think we’ve talked about this that like I get ideas, I think similar to you, and then I want to do them. Then, I do them.

Zibby:               Exactly. Yes.

Brandy:            I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. That’s a different kind of personality, and I think having that personality of having tons of ideas, but then also having the motivation to do them, is a challenge with motherhood. You know, because you’ve read my book, the question about, “How do we find our value, our identity — how do we not lose ourselves? And when we have these other passions, how do we balance that? And then, the guilt that we have for thinking, ‘I want more than this.’”

Zibby:               Right.

Brandy:            With your question of like, “Maybe for a certain amount of time, we have to lose that spark, or we have to kind of take a take a side route a little bit.” But I constantly wonder, “Do we?” There’s no right answer to that, but I hear you. I’m on the same page as you as wondering those things but still feeling really pulled to do things outside of motherhood.

Zibby:               Yeah. That’s, I think, why I related to your book so well. That’s what I told you when I interviewed. I was like dog-earing every page like, “Yes, that too!” {laughter}

Brandy:            I think because we are so similar and the character in there that represents some of those things and some of those passions and wanting to get to them and wondering why because it feels like either way — and there’s a chapter that’s called All Roads Suck Balls and that mantra is so resonant right now, especially in motherhood. It’s like, “Well, if I stay with my kids all day and don’t do something else, then I’m not living my full self. But then, if I go do something else, then I feel like I’m not being a good mother or showing up in that way.” There’s this like elusive place where we win, and I don’t know that I’ve figured it out. I was actually talking to a friend last night where we were laughing about how I go through these swings where I’m like, “Okay, I need to do something outside of motherhood.” So, I go full bore, but then it’s too much to juggle motherhood and that.

Zibby:               I know. That’s the problem! {laughter}

Brandy:            Then, I swing all the way back to like, “I just want to do nothing,” but then I’m miserable. My friend and I were like, “Why can’t I find anywhere in the middle? I just keep swinging back and forth.” {laughter}

Zibby:               Oh, my God. I had the worst thing happen to me this week. I was reading a children’s book to my kids called Saturday. It’s about this mother who has to work all the time, but she gets her Saturday’s off. She plans this whole big day with her daughter, and the daughter’s so excited. Then, everything goes wrong on the day. But in the beginning of the book, it was like, “Saturday, I’m so excited to be with Mama because Mama has to work on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, but Saturday she can be with me.” I was thinking to myself as I read that, “Gosh, that’s really hard that Mama’s have a really hard time being away from our kids for that long.” I mean, that is tough. I was feeling really sorry for the mom. Then, my daughter goes to me, “But you work every day.” {laughter}

Brandy:            Oh! {laughter}

Zibby:               I just looked at her. She’s like, “I mean, you’re home, and you’re with us…” and all the rest. But I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Don’t even.” {laughter}

Brandy:            This is the thing where you like wonder — I sometimes look at my kids, and I’m like, “I wonder what they see?” I’ll do a couple hours of work a day or something, but I’m not working non-stop all day. I’m in and out doing stuff for them, but I feel like if I work at all during a day, to them, I’m working all day.

Zibby:               Totally. Yes.

Brandy:            So yeah, their perception. {laughter}

Zibby:               I’m like, “I was doing your school forms. That wasn’t fun. I did that from 6:00 to 7:30 in the morning so that I could hang out with you after.” {laughter}

Brandy:            Right. So, how did your Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books podcast come about? What was your intention for it? What did it offer you that you really needed? And also, how did you find the time to do it?

Zibby:               Oh, my gosh. It was such a fluke that I even started this podcast and that my life has gone in this direction. I had been writing a bunch of parenting essays which I started doing after my divorce. I had all this time suddenly with my kids at their dad’s house to finally find my voice again and all the rest. So, I started writing more on those weekends. One of the first essays I wrote, I put up on HuffPost. Within a few days, it had 65,000 views or something like that. It was all about exactly, to be honest, Brandy, what we’re talking about now which is how the logistics of motherhood give you very little time to even spend time with your kids. It was called A Mother’s Right to Sanity. Anyway, I started doing that. Then I wrote like all these other ones. My husband said to me one night — I got remarried. He wasn’t my husband at the time — he said, “You should make all these into a book (all these essays).” I was like, “Moms don’t have time to read books.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s so funny. I’ll make that the title of my book.”

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I wrote a book proposal for it, and I talked to a bunch of friends who were in the publishing world, all of whom said, “No one wants to read a book of parenting essays. Those don’t sell. Essay collections don’t sell. Books about parenting — unless you’re an expert, like a psychologist or some sort of expert or you have a major platform, no one wants to read your book on your experience of motherhood. You have none of that.”

Brandy:            Great.

