Zibby Owens: Brandy Ferner is the author of Adult Conversation: A Novel. She is a mother, wife, and the creator of the “Adult Conversation” podcast, social media pages, and blog. Her writing has been featured in Good Morning America, HuffPost, Romper, Cafe Mom, Today Parents, and more. In addition to writing and fulfilling her kids’ endless snack requests, she spent the past decade working as a doula, childbirth educator, and birth trauma mentor ushering clients through the intense transition into motherhood. The insight gained from watching women crack wide open — her words — literally and figuratively, and her own experience as an independent woman who suddenly traded autonomy for snuggles led her to say out loud the things that modern mothers are thinking. Sometimes it’s serious. Sometimes it’s comedic, but it’s always honest. She currently lives in Southern California. Her love language is sleep.

Hi, Brandy. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Brandy Ferner: Hi. Thank you. I don’t know, maybe this episode should be titled, do moms have time to listen to podcasts as well? As a fellow podcaster, I’m like, where is the time for being in the car and having alone time? I feel like us moms are having a time right now with both things.

Zibby: To be honest with you, when I look at my download numbers, I’m like, how are people finding the time to listen to this? How are they doing it? I need to find the time to do it too.

Brandy: They’re locking themselves in a bathroom with a screaming child.

Zibby: I’m grateful. Don’t get me wrong. Thank you, everybody, for listening. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Keep listening. I’m impressed and so grateful. I feel that there is no time. First of all, it’s not just for moms, the show, at all. Yes, I think particularly now there is so little time. Although, I feel like things are kind of lifting now, getting a little…

Brandy: Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. We don’t know. Who knows? What is happening?

Zibby: So much to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about your book, Adult Conversation, which basically was like you were in my brain for a while saying a lot of the things that I would think, except you wrote them. Tell me first about your podcast and how you even got to the stage where you wrote the book.

Brandy: I cannot totally remember. I think the book may have come before the podcast. As you know, the book-writing process can be a years-long thing. I just had these messages about motherhood, talking about the real stuff, like you said, the things that are in your head that you aren’t saying. I sort of have a history of saying those things. It was this fire under me that I needed to write this thing. I needed to speak openly about these atrocities and all of the tangled-ness that we all think and feel but we don’t feel comfortable saying. I started doing that with the book. Then that was a process in getting it published and all of that. Meanwhile, I wanted to do the podcast to actually verbally talk about the things, many of which are the same topics on the podcast and the book. It was like I had to attack it from all different angles. I truly felt there was a fire under me that needed to get these messages across, really to help free other moms who feel like they’re broken. The whole reason I wrote it is because I wanted moms to know, you’re not broken. Motherhood is broken in these ways. It’s also beautiful in these other ways. I just know what it feels like to be in our isolated little homes every single day and to be wondering, should this be easier? How did I not know there was so much resistance that came with all of the joyous moments? and then wondering, should I have done this? Am I built for this? All of that kind of stuff I really wanted to explore in the book, which I did at great length.

Zibby: Have you just had people thanking you right and left and coming out of the woodwork and saying that they’ve never been able to say these types of things before?

Brandy: Yeah. It’s been pretty amazing. When I started this whole thing, I never wanted to be an author. I’ve always been a writer, but I never had this idea that I would write a book. One day — I had an eighteen-month-old, was my youngest. My oldest at that time was maybe almost eight. I remember sitting in the kitchen and I got this idea. What would happen if two moms were totally fed up and they went to Vegas? What would moms really do at the end of their rope? Would they cheat? Would they do drugs? Would they just lay in a bed alone with no one touching them? What would they do? Then I got this idea of, what if one of them was the therapist? I was feeling like, in a sense, we’re all trying to figure out how to do this life and motherhood thing. I liked the idea that this therapist brought so much to the main character, April, but she’s human too. So then the roles sort of reverse in the middle of it. All of those things made me feel excited. I thought, I can’t write a book. I have an almost-two-year-old. We really couldn’t afford childcare easily at that time, and so I kind of put the idea away. I thought, I can’t write this. There’s no way. I’m not an author. Then I couldn’t sleep for an entire week. I was up at night take notes, plot stuff coming through. It just poured out of me. Finally after a week, I was like, all right, I will write this so that I can get my life back. That’s what I did.

Zibby: Did it make you feel better to get it out?

