Despite a less-than-idyllic childhood, writer Lindsay Powers single-mindedly rose through the publishing ranks, interviewing the likes of J.Lo, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Then, working alongside Katie Couric, Bobbi Brown and Marissa Mayer, Lindsay launched Yahoo’s digital parenting magazine.
That’s where the whole #NoShameParenting movement started. The campaign really resonated with overachieving, overstressed parents and evolved into her upcoming book on the topic, You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids, which will be released on March 31. Lindsay gave Bare Necessities an exclusive preview.
Q: So how did you get here?
A: I didn’t have an easy childhood. My mom is a disabled veteran who has a lot of mental health issues, and my parents divorced when I was young. As the oldest of three kids, I had a lot of responsibility, but I also had pockets of support that helped me build resilience: My dad always encouraged me to be a writer; my grandparents and my aunt took me in at various points; my now-husband and I have been together since I was 15. I always juggled a lot of jobs and paid my way through school, unpaid internships and moving to New York City.
I started as an editorial assistant at the New York Post, but my willingness to take on any assignment, from chasing mobsters to interviewing parade-goers on Thanksgiving, meant I got promoted to reporter within a year. From there, I moved to Us Weekly, traveling the world and interviewing all the biggest stars.
I jumped to digital journalism when most editors turned down their nose at working online, which meant I got a ton of extra experience. I relaunched the Us Weekly website with iconic editor Janice Min, who brought me with her to relaunch The Hollywood Reporter site—which I did to over 1,000% annual growth, living between New York and Los Angeles. Then Yahoo recruited me to oversee lifestyle and entertainment on the homepage, then a billion-dollar business. When then-CEO Marissa Mayer wanted to launch flashy digital magazines, I got the job as editor-in-chief of Yahoo Parenting. My team and I founded the #NoShameParenting movement in an effort to ease the judgment parents face. The campaign reached 170 million+ people across social media. President Obama even shared an article I wrote on paid family leave!
When Yahoo decided to close its digital magazines, I was devastated. I was eight months pregnant with my second son, so shortly after my maternity leave, I developed the book. I was eager to continue this conversation about how we’re raising our kids. I’m really proud of the book because it presents expert research in an accessible way and never tells you that you’re right or wrong. It’s more, “Here’s the information; the choice is yours.” It also doesn’t just speak to moms; all caregivers should have a seat at the table for this important discussion.
Q: Tell us more about the book.
A: Today’s families are no longer a man, wife, 2.5 kids, dog, white picket fence. This book presents the stories from more than 50 parents across the country. No judgment. No shame. There is just info- and story-sharing in an effort to reassure every parent that they’re doing a pretty damn good job.
I don’t give parents carte blanche to behave badly, as critics might imagine. I do say that kids need love, food and a warm place to sleep to not be f*cked up. But designer highchairs, infant flash cards, homemade baby food and breastfeeding are totally optional.
One of my favorite things to do was to call researchers behind the most popular studies. For example, I spoke to the pediatrician who wrote the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time and asked her: What do your kids watch? When is it OK to break the rules you wrote? Every expert told me some variation of, there are so many shades of gray, and much of the nuance gets lost in a 15-minute prescriptive conversation with a family doctor. Do what works for you and your family.
Q: What’s different about our generation? How do we become the parents we want to be?
A: A generation ago, social media didn’t exist. You compared yourself to your mom, maybe your neighbor or a sibling. Now, you’re comparing yourself to everyone from a random frenemy you’re Facebook friends with to Kylie Jenner. It’s a lot of work to keep up with the Kardashians…and do you really even want to?! Yet still we wonder if we should be doing more.
Our society still revolves around one parent staying home, usually the woman—yet research shows we’re also all spending more time than ever with our kids. And many of us don’t have access to quality healthcare, paid family leave, affordable childcare, flexible work schedules…. We’re stretched thin on all sides. No wonder we’re all so stressed.
I think it’s key to stop asking ourselves if we “have it all.” There is no such thing. We need to ask ourselves if we have what we need. And we need to have the courage to change our minds. Just because something worked for our neighbor or our mother-in-law or even for us last year, it may not be working now. For the good of our sanity, it’s brave to re-evaluate.
Q: Have you found that the personal really is the political? Does momming so hard have something to do with crummy family-support policies? What can we do about it?
A: Yes, all of this. It’s so important to vote for politicians who support family-friendly policies on local, state and federal levels. Also, I think when you move up the ranks at work, you need to be outspoken about having a life outside the office, whether that’s because your kid has soccer games or you’re really into yoga. People without kids shouldn’t be made to work longer hours. We should all recognize that, in a world where we’re all connected 24/7 anyway, it doesn’t matter how many hours we’re logging at a desk.
Q: What’s a typical day like?
