We Are Family Podcast, Episode 1: Shaun T & Julia Tell All
We Are Family, Parents's new podcast celebrating diverse families of all shapes and sizes is out TODAY! This week, co-hosts Shaun T, creator of the Insanity workout and dad to twins with his husband Scott Blokker, and Julia Dennison, executive editor of Parents.com and single mama, talk about what makes their families unique. From trying to conceive and miscarriage to surrogacy and LGBTQ parenting, Shaun and Julia dive right in on week 1.
The kicker? They're chatting from home—in their closets—due to COVID-19 social distancing orders, so of course they give an insight into what it's been like raising their kids during the quarantine and how they're coping. And, yes, that means adult beverages, Zoom therapy, and dance parties. Parents editor-in-chief Julia Edelstein even stops by to share her unique coronavirus experience living apart from her health care worker husband with her two sons for months during the pandemic.
But things are just getting started!
Upcoming episodes and topics this season include:
- Episode 2: Parenting Trans Kids with Ally Sheedy and Beckett Lansbury
- Episode 3: LGBTQ Parenting
- Chosen family
- Foster Care
- Parenting with disabilities
- Divorce, co-parenting and blended families
- Single-parent households
- Multicultural parenting
- The family you didn't know you had
Listen to episode 1 right now: Parents.com/FamilyPod-Ep1
Plus, follow along here:
Shaun: Say, you are listening to…
Sander: We are family!
Shaun: Say, you are listening to…
Julia: Can you say, we’re making a podcast about family
Ezzie: We are making a pozz for family
Shaun: With Julia
Shaun: And Shaun T
Sander: And Shaun T
Julia: Can you say, My name is Ezzie and my mama is Julia?
Ezzie: My name is Ezzie and my mama’s… Stinky [giggles]
Julia: [Laughs] No, I’m not!
Sander: My name’s Sander!
Shaun: Can you say, you are listening to…
Sander: [laughs, protests]
Shaun: You don’t wanna say that part?!
Ezzie: And we are family!
Shaun: Enjoy the show.
Sander: Enjoy the show!
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Julia: Hi, I’m Julia Dennison, executive editor of Parents.com.
Shaun: And I’m Shaun T, a fitness motivator, TV personality, and creator of the Insanity workout.
Julia: So speaking of insanity
Shaun: I’m parenting toddler twin boys with my husband Scott...
Julia: And I’m a mom to a 3-year-old daughter I co-parent with my ex.
Shaun: So you made it past the terrible twos? Julia, can you help me out? Do they ever end?!
Julia: They do end, Shaun. As I know you like to say… trust and believe!
Shaun: Trust and believe! Man, I hope so.
Julia: Although I have to say, 3 has its tough spots too. But also, of course, tons and tons of amazing moments.
Shaun: When Julia and I aren’t busy parenting these wonderful, loving, and shall I say, sometimes… strong-willed… little people, we’re the hosts of a brand-new podcast called We Are Family.
Julia: Yes! That’s what you’re listening to right now.
Shaun: Welcome. Welcome to our family.
Julia: This show is all about the different ways there are to create and be a family. This season, Shaun and I are talking to celeb parents and experts alike about topics like IVF and surrogacy, fostering and adoption, LGBTQ parenting, how to share custody after divorce, and much, much more.
Shaun: The diversity of modern family life is beautiful, and this podcast will show it off in all its glory. We’ve had so many amazing conversations! I can’t wait to share them with you guys.
Julia: But first we thought you might want to hear our stories, and understand what our families look like. So we got together—two busy working parents, both recording in our closets, due to social distancing restrictions—me in Queens and Shaun in Arizona—and talked about what family means to us, and why we’re so excited to bring you this show.
Shaun: Julia, family to me is so interesting because I grew up in a single parent household, like you're doing with your daughter, which is amazing. But I ended up being really motivated and inspired by my grandparents. So while my mother was a hardworking single mom, and she really did the best she could to raise my brother and I, having grandparents who were leaders in the church—my grandfather was a pastor and my grandmother was a first lady—I kind of had the best of both worlds, if you will, seeing how hard it is to be a single mom like my mom was, and to actually see what a traditional family unit was, like having my grandmother and grandfather who eventually before they passed away, had been married for about 58 years.
And so I come into this world of you know, growing up, coming out as gay, and now having the joy of being in a same-sex relationship, being married, and now having twins. When I look at all three of those different types of families, if you really think about it, what family looks like to me is whatever your family looks like and feels like to you, and I want people to really embrace that.
Julia: I love that. I feel like, you know, it's easy to talk about a traditional family set up. We're a nuclear family, but like, what even is that? I don't even think there's a single family out there that's, you know, completely quote unquote normal cause it's like, what does that even mean?
Shaun: I think what's also very interesting about that is even if you take that, and I'm going to put quotes, traditional family or nuclear family, and if you really put it into perspective, I know so many kids from the time I was in high school to college, even now as a 40-plus adult, you know, even kids who grew up in those type of families, like sometimes their parents got divorced and you know, some people's parents are in the military, or some people's parents travel a lot. So sometimes it leaves one parent home, not because they got a divorce, just because of the way their family life is and how they need to make money and support their household. And so I just think that that's another way to look at it, to be able to open your mind up to say, "Oh wow. Everyone's family is quite different."
Julia: So just a little bit of backstory about We Are Family as a concept. So I came up with the idea of We Are Family as an editorial series on Parents.com. As executive editor, at the time I was going through a divorce and I was figuring out co-parenting and realizing that my family looked pretty different to a lot of the families that I was seeing in the pages of Parents magazine. And also just in general, parenting websites like Parents.com and other ones and you know, on Instagram. And I felt a little bit like, I dunno, that if I'd seen other families that were a little bit more like mine, that I probably would have felt a little bit happier about my situation and more supported.