Zibby:               I wasn’t on social media. I had been freelancing at that point, really like 20 years essentially, but it didn’t matter. None of that mattered. I went to get a coffee with an author friend, and she said, “Well, you know what you should really do? You should start a podcast.” And I was like, “What’s a podcast?” This is almost three years ago. She’s like, “No, it would be great.” I was like, “What would it even be about?” So, I kind of stored that away in the back of my mind, and then I thought, “Well, I’m always forwarding essays to people and ripping them out of the papers and sending them and recommending books and all the rest. Maybe I could do a podcast where I read those essays out loud so that my friends could hear them, and maybe other people would want to hear them. Maybe I could read some of my own essays occasionally.” Then, I found out that was illegal. I couldn’t just read passages of books.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I couldn’t read other people’s articles on my podcast. So then, somebody else said, “Well, maybe you could interview the authors directly.” I was like, “Well, I know two authors, but I don’t know. I mean, I guess I could start with them and just see.” {laughter}

Brandy:            Yeah, right.

Zibby:               And then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, this is perfect. I’ll just use that title I was gonna use for my book, and that’ll be the name of my podcast.” I went into my bedroom. I literally googled “easiest way to do a podcast from your phone,” and I took my iPhone and just read that same essay that I mentioned into a podcast thing. I did an online little contest from some random website. I think a designer, I don’t know if it was a man or a woman in Thailand, made my logo. {laughter}

Brandy:            Right. {laughter}

Zibby:               And that was it. I just started. I didn’t tell anybody. I mean, maybe I told my kids and my now husband, but it wasn’t like, “I’m gonna start a podcast.” I just did it. I was very quiet about it, and I started interviewing people. Then, I realized that I loved it, so now here I am.

Brandy:            It sounded like when we’re talking about, “What did it offer you that you really needed,” and obviously, I’m in a similar position — it sounds like you had a real desire to get the messaging out to other moms about the fact that motherhood is no joke, that there are things that they’re probably struggling with, and they’re not alone. Is that right?

Zibby:               That’s 100% right. Yes, and I try to do that still. I mean, the essay that you mentioned about the fire burning out or whatever, I want to give moms hope. These times where I’ve been crying on the bathroom floor, and I write about it, I’m like, “I know there are people all around the country right now who are crying on the bathroom floor, and I want them to read this so that they know that they’re not alone.” I don’t know. I’ve always just been able to spill it, writing wise. I just wanted to make people feel less alone and moms feel less alone and give them hope.

Brandy:            Yes. It’s funny you say that about the crying bit because I just wrote a piece that is about when I was pregnant with my daughter, I was in the hospital for two months before she was born because we weren’t sure if we were gonna make it through that. It’s like a mini lockdown quarantine. There were some things I learned about trauma going through that experience about how we try to outwit it when we’re in it, and we think, “Oh, if I just do these things, I won’t walk away the trauma,” but then we always do. I was likening it to right now how some of us are trying to do that now, and we can’t know what weird habits we’ll have later or agreements and things. Anyway, I mentioned there’s a part in the essay that I mentioned about how after a couple years later, I realized what my trauma was from that whole experience, and it hit me so hard that I was like in the shower on all fours crying. I wrote this thing. I actually submitted it to a bunch of places, and everyone was like, “Yeah, we’re inundated with pandemic stuff.” I kind of put it on my computer folder to die. I was like, “Well, I guess there isn’t a space for this.” Then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I’d find myself still trying to outwit the trauma of right now. I thought, “You know what? I’m just gonna put it on my blog.” So, I did, and I shared it. I was so surprised. I got quite a few private messages from people that were like (especially about that crying bit), “Oh, my God. I thought I was the only one that cried in the shower on all fours.” It’s just so funny that you think you’re talking to people about one thing, but there’s sometimes a detail like that that hits people because you think you’re the only one because it feels like, “How can this be my life that I cry in the shower?” And then you look around, and everybody’s like, “Well, no. We do that, too.” It’s like, “Oh, okay. So, maybe I’m not broken. Maybe this is just a life.”

Zibby:               Right. I think that’s the thing that’s different about the pandemic. When you’re alone and going through like stay-at-home-mom-dom and all that stuff, you’re doing it on your own schedule and not in tandem with other people. When I had kids, a lot of my friends were still out partying and doing whatever. Now, everyone who’s going through this has the same like — you can say to anyone, “Oh, gosh. We had a lot of dark days in those nine weeks,” and everyone’s like, “Oh, me too. That was dark.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               We all were in it together, and so it was okay to share it.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Zibby:               But I think the scatteredness of the timing of regular life traumas, there’s not as many ways to bond over it or to admit it because everybody else is seeming so together.