A: Like any parent of young kids, I’m always running around. My husband, Brad, and I switch off waking up each morning at 6:15 AM. We also take turns staggering our work hours, so somebody does drop-off and then heads into the office by 9, and the other leaves early for school pickup. Everyone is awake, dressed, fed and out the door by 7:40 AM. I run my own consulting business now and spend the majority of my days creating or executing strategy for content, commerce, newsletters and social. My son Everett goes to first grade, followed by an afterschool program until 5 PM, and my younger son, Otto, goes to preschool. I cook dinner most nights. It’s important to me, and I find it relaxing. Brad does the dishes. Then we usually play a game or zone out to a little screen time. After baths, we tag-team bedtime. Then I spend a couple of hours working on my book’s social media accounts (follow me on @NoShameParenting!), writing or editing my newsletter, answering media requests or working on promotional plans with my publisher. I also recently had shoulder surgery, so I go to physical therapy twice a week. I’m usually in bed before 10:30 PM.
Q: How do you work and blog and write and mother and wife without burning out?
A: Honestly, this is something I’m working on. I am very tired, but it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to write and publish a book, so that fuels me. I try to find pockets of self-care and set boundaries. I don’t like to work on weekends, so I only do it when I have a tight deadline. I outsource everything I can, and I don’t hold myself to impossibly high standards. I’m not striving for perfection. Life is a collection of moments, and I’d like them to even out to be mostly good. I pick the things I really care about, like having dinner together, and ignore the things I don’t, like making sure my kids’ clothes match.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome, and how?
A: Ha, so many! The incredibly inspiring Valerie Jarrett wrote in Finding My Voice about how life shouldn’t be too easy, with too much success too fast. It’s the harder moments that prepare you for setbacks. I like that. I don’t have a big safety net. I’ve certainly lost out on the big job and seen the end of relationships that meant a lot to me. I nurse my wounds, then try to look ahead. I’m trying to embrace the zigzag, and not be so focused on having a straight-and-narrow path.
Q: What’s your best advice for readers?
A: Surround yourself with a great support team. My husband is a true partner, and I have a group of close girlfriends who live in every corner of the country. We drop everything to spend a long weekend together once a year. They’re my sounding board. I fully endorse supportive group texts!
Give yourself permission to take a break. Yes, I’m super busy now, but life has seasons. When I got my book deal, I quit my VP-level corporate job because I couldn’t figure out how to do both. It was the best! I gave myself a 2,000-words-per-day deadline and after I hit it, I closed my computer and did whatever the hell I wanted. Sometimes this meant Pilates at 11 AM, sometimes this meant I was screaming at my laptop at 5 PM before rushing to pick up my kids. Especially when it comes to work, give yourself permission to ramp up and ramp down.
Q: Any resolutions you’re making for 2020?
A: I’d like to consume less single-use plastic. I consulted for Global Citizen in 2019, which made me pretty cognizant of how we’re f*cking up the earth, and Eva Chen talks about it a lot on Instagram. She’s influenced me to do more for the environment.
Q: What’s up next for you?
A: In a dream world, my book would sell well enough to allow me to continue to work toward easing the judgment parents face, whether that’s another book, speaking engagements, policy work or something I haven’t thought of yet….
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO LINDSAY
Writing uniform: I love a pair of cozy lounge pants I can dress up in a pinch to wear out, like these PJ Harlow Dena Ribbed Modal joggers.
Personal mantra: Tomorrow is another day.
Best way to de-stress: Working out. I take the subway one extra stop and walk back to my office to get in extra steps. I’m anxious when I don’t move.
Parenting role model: I love when boldfaced names reveal their struggles because I think it makes people feel comfortable sharing their own. Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett and Beyonce have all shared some honest moments.
Superpower you wish you had: I wish I was one of those people who could survive on four hours of sleep a night, but I need at least seven hours and three square meals or I become a hangry mess.
Proudest moment: Getting to hear President Obama speak at a small reception at the White House for the Women’s Summit following months of work for #NoShameParenting and Yahoo Parenting. I was nine months pregnant. That made the staff very nervous.
Prized possession: The 150-year-old Brooklyn townhouse that my husband and I spent two years renovating ourselves, every weekend—before kids, obviously.
Weakness for: New books on my Kindle. I buy at least one a month, and if I’m not into the story, I quit and download another.
Secret talent: I can sing the 50 states in alphabetical order.
Fear you’re trying to overcome: Failure. I’m extremely hard on myself.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done: Raising kids in NYC.
Most useful emoji: The laugh-cry. I think I could use it to describe most of my life.
Current obsession: My skincare routine is somewhat involved to combat acne and wrinkles. Aging is fun!
Mood-boosting song: “My Shot” off the Hamilton soundtrack.
In a word: Inspired.
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