So my idea was to do some kind of editorial series that really celebrated the diversity of families. And I saw an amazing statistic that said by 2021 the number of “non traditional,” so non-nuclear, families would outnumber the number of traditional, quote unquote nuclear families.
And realizing that that sort of diverse feel and look of a family, it was starting to be the new norm. And I thought now more than ever is a time to celebrate it.
Shaun: It's so true what you said. Family is changing and as you scroll through social media or read articles, or even when you go to your amazing Instagram page for Parents, it is amazing to see all the different topics we can talk about. And to everyone out there, I'm so excited that you're listening because how you're raising your family is just so unique and special to you, and you should embrace it and try to build upon that as best as you know how.
Julia: I also think it very much takes a village. It doesn't matter what your setup is. I think the more support the merrier. I think even when you are two parents, you know, parenting together at home, it's always useful to have friends and extended family. And I think becoming a single mom has made me realize that now more than ever.
So I always think about this lovely moment when my daughter had her dance recital and I was kind of beating myself up about the fact that I was looking around at all these other dance parents and they had these cute little families that are so Instagram worthy in my head, you know, just the two parents happy together with their kids. But then you look at Esme, my daughter's family, and it was this huge extended family—my parents and also, my ex and his girlfriend. And friends.
And I think it's just because of the very nature of co-parenting, I've had to reach out even more and therefore I think we would never have filled that entire row at the recital if we just still been that kind of traditional nuclear family, I feel like every family can fill up a row at a recital and you know, maybe there needs to be more that's done across the board when it comes to finding your village.
Shaun: I realized the hard way, Julia, that it takes a village. Being in a same-sex relationship and being married and then having kids, and then you know you're being judged, I had this mindset where Scott and I have to do it all. We have to raise the kids. One of us has to stay home. One of us has to work and in the very beginning of us being parents, the first few months of our boys being born, having twins, we really put a lot of pressure on ourselves to say, we can do this.
I actually had a book tour during the process and then we ended up having to use his parents who, it's a godsend that they live right next door. And then we ended up having to get babysitters. And I'll tell you, I personally was overcompensating for the fact that, well, my mother did this on her own and I should be able to do this, and I have a husband and I have someone.
And if there's anyone out there like me who thought that they needed to do this on their own, you don't. You feel like you want your kid to connect with you and you want to be your kids' everything. And now being a parent for two and a half years, I'm like, I can be my kids' most of things, but there needs to be other people that can fill in the rest of those gaps.
Julia: Totally. Oh my goodness. And you know what? Let's be real here about the situation that we're living in now with social distancing. I am in the heart of Queens, so I am in the epicenter of the epicenter it feels like right now, and my parents are only half an hour away. so up until now, they've 100% been my village, and I didn't realize how much I relied on them until I wasn't able to see them. And I think it's just made me so appreciative. I mean, I was appreciative before, but I think the social distancing has made me realize more than ever how important the village is.
Shaun: I had a crazy emotional breakdown last week, Julia. I was so overwhelmed with just really trying to do it all again and realizing that that village that we have, just having our babysitters and just having my team Shaun T staff, cause you know, I have my own business, around, how much that eased my pressure in my brain.
Julia: I feel like they've always said about working parents that you often feel like you're not able to be good enough at your job. And then you're also sometimes feel like you're not able to be good enough as a parent and you're kind of pulled in both directions.
And I feel like during social distancing it's felt that way more than ever because they've done studies, and they say that it's impossible to multitask. As Americans, we think that we can all multitask, and that's just, you know, how our life is. But doing two things at the same time for your brain to process is actually physically impossible.
Trying to keep these full time jobs and also parenting full time at the same time, I mean, it's like asking the impossible of parents and it's understandable that parents are going to be stressed out because you're just not able to focus on one thing or the other, and that's just been such a huge, huge challenge for me.
Shaun: I'm literally smiling just knowing that there's someone else out there that is going through these changes as well. But while we know that times are tough, I would like to know from you, what are some of the amazing things that are happening now that you get to stay home?
Julia: I think just the ability to be home with my daughter and also just realizing what matters most in life and out of all this, I realize your health and your family matter more than everything.
And I know that you need to be able to have a job and you need to be able to support yourself, obviously. But it's just made me kind of put my priorities straight and realize just how lucky I am.
Even though, as a single mom, I don't really get to social distance with another adult, at least I've been able to kind of really hibernate and get cozy and really bond with my daughter, in a way that I'd never been able to do before just because I've always been a working parent. And also I think my daughter, even though she's almost 4. I mean, she's still really little, but, I think she's starting to really understand a little bit more about what I do. And I've been able to also show her my working parent life in a way that I could never do before, because in the past it's always been mommy's gone to work and then, you know, mommy does mysterious things at work.
And now, you know, mommy's on her computer all the time, and now my daughter wants her own laptop so I think, and her birthday's coming up, so I think I might have to get her some sort of laptop-esque thing. And although it's not always been happiness and flowers, we're also bonding through the kind of craziness of it all too. I don't know how you've been finding it.
Shaun: I was laughing because our kids want their own computer and then we go and we get them their toy computer and they're like, no, I want a computer like Papa. I want a computer like Dada. I would like you to know and a lot of listeners to know out there, while they may know me through the TV as the crazy Insanity guy, I'm actually very emotional and I just want to say I love you, Julia, because you are making me feel next to whatever normal is.
Just knowing that you're going through the same things, you can't see me but literally I have little tear ducts in the back of my eyes opening up because I just don't feel alone anymore. And I even have a spouse at home. And so, you just saying that helped me recognize that I'm not alone going through these tough times and being able to recognize the amazing things that are happening is something that we should try and do on a daily basis.
