“I want every parent to just take a deep breath. We give so much weight to our speeches and to the words that we say. We neglect the small atoms of the family atmosphere and the way we share our imperfections with them.” Israeli parenting expert and author Einat Nathan joins Zibby to talk about her bestselling memoir, My Everything. Einat shares how even though she is known for helping other parents, her own parenting experience has been far from perfect, and the ways in which she has shifted her thinking to accept her children and herself exactly as they are.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Einat. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss My Everything: The Parent I Want to Be, The Children I Hope to Raise.

Einat Nathan: Thank you. I’m so excited to talk to you.

Zibby: This book was so beautiful. I know it’s already been such a massive best seller. The things that you revealed about your experience and writing from the heart and your losses, oh, my gosh, I was crying with you and in it. Every example you have with your kids, I’m like, oh, my gosh, I have a child who does that too. It was really personally exciting for me. I have kids of all ages. You have five kids. I have four kids. I feel like there’s enough experience in an afternoon.

Einat: Thank you so much. Because English is not my native language, I always wondered if it can cross the ocean, if it can resonate or reach mothers’ or parents’ hearts. It’s so overwhelming to find out that parenting is universal. It doesn’t matter where you do that.

Zibby: No. This could’ve been written by somebody across the hall. Also, everybody brings different backgrounds. Most people here come from somewhere else anyway. The way you write about love, oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry for the way you wrote about the stillbirths. I’m just so sorry that that happened.

Einat: Thank you. We debated about the opening of the book. I insisted that this loss was the beginning of my journey as a parent. This loss was such as gift, in a way, for the mother I was going to be and I didn’t know I was going to be. I could only talk about it in retrospect, of course, but it is the beginning of the journey. I struggled whether to open the book with this loss, but it felt right.

Zibby: Not to turn the horrors of your life into what works for a book, but from a book perspective, you’re immediately rooting for you. You’re immediately drawn in. Then you want to know, what do you have to say? How did you get over this? Your writing is so beautiful. As I told you, I dogeared all this stuff.

Einat: Oh, my gosh, I didn’t plan to cry in the first five minutes.

Zibby: Oh, no, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Einat: No, no, no.

Zibby: I’m just going to read a couple of these passages. You say, “More than ten years separate the mother I am today from that girl mother I was back then, and now looking through photos, my eyes are flooded with tears of sorrow, sorrow for my old self, so young, exhausted, blind to the beauty of magical moments, enduring through a mess of laundry and toy parts, functional but far from happy, and above all, anxious. The old me looks back at me from the photos, me and the loneliness of being a mother to small children.” Oh, my gosh, you just captured that so well. I have these home movies when I see myself so stressed and so — why?

Einat: Who is that woman?

Zibby: It was hard.

Einat: You know, I just had this thought today. My oldest son just finished two and a half years of service in the army. Everything is very emotional and exciting, of course. I had this thought. What if I would look back ten years from now at the mother that I am now and I would think something like that as well? We don’t know. It does change. The struggles change.

Zibby: I do think there’s something uniquely — I don’t want to say anything too negative. There’s something unique about parenting really small kids because it’s a totally different skill set than most people have in their back pocket. Whereas parenting teens and older kids, you’re having conversations you might have with other adults. You might not get the same responses, but at least it’s not so physical and immersive where you’re on the floor.

Einat: It’s boot camp.

Zibby: I think there’s something more at least physically exhausting when they’re tiny. Sometimes now it’s completely psychologically exhausting. I feel like there’s nothing I did better to prepare myself for being a mom than majoring in psychology because I use that stuff every day.

Einat: Definitely. I think that kids in general are the best psychotherapy we can get.

Zibby: It’s so true.

Einat: We didn’t go through that journey before becoming parents. They take us. They take us there.

Zibby: I just want to read a few more of these beautiful passages. Even talking about the loss of your own mother, you said, “When I parted with my mother, I was already a grown-up. I had two children, a husband, a life of my own. The parting took place in stages, as is the case with severe illness. It prepares us, the hover of death lingering in the air for years, dispersing a sense of longing even while everyone is still around.” I just love that too. Then you have your whole section on all of these goodbyes. Hold on, is there one more I wanted to read for now? Anyway, let’s just keep talking. I can quote again later. What was the experience of writing this book like for you? How long did this whole thing take? There’s so much here. It’s really well-done. The broken cell phone, that was really funny too. I’m skimming through this again, the crack in the cell phone, even your chapter titles, Losing Control Doesn’t Have to Be a Loss, oh, my gosh. The Weight Watchers part with your son, I loved that. I actually was a Weight Watchers leader for a short stint in my twenties. I know, it’s one of these things.

Einat: Wow.

Zibby: Yes, I know. That was very interesting. Anyway, the horror that he had and how you don’t micromanage with weight and then let him come around to it himself, tell me about that.

