“What we’re really longing for is to be known and to know and to be loved and seen and to belong.” Amy Weatherly and Jess Johnston, co-creators of Sister I Am With You, join Zibby to discuss their mission and their new book, I’ll Be There (But I’ll Be Wearing Sweatpants). The three talk about the personal experiences with friends that inspired them to create a supportive community for other adult women and what the process was like shifting from blog to book writing. Pre-order the new middle-grade edition of the book, I’ll Be There (And Let’s Make Friendship Bracelets): A Girl’s Guide to Making and Keeping Real-Life Friendships, out November 8!!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Amy and Jess, to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss I’ll Be There (But I’ll Be Wearing Sweatpants), which by the way, I wore in honor of this episode. I can barely lift up my leg, but I am wearing sweatpants. Welcome.

Jess Johnston: So did I. Thank you for having us.

Amy Weatherly: Thank you.

Zibby: It’s my pleasure. Both of you, introduce yourselves one by one so listeners can tell who’s talking when.

Amy: I’m Amy. I am in Texas. I’m married with three kids. If you hear noise in the background, it is them, honestly. I told them to be quiet, but I hear them in there making cereal.

Zibby: How old are your kids?

Amy: I’ve got a ten, eight, and five. I write. Jess and I started Sister, I Am With You together. That’s kind of it. We pick up a lot of socks, make a lot of snacks. We’re really into frozen pizzas right now.

Zibby: All about Amy’s frozen pizza. I didn’t even mean you, Amy. I mean the brand, but never mind.

Amy: Oh, nice. I really like Paul Newman’s. It’s my favorite one.

Zibby: Now we go out, and the kids are like, “It’s not as good as Amy’s pizza at home.” I’m like, “Are you kidding?”

Jess: Oh, that’s amazing. I should try that.

Zibby: No, it’s not. It’s terrible.

Amy: not good.

Zibby: No, it’s just a commentary on their taste buds at this point. Whatever. It’s fine. Not exactly pizza connoisseurs. Jess, tell us a little about you too.

Jess: I’m Jess Johnston. I live in Southern California with my husband and four kids. Yesterday was all the graduations. My son graduated from junior high, which I realize is not high school, but I was still a mess. My kids are fifteen, thirteen, eleven, and eight. It’s just pure chaos. This is the first day of summer. I’m just trying to stock up on popsicles and figure out what we’re going to do.

Zibby: I’m with you. I have two almost-fifteen-year-olds next week. I have an eight-year-old. Then I also have a seven-year-old.

Amy: We’re not quite .

Jess: waterparks near me ten times. What are we going to do?

Zibby: Your book, let’s talk about friendship. Which of you said they were having a hard time making friends and finding, keeping good friends? That had been an issue. There was all this loneliness in parenting and all of that. Which one of you said that? I know someone said that.

Amy: Probably, both of us at different times. We both, at different times, have struggled with it. When Jess and I first met, I was going through a period where I really didn’t have any friends. I had lost friends that I thought were going to be in it forever and was heartbroken. Jess has been through it too. We’ve both been there.

Jess: It definitely hit me, specifically, after I had all four of my kids. They were all in the little stage. Life was so chaotic and crazy. One night, we put all the kids to bed and were watching TV. I just started bawling because life was chaotic and crazy. It was in the quiet moments where I’d be like, I am so lonely. I have no idea where to even start. What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to find these people? I just wanted friends that I could be in it with. I was having a hard time imagining how to get past the awkward firsts. I just wanted them to come in my house and sit next to my laundry pile. I didn’t want to do the beginning stages. I just wanted to have the people already.

Zibby: I remember when I had my twins, I feel like I was one of the first of my friends here in New York City to have kids, and certainly two of them at once. I remember one time my mom and I were leaving the park. I had said, “I haven’t been able to find any friends with kids my same age except for this one baby playgroup.” There was this little group of moms with their kids huddled on a bench. My mother was like, “Go over there.” I’m like, “I cannot introduce myself to random people.” I didn’t. I know that feeling. I was like, I wish I had a best friend or a sister or somebody I could call who’s going through this right now, but I didn’t. You two started a whole movement around this, basically.