Julia: Thanks Shaun. You're making me all teary too. I can also get really emotional, so this could get really sappy really quickly.
Shaun: Julia and I have our kids now, but we both had some bumps along the path to parenthood. We’ll tell you more about it after the break.
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Julia: Welcome back to We Are Family, a podcast from Parents magazine. I’m your host, Julia Dennison, and today, in our first episode, my co-host Shaun and I are talking about how we created our families.
Shaun: I actually want to know more about your journey into parenthood because I know we both have a story about that and everyone else has their own special story. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to getting to this place before we had these amazing little creatures running around our house that are making us, you know, buy computers?
Julia: I know. I was always a city girl and I think because of that, I put parenting off and I didn't know whether I wanted to be a parent for a really long time. I actually got married fairly young at 24. But, I always thought that the biggest decision would be the having of the kids.
The marriage felt easy to me cause I already knew my grandparents had a really nasty divorce. I already knew that marriage could go one way or the other. But I really wanted to pause and think very carefully about whether I wanted kids.
There was a lot about my single life I loved. I loved going out to eat. I love to travel. I loved that independence. And it took me a while to come around to the fact that I did want to be a mom.
I'd already been married for, I think almost a decade before we even decided to have Esme and I am so type A, and I was like, all right, let's go. I'm coming off the birth control pill. Like, let's do this. Let's go, now.
And of course it doesn't work that way. Well it does for somebody. Some people, I always figure it's like if you think that it's going to work right away, it doesn't. But if you don't think it's going to, you know, I've had friends who were like, "I'll just come off the pill and see," and then they got pregnant right away.
Well, I was ready for it to work. And of course it didn't. And then I got pregnant after five months and I got very excited. But then I had a miscarriage. One in four people have miscarriages. And I think it just, no one talked about that before. So it kind of came out of nowhere to me, and I wasn't really expecting it. I got that positive pregnancy test and I was just so focused and excited about it.
And I had what's called a blighted ovum with that pregnancy. So that meant that when I went in for the ultrasound, it was just a sack. There wasn't even heartbeat or anything. So all I had was the positive pregnancy test. And then it all ended pretty quickly and I decided after that happened, I had to wait for a month, but I was looking at my watch, like, OK, how, what is the shortest amount of time I have to wait before I can start again?
Once I decided I wanted to become a parent, that was it. Like I just had my eye on the prize and I was just going to keep going until it happens. Ultimately, you know, we ended up getting divorced, but the trying to conceive part was really hard on our marriage.
Cause it's a chore and it's no longer about like the nice part of trying for a baby. You track your ovulation and then it's like go time and the romance gets kind of zapped out of it. Especially if you're in a relationship that may not be at its best. I had a great relationship for a long time. It kind of reached an expiration point when we were trying for Esme.
I got pregnant only a couple of months after that, which was wonderful.
But because I knew that things could go wrong, I just, you know, early in the pregnancy just waiting to hear the heartbeat and then making sure that heartbeat was there on every ultrasound. And then, you know, later on I was just constantly counting the kicks.
All of this took a strain and we weren't in the best place. By the time Esme came around, we kind of rallied because we had a new baby and we just had to focus on being parents together.
And then we separated when Esme was one, so pretty early on. Ezzie's dad is just the best dad. I kind of think of him like a brother. I mean, we got together in college so I've known him for years and years and I will always love him. But we're not meant to be married anymore. So I think we've done a really great job of separating that skill of, you know, taking out the parent from the relationship side of things. And so we're able to co-parent really well together and we split our time.
I'd read so many studies and research, and I see how much evidence there is in favor of splitting your time evenly when you get divorced, when it comes to custody.
Just because you're a mother doesn't make you a better parent. If you can share your time, half and half, the better it is for your kid. So I took that to heart, and that's what we do. We still do things together. We still have dinner together. He lives with his girlfriend. I live by myself and I'm dating and everything that comes with that. But, we really just tried to kind of make it one big happy family. And so now, Esme is almost 4. This is the only family set up that she knows.
It's just been a journey of falling back on a larger village and being so appreciative of that and just enjoying all that comes with being a single mom too. Cause I feel like there's a lot of positives there too. So yeah, I'm blessed.
Shaun: First I'll say congratulations for weathering the storm because for people out there who are listening, just hearing Julia's story again, validated what Scott and I have been through. One of the first things that was really profound in Scott and my's, a journey to have children was the first time we had a miscarriage. We were already on our second surrogate and had already spent $60-70,000.
At the time my brother was married and he and my sister-in-law wanted to be our surrogate family, and it was incredible and amazing. Her name is Nicole, and this was actually our third try. Our first surrogate had tried twice and with no avail. So when Nicole had her transfer a couple of weeks later, she called us up and she said, "Oh my gosh, I don't like the smell of this. I don't like the taste of this." We got really excited and she got a pregnancy test and then six weeks later when she went back to get the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, there was no heartbeat. I was away on work and Scott had to go to the fertility doctor's office with Nicole. So when you were talking about that, my heart just kind of went there with you, because it really is such a process that women have to go through. And for Nicole, she had the emotion of losing the child and then thinking that she let us down and yeah. And so she went to try with us for another year and a half and she never got pregnant.
But here's a little funny thing before I get to the rest of our journey, a month and a half later she got pregnant. It was the craziest thing. Her and my brother had a daughter and she's this amazing girl, but you know, it was that moment where Scott and I said, OK, well it wasn't meant to happen with Nicole.