Brandy:            That’s exactly right, and that’s what I talked about at the end of the article. After I had my daughter and we made it out alive, I’d go out in the world and people would be like, “Oh, she’s so cute.” I would be like, “No, no, no. You have to hear the entire story,” because I’ve been to hell and back, and nobody knew because why would anybody know? And then, after a couple months, I was like, “I can’t do this to people.” But right now, exactly what you’re saying is we’re all there together. It’s like we almost don’t even have to say anything to each other about what’s going on. I talked about, too, how I had an end date. I had a date that she was going to be born, and I was going to have my cesarean. I had a pink calendar that I would put x’s on in the hospital, and we don’t have the pink calendar right now. It’s like there are some ways in which it was harder and some ways in which it’s easier. You’re absolutely right that we’re all going through this together. We will all understand, and we will all have a collective trauma. That sounds awful, but also there is something less isolating about that.

Zibby:               Yes, that’s true.

Brandy:            Shifting gears a little bit, I want to talk to you about your podcast interviews. You’ve interviewed some great authors. Oh, my gosh. Can you tell me about some of your favorite interviews, and why they were your favorite? Or maybe there’s some interviews that surprised you? What stands out for you?

Zibby:               One of my recent favorites was with Alicia Keys. I was so nervous. I asked her right when she got on the phone because my daughters were freaking out, I was like, “Is there any way you could just say hello to them at the beginning?” And she was like, “Sure!” They were so nervous too, and they were just like. “Hi.” {laughter} But she was so cool and down to earth like you. It was like talking to someone where you just immediately understand each other’s experiences even though obviously her experience in life has been so different as a major celebrity. That was one of my most interesting because it was just so encouraging to know that she was as real as she seems or at least in this conversation I should say. I remember watching The Grammys and being like, “Oh, my God. She handled the stuff with Kobe Bryant so well. This woman would totally be a friend of mine.” Then, she talked like that, so that was one really fun experience.

Brandy:            I loved listening to that episode. I thought it was so good, and I was struck by the same thing you were which is — what magazine is that that says, “Celebrities. They’re just like us,” and it’s like them on the street buying something. {laughter}

Zibby:               Yeah. {laughter}

Brandy:            It was exactly like that where it’s like, “This is a mom just trying to get through the day.” She was so sweet, but also there were some things she talked about that really resonated for me about the creative process. I was like, “Oh, my God. No shit,” that I’m not alone on the way that this process happens or doesn’t happen or all the pieces — she was talking about all the layers that go into the process. Then, the one part that I love that she talked about is that every time that she goes to write a song, it’s like she forgets. Like, “What do I do again? How do I start this process?” I remember where I was driving in my car when I heard her say that because I was like, “I thought that was just me that forgot how to do everything and had to reinvent the wheel each time.” So anyway, that was a great interview. Sorry, I cut you off.

Zibby:               Thank you. No, I’m glad. It’s nice to hear what you had to say about it. To be honest, I have found that really across the board, everyone who sits down to start something new is plagued by insecurity. It doesn’t matter how successful they’ve been. They can be like a multiple bestselling author sitting down for their 40th book, and they still are like, “Gosh, I hope I can do it this time.”

Brandy:            Yeah, there’s something sort of elusive about the creative process and creating something that it’s hard to pin down people’s taste.

Zibby:               Yes. I have a friend who owns a vineyard and produces wine. He and his wife were talking about how they take their wine to different stores, and they have to sit there while people take a sip, and they’re like, “Uh,” or whatever. {laughter} It’s so similar to writing because it’s people’s taste.

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               It’s just, “Do they like it or not?” You can work on it for years, and you can think it’s brilliant and amazing. Then, somebody — it’s just not their taste, and there’s nothing you can do.

Brandy:            Yeah, I’m so glad, as authors, we don’t have to sit with people while they read our books or articles to hear them go like, “Oh, that sucked,” or, “Uh, this book…”

Zibby:               Yeah, I don’t think there would be any writers left. That would be the end. {laughter}

Brandy:            I think so. Yes. Were there any nuggets of wisdom from any of the authors on your podcast that have stuck with you? Is there something someone said that really affected or changed you, like something you will never forget?

Zibby:               I interviewed a woman named Ingrid Fetell Lee who wrote a book called Joyful about how you can change your environment to make yourself more joyful and give yourself basically a happier life through changing things around you. I had always sort of believed that happiness was something that came from inside. You had to work on yourself or work on your issues or whatever, but it turns out that there’s all this research that just something as simple as changing a paint color or painting your fingernails rainbow colors or little tiny changes in shapes that you surround yourself by and having more circles and having unexpected elements and all these things, although it seems intuitive, makes a huge difference. Since that interview, I tried to incorporate so many of the lessons that she taught me in her book and in our conversation and in my daily life, and I really think about it basically every day. Right next to me right now, I have this like — because having a lot of circles around is one of the things — so I have this like circle that looks kind of like a sun that a girlfriend gave me once, and I have it right here up on my desk because it’s bright and colorful. I know that circles make you happy. Then, I have like color-coded bookshelves behind me because pops of color make you happy. I don’t know. I think about it when I was actually getting my nails done which I haven’t done and I don’t know if I’ll ever do again, but I was doing that like she did. I had every color and every nail a different color. Every time I would look down, it would make me smile and change my mood just subtly enough that whatever I was stressing about seemed a little bit more manageable. That was one of my favorite books and lessons in terms of a sort of “change your life” mentality type of perspective.

