Emma Chastain | Another Mother Her Way

Emma Chastain is one of those women who was meant to be on stage.  She has striking features, a ballerina physique and a laugh and voice that is vulnerable, warm and confident at the same time.  So, when I saw her at a Barnes & Noble, up at a podium, reading an excerpt from her newly released book, I wasn't all too surprised. Emma left her job as the Editorial Director of Barnes and Noble after having her second child, wanting to be home to raise her two boys, Wes and Malcolm.   She used her time at home to pursue a real childhood dream, writing during nap times and those precious hours after the boys went to sleep authoring not one but two books. Chloe Snow's Diary is a young adult novel that brings you back to those ridiculous days and dramas of high school and it's been the first book since having Bodie that I lost myself in because of the hilariously real style and characters.   Emma uses that same honest voice below about post-partum changes, the choice to be home and how she handled a "mean mom".

Q  HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?

I realized for the first time that I’m going to die someday. I’d kiiiiiiind of figured this out before having children, but at the moment I pushed out my son, I was like, oh, God, I’m mortal. It was dark, but also productive: I finally stopped dicking around on the internet and wrote a novel, something I’d been meaning to do since I was four years old.

Q  WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD?  WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?

After I had my first son, I went back to work fulltime as the editorial director of BN.com. Getting through the workday was much easier than I’d anticipated, but my heart used to sink when I got home in the evening and saw my son tearing across the floor toward me as fast as he could crawl. He was, of course, fine without me, but I hated knowing I’d missed so much of his day. After I sold my book and had my second son, I quit my job. It took me seven months to feel normal being at home and writing freelance. I’m happy with it now, and almost everyone I meet is very nice about what I’m doing. Another mother made me feel like crap the other day for not having a full-time job, and I cried after she left. But that’s the first time that’s ever happened!

Q  DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS.  WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?

I think (God, I hope) my children consider me a cheerful, happy, fun mother. And I am that, but I’m also wracked with anxiety a lot of the time. I had hideous postpartum OCD after the birth of my first son, and couldn’t stop worrying that an evil impulse would seize me and I’d throw him out the window. I got therapy, which didn’t help much; I think mostly I just got used to being a mother, and stopped misinterpreting my animal fear that harm would come to my baby as a warning sign that I was going to harm him. Now, I feel pure joy (and of course sometimes boredom, ennui, etc.) around my kids. But I still worry and fret and ruminate. I hope my kids never feel my anxiety seeping out around my edges.

Q  HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?

Sometimes I get my hair cut? Seriously, that’s about the extent of it. That and seeing a friend once a month. I don’t exercise! I don’t get manicures or take the baby to classes. Once a week my husband and I order food and watch TV. That’s our big treat. I know it sounds grim and that I’m probably coming off as martyred and long-suffering, but I don’t feel that way. I’ve decided to let go of a lot of stuff so that I can see my kids as much as I want to and also get my writing done, and ultimately, those two things are what make me feel most satisfied.

Q  EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE.  WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?

Back when I was working fulltime, we had a beloved nanny, Angelica, who kept everything running smoothly. I think we all felt relieved when she arrived on Monday mornings, like, “Thank the lord, someone who knows what she’s doing has arrived.” Now it’s back to amateur hour as I bumble through the day. My older son goes to preschool four mornings a week, which is all the childcare we have, but it’s enough for now. I bang out my wordcount during naps and after bedtime. My husband does at least half of everything, from dishwasher-emptying to diaper-changing to meal prep, not to mention working a demanding job. 

Q  WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?

I would like to be attentive to what’s happening in front of my face, instead of zoning out and thinking about renaming a character, or worrying about something awkward I said at pickup, or whatever. I would also like to be less hard on myself about doing stuff like zoning out. I think I’m a pretty good mother, but I spend many hours a day feeling guilty about imaginary parenting crimes. I wish I could cut that out.