And we continued to try and continued to try at the end of it all, we had six egg donors and five surrogates try for us. It took us five years and on my 39th birthday, Scott and I found out that we were pregnant with our fifth surrogate and it was the most amazing day, but through the process, I will say that very similar to you when our surrogate ended up getting pregnant. I would text her, we'd be like, is the baby kicking? Or babies? Do you feel the babies moving? Do you, it's 19 weeks. Let's go get the ultrasound. And it was this unsettled angst that was going on throughout the entire pregnancy.
Ashley, who ended up being our successful surrogate, if you will, was a third party coordinator at the fertility office, and I don't even remember her. I tell this funny story but, she was like, "yeah, I was the one that, you know, took you to the inspiration room."
They call it an inspiration where we have to donate the sperm. We just walk in the office and I'm like, let me get this done. This is like the 12th time I've done this. I'm at like, where am I going to find inspiration to get this done? I'm like, Jesus, take the wheel. They put me and Scott in different rooms. It was just a crazy experience that I was just like, I'm sick of going to this room and having to... what I have to do in there.
Julia: Haha, inspiration room, I love that!
Shaun: But anyway, I digress. It IS called the inspiration room. I was like, "What?" And the things that were in the drawers in those rooms. I'm like, "Jesus, take the wheel." But anyway, so we go and we donate our sperm to the fertility doctor and a couple of weeks later we get a call from Ashley telling us that another one of our surrogates was not available because her uterus didn't grow the correct millimeters of lining, and so we were bummed, but in that same phone call she said to Scott, I would like to be your surrogate, and his mouth had dropped to the floor because just that morning we had had one of the worst arguments we had ever had. I remember we were in a hotel in Miami, and the pressure of trying to have a kid, even though we didn't have to go through the quote unquote trying phase of actually having the intercourse, it still takes a toll because your entire life is fixated on trying to have kids. But I got back to the hotel and after he had that conversation with Ashley where she said she would want to be our surrogate, it was such a joyful and releasing feeling because for some reason, in our heart of hearts, we were like, we know this is going to work.
Julia: I can't imagine trying for five years. I mean, eight months felt like an eternity. And when I say it, like that doesn't even sound that long, but every single moment it was just like, you're thinking about the end goal. So five years, oh my God, I can't even imagine what that must have been like and all the stresses that came with that.
Shaun: On my birthday, we found out we were pregnant, and while we stressed the entire time she ended up giving birth to our two boys on November 17th and it was just the most amazing profound day and there's so much more to the story, but I'll just stop there and say that once we got to that point, it was like we could breathe again. And like I said earlier, once you have that baby, life does change. Your relationship does change. But I will say I'm very happy today. We have two amazing 2-and-a-half-year-old boys and they are in the depths of the terrible twos and it is crazy.
Julia: I mean, I would love to tell you that it gets better at 3. But then I also saw a story that said the hardest age is eight and I thought, "no, it gets harder. What the heck? Oh my gosh."
Shaun: So that’s a little about our families. We’ll be sharing a lot more as the season goes on, because we really are all in this together as parents. We’re all figuring it out, trying to do our best, now more than ever.
Julia: Shaun, I’m so glad that we get to be here for each other through this.
Shaun: Me too, Julia!
Julia: Speaking of supporting one another … we recorded a lot of this podcast during the coronavirus quarantine… while piecing together the virtual and socially distanced versions of our villages.
As I mentioned before—we’re talking to you from inside our closets, because we can't go out and record together in the studio!
This time’s been hard for all of us in so many different ways.
But Parents Editor-in-Chief Julia Edelstein and her husband Andrew had a tough choice to make when the pandemic hit. He works in a New York City hospital and risked bringing the virus home, possibly infecting Julia and their two young sons.
So they decided Andrew would isolate himself away from the family, while Julia and the boys went to stay with her dad in the suburbs.
Julia graciously made time in her busy day—being a full-time mom and editing the magazine—to step inside her closet and tell us what separation has been like for her family.
Shaun: Julia, lucky to have two Julias today.
Julia D: Do you know, I laugh so hard because I feel like I've been in many a job where it's been Julia one and Julia two. There's something about the name, Julia, and working in publishing and podcasting. I don't know what that is, but I feel someone should look into it. It's a, it's a phenomenon.
Julia E: I know, cause it wasn't that popular of a name when I was growing up. I was always the only Julia in my class and then yeah, kind of hit as I got into publishing, suddenly, like on my college newspaper, there were two Julia's, we were known as the Julia's.
Julia D: The Julias right. Isn't that crazy? My theory is that it's a certain kind of parent. For my parents they were really into the Beatles.
Julia E: Yes, mine too.
Shaun: I know a few Julias actually, and you guys are gonna laugh because the Julia's I know aren't in publishing or podcasting, they're in tennis. But I love all Julias, so let's just have some fun today.
Julia E: Sure. Um, well my name is Julia Edelstein. I'm the editor-in-chief of Parents magazine.
And, um, I stepped into this role only in October, a little bit as a surprise. Um, so it's been a whirlwind job, I guess. I have two little kids, so I'm balancing a lot there. They're 3 and 5. Uh, Joey is my older son, and Gabriel is my little one. Um, and, and yeah, it's a busy working mom life.
Julia D: Julia and I work very closely together, so I work on the digital side and she works on the print magazine and together the Julia's work on the editorial and hope to serve parents around the world, whether it's through this podcast or through the pages of the magazine, or through our Instagram page, or parent's dot com so yes, that's. We live to serve.
Shaun: I have to say I love the Instagram page. It's so good. It's super fun. I think one of the things that you all do that's really incredible and amazing, especially as a new parent, is it's not one of those I would say quote unquote bully type parenting methods. Like you all, you make all parents feel so good about whatever lifestyle they're leading, how they raise their kids, and you provide such amazing tips to really give people or parents a free space to be like, you're not doing anything wrong. Just do it the best that you can do. So personally, I would like to thank both of you.