Einat: About that specifically?

Zibby: Or whatever, writing about it. Sorry, I’m all over the place because I’m eager.

Einat: Let’s talk about everything. I love that your podcast is “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Moms don’t have time to write books as well. The whole book was written on the notes in my iPhone in between waiting for my daughter to finish ballet, in the toilet. Every time I had five minutes, I was just writing and sending bits and pieces of it to my email. It accumulated with time. I’ve been a parenting expert counselor for the last nineteen, almost twenty, years. I always found that the know-it-all experts, the ones with the perfect picture and the how-tos and the manuals, they always made me feel, as a mom, like there was something wrong with me or something wrong with my children. It’s kind of like every product that is selling. We’re going to tell you what your problem is. Then we’re going to tell you what you need to do in order to fix it. It worked. Then I thought, what if there is a different way to give parents accessible information they can actually use without letting them feel like there was something wrong with them or with their children? The decision was to take my professional mask off and to put in all my vulnerabilities and my struggles and my imperfect five children and my journey. Of course, I combined it with all of my professional knowledge.

It’s kind of like an emotional journey holding hands with an “expert.” I think that the most common feedback that I get — there are one of three. It’s, oh, my god, I feel normal. Oh, my god, now I understand my children’s viewpoint, and I actually want to wake them up and hug them. You touched my heart, and I know what to do now. This was the most exciting thing for me, to bring parents back to trusting themselves and to letting go of the ego. We can’t let go of the ego if we’re worried there’s something wrong. It’s there. This was a journey. About the second part that you asked, I was talking about my children’s weight. In general, I think that we jump too fast in order to fix them or to take away their pain or to make their life easier. We all do that with good intentions. Eventually, it’s kind of wrong. We don’t trust nature’s way of maturing. We don’t trust enough, their mechanism of wanting to succeed. We don’t trust enough, their encounter with life. We don’t trust enough, even that the values that we hold as a family will be inside them, so we start correcting them. We start reprimanding them. We start giving them smart advice from the future. When we let go, when we lean back, I promise you, they grab the wheel. It might not be what we expected, but it’s theirs.

Zibby: Or the car crashes, or they grab the wheel and we go right into a tree or something. Then what?

Einat: Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it because this is the fear, right? What does a car crash look like in parenting? What are we afraid of? That they don’t get into Ivy League schools? That they don’t look the way we accepted them, behave the way we accepted them, represent us, our greatness in the world of social network, in the world of our children being trophies or snowflakes or whatever? What is this car crash that we’re so afraid of?

Zibby: I don’t know. I actually meant an actual car crash, but yes. I think it’s different for different people. I think it’s the fear that every decision means so much to someone’s development. Maybe this is my own bias. What if you don’t teach them how to be resilient? What if they always quit everything, for instance? Is it okay to take one piano lesson and then say, I don’t like it? Do you have to do years of piano and practice five times a day? I’m more of the, okay, you’re not into cello, forget it. Moving on. There are eight thousand instruments. Not that that’s the train wreck of parenting.

Einat: I can tell you that I’ve done a small research in my nineteen years of practicing. When you ask adults, it turns out that fifty percent will say, too bad they didn’t force us to play piano. The other fifty percent will say, it destroyed my life that they forced me to play piano. Do we want to take part of this experiment? I’m not sure.

Zibby: I mean, ruining your life, fifty percent…

Einat: Again, I think the question we should ask ourselves is — sometimes we hide behind the story that, you’re going to thank me in the future. I’m a parent. I know what is good for you. I’m telling you right now that this is how it’s going to play. Most of the times, I don’t know what about you, but I could never profit from advice from the future or someone else’s experience. We all know that the way to learn or the way to develop or the way to even develop resilience or grit or whatever we wish for our children is to meet these struggles without the external mechanism of punishment or carrot or stick. I think that we lack the patience. I think that we are a bit spoiled. The human cub, it takes twenty-five years for our brain to finish its development. If he’s acting out at the age of five, we need to do something about it. If he struggles at school at the age of ten, we need to take private lessons. We need to bring in the experts. On the way, I think that what we lose or, worse, what they internalize is that there’s something broken in them. I don’t believe it is broken. I think it’s our ability to be the positive narrators for them of their story, just being that safe space in this crazy world that they can come back to after adversity, failing, struggles and just be who they are. If you have a teenager, we know how important it is to be that safe space. We really want to be their first phone call if something goes wrong, but we need to start proving that the minute they’re born.

Zibby: So does this mean, don’t make them do gymnastics? Where do we net out? These are the big decisions I’m making.

