Zibby talks with Naomi Davis, author of A Coat of Yellow Paint and creator of the Love Taza blog. The two discussed motherhood in some of its many shapes and sizes, from issues with fertility to feeling undervalued, as well as how to learn to look at your body the way your child does.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Naomi. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss A Coat of Yellow Paint.

Naomi Davis: Thank you for having me.

Zibby: This is such a delight. I felt like your book, it could’ve been us just sitting at coffee. I was like, now I have to tell you all my stuff.

Naomi: Yes, please do. I love hearing that.

Zibby: No, I’m kidding.

Naomi: I wanted it to feel that way because I just really love the chance to connect that way where it doesn’t feel — I love hearing that it felt great, approachable, I guess is what I’m getting at. Thank you.

Zibby: You’re welcome. You started blogging before blogging was even a thing. It was 2007. You got going. In the book, you said it was a way to connect with people back home when you went to Julliard. It hasn’t stopped since. Tell me about the evolution of blogging and how you built this really amazing following and how it has culminated in this book.

Naomi: It’s crazy to think about because in 2007, there wasn’t even social media or brand partnerships. This whole birth has happened since then of, really, an entire industry. I feel really lucky with my timing. I feel lucky that I started when I did because I think that the root of why I shared, how I shared back then has been able to really keep me grounded in that sort of sense even to this day as this world has just so evolved since. I feel so fortunate. It was just a happy accident in 2007. It was word of mouth back in that day that you would find blogs. Five kids later, still going strong. I really do enjoy being able to share and connect with people all over the world. It’s bananas to think about how we use a platform like that and feel like I have BFFs that I’ve never actually met in person across the ocean.

Zibby: The other day, now that we can finally meet up with some people, I had a friend come over. My kids were like, “How do you know her?” I’m like, “She’s my friend from the internet.” They’re like, “What? You’re not supposed to meet random people on the internet.” I’m like, “But these are all the people –“

Naomi: — I’m going to have to talk to you about all the safety things. I don’t know how this necessarily is going to come off when I say this, but I’ve met some of my closest and dearest friends. In the book, I actually talk about how our first visitor to the hospital when my little one, Eleanor, was born, we literally met because of a comment she left on my blog a million years ago. A friendship just really blossomed. She threw my baby shower. I threw her baby shower. She lives all the way in England right now. It’s just amazing how we can feel intertwined and connected despite. It can be a really beautiful thing sometimes.

Zibby: I feel like that about books. Books I read twenty years ago that I read and I was like, oh, my gosh, this person would be my best friend, some of them are now really close friends of mine now that I’ve met them.

Naomi: I love that.

Zibby: It’s true. It’s just funny how you end up connecting. Anyway, so this Coat of Yellow Paint, which you named after the piano that you manically painted in the middle of the night or something like that, this beautiful color yellow — by the way, I love that you paint all sorts of walls different colors. I’m huge into color myself.

Naomi: I’m dying over behind you, your beautiful rainbow wall of books. It’s just gorgeous. I love it.

Zibby: Thank you. I did that myself. Downstairs, our living room is hot pink. I’m all into color. I just love it. I love how someone said to you about your Instagram that the colors of your home made her eyes hurt or something. You were like, but that’s my life.

Naomi: It’s so funny because sometimes we get these comments. I talked a lot in my book about the internet because I do think it’s really hard for us sometimes to understand how to separate something that someone’s going to say to you — you don’t even know that person. If you met them in the street and they came up to you and said the critique that they’re saying, are you going to completely change your life and base all your future decisions off of some random thing? No, you’re not, but sometimes we feel this sense of, they have authority because they just said this to me through their keyboard in some place that I don’t even know. It’s funny. It takes me a lot of time sometimes still too. You have to look at it and be like, but you don’t live here. If my walls make your eyes hurt, I think that’s okay. You don’t have to deal with it. I do. This makes me happy, so I think we’re both good. It’s good to always have that check-in and be like, why am I taking this so seriously? Why am I giving so much weight to some funny opinion that GlassJar77 said? I don’t even know this person.

Zibby: I feel like that is one of the big themes in this book, is taking all this input and putting it in the place where it deserves to be, not front and center in your mind, so tempting. It even started with when you decided to have kids so young. You got married before you graduated from college. I can’t speak to how happy you are, but from the book, it sounds like you guys are still happy. You tried for two years to get pregnant. People were dismissing your concerns because you were young. Oh, well, what are you doing having kids so young? Tell me about having people sort of on your shoulder your whole life and how you’ve learned to put them where they belong.