Julia E: Oh, that's so sweet of you. Yeah. We really try, like when we're editing the magazine, I'm always thinking first and foremost about how the reader is going to feel reading it. Like really trying to stray away from that finger wagging moment or guilt inducing moment and really trying to empower readers should feel like they're the best parent for their kid. Even if you had a horrible day, even if you feel like you don't know what you're doing, like there's no one else who should be in that role other than you.
Julia D: I love that. I always say that if you have picked up Parents magazine or you were reading parents.com you were already a good parent just by the very nature of doing that very thing. Um, but thank you, Shaun. That's so sweet of you. Yeah. I think it's, I think it's at least, I think it's kind of easy for me because I'm living it as a mom. And you obviously are too, Julia. So Joey's 5 and Gabriel's 3, is that right?
Julia E: Yes.
Julia D: OK, so take us through, what's the situation right now? Obviously, we're all social distancing here, and you are over in Connecticut, but your husband is a health worker and he is still in New York City. Is that right?
Julia E: Yes. So, uh, you know, the pandemic has been, um a totally new ball game for my family and obviously not one we predicted. We live in Manhattan um in a two bedroom that we converted to a three bedroom. So it's close quarters. Um, and my husband is a physician at one of the largest hospitals in Manhattan.
Um, he is a psychiatrist who treats medically ill hospitalized patients. So. Um, usually when we're not in the age of, um, COVID-19, he would be rounding on hospitalized cancer patients dealing with anxiety or depression or a patient with bipolar disorder who was in a car accident and is now hospitalized. It could be a whole range of situations.
But now his hospital has essentially become, um, you know, a COVID hospital, although it's starting to relent a little bit. So the majority of the patients he's seen now have COVID-19. And, um, you know, psychiatry certainly isn't one of the specialties that you would be thinking is like on the front lines of this. But because this is his specialty, uh, you know, as soon as this started, he was being exposed every day. Normally he goes to work in, you know, a collared shirt and khaki pants, and, you know, now he's there in full protective gear, seeing patients in goggles. Um, so it's very strange and I think it's, it's really been challenging for him too, because the patients can't have their families there.
He's helping patients with delirium and in all kinds of really difficult situations, um, who don't have any support right there.
It took us a couple days to really get a grip on, on the severity of the situation. And I think that's probably true for all of you. But you know, like when we left our offices, I was like, I didn't realize like how long it might be until we came back. You know, I think I was thinking, you know four or five weeks. Um, but basically, we were quarantined together in our apartment and he was going to work every day.
I was quarantining with the kids, which was really difficult, having two like really energetic boys, um at an age when they were kind of bouncing off the walls and a full time job and no child care.
And then sort of him coming home at night with all of the germs, um, we sort of realized it was not going to be sustainable. Um, and also that like, I needed someone else in the apartment to watch the kids. Um. So we made the decision for me to bring the boys out to my dad's house in Connecticut where I grew up. But because my dad's in his seventies and he's diabetic, it just wasn't safe for Andrew to come as well. So we have been apart for about, um, six weeks now, I think. He came out here last weekend and he and I went on like a socially distanced walk, wearing masks 6 feet apart. Um, but he hasn't been able to see the kids because they're so young and I think it's really just too much to ask of them to not be able to hug him or really go up to him. This is like funny timing to this podcast because he was able to negotiate like a week of remote work and a week's vacation. And so he took a COVID test on Saturday morning, and he actually just got the results this morning that it was negative.
So he's been quarantining since the test, so I think he's going to come out for a week and a half. So he's going to probably see the kids I think later today for the first time. So that will be really exciting.
Shaun: Oh wow. Thank God. My heart is going out to you, just being, you know, in a situation where not only can you not, you know, obviously hug your husband, but just the emotional burden you're taking on from that and then, you know, having to manage your children's emotions. So, I'm just so happy that there's going to be a way for you all to reunite in that in a real way, if you will.
Julia E: Yeah. It's a temporary solution because then he has to go back to work I guess in like nine days or something, but I think it will, you know, nine days is significant.
I think every family is like figuring this out for themselves. I think that when this happened, we thought like, OK, we'll be back in a couple of weeks. Like, we thought school was starting April 20th. Um, you know, like, we just, we, you know, we were like, that's like, you know, a reasonable amount of time and then we'll come back and they'll go to school and I'll probably go back to work and it's clear that that's not the reality.
So, um, how we move forward is difficult. And, um. Yeah, I'm really relieved that we're going to have like some time together. And I think I've been talking to some other families in similar situations and they seem to be doing similar things. Like they're starting to relax their standards a little bit to allow for weekend visits or, you know, trying to use the testing, um, which is becoming more available, you know, to be able to see each other a little more often. Um, but it takes a long time. So we got the test on Saturday, and it's Wednesday, and he just got the results. So a rapid test that was like really accurate would be a game changer for a family.
Julia D: But then you also hear the World Health Organization saying that those tests may not, you may not be able to do too much with the results of those tests because you may be able to get it again.
It's just very confusing times, it feels like. I know I'm in a similar boat where I'm trying to figure out when my daughter can see her grandparents and they're only up in Westchester and they're just a drive away. My, my dad could easily pick us up, but my mom's in her seventies. And my dad's almost 70 and it's just like when is right? I mean, it's not like I'm seeing a lot of people, but, you know, it's a lot of these decisions that everyone's having to make for themselves and there's just so much confusion out there, I find. That, um, yeah, it's still grappling with it my myself.
Shaun: I know, it seems like everyone's trying to figure out like how to bring in that extra person, whether it's grandparents or it's dad and for Scott and I, you know, we're lucky to have our, or his parents live next door so that we get our full family unit. But, like both of you we are juggling being full time dads and full time business owners. And so we're, we're trying to figure out how can we get our, our babysitters back here.