Brandy: Oh, yeah. That was therapy. You know as a writer too, that first draft was my cathartic therapy. It was just the vomit of everything I’d wanted to say. Then I went through and did the clean-up many times of, what now will help other people and what is my own neurosis? Some of my own neurosis still shows up in the book, which I think is relatable. My idea at the beginning was, I just want to write this to get this message out to other people whom it will help. To have that, now it’s so satisfying to have people who’ve read it contact me. I get them almost every day. “Oh, my gosh, I’m in the middle of your book. I’ve thought all of these things. I’ve never said them. I thought I was alone.” I had somebody contact me the other day, “My husband’s reading your book because he wants to know how he can help more.”

Zibby: Aw, that’s nice.

Brandy: What else could I want? That was my goal. The people who I wrote this book for seem to be satisfied. It’s amazing.

Zibby: Now when you go back to the times where you’re just with the kids and full-on mom-dom, is it all more bearable? Not to say it wasn’t amazing.

Brandy: Let’s be real. It wasn’t always amazing. Those intense ages are intense. My character sort of goes through some of this in the book as well. My kids now are six and thirteen. I don’t know how I would’ve managed a quarantine with anyone younger. Even five would’ve been a challenge. Toddlers, preschoolers, I don’t know how I would’ve done it. The kids growing up has definitely made things easier on me. They’re more independent. I feel like I got out what I wanted to get out about that. Then now I have things in my head, an idea for an sequel, sort of an outline of a sequel of what is April, the main character, what is it like to have a kindergartener and also a middle schooler when you’re talking about crayons and also vaping? Those are two very different things.

Zibby: This is my life. I have exactly this. I have twins who are going to be thirteen next week. Then I have an almost-seven-year-old and a five-and-a-half-year-old. This is literally my life. I keep going back and forth. I’m like, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation and then this conversation. It almost is so surreal that it makes the whole thing kind of funny and then I can’t feel as stressed. Do you know what I mean? It’s so absurd. The absurdity of it takes some of the stress away.

Brandy: It’s true. Totally. I feel like with writing this book and with a podcast — I didn’t have a place to put all of the things that I felt. Now I have outlets for those things, so I’m a happier person. They are my form of therapy. My hope was that by being true about my form of therapy and saying these honest things, that it would be a form of therapy for other people. Even with the podcast, the episodes that I do, I get messages from people. It’s everything. It’s amazing to be able to tend to myself while tending to other people. Win-win.

Zibby: Tell listeners what your podcast is so they can go check it out.

Brandy: The podcast is called, the same as my book, “Adult Conversation.” We cover real topics. Two episodes I’ve gotten the most feedback on, the first one is called Behind the Curtain of Motherhood. Me and friend get real real. People were like, oh, my gosh, you’re saying the things. You’re saying the things like, why does my husband get to go for a run when we have a baby and I don’t? Every time he says, I’m going to go for a run, I want to smash his face in, but then I feel guilty. But why does he get the run? Then he gets a shower after the run every day when I haven’t had a shower in a week. All of those things that you think, this was just my house, no, it’s all of our houses. We have the run theory. It’s an actual thing. So that episode, and then I interviewed a woman named Darcy Lockman. She wrote a book called All the Rage.

Zibby: I interviewed her too.

Brandy: That book blew my mind. That felt like a nonfiction version of my book. My book hadn’t come out at the time. She and I have a great, really candid conversation. Those two episodes, I feel like, really let people know that we are talking about real talk here.

Zibby: That’s awesome. There are so many scenes in the book and so many quotes I underlined. After a while, I was like, you know what, I just don’t think I can keep turning over the pages anymore. Here’s one, for instance. “I am interrupted during every task and pulled in different directions by whoever needs me that minute. It’s like I’m on a short leash and my family are the ones holding it. I don’t feel depressed, or whatever I think depressed is supposed to feel, but I also don’t enjoy being with my beautiful and needy children, namely my toddler, for thirteen hours straight every single day for years on end while my husband has a career and gets to shit alone in a building with only adults. So I guess I just want to know if what I’m feeling is normal or if I’m a whiny, ungrateful bitch who should just make peace with motherhood and be happy.”

Brandy: That was her first — when she goes to therapy. When they’re like, “So what do you want to talk about?” She’s like, uh…

Zibby: She’s like, this is it. This is what I want to talk about.