Naomi: It’s definitely a big theme in the book because I think it’s taken me a lot of time and experience to finally find my footing or my confidence in the fact that I have done a couple things a more untraditional or unconventional way. I was at Julliard. I got married two days after my twenty-first birthday. I still had a year left of school. That was so misunderstood and confusing to my director, family, a lot of people. Choosing to start trying for a family straight away, that especially felt difficult. It felt really isolating just because I was in such a different phase of life now from so many of my closest girlfriends, so many people around me. When it’s so dismissed, something that you really want and you believe is valid, but it’s not valid because of your age, it’s like, okay, so when can I want this thing too in life? When am I allowed to vocalize that without having X, Y, Z, all of these people, close people, anyone just be like, that’s so silly? It’ll happen when it happens. You’re so young. You have so much time. Why would you ever want that right now? I really learned to just compartmentalize it, in a way. Back then, I just did not have the tools to understand that the constant feedback that we get despite whatever it is we’re going through, it’s a lot when you don’t know how to handle it, when you don’t know how to take it and say, but this is what I want. It’s a worthy cause. I think that it’s good. I shouldn’t have to defend or explain myself. I just didn’t know how to do that. It was really, really hard.

I swore back then and even up to a couple years ago, I was like, I don’t think I could ever talk about this publicly because it hasn’t been understood even by my closest circle. Over the years as I’ve gained some tools, I’ve realized, no, no, no, you can absolutely carve the path that you want in this life. Nobody else gets a say. If you’re hurting, your hurt is valid, if you’re confused or you want something. I think it’s so beautiful how unique each of our paths are. I think sometimes maybe it’s scary for somebody when they realize that you’re going to do something very different from how they think it maybe should look or how it looked for them. I was really hopeful that by sharing, even though it’s hard for me sometimes — as the book released, it just re-bubbled up a lot of those same emotions from back then where I’m like, oh, shoot, is this going to be a phase two of me feeling everything again? It’s amazing how I’ve had so many comments or emails from people who have had very similar experiences even trying to get pregnant young or something completely a 180. They’re like, oh, wow, I feel really seen right now. Thank you. I’m hopeful that it can help somebody feel less alone because we shouldn’t have to feel that way despite the way that we do things, however different they might be from the next.

Zibby: It’s so funny. I did an event last night with Melissa Bernstein who wrote this book called LifeLines. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. She said the same thing. Once she put it out into the world, she was like, oh, no. Hers was more about existential depression and how she dealt with that and whatever and how she’s gotten a handle on it. Then with the ten thousand emails she got, she was like, oh, my god. She’s like, I felt myself getting into the old patterns, but now it’s because of the book. The book was supposed to be talking about how I’d gotten over the old patterns.

Naomi: I know. I felt that too. It was important that my tone — I was like, I don’t want this to come across as, I’ve figured this out. These are the steps. This is how you do it. I still struggle a lot sometimes with all of this noise around me. We’re in this day and age where we’re raising our little ones, and people can weigh in from literally anywhere, in a way. Regardless of that, we’re just so connected, which is such a great thing, but it also can be kind of detrimental if we allow it. Are you putting your phone at your bedside table before bed? Are you checking it first thing in the morning? Are you allowing that feedback to just always surround you? As I’ve learned to place it aside and really live my life, I think sometimes I can still see myself going back. You’re like, oh, wait, why am I carrying so much? Why am I allowing these little, tiny things to take such hold? It’s amazing how our brains work. We revert right back to those things.

Zibby: I shouldn’t even admit this. I wrote this article recently about how I’m a little older than my husband. I’ve started aging. My forty-four. He’s still in his thirties. He has not really started aging at all. I sort of have. I wrote this piece about it. Somebody commented, you know, it’s time for women to stop this agist society. I found myself this morning, when I was in the midst of boxes of Life cereal and getting the kids ready, being like, wait, wait, I just have to finish this, as I emailed her on the comments. No, no, no, here’s what I was trying to do. I’m so sorry. I was like, what am I doing? I’m putting my own family life on hold and jeopardizing on-time departure so I can talk to a complete stranger. I don’t even know where she lives and what . So I get it. Tell me about writing this book. I know a lot of it, they were essay-ish-type pieces, even the beautiful one you wrote about life in 2020 and scraping the plans to learn Italian and instead, learning vocabulary of pandemia or whatever. Tell me about how this became a book and the writing process behind it.