Amy: Yeah, we did. We met on the internet. We kind of went to first base, sending Instagram messages back and forth, and then second base, went to actually talking on the phone. While we were talking on the phone, that’s what we realized. People are dealing with this, and nobody’s really talking about it in a deep way. Nobody’s saying — my thing is I probably talk way too much. I can’t share the story on here, but I just blurt out stuff and make jokes that are unbelievably inappropriate. I always go back and I’m like, why did you do that, Amy? Why did you do that? Why did you do that? I don’t have a problem making friends, but it felt like keeping friends was where I was struggled. Man, why do they get tired of me? Why am I all in and they’re like, ?

Zibby: Wait, was this actually true, or did you just worry that they didn’t want to be with you? Is it confirmed? There’s also this whole level of, they must not want to hang out with me.

Amy: I have a tendency to — I don’t know if this is normal or not. I don’t know which one is normal. I feel like the healthy thing to do is assume people like you until they prove otherwise. You assume that they like you unless they do something that would show you that they in fact do not. I am the opposite. I assume nobody likes me, ever. They have to prove to me that they like me, which is probably very unhealthy and something I should talk to my therapist about. It was a combination of both. I had lost friends. We had been really good friends for about a year. Then it ended. I saw on social media, them all hanging out without me. That text would come across, “Love when all the girls get together,” and sitting at home and being like, but wait, wait. Hang on, but I am one of the girls. I was one of the girls two weeks ago. Nothing had just happened, and trying to figure it out. I tried to very timely confront the situation, say, hey, what happened? What did I do? It just got passed around, blame and blame and blame. Oh, well, this person. It was just kind of this.

Zibby: That’s terrible, by the way.

Amy: It was awful. It was heartbreaking. I’m thirty-something. I loved these girls. I loved them. There was nothing I wouldn’t have done for them. It was just, one girl had decided she didn’t like me. I didn’t do anything. One girl just decided she didn’t like me anymore, and none of the others were willing to say anything or do anything or go, no, we’re still going to invite Amy. Get over it. They were like, okay, if it’s awkward, we just won’t invite her. We’ll just act like that — I don’t know. It was very hurtful. Still to this day, I don’t really know what I did or what was going on. I don’t know. That stuff happens in adult friendships. I bet it happens. It shouldn’t, but it happens even when you’re nice and when you’re good and when you’re all in and when you give it your best and even when you confront the situation and say, “Hey, did I do something wrong? If I did, please give me the opportunity to fix it,” and even when you make all the right moves. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It sucks when that happens. There’s no other way to put it. It just sucks. It sucks.

I spent a lot of time with Jess trying to figure that out and going, why don’t people like me? What do I do wrong? Why am the kind of person that I look better in the rearview mirror than I do in the passenger seat? Jess and I worked through all that together. Then one day out of absolutely nowhere, I had this idea. I called Jess up. I was like, “Jess, I think we should start a page on social media and call it Sister, I’m With You and just let it be all about friendship. I’ve been digging around and researching for five to ten minutes, and I don’t see another place on the internet like that. I’ve already secured the Facebook name, the Instagram name, the handle. We’ve got it. I really feel like this is something we should do. Let’s just see where it goes.” Jess was all in, and so we did it and started it. It grew really quickly. It just caught on. We wanted to talk about more than just, find your friend, because duh. I hate when people are like, find a friend. Find your people. Find your tribe. I’m like, well, duh, but where and how? Tell me where these people are. Mine seem to be hiding.

Zibby: Wait, so when did you start the page? How big has it grown to now?

Jess: Oh, gosh, when did we start the page?

Zibby: Ish.

Amy: Before the pandemic.

Jess: 2019?

Amy: Yeah, 2019. It would’ve been in November. No. July?

Jess: It was forty thousand followers in a month or something.

Amy: No, we had a hundred thousand followers in a month. Remember?

Jess: We just reached a million.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. You guys, that’s amazing. That’s so amazing.