Julia E: It's like the government needs to provide some guidance to families because it isn't sustainable for us to, you know, for families to be separated indefinitely. I wish they would come out with some sort of like, here's how you, you know, reunite with one person, or here's how you safely live with a frontline worker or health or an essential worker. Um, because, if they have like one parent who is really being exposed and out and about, um, there's, there's not really a good, um, solution, especially if you don't want to be cut off from the rest of the world, you know?
So it's like, if we go back to New York and we, we decide, OK, we're just going to risk the exposure. Which I was also worried about for myself cause I have like an autoimmune disease. And then I was worried like, well what if we, what if he gets sick and I get sick and then we're just alone with the kids and we're sick?
You know? So it's sort of like choosing like do we see him, or do we maybe be part of the world that can like bring a babysitter in or things like that. Because I just think like most babysitters or other friends, like aren't going to want to be exposed to a health care worker. So that's sort of like the other tricky part.
Like I was thinking about when we returned to work. Like, would my office really want me to go in if I live with someone that works in the hospital? It's a complicated issue.
Julia D: There's just so many decisions that are having to be made on the fly, too.
Um, so, OK. That's really exciting that there's a little bit of a, you know, um gold at the end of the rainbow for you right now, Julia, um, have you been in touch with any other friends in the medical field who are in similar situations? What are the stories you're hearing?
Julia E: Yeah, I think everyone kind of got thrown into it. I've seen, um, you know, families in our situation, or even I've heard of, um, you know, kids who it's two physicians in the family and the kids are staying with a grandparent and they're not seeing either parent.
Um. And I think it's just, it's, it's hard. I think the hardest part about it is just, um, the uncertainty of the future. Like it's just, it's not sustainable. And so, um, you know, at what point do you decide just to, you know, let's say like, what, I don't even know how it would work. Like if I went back into New York, I couldn't possibly do my job and full time watch my two kids who are insane. Um, it just could, you know, um, and then I think even when Andrew would come home, he'd have to sort of quarantine within the apartment, so like, it just wouldn't work. Um, and I think every, you know, all the other families I've been talking to are just sort of speaking to that same frustration with uncertainty.
But I also think there have been some, I don't want to say silver linings, but you know, my kids through this have become much more independent in some ways. I'm like, my older son, like gets up, he gets himself dressed. I don't have to ask him anymore, you know? Um, he was never like that before and there, you know, he's going to bed a little easier. They just don't have as much attention from me. Um, and they're kind of learning how to deal with that, um like not, you know, not having two parents to, um, work with. And then, you know, there've been sweet moments, like on FaceTime we found, that's what I'm finding a lot of other families are doing too, like bedtime stories on FaceTime. We do that every night. My oldest son is playing UNO with his dad um on the iPad. They play like as a team against other people. So like there have been cute, you know, people are doing things like that. Sending letters in the mail with stickers and like other little surprises.
My husband sent them like new pajamas. But just like little things like that to stay, to stay connected have been really helpful. Um, and no one was set up for this. Like, I have a friend who's, um military family, and she was saying it's a lot like deployment. And I think it's, it sort of is, there are some similarities except that hopefully with the deployment you knew it was coming, like you're semi prepared for it. Um, you're in a community where this is common and I think just, Um I think that, you know, families of doctors and nurses and EMTs and, you know, any, any form of health care worker, just like never expected this to happen. Like, we have zero mental preparation. We have no resources. Like we have absolutely no idea of what we're doing.
When I emailed other families in this boat, they're sort of just like, we're just taking it day by day. We really don't know like what the best practice is for this. Um. And I think also like, we don't really know what it's going to be like when we reunite. I mean, we're going to get to reunite now for nine days, and I think that'll be almost, feel more like a vacation because it's not permanent.
Um, well, I really don't know what the long-term impact on my kids will be from this extended time of separation from their dad. Um, you know, before this, they'd never gone more than I think two days, um, without seeing him. So.
Julia D: Yeah. My dad was, my dad is an actor, and growing up he would go on tour a lot. So it was a similar situation where I would go months without seeing my dad, and then I'd see my, and then my mom would go do a movie and I would go months without seeing my mom. And you know, I think it's amazing how resilient kids are. I don't think, at least, I don't think it affected me in any great way. Um, but it is sort of like heartbreaking when you see your kids being so responsive to the situation and just so mature about it in a funny way, like you want them to be more independent, but then also when you're seeing them just put on their mask, at least my daughter started to put on her mask and just accept it.
There's something, there's also a part of me that where it kind of makes me think, Oh God, this is real and this is happening. This is happening to her, and this is her very first experience of life on this planet and this is what she's experiencing, you know?
Julia E: Yeah, I know. My kids have been very shielded out here from the actual pandemic because we're in a house and there's a big backyard, and so they haven't worn masks yet, and I'm actually thinking like when we go back, it's going to be really dramatic for them and for me, um, to have to go out like that. Like it just going to be a delayed adjustment, I think, for them.
Shaun: You know, kids are starting to accept it, and as the kids are starting to accept the new normal because they're, as we all know, much more resilient than we think, the adults are the people who are getting restless. And I think that especially, you know, Julia E, you know, being as though your husband had the opportunity to take a COVID test, you guys could maneuver around, does he have it or not? Whereas people like us who want to see, you know, family or friends or babysitters, we are saying, Oh well, you know, have you been out anywhere?
Have you, you know, have you come in contact with it? And we're taking these, I would say risks to to, to bring the, the unit or village closer together. And so I think that's the scariest part for us, at least with my mother-in-law having had lung surgery. It's, you have to open up a bit of trust to other people, whereas you trust your husband, right, Julia?