Naomi: I’ve always loved writing. I feel so fortunate with the blog. It’s just been so fun to do. It’s been very, very casual, the format and the way I’ve done it and I’ve approached it. Actually, I was pregnant with my last two in 2018. I was halfway through my pregnancy. I sat down to write a blog post one morning. I think I was twenty weeks. Pregnancy, it can be a lot. My twin pregnancy really, really took everything out of me. I remember sitting there. My back was cramping. I was in this throbbing pain and trying to hone in on what I wanted to write. I realized there were just so many hours that passed. As I looked at what I’d written and I was reading it back, I was kind of surprised myself because they were more intimate and vulnerable essays, or stories that turned into these essays, that I didn’t think I ever was actually going to open up about publicly. I held them really close to my heart. I wasn’t ready for the world to weigh in. I talked about my crisis with faith that day I was writing. I talked about finding out that we were having both Baby A and Baby B, that chapter, and then beginning to open up about my fertility experience. I was so surprised. I was like, wait, what is happening right now? I realized as I felt this pull, I really wanted to get it up. I wanted to share it. I wanted to post it.

I realized I wanted to give it its proper format so that I could really put it underneath this bigger umbrella of this messaging that I was trying to get across in what turned out to be dozens of pages. My blog posts have always been short and sweet. I was like, I got to figure out how to do that. I realized this was the start of my book. I feel really fortunate I was able to find incredible literary agents and an imprint that really caught the vision and understood what it was I wanted to do and supported me with that instead of trying to — I think sometimes it can be really easy to be put into a little bit of a box of, oh, let’s do it this way. Especially being a blogger and having shared publicly the way that I have, I didn’t want it to be anything regurgitated. I didn’t want to do a blog-to-book-type thing. I really wanted to do it this specific way. I feel so fortunate I’ve had that support to be able to do that. It was a very challenging process too, though, because writing is so different, from writing a book versus writing a blog post or an Instagram caption or something like that. I learned an incredible amount during this process. It just gets me excited because I hope to be able to use some of these new tools and gain more the down the road because I loved it despite the fact that it was very challenging, especially in 2020, trying to write with all of these circumstances that were put on all of us. I’m grateful it’s done. There were many moments during the last couple months where I was like, I don’t think this can happen. I don’t know how I can find time to write without a child coming and stepping on my keyboard.

Zibby: What are some of the tricks and tools you made from changing from a blog post, Instagram-caption mentality to more of a book length with an arc?

Naomi: I know, I had to go back and be like, oh, an arc. Oh, really? Oh, interesting. I don’t write like that. I really, truly had to sit down in the beginning. It took a minute in the beginning to sit down and realize how I wanted to say it and not just to come flat out and say, this, but to paint more of a story with it, which I actually really loved, to try to weave in a few of these experiences in a more storytelling format. I feel really lucky that I was able to do it with — I had a great editor over at HarperCollins that was able to sit down in the beginning and say, there a lot of run-ons here. She also was really sweet to say, “I understand you’re very conversationalist in the way that you write, and so we can keep that.” I didn’t want to have to bring in a coeditor or a ghostwriter or anything like that. It was like, “I know I have a lot of run-ons when I write, when I talk. I want this to be this way. We can polish it a little bit, but I really wanted it to keep that.” Everyone was very gracious and let me do that.

Zibby: Amazing. Now that you’ve done that, do you have plans for another book? Are you going to wait until more things percolate?

Naomi: I have another book, actually, but we haven’t visited much of that yet. As we’ve been launching this one, everything’s just in the back of my head. I haven’t been able to think. We had a conversation a few weeks ago, actually. Someone was like, “We should probably visit that.” I was like, “I don’t think I can visit that for maybe another month. Let’s put the brakes on that for a minute.” I am excited to maybe do something a little bit different than this one. I loved doing essays, but I think it would be fun to try to challenge myself with something else. We’ll see. Down the road, hopefully, yes.

Zibby: I just loved, as a fellow New Yorker, really appreciating what it must have been like, even the five-floor walkup. My sister-in-law used to live in a five-floor walkup. Even just visiting her, I was like, ugh. I had the energy. I’m thinking about you with kids doing that, and the groceries and wasting away time so you didn’t have to tackle the stairs.

Naomi: I know. It’s so funny, though. I look back at that chapter, I think we were there for about five years, and it really is one of my fondest. I have such beautiful, vivid, happy memories in that fifth-floor walkup, counting those sixty-seven stairs up and down, pregnant with two little ones, then with three. I really was hopeful that whatever that sort of challenge looks like for you in your life, because obviously not everybody has to hike sixty-seven stairs multiple times a day, I really think that when you reframe a challenge like that in your life as an adventure or just being able to look at it and build it as a positive habit — I think that’s what helped me with my mentality. My kids never saw it as, we got to hike the stairs? They truly just grew up with the stairs and loved the stairs and the games we played on the stairs or whatever it was. I just felt like we had built it into our daily routine as such a norm. I think that we all have that ability. It’s just how we look at it. It’s amazing because it really was this tiny shoebox apartment that was our favorite despite the fact that it felt like we were doing some sort of gym circuit to get there every day.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I love how you also reframed your body, essentially, and how your daughter was telling you that your tummy was doughy and soft and warm and everything.