Jess: We realized, Amy and I both in our blogging worlds, the power in just blowing the lid off of those insecurities and hard things that we all go through. When you talk about it and you say it out loud — hey, adult friendship’s actually hard. Hey, I’ve really struggled with loneliness. The power in that, it releases that for everybody else, that feeling of, oh, my gosh, I thought I was the only one who struggled with this. I thought I was the only one who was left out. I thought I was the only one who was somehow an adult and still feels super awkward about making friends. There’s just such power in telling the truth. That’s really what we wanted to create this space for. Let’s talk about this in a real way. It’s one of the biggest parts of life, but we’re not talking about it in a way that says, hey, this isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. This isn’t as easy as when I was in school, as either you’re seeing on social media. Oh, there’s this beautiful sisterhood, friendship trips. Everybody’s wearing the same T-shirt. They have everything I’m longing for. That’s kind of it.

Zibby: I think it’s particularly powerful coming from the two of you who — . Sorry. I haven’t had any water to drink in three days. You two are so likable. That’s what I’m not even understanding, Amy, when you’re sitting there talking like, people didn’t like me. I’m literally searching like a little scanner of any issues I could sense that would turn people off in some way. I literally am coming up with nothing. No matches found. I don’t quite get it. I feel like coming from the two of you, who seem like nice, normal people who would have a lot of friends and wouldn’t have an issue, I think that makes it even more compelling.

Amy: Isn’t that what we do with other people, though? We always assume. We look at them, and we always assume. No, they have friends. No, they know people. No, they are not struggling with this. I think there’s just something beautiful about vulnerability that allows other people into that circle to say, oh, okay, if you have said this, I feel safe also admitting that I am insecure. I feel safe also admitting that I struggle with making a friendship last longer than a year. It is powerful. It’s beautiful. The truth is, most people feel lonely. Most people don’t have a ton of friends. It is a struggle that we’ve had in this country. It’s a problem. When you look at the statistics and the research, it breaks your heart. It breaks my heart because I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than connection. It is what we strive for as humans. We strive to be connected. I think a lot of the disconnect comes from, we still have these brains that lived in these villages where everyone did everything together. You washed your clothes together. I didn’t live back then. I don’t know. You walked around and did — I don’t know what you did.

Zibby: You carried each other’s babies on your hips. Group baths. I don’t know.

Amy: According to Jane Austen movies, you put on dresses and you walked around fields together just talking about things. We never do that anymore. We need do that. We live very isolated in our houses. How often is it that we don’t even know our neighbors? That’s very common to not know your neighbor nowadays. I feel like our brains are still in that village mentality, but we’re living in a culture that is not conducive to just walking around and holding each other’s babies and going to pick up — I don’t know. I don’t know what people did then. Do you know what I’m saying? Somewhere, there’s something that’s happening. I do think we have to work harder because as humans, I don’t think we feel full. It takes connection. We have to be connected to each other. We are social creatures. There’s nothing we will do or can do that can get away from that. We’re social creatures.

Jess: I think we’re longing, too, for that deeper connection. I think another problem is getting stuck in these surface-level friendships that revolve around our kids’ sports or whatever it is. What we’re really longing for is to be known and to know and to be loved and seen and to belong. That’s a hard part of it too.

Zibby: That’s why I love my podcast, honestly. Every day — look at this. We don’t have to mess around. We only have thirty minutes. We’re going to go right to it. I get that over and over again. I’m like, okay, wait, tell me about the deepest, darkest loss in your life. It’s only been five minutes, but I get there. That’s why I always recommend people do a podcast, because you can get to know someone so quickly, I guess unless you’re really off-putting on the podcast or something. You know what I mean. I think that there’s such a lack of dedicated time, too, where you’re not interrupted. That’s another podcast bonus. You’re not watching your kids. It’s almost impossible — what you mentioned, Jess, about sports games, you’re screaming one minute. Then you’re running down the field. You try to have a conversation with one dad from this team. Then next thing you know, you’re — it’s just impossible. It is impossible. Podcasting is an answer, as is your community.

Jess: I’ve felt that way as we’ve done all these podcasts. I’m like, wow, I just felt like I had the best time with friends, really quality conversations.

Zibby: It’s true. How did you do it? This is a business question too. You started a page and grew it exponentially over two years. How?