Brandy:            Wow. I think I need to get that book. That sounds amazing. Even your first little beginning about what it was about, I’m like over here kind of jaw dropped. Like, “Oh, my God. There are these things that you can do that actually you have control over this? Huh! That sounds amazing.” {laughter}

Zibby:               Yes. I know. It’s amazing. Just even feeling that there’s a solution out there that’s pretty simple and not expensive and easy to implement.

Brandy:            Yeah. What about your interview with Anne Lamott? Are you a fan of hers? Were you nervous about interviewing her? What was that like for you? She’s one of my favorites is why I ask.

Zibby:               I am a huge fan of hers. Yes, I was so excited about that interview. I only had like 20 minutes. It was on one of her — sometimes publishers have these like interview days where they schedule them back to back for 20-minute increments. In general, I don’t like to do those because the poor authors — {laughter}

Brandy:            Oh, right.

Zibby:               By the time they talk to you, they’ve said the same thing 50 times and whatever. But yeah, it was on one of those days, and it was great. She ended up talking to me about online dating and all sorts of random stuff. It was not what I expected. It was really fun. She’s like a legend, so I got such a thrill to talk to her.

Brandy:            I love her quirkiness and her self-loathing. I love her self-loathing so much. Like in her book, Bird by Bird, it’s like my number one favorite writing book. I just love all the ways that she describes how writers hate themselves. {laughter} It’s amazing.

Zibby:               Yeah.

Brandy:            I think I saw on one of your pages or a couple of your pages that you got a book deal. Is that right?

Zibby:               It is right.

Brandy:            Congrats!

Zibby:               Thank you. Yes, I have a two-book deal for a children’s book series with Penguin Random House about a character named Princess Charming.

Brandy:            {laughter} Okay, so tell me more about it.

Zibby:               I can’t say much more than that. {laughter} It’s under a new imprint called Flamingo run by an editor who’s amazing, named Margaret Anastos, who a writer who had been on my podcast introduced me to.

Brandy:            Awesome.

Zibby:               It was funny the way it came about. She had a picture that an illustrator had drawn of a character, and she said, “Her name is Princess Charming, and this is what she looks like. If you were gonna write a children’s book, what would it be about?” She’s like, “Would you be interested in that?” And I was like, “Oh, sure.” Then, two minutes later, I was like, “Okay, here’s what I would do.” {laughter} And she was like, “That’s brilliant. Done.” And then, I just did.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh.

Zibby:               I know, it was really crazy. I mean, I’ve been like toiling away at all these different books for years, and this one was like a total fluke and ends up selling. It’s so crazy the way the world works, but I’ll take it. It’s such a gift.

Brandy:            Well, awesome. I can’t wait to hear about it and to see it on shelves. When is your possible release date or month or year?

Zibby:               Not for a while. It’s probably like September of 2022 or something crazy. 2021 or 2022.

Brandy:            Is that because of the pandemic because everything is shoved off? Or is that because of the process takes so long? Or both?

Zibby:               They don’t even have an illustrator yet, so it’s gonna be a little while.

Brandy:            Yeah, got it. With all of this and all the things that you do, how do you find balance with all of this and kids, especially right now? Or maybe I should rephrase that: how do you grasp at straws like the rest of us to find this elusive thing called balance that doesn’t actually exist?

Zibby:               Oh, man. I just try to do my best every day, but every day is something totally new. I’m divorced and remarried. I don’t have my kids every other weekend, so when I don’t have them, I try to cram in as much as I can. My poor husband now. I’m like, “See ya.” {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I try to cram in as much prep time these weekends as I can while still hanging out with him and trying to take a little time to sleep and all the rest. I get up really early. I don’t mean to. I’m not one of these people who like sets her alarm or anything. I would never do that. {laughter} I cherish every moment of sleep I can find, but lately I’ve just been waking up. If a kid comes in at 4:30 and is like, “I need water,” and they go back to bed, that’s it. I’m up. I try to wait until there’s some light in the sky to get out of bed, but by 4:30, if I’m in one of these moods like, “I’m up, and I can get like two and a half hours of work done…” — and then in the morning, sometimes they get iPads or something, so I can get a solid chunk of stuff done without losing too much time while they’re here. It’s so funny, I do have a lot on my plate at the moment, and my husband keeps saying like, “You should hire an assistant or somebody to help you with all the scheduling and all this stuff.” I’m like, “I can’t have anyone help me with scheduling because I have all these weird rules in my head.” Like, “If I have this, then I definitely need like at least 30 minutes so I can come out and hang out with the kids,” and, “Oh, wait. That’s too close to lunchtime,” and, “Well, that’s too close to bath time,” and, “Wait, maybe I could do that while they watch TV at 7:30 at night, but will I be too tired?” I have all these weird rules. {laughter} I’m sure you can relate.