You trust that you know your co-parenting Julia D, so you know, you, you, you have that trust. Whereas we have our babysitters who are, you know, one of them is in a relationship and the other one went home with her family. And so how do you bring these people back in without knowing if they've really been out. You know?
Julia E: It's really difficult. I know, like so one family I heard of, you know, like their au pair snuck out or something, you know, like, people are in really difficult situations. It's very hard to trust a babysitter. Yeah. So, you know. Yeah. You just don't know.
Julia D: It's hard. I mean, I think I would trust my nanny with my life. I mean, we've had ups and downs and all kinds of things and really feels like she's part of the family. But she did come out pretty early on in this whole situation and say, no, I don't feel comfortable. She had a more, it was more of a nanny share anyway, so it wasn't just Esme and the nanny it would have been Esme and a couple other kids at times. Um, and so she was the one who was like flat out, I don't feel comfortable. I'm going to put a stop to this now. And that was kind of helpful because it was just like, alright, this is the situation. We're going to have to, we're going to have to cope now. And that's the end of that, because there was an ambiguous week where I'm like, where I felt a little bit irresponsible, continuing to use the nanny. This was in middle of March or whatever. Um, and I was sort of questioning it in my head, so when she came down and said, I can't do it anymore, and that sort of made this decision for us both, we're continuing to try to pay her as much as we can.
So, Um. Is that, cause, you know, I really feel really feel for these nannies and these, you know, all of these people who are reliant on this gig economy and the fact that they are so much part of our family is whatever we can do to help them, I think is great, but it, it does open up the giant question of like, how long do I continue to keep paying her as much as I can? At what point do we kind of revisit that conversation?
Shaun: Again, Julia, I am so, I'm so not happy about the fact that you brought it up, but I am happy about it because that's something that Scott and I discussed. I mean, we have set up our house where both of our boys have their individual nannies and you know, and it's kind of like this thing where, well, how long do you pay them? But, we want to make sure that they can continue to sustain their lifestyle. And it's a really, really, really tough decision because you don't know how long this is going to go, and you know, it's, it's finances, it's money, it's, you know, so it's a whole bunch of variables that come up that I think that just create a level of stress. I think we all need Julia E's husband to help us with this mental health section.
Julia E: My building in New York was not allowing any babysitters in. So it was really like not even an option. There's a lot of elderly people in my building who have home health aides and need those people obviously. And so the risks to the elderly was just too high. Um, I live in a 600 unit apartment building, so they said, if you are unless you can prove that you have to work outside the home and no parent can stay with the kids, like you cannot have anyone coming into your apartment.
Julia D: Yeah, it does feel like there needs to be something more that maybe it's not coming from us as individuals, but maybe even the government to help out some of these people in these gig economy jobs. But then also, you know, what the heck are we supposed to do? And I think there's been a lot of tension on mom groups on Facebook and things, because some people are continuing to use their nannies, even if you know they're not essential workers. And then it's like, in my book, I'm like, if you're, if you're not having to leave the house and you're not an essential worker, and so therefore I feel it's very stressful the days that I have Ezzie, it's just me and I'm trying to work full time. I mean, Julia saw it yesterday. I was on a Zoom call with you, Julia, and Ezzie is literally on my head, um. But at the same time, it's sort of like, well, I don't think we're supposed to be comfortable right now. This is just a time of really continuing to make it work. And sometimes I don't mind people seeing Ezzie on those Zoom calls, just as that reminder that this is not changed as of yet. We're still trying to get through all of this.
Julia E: Yeah. Right. I do think, yeah, it definitely feels like it's, it may be a long term situation. Um. And my kids have also shown up on many a Zoom call. Um, and then like, if I really have an important call, then that's when I put the movie on or a double feature in some cases. Um, that seems to hold them over.
Julia D: Oh same. Completely. Always. Yes. Always. When in doubt, put a screen in front of them.
So that’s how we’re helping our kids cope… but what about ourselves?
How do you even take care of your own mental health when you’re working full time and parenting full time in the middle of a global pandemic? For me, Shaun, and Julia, it’s been a combination of exercise, video calls with our therapists, and… I’m not going to lie… a few adult beverages.
Shaun: So I have a question for both of you. As a, um, as a fitness guy, if you will, are you still working out?
Julia D: Well, you know what? As a single mom, I had to become acquainted with YouTube workouts for a long time because if I was going to get a workout in and I had Ezzie, then I can't just go to the gym or go for a run. I have to do it at home.
Julia E: I have not been working out. But I also haven't been indulging in anything. It's almost like my life is just like a 24 hour um work, parent, work, parent, and then just like fall asleep.
Um, you know, it's just nonstop between the kids and my job and then the laundry and cleaning up after them and feeding all of us. So working out has kind of fallen by the wayside. But what I have been trying to do is just get my heart rate up. I'll just go outside if I can get my dad or my sister to watch my kids. Let's say like, while they eat dinner, I might just go into the backyard and just run around like a crazy person, you know, just to get the endorphins going or just to like, feel a little bit better.
Shaun: I think what you're doing, just being able to go outside is fine. People do believe that they need a full 30 minutes of a workout, and while it's not possible for everyone, a couple of things you can do is put on your favorite song and dance around. I do that with my kids. I'm like, we're going to dance right now. Even if it's just a five to seven minute jog in place, do a plank hold, do some squats, do some pushups and um, uh, I might sound like the trainer right now, but you just feel so great.
So you know, if someone's out there listening and they haven't worked out, just putting on your favorite song, jump up and down, do hopscotch, do something just to kind of get your, your body moving cause it does relieve a lot of this, this stress.