Amy: I don’t think we have any giant secrets to how we grew it. I think that we found something that it was like, this is what these women were bleeding. They were bleeding. Here is a band-aid that could help them feel less alone. We just happened to be one of the first ones to do it and to figure that out. We don’t hold anything back on our page. We don’t try to sound puffed up. We don’t try to sound like we have it together. It doesn’t come off as a super business-y sort of thing. I think it just sounds like two girls talking. I think people just craved it. I don’t know. That’s the only reason that it grew. There’s no special secret to anything that we did except for that we were truly passionate about it. We were willing to take a risk and do something that hadn’t really been done before. We were extremely vulnerable. Those are some of the things. A lot of times when people are starting pages, they look at what other people are doing. Oh, this is popular. Okay, I’ll do that. That’s not the key. Find something that you are deeply passionate about. This is your lane. You stay in it. You do it. You do it well. Dedicate yourself to that. Find the people who are wanting to believe in that same thing that you’re believing in, wanting to do the same thing you’re doing. It’ll grow. Hopefully, it’ll grow or it’ll be good. It’ll be good because it’s true and it’s honest and it is real to you.

Jess: I think we had a really unique situation, too, that we had found each other and that we’re both really passionate about it. I know as busy moms, I couldn’t have done it without Amy. Even having Amy and knowing that we’re working on this together — if I had started my own thing doing this, I think I would’ve run out of steam, probably. That we had our own friendship and our own — I don’t know if synergy’s the right word, but our own bouncing ideas off each other throughout the day. Hey, this is on my heart about friendship. Let’s talk about friendship breakups. Then going back and forth and just doing that all together has been really huge for me.

Zibby: Then tell me a little about writing the book too. What was that like? Whose idea was that? How did that come about? Would you do it again?

Jess: I think we have, both, different answers.

Amy: One of us had a harder time. I had a harder time with writing the book than Jess did. It flowed out of Jess very naturally. It did not flow out of me. I got my feelings hurt when the edits came to. Jess did none. I was in bed. I was like, they hated everything I wrote. It’s all red. They hated it. One of the good things is, when you grow a page to a certain size, publishers are going to take note. We both kind of put off writing a book because we both have our own personal pages, too, that are fairly successful. They’re not as big as Sister, I’m With You, but they’ve done well. When you grow a page to a certain size — we put off — I don’t know about Jess, but I knew, I was like, no it’s not time for me to write a book yet. It’s not time. It’s not time. It’s not time. I really waited until I felt like, okay, this is it. When I did it, I wanted to do it right. I wanted to have my choice of publishers. I didn’t want to have to beg anybody to write this book. I wanted it to be a big open field that I could choose from. I waited for a long time.

I’m really lucky that I was able to do that and that I had a husband who was supportive that was like, you want to write on the internet and make no money for a long time? Okay, that sounds good. Yeah, I support you in that. I’m very lucky to have him. Then it just happened that there was one week where three different publishers reached out to me the same week. It was bizarre. I think somebody from Random House, somebody from HarperCollins. All these publishers have these different divisions. Someone from Harper, someone from Random House, and someone from Hachette all reached out to me in the same week. I knew. I was like, okay, this is it. This is it. We’re doing it. It’s happening. Got the ball rolling from there. From there, went on, found an agent. I knew it was going to be a book on friendship. Then I obviously knew if I’m going to write a book on friendship, Jess is going to write it with me. We just got the ball rolling pretty quickly from that. I think that was in February. Then we got the book deal in March or April. We got the book deal. It all happened really quickly when it happened.

Zibby: Which publisher did you choose?

Amy: We went with Thomas Nelson. They’re part of HarperCollins.

Zibby: Awesome. Sorry I cut you off, Jess. Go ahead.

Jess: No, you’re good. We just that we knew needed something with more depth than what we’re able to do on our page, more of a handbook, of, this is how you get there, with more stories, with more, this is how we walk this out in our life. We knew people were hungry for it, so we knew we needed to write a book pretty quickly. As soon as the page started exploding, we were like, next step, probably a book.

Zibby: What are you thinking next step is now?

Jess: Oh, man.

Amy: When does this come out? Can we tell? I bet we can tell them. They’re not going to do anything. It’s being adapted into a tween — a version for eight- to ten-year-olds. Eight- to twelve-year-olds? It’s twelve-year-olds. It’s being adapted right now.