Brandy:            Absolutely.

Zibby:               I’m like, “Assistant? No, I don’t think so.”

Brandy:            Well, that would be more work to try to tell them your schedule every day.

Zibby:               Right.

Brandy:            It would be like you have one more thing to do rather than less to do.

Zibby:               Yeah. I don’t know. I’m not good at sort of offloading work. I’m also just very, very aware of every moment. Like, “What am I using this moment for?” If it’s not really intentional — like I never just lounge about.  I’ll either say to myself, “Okay. Now is my time. I’m gonna be totally present with the kids. I’m gonna put my phone down here for like (I can’t go that long) 20 minutes or something.” {laughter}

Brandy:            Okay. {laughter}

Zibby:               “For these 20 minutes, I’m going outside, and I’m jumping on the trampoline. I’m paying full attention.” And then, I can be like, “Okay. Now, I’m gonna check email for 10 minutes. Now, I’m gonna bake with the kids, but as soon as it’s in the oven, I’m back. Now, I’m gonna do a podcast.” I’m just constantly like, “Am I using my time right?” Not in like a stressful way that makes me sound crazy, but, “What am I using this moment for, and am I wasting it?” Like, “Is this now the best time to read the newspaper?” I’m just always analyzing.

Brandy:            Were you born on January 4? I feel like we have a similar brain. I’m like a formulator.

Zibby:               {laughter}

Brandy:            I’m a formulator, like somebody who’s always trying to find like you’re talking about. I think when we become moms, all of a sudden, your brain shifts because everything becomes a strategy. You go, “Okay. I have the kids with me right now, so I shouldn’t do X, Y, and Z because I would rather do those alone. But things I can do right now with the kids are these things.” So, it’s like constantly trying to figure out how you can maximize your outputs.

Zibby:               Yes. Totally.

Brandy:            {laughter} It’s called “crazy making.”

Zibby:               “Can I do this with a kid on my lap?” Like, “Yes, this I can do. Can this kid help me perhaps?”

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               “What can I integrate with them? What do I really need to focus on? Do I have to wait till they’re asleep to do this?”

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               Yeah. All of that mental calculus.

Brandy:            Do you ever get exhausted by the mental calculus?

Zibby:               Yes! {laughter} Yes, all the time, but now I’m just so used to it. I mean, my twins are 13. I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve been doing this for so long. I mean, to be honest with you, the last time the kids went to their dad’s house, we had houseguests here for the weekend who had been in quarantine themselves, so I felt like very low risk having them here. They’re good friends of my husband. We had this big lunch, and it was really fun and festive. It took all of us an hour to clean the whole thing up, and I just got like really exhausted after. I had a quick work call that I had to say goodbye to somebody who had been working with me, and that was really sad. I was like, “You know what? I have to just go put some sweatpants on and get out of this dress and just regroup for the night,” and everyone’s talking about, “Okay. What movie are we gonna watch tonight? That’ll be so fun. It started to rain.” I went upstairs, and I fell asleep. It was 6:15! {laughter}

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. I love that.

Zibby:               I slept straight until 6:30 the next morning. So, yes. Occasionally, I just crash. I just crash.

Brandy:            Right. Your body’s like, “Well, she’s not gonna stop. Good Lord. And she won’t give us meth, so we have to do something. We must lay down. We must force her to sleep.” {laughter} I love that your body just totally revolted against you. That’s a big deal. {laughter}

Zibby:               Totally. Yeah, I was annoyed, but yes, it happened. I came down the next morning, and they’re like, “Yeah, we all had dinner, and we watched a movie.” {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               They did all this stuff. They were up till midnight. I was like, “Oh, my God.” I’d already had like a full night’s sleep by then.

Brandy:            {laughter} You could have re-gamed. You could have had your nap, come down, gone for a second round.

Zibby:               I could have. I could have.

Brandy:            We have kids of similar ages, and I know we’ve talked about this before that you have 13-year-old twins. You also have youngers, like five-ish. What are your ages?

Zibby:               Yes, I have boy/girl twins who are 13. I have a seven-year-old daughter, and a five-and-a-half-year-old son.

Brandy:            What is your experience of having the two different realms? Like, the vaping and sex realm and then, also, the crayons and Shopkins realm? What is that like for you?