Julia E: Yeah. No, I mean, the few times that I have exercised, it has really helped. Um, yeah. And I really should do that. And I also think like, it's sort of it is like a nice form of self-care. Like one thing I have been doing is like still Zooming with my therapist. I don't know if you guys do that.
Julia D: I was just going to say, yup.
Julia E: It's almost like my therapist is sort of like, don't get too in touch with your emotions because like, you know, you really have to be strong right now.
I think parents just have to be so resilient. We have to be, so, you know, there is so much to do. Like I kind of can't take a break, in a really real way. Like, my kids are counting on me to put the food out and get them up in the morning and do the distance learning. And I've got a team of like 25 people, um, you know, waiting for me to, you know, read pages of the magazine and approve ideas or whatever else it is. So I can't really just like fall apart. And um, you know, my therapist has been prescribing, not that he wouldn't normally prescribe exercise, but he's sort of just like, it's just about mental fitness. This isn't really a moment when you want to go like deep soul searching. It's kind of better to stay on the surface a little bit.
Julia D: I didn't realize how much going to the office and having that divider of going to the office and then coming home, how much that helped with my work life balance. I'm feeling the same thing. Like that slide between just work and, and life is just all one big puddle right now. Um, and trying to separate it is, it's, you know, and it's definitely, definitely stressful. Um, I have found one, one thing that I've really liked is on Instagram. D-Nice.
Shaun: Oh yeah.
Julia D: Yes. The dance parties.
Shaun: Ah yes it feels so good.
Julia D: Those are so awesome, and that's a perfect opportunity to just get up and dance. And I've definitely lowered the shades in my living room and just made sure nobody saw me and just went wild.
Julia E: That's a nice idea.
Julia D: Yeah. I really recommend. And he's on a lot and he goes on late at night, so it's like whenever I see him live, and if I have the opportunity, I'll try and do that. But, um, so I have a question for you, Julia. As the editor in chief of Parents, what do you think anything about your experience now has changed your approach to the editorial in general or has taught you a little bit more about what it means to be a parent these days?
Julia E: Yeah. Well, I definitely think that, you know, this has been a really game changing experience. I think we're so lucky to work at Parents because it's, it's such a relevant brand right now, like parenting is it's become our number one job. It doesn't matter who you were, what you were doing. You could be, you know, Kim Kardashian, like she's now mom. That's her main job. That's her main role.
Julia D: I love that.
Julia E: Like everybody just had to put aside everything else and put parenting first, and it's just become, you know, there is no escape. There's no babysitter for Saturday night. There's no daycare. There's no school. Um. I feel like my confidence in my, I wouldn't say like, I'm feeling so calm, like I'm such a great mom.
I've definitely had some really low moments of parenting. Um, but my confidence in my ability to like just be around my kids has gone up. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but I feel like as a working mom, like I would often be like, I don't know if I could be home with them. Like that's such a lot of time to be home with them.
Or I'd feel like I'm really itching to like, you know, get out for dinner with my friends or go to a show or whatever it was. And I, and I'm sort of surprised by my capacity to do this, like to just 24 hours, you know, every night with my kids. You know, my younger son wakes up every night and I always split that with my husband. And I was like, I'm not going to survive this. But like somehow I have, I've gotten up every single night. Um, so I don't know. So I think I, I imagine, I always feel like if I'm feeling something, other people are feeling it too. And so I do think that our readers are sort of dealing with like a desperate need for a break, but also feeling like, wow, like I'm, I'm capable of more than I thought. I can do this.
Shaun: Going back earlier when we were talking about the silver lining, for me, I used to travel so much, like when you said your husband wasn't away for more than two days I'm like, man, I feel like a horrible dad. It would be like I would be home for three days, gone for four, then I may be home for seven days, gone for five, but now, you know, just being able to be home every night, put them to bed, wake them up, and I feel more connected and I can tell that they're more connected to me cause you know, they would always run to dada, because he was always home.
And now, now when at night when they call for us it's like papa, dada, it's like a mixture. So for me it's, it's, I'm kind of like happy about that. I'm like, oh my God, they actually do love me. So you know, in all of this craziness there is getting to know your kids more, which is, I think a really great thing in a way.
Julia E: Yeah. I think it's really, it's like it's something that we'll all miss when and if life goes back. Also, I really don't miss a lot of the social things. Like, I mean, I miss them for myself, but it's been a relief to not have so many events on my calendar. And I realized like what stress that was causing, even in my marriage, like who's buying the birthday present for that birthday party? Can you take, you know, Joey to X? Because I have to take Gabriel to. You know, speech therapy or whatever it was.
Like our, our days were just so packed and now everything, even if they have an appointment, you just like pull up the computer and whatever they're wearing, they're wearing and like, it's. Things are just so much, there's so much less paperwork in my life.
Um. And I think that parents, you know, I think everyone is feeling that that relief of like a lot of the mental load of parenthood has just vanished temporarily. And it would be great if we could find a way for it to stay there.
Julia D: Totally, I mean maybe it all wasn't necessary. Julia, this has been so nice. I feel like we could keep chatting forever. This has been so fun. It's still this, this felt like a therapy session for me.
Shaun: I know, thank you, me too.
Julia E: Thank you for having me on.
Julia D: Thanks, Julia.
Julia: And that’s our show for today. I’m Julia Dennison.
Shaun: And I’m Shaun T.
Julia: We’ll catch you next time on We Are Family. We’ve got some great conversations lined up for Pride Month.
Next week, we’ll talk to actress Ally Sheedy and her son Beckett about how to support kids who are trans... or in the process of figuring out their gender identity.
We learned so much from speaking to them, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Thanks also to our production team at Pod People: Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, Susie Armitage, and Lene Bech Sillisen. This show was recorded in New York and Arizona, edited in New York City, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.