Jess: Which I’m excited for for our girls.

Amy: Then there’ll be another book.

Jess: There’ll be another book. We would love to do a podcast at some point.

Zibby: Amazing. Wow. So great.

Amy: It’s been really fun. The book gives you the opportunity to write more stories. When you’re writing on social media, you don’t have a ton of words. People’s attention span is very small. One of the comments I get, they’re like, who is this person? Who had time to write a book on social media? Maybe that’s why you don’t have any friends. Okay, cool. Rude.

Jess: You’re like, it’s five paragraphs. I’m pretty sure this is not a book.

Amy: It took me ten minutes to write this, sir. I think it’s fine.

Zibby: I’m all about the long caption, by the way. I love writing long captions because I’m like, I’m writing. I’m writing every day. This is me writing. My daughter’s like, “I didn’t really read it.” I’m like, “But I put it out there. It was about you.” It doesn’t matter.

Amy: I realize so few people read things all the way through. It is alarming. That’s why we get so mad. There are so many people who are mad at this thing that you wrote on the internet. You come back and you’re like, but did you finish it? I feel like you did not. I feel like you didn’t get to the ending and got mad and stopped. I don’t share a ton of stories on social media because I live in a town with these people. I don’t want to have people scared to be my friends in real life. You cannot be her friend because she’s going to write about you on the internet. I don’t tell a lot of stories. A book gives you space to do that, to share more personal stuff. That part of it freaked me out. Jess was fine. I was like, oh, my gosh, did I change the stories enough? I don’t want anybody to know that it’s about them. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I don’t want to write some kind of Taylor Swift breakup songs.

Zibby: I have a memoir coming out soon. I had another draft of it years ago. I sent it to a few of my best girlfriends. My one friend called me and was like, “You know, I’m honored you put that scene in with me and that you changed my name and everything.” I’m thinking, that had nothing to do with you.

Jess: Oh, no.

Zibby: I was like, that was not you at all. I was like, “No problem.”

Amy: That’s hilarious.

Zibby: People see what they want to see.

Amy: Absolutely, they do.

Jess: Any negative story, I’m like, everybody’s wondering if this is them. I just want to post, it’s nobody. It’s nobody you know. It’s not you.

Zibby: Do you have any advice, in particular, for people writing books together or your number-one piece of advice for finding your people or finding your tribe the way you were just saying that people always say you can do but you can’t?

Jess: I would say my number-one thought that changed my life with making friendships was intentionality and putting myself out there to pursue people and realizing how many other people are in the same boat as me. They’re also lonely. They haven’t not invited me over because they just decided they don’t like me. They’re also overwhelmed. They’re busy. They don’t have time. They don’t know how. Creating space in your life, whatever that is, if it’s a couple hours, a month, if it’s a weekly dinner that you invite people over to, whatever it is, finding something that you can do and doing it consistently.

Zibby: I like that.

Amy: What really helped me — I am a big people-pleaser. It really helped me to switch my thinking in that. Going out when I was with people and when I was meeting people, to switch from feeling like I was chasing them, like I was desperate for them to like me, I was desperate for their approval, and to convince them I was good enough to be there, and to switch my role into, let them be themselves — figure out who they are. Ask them questions. Be interested in them. They will probably come back. People like to be liked. People like to be liked, so like them. Find some common ground. Talk about it. Ask them good questions. Be interested in them. Stop trying so hard to just convince people some kind of confidence in myself and a relax of, be genuine. Be who you are. Just show up. Just show up that way. Then love on other people. If it works out, cool. If it doesn’t, cool. You put your best self out there. You can feel good about that.

Zibby: Fabulous. Now I think I’m going to go call some of my old girlfriends who I haven’t spoken to in a while. Thank you so much. This is really fun. I really applaud the two of you. It’s so awesome what you’re building and everything. It’s so cool. I’ll be following along.

Jess: Thank you so much. It was so nice to meet you.

Zibby: You too. Take care.

Amy: It’s been an honor. Bye, Zibby.

Zibby: Buh-bye.


I’LL BE THERE (BUT I’LL BE WEARING SWEATPANTS) by Amy Weatherly & Jess Johnston

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