Einat: I think that what it means, first of all, is when they do mess up, when they do fail, the last thing that they need to get from us is our agenda or our worries or anything in that direction. We can talk agenda all day long. My kids know what I think about drinking alcohol because they grow up in my home. When they’re three and they ask about the beer that I’m holding at the barbeque and they grow up and we watch the news about a car accident and I tell them about the kid of my friend that a police knocked on the door in the middle of the night, we talk our agenda. If one of them comes back after a night out and I smell alcohol, he will get a big hug and a big kiss and a Tylenol. I would say, welcome home honey. Go to sleep. We’ll talk about it in the morning. If I let my agenda go out in that minute, if I say to him what I want to say to him, there’s a chance that next time, he won’t come home. There’s a chance that next time, he’ll be lying in a ditch somewhere or calling his friends or just making up a story. This is the main concern of how we define that safe space. The gymnastic question, I think that when we talk about values, it’s all about who we are. They’re watching us from the minute they’re born. If we love to do sports, they will get that. If we love our jobs, they will get that. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” exists in English as well?

Zibby: Yes, it does.

Einat: That’s a point where I should say that I swear to god that in Hebrew, I sound smart. I swear to god.

Zibby: You sound smart in English too. I can’t speak Hebrew. I could barely get through my bat mitzvah.

Einat: I want every parent to just take a deep breath and know that who we are, these are the values. I don’t have to worry about raising stingy or cheap children if I have this big heart. I don’t have to worry that my kids would be sociopaths, even if they act like ones, by the way, I’m talking from experience, if I’m kind to strangers. This is the air they breathe. We give so much weight to our speeches and to the words that we say. We neglect the small atoms of the family atmosphere, the air that they breathe, the sense of humor, the anxieties, the relationship between me and my partner, how we talk, how we fight, how we have fun, the small rituals, the way we share our imperfections with them. This is what’s important. I think that parents today are overthinking everything. It’s so hard.

Zibby: Wow. This is the dose of parenting advice that is the most welcome of all because it means you don’t have to really worry. You can just be yourself. Your kids will soak it up.

Einat: You can worry. I’m not going to take it from you, but don’t let it be the GPS that leads your — if we’re in cars. Don’t.

Zibby: I love it. Having written this book, what would your advice be for aspiring authors?

Einat: Oh, wow. I’m going to make you laugh.

Zibby: Okay, please.

Einat: I don’t consider myself an author. You get what I’m trying to say?

Zibby: Was that when I was supposed to laugh?

Einat: Yeah. By the way, the second book just came out in Israel. It’s about teenagers. It’s an overwhelming best seller. I don’t see myself as an author. I’m just writing a journal about the thing that I care about the most. Maybe my advice would be, if you do write and when you write you feel this flow where time stops and you’re just drawn into this craft like something took over you, just keep doing that.

Zibby: I love that. I love it. This has been so fun. I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Einat: Is it over?

Zibby: That’s it. It’s only thirty minutes. I know. I know. That’s all. People just don’t listen if you give them too much of anything. People are so busy.

Einat: Yeah, we don’t have time.

Zibby: I keep my podcasts to thirty minutes so that people can —

Einat: — I know. I listen to your podcast. The thirty minutes, it went by —

Zibby: — It went by so fast. I know. You’re so chic. I feel like you should be this model or something.

Einat: Oh, thank you. You just gave me the excuse to put on a lipstick and a dress in the middle of the day.

Zibby: You look amazing. Literally, I’m thinking to myself as you’re talking, what is her skincare routine? What is she doing?

Einat: She put on a costume, I swear to god, an hour ago.

Zibby: Even my costumes don’t look that good.

Einat: Thank you.

Zibby: I don’t know if you ever travel to New York or whatever, but I would love to meet you in person.

Einat: I’m waiting for COVID to — I don’t know. All my book tour was canceled due to COVID. We’re just waiting for the world to wake up again. I’m all packed and ready to go. I mean it.

Zibby: I’m so happy to connect with you. I can’t wait to read your teen book now. I really need that one, PS. This was so great. It’s just so nice to have down-to-earth advice coming from a place on high that everybody needs to hear.

Einat: Thank you for making a personal dream come true. It was a dream for me to talk to you.

Zibby: Aw.

Einat: Really. You should see me when I got the mail. I was just jumping all around the house. When I got a good review on The New York Times, I wasn’t screaming like that.

Zibby: That is so sweet, oh, my gosh. I hope I didn’t disappoint you.

Einat: No, no, you were incredible, but the half an hour disappointed me.

Zibby: I know. I’m sorry. To be continued.

Einat: We’ll do lunch in New York.

Zibby: You can come on and talk about your teen book when it comes out in New York. Then we’ll do our second half.

Einat: I would love to do that. I can’t wait. Thank you. Have a terrific day.

Zibby: You too. Buh-bye.


MY EVERYTHING by Einat Nathan

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