Brandy: That part reminds of this idea about postpartum depression. I think motherhood and depression look really similar. Motherhood and anxiety look really similar. What I wanted the character, April, to be figuring out is, is there something wrong with me? Do I have a mental illness? But really, I don’t feel depressed. What I really want is basic human rights that mothers give up. That part really illustrates that.

Zibby: There’s definitely a difference between being depressed with a capital D and just unhappy and you’re not happy in your life. Those are different things. You don’t need, necessarily, a medical intervention, but you definitely need something. No antidepressant is going to fix a situation that is fundamentally flawed. Not that motherhood is, but if you’re not getting the support or whatever you need.

Brandy: I would say that modern motherhood is fundamental flawed, just as we’ve seen in so many different ways with the systems that aren’t there to support us. We fill in the gaps of every broken system. When our schools suck or there are things that aren’t being offered at our schools, who shows up to do those? Us moms. Food, our food supply, when our food supply isn’t good, who shows up to make sure that our kids are getting something better? We are filling all of the broken systems instead of fighting to get the broken systems fixed so we can just be mom. We are everything. It’s exhausting. It’s not how it was meant to be.

Zibby: I feel like especially during this time, it’s profound when you literally had no village to depend on at all. It was complete familial isolation. You’re like, this is hard. This is so hard.

Brandy: Everything is illuminated. The gender inequality as well, I think a lot of couples have had this show up really big. Is it just expected that the woman is going to do all of the schooling, all of the meals that now everybody has to do? In some households, that’s true. In some households, it’s not. There’s no looking away anymore. It’s in your face. All of the distractions that we normally have to go through life where we can not really think about it or go get takeout or whatever, it’s like, no. Now everything is being illuminated. I think whatever issues people had in their relationships, and I’ll even include friendships in this, but their marriage right now, is being accelerated. We’re seeing, do our relationships bear the weight of this time? We’re all finding out if they do or not.

Zibby: How’s your doing?

Brandy: Mine’s actually doing great. I did a podcast with my husband. That was two episodes ago. I asked him for Mother’s Day, I said, “All I want is for you to come on the podcast. I want to ask you honestly, what is it like to have a wife who writes about topics such as dad privilege, who is fighting against the patriarchy, and who is outspoken about this stuff?” Our interview blew my mind. He’s a unicorn anyway. He’s amazing, but I expected him to have way more issue than what he did. He opened up. It was kind of mind-blowing. I’ll just wet your whistle with that.

Zibby: I did something very similar. I did an Instagram Live recently with my husband, who’s my second husband and the stepfather to all my kids. I was like, “You have to come on. What do you really think about this?” because I can be a nightmare.

Brandy: Was he like, yeah, you’re a nightmare, or was he like, I love you?

Zibby: He was pretty good. He’s very sweet. He does it in a funny way when he points out when I’m being — that’s the whole difference. When you can’t see it yourself and the person you’re acting out in front of can react, they can escalate it by getting in it, like, “You’re snapping at me. I’m going to snap back at you,” or you could be like, “All right. Well, nice to see you’re losing your mind early this morning. Sorry I missed the last hour, so that’s a lot better.”

Brandy: Humor always helps anything go down. I’m on his side on that.

Zibby: This is the last quote I’ll read. When Aaron finds out that she’s seeing a therapist, he says, “You’re seeing a therapist. Why?” She says — I’m blanking on her name right now. What is her name, the main character?

Brandy: April.

Zibby: April. “Because I feel like I’m going to snap. I’m not doing this mother thing right.” He says, “Wait, what? But you’re a kick-ass mother.” She says, “Thanks, babe, but I’m not doubting what kind of a mother I am to our kids. I’m doubting what being that kind of mother is doing to me.” That’s the whole thing.

Brandy: Right? Oh, my gosh. I feel like such an idiot, but I get chills at those parts. I still read this and I remember what it felt like to write it and the feelings that were so visceral. I remember I was in my daughter’s room. We don’t have a big house. I ended up hiring a babysitter that was ten bucks an hour. I would sit in my daughter’s room in the fuzzy green glider from the book and just type away. I would just pour myself out onto the page. A lot of times, I would be in tears. Then when my two hours were up, I would come out and go back into the mom role. I later was like, I’m so grateful that I wrote that book while in the trenches of motherhood because everybody’s told me this is the most realistic depiction of this. Also, it’s kind of insanity-producing to, in your time off from being a mom, to then go write about the hardships of being a mom because then I actually didn’t time to myself, but I was getting therapy. It was this funny thing where I’d have the pop-up shop scene where there’s just pandemonium and a mom getting slapped. Then I would come out of it down to my kids who were begging me for snacks. I would be like, why am I doing this?