Zibby:               It keeps it interesting. {laughter}

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               It keeps it really interesting. Sometimes, I’m literally like, “I can’t believe I’m going from this conversation to that conversation.” It’s like so ridiculous that I stop to marvel at it. {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I’m like, “This is like a joke that this is happening and that I have to deal with these two things at the same time.” Honestly, having had twins and having double the same stuff all the time, having such a wide range is really nice. I mean, obviously, I still have twins, but all the different experiences are a nice addition. Right now, to be candid, this is hard to plan when my older kids need completely different things in my little kids. Even in terms of like, “Where should we live” and things like that. It’s a challenge. What do you think?

Brandy:            Totally. I find that there’s some benefits of it. I don’t know about you, but I waited a long time because I just had to have sanity and sleep. I hadn’t slept in years. I couldn’t imagine doing it any sooner and trying to juggle all of it, so that was a necessity for me. One of the things that’s been really nice is that it made it so that we have this life with my son, and he got a lot of attention. Then now, we have our daughter, and he can help out. He’s not so young that he was as needy as toddlers can be when he had a sibling that came along. I’ve really loved that aspect of it and kind of having it be separate. That felt special to me even though I know it’s special no matter how you do it, but going to somewhere like Disneyland together, we have to split up for everything. My son and my husband would go ride the bigger rides, and then my daughter and I would ride the smaller rides. It’s similar like that with movies. It’s hard for us to find a movie. My son’s so sweet. He’ll kind of watch whatever for her, but also there are movies that we want to watch with him. I mean, the other day, we watched Billy Madison.

Zibby:               {laughter}

Brandy:            I look on IMDB. There’s that parent’s guide. Do you use that at all?

Zibby:               No. I didn’t even know about that.

Brandy:            Yes. The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) —

Zibby:               No, no. I know about IMDB, but I didn’t know they had a parent’s guide.

Brandy:            Yeah. If you look on there under whatever movie and if you scroll down, it’ll say, “cast and crew,” and then it says, “parental guide” (something like that). You can go in, and it tells you all the different things you might encounter. It kind of gives you a rating. I had looked at Billy Madison, and was like, “Okay, there are a couple things in here that I know are problematic.” I couldn’t totally remember them, so then we watched it. My daughter was there too, and there were definitely things I had to fast forward through that were not appropriate. I maybe would have let my son watch those things, and then had a conversation with him about why those things are problematic now. That’s the hard thing, like The Office. My son and I love watching The Office, but I don’t really love for my daughter to watch it. It makes it so that things are more separate than if their ages were closer together, but I think I might have lost my mind if they were closer together. I think this is my best-case scenario for sure.

Zibby:               Yeah. I do feel like I’ve like struck gold when there’s a movie that the entire family can watch. That’s the best.

Brandy:            Can you think of any? Can you remember any?

Zibby:               I know. I was trying to think of what our most recent one was. This is so random, and now I can’t remember the name. Harrison Ford was in it and it’s about a dog. It came out at the beginning of the pandemic, and he was up in the mountains. It was really good, and we all got really into it. It was good for every age, including me. What was it called? Oh, The Call of the Wild.

Brandy:            That’s based off of the book probably, right? From Jack London.

Zibby:               Yeah.

Brandy:            Okay, good to know, so that does it for everybody. Have you watched the new Jumanji movies?

Zibby:               I get scared by those. {laughter}

Brandy:            The new ones are funny. They have this element of them that’s kind of silly and funny that isn’t quite as seriously scary that my six-year-old and my thirteen-year-old love.

Brandy:            One of the last things I wanted to ask you about is that I wanted to talk to you a little bit about letting go of perfectionism during this time, and I guess I’m just assuming you’re a perfectionist or maybe you’re a recovering perfectionist like me because I feel like we’re similar on so many different angles. What has the pandemic taught you about not having everything have to be just so. Even with your podcast, what are some things before the pandemic that you would never allow to happen? Like, it had to be a certain way, but now during this time, you have to ease up on.

Zibby:               You assumed correctly. I am a perfectionist.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I guess I could say recovering perfectionist, but I’m not sure about that. Oh, my God, so many things. I mean, so many things from the laundry to — {laughter} my drawers used to be really organized. My kids’ drawers, the shelves, everything — it gives me anxiety to have a mess. Now, even my daughter, I don’t even bother cleaning her drawers. I don’t even make her clean her drawers. I don’t clean up my drawers. As long as I can’t see it, I have to weed through the pile. I know that sounds so silly and so small, but I think of it every time I get dressed or changed which is quite often. Little things like that to big things. I mean, I have let go lot of what they even do all day. I mean, I’m here. That doesn’t sound right, but I used to be like crazy about technology. “Only 30 minutes a day or a 26 minute show,” and that’s like a joke at this point.

Brandy:            {laughter} Yeah, totally.

Zibby:               I mean, I’m like 30 minutes “not” of technology a day is hard enough. {laughter}

Brandy:            Yeah, exactly.

