Interview by Fallon Hogerty
Photography by Bethany Nauert
How does one begin to introduce a woman as ridiculously hilarious and accomplished as Rebecca Woolf? Perhaps by stating the facts. At the tender age of fourteen, Rebecca began writing for the infamous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. In her late teens, she travelled the world, charming her way into the offices of top magazine editors and securing stories usually reserved for veteran journalists. Now, she's nearly eight years into her most difficult role yet: motherhood. With the birth of her first child, Archer, Rebecca decided to blog her experience on a little site called Girl's Gone Child. Her quick wit and honest writing style has gained her legions of fans from across the world who've both shared in her joys and despair - not to mention, watched her family multiply from three to six. We were lucky to spend an afternoon with Rebecca and company during one of her most treasured holiday moments, and even luckier to grab a few moments of her time to discuss life and the things that make her go.
How did you get into the business of blogging?
Actually, I was blogging before blogging even existed! Back in high school, I was regularly contributing to these books called Chicken Soup for the Soul. I don't know if you remember, but they were really big in the '90s. So basically, all of my bad, angst-y teenage poems and stories that I'd never want anyone to see are published in print, which is awesome. Not only that, but they're available in 400 different languages. Perfect!
I started what we now think of as a blog back in 2003, before I had kids and met my husband. I had a few other friends who had blogs and we started them together. I was traveling a lot, so it was an easy way for people to see where I was without sending mass emails. It just started as a way to communicate with friends and family about what was going on. I was already writing so when blogs became a thing, it was natural for me to start one.
That's kind of amazing. How did you get involved with Chicken Soup?
[laughing] I spent so many years being embarrassed about my Chicken Soup past! I actually just kind of fell into it. I've been super lucky. My ninth grade English teacher told our class that he would give us extra credit if we submitted a story to a publisher. At the time, I loved Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and at the back of the book, there was an address where you could submit writing. So I did, and they hired me. They published nearly everything I submitted!
We don't blame them! Let's fast forward to Girls Gone Child. How did this blog come about?
I started Girl's Gone Child in 2005 right after Archer was born. I realized that if I was going to be writing as a mom, I wanted to change the title of my blog. I was a completely different person, so it felt weird writing in this space that recounted the darker days of my early twenties! I didn't want this to coexist with me being a mom and starting a family. It felt natural to start a new one. So, in October 2005 I founded Girl's Gone Child and have been blogging nearly every weekday since.
Now that you have four kids, how do you balance it all?
I try to have a schedule, but I'm the worst! I have about thirty thousand unread emails in my inbox right now. My husband has ZERO. Every time I open my inbox, he has a heart attack. And then I have a heart attack. I'm just like . . . HOW did this happen? People ask for my advice all the time, but I just don't know! I just do it. I don't know how anyone's alive, how we make anything work . . . [laughing] I simply have no idea. I think I owe a lot to my amazing nanny who comes every morning at 7 a.m. She comes when I'm getting my kids ready for school and then she's with the twins until about 2 p.m. She keeps me in line. It's like having a mom. Sometimes, I'll just wander around my house with the babies and she'll be like, "GO! Go work!" She's really like the Armenian mother that I've never had.
You are cracking me up! A lot of parents have issues finding a great nanny. How did you find yours?
I swear, finding her was a miracle. She's an angel. My mom came to stay with me for two months when the twins were born. When she was about to leave, I was so freaked out! I had no idea what I was going to do. Then, a friend told me that she had a friend, a mom of twins no less, who had a nanny who was looking for more work. I called Tamara that day and hired her on the spot. She started working for us a week later. I am so lucky to have her!
I want to ask you about an average day in your household. Is there any sort of rhyme or reason to your day? How did today go?
Every day is pretty mundane, though I wish I could say it was more exciting. But today was a total disaster! I woke up late and my nanny had to get me out of bed. She literally comes in my room and tears off my covers sometimes! When the babies sleep in, I don't wake up until I hear a cry. Such was the case today. When I drove Archer and Fable off to school, they were selling school spirit sweatshirts outside. "What a great idea!" I thought. So I get to the front of the line and realize I forgot my wallet. I drove home, got my wallet, picked up sweatshirts and then my husband called to tell me he forgot his cell phone at home. By the time I dropped his cell off, it was already 11 a.m.! When I pulled into my driveway, I saw that there was toilet paper everywhere. A sewage pipe exploded all over my front yard. The plumber shows up and of course he's the hottest plumber ever. He's lecturing me about stuffing my toilets with unmentionables, and I am just mortified.
"The plumber shows up and of course he's the hottest plumber ever."
He was going on and on about feminine hygiene for what felt like hours. Needless to say, I didn't get any work done today. Moral of the story is that even though I have time blocked out to work, somehow that never happens! I'll be up working late tonight.
Total madness! So I know you say you don't have advice to give, but I think you're holding out. Could you share a bit of parenting wisdom gained from your own experience?
I think the most important think you can do as a parent is listen to your kids. Ask them questions a lot. Really, for them to learn they also have to see that they're teaching us. It's an exchange. We have to give them the opportunity to share how they feel. We can't just blow them off like, "Oh, they're just kids and you know they don't know." It's really important to respect them as people and listen to them! I also feel really strongly about not being a helicopter parent. Parenting has become a fear-based profession. People are so afraid of their kids hating them, turning out bad. I think being a parent is hard, but life is hard! Parents put so much pressure on themselves. Trusting yourself and listening to yourself as a parent is a good thing. I don't believe in all of these books or philosophies. There is too much information out there, and it almost clouds us! If you're feeding yourself so many points of view, eventually you lose track of your own. We've been parenting for thousands of years. I mean, we got this! Love your kids and take care of them. Listen to them. Respect them. Let them be themselves. And make sure that when the sewage pipe explodes, you have it fixed.
What are your thoughts on having twins?
I think what has surprised me more than anything is how strong the nature vs. nurture thing is. They are so different! They look and act totally different. Here are babies born on the same day who have basically been taken care of in the same way. When you see how completely different they are, it's kind of liberating. It's like, ok, this is who they are. They are their own person. Also, twins are so much fun. One baby is cute, but two? Especially when you see them interact? It's too much!
Lastly, let's talk about the Holidays. How do you and your family like to celebrate?
We're getting a tree for the first time this year! It's not a Christmas tree, per se, but a holiday tree. My husband is Jewish and I didn't grow up in a super religious family. We just bought our first house, so I think that has a lot to do with it. We want our home to feel warm and festive, and our kids want it. It's really interesting how kids desire to share these things with their family. They want traditions. It's so not me, but I'm having to buck up and having to create my own traditions for them. One thing that I've done since my own childhood is make gingerbread houses. Every year, we decorate a gingerbread house with my whole family. Everyone gets a side and can express themselves and do whatever they wanted with it. We put on Christmas music and the Peter, Paul and Mary Hanukkah music and get to work. On Christmas, everyone eats it. For us, it's really the highlight of the whole holiday season.