Zibby: It’s all material like Nora Ephron says.

Brandy: It’s right, yes.

Zibby: That’s, I think, is part of what made this book so relatable, especially the bedtime stuff, bedtime when you’re just on your last leg and then it just won’t end. The kid comes out again. You’re like, no. Just all the thoughts really validating in a way that some of — anyway, so what’s coming next for you?

Brandy: Gosh. It’s funny because there’s so much, as you know, so much anticipation when your book comes out. Especially, I’d written it a couple years ago, but then trying to get it published is its own process, and so then how long that takes. I had been working on this. I’d been birthing this for four or five years. I’m now a month out on the other side. I love it because I don’t have a thing in the back of my head that’s one more thing for me to do. But my personality is such that I always have ideas. I just don’t have enough time to do them. I’m always working on five things. You and I had talked before about being one of those people who has ideas and then actually follows through with them. I’ve been torn a little bit on — it was the day after my book launched, I was like, what do I do? This voice in my head was like, this is the time that you enjoy, Brandy. This is the time where you just get to chill. Then this other voice was like, no, no, no, this is the time you have to hustle even harder. I was in a tug of war in my own head for at least that first week. Now I’ve leaned into enjoying not hustling for it. Having said that, I have an agent who is working on trying to get my sequel picked up. Actually, there’s something that I haven’t talked about. I’ve been toying with how to talk about it or if I should talk about it.

Zibby: Talk about it. Yes.

Brandy: I’m going to talk about it with you because I feel like you’re my people who will understand it. Adult Conversation was published by an indie publisher named She Writes. I had a hard time getting this book picked up, I think because it was about a mom, specifically a stay-at-home mom. I learned over these past — and still continue to learn that there is such a bias against mothers. I knew this. You feel it in the world. I was so happy when She Writes picked it up. They’re this indie feminist press. It was the perfect place for it. My agent right now is trying to see if we can get a big-five publisher to pick up Adult Conversation to have a bigger distribution and then also sell the sequel, which I have outlined which I’m super excited about. But also, I’m enjoying my break. Here’s the hard part that I haven’t talked about. The people in the publishing world who make the decisions on which books to greenlight, most of them have never had to be April. What I’m finding is it’s incredibly difficult to get a story picked up by people who have a bias against a certain group of people, stay-at-home mothers. Then the other pieces of this, too, is I had a film producer reach out to me. My book was in a New York Times articles back in February. I had a producer reach out who said, “Your books sounds really interesting. I’d love to read it. Maybe we want to make a movie of it.” He read it. Thankfully, he loved it. I wrote a screenplay adaptation of it with a little bit of change. We’re getting the same thing from Hollywood. Again, the people in the high-up positions — of course, there’s totally a layer of it’s not right or they’ve produced a book or a movie like it or they think the writing is shit or whatever. I’m not saying that this is the only reason.

I just find it interesting that the same issue that I had finding an original publisher, I’m having a hard time finding a second publisher and then somebody in Hollywood to pick it up. I’m just noticing that it feels like there is a bias. My producer and I were even talking about, maybe we write April to be a working mom because people value working moms because they bring in money. I am so against that because it goes against everything that my books stand for, which is why do we have to earn money in order to be able to get basic human rights and equality? Yet I keep coming against this same hurdle, which is apparently we do or there’s just some miss there. I’m just trying to grapple with what that’s all about. Part of me thinks, am I never going to break through this unless people change their minds about motherhood and about moms? I don’t know. I know there’s other books that have been published on the topic, but you tell people you wrote a book about motherhood, and people immediately roll their eyes. That’s not a good starting point. Some of the publishers, some of the notes that we had gotten back were, somebody said, “I just can’t relate to the character.” It’s just an interesting thing because I read books about people I can’t relate — I’m not an addict, but I love to read stories about people who went through addiction. I just find it interesting. It reminds me of — I keep saying this. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s why I’m going to say it.