Zibby:               With the podcast, I used to read every word of every book. I’ve increased the frequency so much that it’s almost humanly impossible for me to do that anymore. I’ve learned how to speed read essentially, and I can skim a book. I don’t sit down and spend like six hours on a book. Now, I can only spend like two to three hours on a book, and I admit it. I’ll tell an author like, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t get to read the end,” or something.

Brandy:            Right.

Zibby:               But that’s something that before, I was like, “No, this is non-negotiable. I have to read every page.” I just can’t. I just can’t. Everyone has their limits. Some nights, the kids don’t want to take a shower. I’m like, “Alright. Okay.” {laughter}

Brandy:            Yeah,

Zibby:               I’m just like, “We’re all gonna wear the same clothes all the time, and I’m okay with that.” Eating, I used to be really focused — now, I sound like a terrible mom. {laughter}

Brandy:            No.

Zibby:               The meals used to have to be balanced, and now I’m like, “Forget about setting the table. If it comes in a box, that’s even better. We’re gonna eat it on the table in the box, and then I don’t have to do the dishes.” {laughter}

Brandy:            That’s exactly right. No, Zibby, what you’re talking about — I think so many people can relate to this. I know I can. I have all these same rules that completely went out the window, and in a way, it’s sort of a gift. I remember when you interviewed me, you said something like — I don’t remember if it was the Instagram thing or on your podcast, but you said like, “I’m so sorry. I normally have a list of questions, and I’ve gone through stuff, but I’m just showing up here, and it sort of is what it is.” I loved that because I think this time requires us to not have all these rules for ourselves whether it’s for our podcasts, whether it’s for our work, whether it’s for kids, or whatever it is for ourselves and our laundry and our chores and whatever. I just so appreciated that because some of these rules that we have, for us perfectionists specifically, aren’t necessary. Even with my podcast, I would make sure that everything was super quiet. Nobody could say a word. My kids would be downstairs. I mean, I’d rather have good audio if I can, but I’ve just had to learn these kids have nowhere to go. They aren’t at school anymore. If people in the background hear my kid once in a while, that’s totally okay. I don’t think people can expect that everything just works perfectly. I think it’s almost a gift to not do these things. Even on my on my website, I have transcripts of every episode that always went up when the episode went up. Now, it just says, “Episode transcript coming soon,” and I get to it maybe in a couple weeks after or whatever. I’m like, “Why wasn’t I working like this before? I could have been living the pandemic lifestyle for the past year or more.” {laughter}

Zibby:               Yes, I could not agree more. I am the same, and you’re right. I used to prepare all my questions and send them ahead of time. Now, I don’t. Honestly, I don’t think it’s any worse, and that would take me like an hour. I am still really enjoying my conversations. Some of the things I just didn’t need to do, and to be honest, I’m way more relaxed now. I think that my kids can tell. We have a lot of fun at dinner. We laugh, and it’s fun over those pizza boxes. Before it might have looked a lot nicer, but the formality maybe — not that it was so formal with napkins (laughter)

Brandy:            Yeah, right. No, I get it. {laughter}

Zibby:               You know, placemats occasionally. {laughter} But now, it’s just really fun, and I think they can tell that I’m just so — at least about certain things, I’m much more laid back. I think that’s kind of benefited all of us, so now it’s just a question of like, “I don’t want to go back to normal life. Now what do I do?”

Brandy:            That’s exactly right. That’s a total good point. First of all, I’m like, “We’re not returning to normal life anytime soon because we, as a people and as a country, cannot get our shit together,” but I keep thinking when things start to eek that way back to normal, what things do I no longer want to do that I did before? I really want to be conscious about it because there are some really beautiful things during this time, and I want to hold on to those. I’m hoping that life doesn’t just pick back up, and we all blindly are like, “Oh, back to the thing that felt normal.” I really hope we can keep some of these things.

Zibby:               Me too. I mean, this is what I lay in bed worrying about. How am I going to keep this going because I don’t want to go back to the way I was living before. I don’t want to, but what if it’s required of me? I mean, I know it’ll be a while before events happen again.

Brandy:            Right.

Zibby:               I used to love hosting events, but I just can’t. I don’t even want to go to New York. I don’t know. I’m sort of in a crisis moment. {laughter} We’ll see what happens.

Brandy:             I’m totally with you on that crisis moment. I’m also wondering like, “What things do I really love doing, and what things do I not?” Because there are lots of things that we just do. It sounds kind of dramatic, but it’s almost like this midlife crisis of like, “Who am I?”

Zibby:               Yeah.

Brandy:            Who I was before this, was that really who I am? Or was I on a hamster wheel, and I couldn’t get off? I thought that’s who I was, but now that I have time to just breathe and not be doing those things, who will I be going forward? What will be different? I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s been a really uncomfortable experience. I think a lot of really big catharsis and change is, but I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. I have moments where I’m like, “I’ve learned so much about myself, and I have clarity.” Then other moments where I’m like, “This feels so uncomfortable, and I want to go back to how it was.” It’s like on a day to day basis, it changes.