I think in some cases people have, women specifically, have baggage about their own choices. A lot of the people in higher-up positions in Hollywood, that are women in Hollywood and in the publishing industry, chose not to have children and have careers. I think that sometimes reading literature about the choice they didn’t make and then having to have compassion for a character who made a choice they didn’t and is struggling with it, I don’t think is there. Again, I could be wrong on that. Some of the notes that we’ve gotten back about people not being able to relate to it or whatever, it reminds me of — with my daughter, with my second pregnancy, I was in the hospital for two months because she was high-risk. I had a team of five high-risk OBs. There were two women and three men. I thought I would love the women because they were moms. They’d been there. They know what all the parts do. I was like, I can relate to them. The funny thing was is they would never listen to my questions. The men, they had no baggage. It was like every question I asked my women OBs, they were like, “When I was pregnant, blah, blah, blah.” They had their story, what my questions or my choices meant for their story, whereas the guys didn’t bring any of that. I would ask them all sorts of questions about things. They would answer them and they would entertain them, whereas it felt very condescending from the women. I’m still figuring out this theory and seeing where there are holes and what’s what. It’s definitely something I’m experiencing, which feels very ironic with the book that I wrote to then be a stay-at-home-but-working-part-time mom who’s trying to get to the next level but is finding hurdle after hurdle in that way. It’s a little bit enraging. I also know that it can take time. That’s my big, long rant that I haven’t really talked about but have been really feeling over the past four months.

Zibby: It sounds like that person could also be a character in a book. This whole thing could be in a book. It could be a book about this.

Brandy: It could be, but it probably wouldn’t get published. That’s the thing. I’m talking about this real stuff. My husband said the funniest thing when I was talking to him about this. He goes, “But you’re platinum in the streets. That’s all the matters.” He’s like, “The people you wrote this for love it. You’re getting these great reviews. You get people messaging you all the time. So what if the higher-ups don’t know that there’s value in it or whatever?” That’s true. I’m having to make peace with — I’m just trying to set myself up for, what if this doesn’t get picked up further? and all of that kind of stuff that authors go through anyway. I’m just trying to parse out, what’s part of the process that can take years, and then what of it is actually a bias about a certain group of people? I don’t totally know, but I know that I feel something that is related to that in both worlds, in the Hollywood world and also in the publishing world.

Zibby: Very interesting. Thank you for sharing that with me. Thanks for opening up.

Brandy: Of course.

Zibby: Having been through this process — I know you’re looking for another publisher, but you have a great — it’s already out here. It’s in my hand. It’s pretty awesome. What advice would you have to aspiring authors?

Brandy: Gosh. First of all, you have to have perseverance, which I think I’ve just talked a lot about. It’s a long road. That actually goes back to, I think my number-one piece of advice for people is to have a message that you’re passionate about because this process requires so much of you and so much perseverance. If you’re not excited about your material or feel like people need to hear this, then what is going to push you to keep going even when you get beaten down time after time? I get rejections almost every day from, we have another published that rejected this part or this part, or we have another director that rejected. The only thing that keeps me going is that I know that my message is helpful. That’s what I would say to aspiring writers. What is that thing that you need to say and that you are the perfect person to say it? Things have been said over and over, but what is your specific gift? How are you going to talk about this that nobody’s talked about it before? How are you going to bring the passion behind it? I don’t want to read a book by somebody who wasn’t passionate about their message. I want to read a book by somebody who was like, I’m willing to be rejected for five years to get my message out. I would say that it takes tenacity and perseverance and luck, all of these sorts of things. Just make sure that you have your own belief in your own message. There’s so many things. The other thing I would say is Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, that is the greatest gift I was ever given for writing. That’s a great place to start for people who are overwhelmed like I was when I first started.

Zibby: I had Anne Lamott on my podcast.

Brandy: You’re so lucky. Do you know I reached out for her for a blurb? I mean, there was no way. I was just doing it because what did I have to lose? She actually responded to me.

Zibby: That’s lovely.

Brandy: The sweetest. Did you find her to be the sweetest?

Zibby: She was great. She was amazing.

Brandy: Aw, you’re so lucky.

Zibby: Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” with this fantastic Adult Conversation. I’m glad we finally could have an adult conversation about it.

Brandy: Yes, exactly. Thank you, Zibby, so much. You are so kind and sweet to help support me and all that you do. I just so look up to you. Every time I see “Zibby Owens is going live” on Instagram, I’m like, how does she do it? How does she do it all the time? Keep up the good work.

Zibby: I’m not doing the Lives anymore. I’m done with the Lives. I’m back to podcasts only.

Brandy: Thank you.

Zibby: Bye.