Zibby:               Mm hmm. I’m worried.

Brandy:            Yeah, I know. The thing that keeps me up, too, is thinking about how different our kids’ lives are going to be from here on out. I was talking to a friend about this last night and how they’re going to be sitting on therapy couches in years going, “Everything was so good. I had it made. I had friends. Life was normal. Then, one day the rug got pulled out from under us.” I’m just so curious how it affects our kids going forward and how it changes the trajectory of what they get into in life and their choices. That’s a bigger conversation.

Zibby:               Yeah, that’s true too. Although, I think it affects different ages so differently. I mean, I think my little kids, I think it was really nice. We spend so much time together. That’s what they want at that age.

Brandy:            Totally.

Zibby:               My older daughter, in particular, was all about friends. This is a really hard time for a 13-year-old girl.

Brandy:            Yes.

Zibby:               You’re right. The long-term effects, I’ll be really interested to hear. I mean, I keep saying, “Of all the times in my life, maybe I’ll write this book.” Like, “What if COVID had happened when I was in the middle of dating that guy?” Or like, “What if it had happened in the middle of my divorce before anything had been settled? What if it had happened in college?” I just feel so lucky that it’s now for me, and I know that it’s not for other people. My heart goes out to them.

Brandy:            Absolutely.

Zibby:               I feel like that’s why I try to use this time to help people as much as I can. Whether it’s friends and family, other authors, or whatever I can do because I feel like I’m okay. Like, “I’m settled. I’m married. I’m in a boring, great life. I don’t need anything outside of my home anymore.”

Brandy:            {laughter}

Zibby:               I really don’t.

Brandy:            I hear you on that. And shout out to all the listeners out there who are in the middle of a divorce and couldn’t finalize it in a pandemic and are living with your soon-to-be ex but cannot get away. If there’s anybody out there who’s living that and who wants to come on the podcast and tell us all about it, please find me and contact me because I sometimes will sit and think about that. Like, “What would that really be like?” Anyway, I’m putting a call out for that. So Zibby, where can people find you and your podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read?

Zibby:               So, it’s called Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. It’s on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere you find podcasts. My website is http://www.zibbyowens.com. I’m about to redo the whole website, but anyway, still go there. I’m really active on Instagram @zibbyowens, and I also have an account at Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, and I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I’m personally pretty obsessed with my @zibbyowens account, and I’m on it all the time. {laughter} I’m like DMing people and all the rest, so that’s the best place to find me.

Brandy:            I don’t know why I had it down as “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read,” and I left off the “Books.”

Zibby:               It’s a long name. No worries.

Brandy:            You know what? I’m proving it because moms don’t have time to read far enough to see that the word “books” is in the title, so it actually is perfect. {laughter}

Zibby:               {laughter}

Brandy:            Zibby, thank you so much for being here and for being such an ally to authors, specifically mom authors, who I talked about at length on your podcast and was unsure if I shared too much about it. We aren’t always treated with the utmost care and respect in the publishing industry and in the entertainment industry. I know there’s a bias against moms, specifically stay at home moms, a lot of the time, so I just appreciate you being a safe place for us. I know you have such a busy meth-propelled (not really) schedule, so thank you so much for finding the time to chat with me here today. I really am so glad that we’ve connected. Thank you so much.

Zibby:               Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Thank you for this great conversation. I feel like I just had coffee with a good friend. It totally filled my bucket.

Brandy:            Aww. Yes.

Zibby:               Thank you. It’s so nice to meet someone and talk to someone who totally gets my crazy frame of mind. {laughter}

Brandy:            Yeah, I feel like we share it.

Zibby:               It’s nice to have a commiserator in this. It’s nice to be understood.

Brandy:            For those of you who don’t already follows Zibby, she’s been through a lot in the past few months. She and her husband lost both his grandmother and mother to COVID-19. Two healthy, vibrant women they were super close to, and Zibby wrote about the experiences with such vulnerability and beauty. And yes, it’s as heartbreaking as you would imagine. I hope everyone’s hanging in there as we round the corner on 2020 and the election.

Brandy:            If you enjoy the podcast, chances are you’ll love my novel, especially right now while you might need some validation, humor, and a wild trip to Vegas if only in your mind. It’s called, you guessed it, Adult Conversation. It’s a darkly comedic novel about the relentlessness of modern motherhood where the main character seeks an answer to the question, “Is motherhood broken, or am I?” After a series of mom wins and failures, she and her therapists end up on a Thelma and Louise style road trip to Vegas where they are attempted and tested while finding lost pieces of themselves that motherhood swallowed up. You can find it in all the usual places, or you can go to my website, http://www.adultconversation.com, to find out more. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.