Naomi: From such a loving place. She was like, “I love your warm, soft, doughy tummy, Mama.” We as women, we’re like, wait a second, hold on, don’t touch me. We put a lot on ourselves. I think society doesn’t help sometimes. I realize as I become a mother especially that that’s a conversation I want to make sure I don’t leave on the table. I want them to be able to celebrate what gifts our bodies are from a young age, especially as I know that they probably will grow up and have complex relationships here or there as they navigate their own bodies and things like that. I was like, I don’t want to put all of my own insecurities, having grown up as a dancer maybe in a household where it just wasn’t necessarily a positive thing, I don’t want to put that on them. I think we forget that we easily can even not meaning to just with a one-off comment or not wanting to get into the picture or jump into the pool with the swimsuit because we just don’t feel ready or whatever it is. That was also one that I was a little nervous. I was like, I know that I need to do this. It’s important to me to share because I really feel grateful to have made that progress in my own journey, which did not really happen until I became a mother, which I think is really interesting.

Zibby: I am so glad you shared that. I’ve had twins. I’ve had four kids. Sometimes I think I’ve gone too far. I keep telling my kids whenever they look at my stomach or something, “No, no, I’m so proud of my stomach because that’s how I got all of you. Yeah, I used to have a flat-ish stomach, and that was fine, but I would much rather have you.” My daughter, we had a playdate the other day, and she’s like, “Do you want to see my mom’s stomach? happened to her because she had four kids.”

Naomi: I love it. She loves you.

Zibby: No, no, no. It’s okay. Don’t pull up my shirt. I’m all for it, but — anyway.

Naomi: That’s so sweet. That’s it right there. She looks at you, and you are her safety. You are her comfort. She loves looking at her mama. She loves your tummy. If we could all look at ourselves the way that our children see us, I think we would all feel a lot more confident in what beautiful beings we are. That’s beautiful. I love that.

Zibby: Your other message in the book that was also so relevant and so great is this whole thing of just being a mom. I had many years when I wasn’t working out of the house. I’d go to a dinner party or something. I’d feel like, I’m just at home with my twins or whatever. I felt so much that especially the men were just like, oh, okay. Then they didn’t know what to talk to me about. Luckily, I really like to ask questions. I’m like, okay, back to you. I always felt so bad about myself, like, I have nothing to add to this conversation now, despite the fact that I was working so hard all day.

Naomi: Yes, twenty-four/seven.

Zibby: He was probably sitting at his desk reading sports online and pretending to do banking or whatever he was doing.

Naomi: I love that you said that because I do really think we are so lucky in this day and age as women. We can really carve our own paths and find our identities outside of the home as well. That was so important to me because as I heard it more and more with people introducing themselves and saying that, I don’t believe we should put it so far down the list of important titles, that you have to say, I’m just a mom. I’m just at home. I’m like, wait a second, no. One of the women who endorsed my book, Elaine Dalton, she’s also an author, she actually put in her title of introducing herself, mother, author, speaker, whatever. I was like, that’s beautiful that you place that before any of your other titles. Especially with my messaging and everything else, I just was like, I love that, to introduce yourself and put that importance there along with everything else that you’re carrying, but to make sure that that has space and proper space. We forget it is such valuable work and full-time work around the clock that I don’t know what’s more important.

Zibby: Amen to that. Last question, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Naomi: So much. My biggest thing — I’m very much a perfectionist. A lot of times, I felt really pulled with some of these essays. I was like, I know that I need to do this. Sometimes I can find a lot of excuses because I want it to be right. I think it applies to a lot of other things I’ve done in my life too where sometimes you’re like, I really want to do that thing, but I need to make sure I have the proper time to give it. I need to make sure that everything’s in its place so that I can do that and share that the way I want it to happen. Life is bonkers. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know where you’re going to be in five years sometimes. I just think sometimes it’s important to give yourself that grace and just do it. I think we are so good, at least myself speaking from my own experience, of coming up with a lot of excuses or saying, maybe I just put this on pause, maybe I’ll hold it, or whatever it is. If you want to do it, you can do it. You can find the ten minutes or twenty-minute pockets here or there to start at it and work at it. I do believe there’s a season for everything, but just go. Just do it. Don’t let the little circus in your head hold you back.

Zibby: Love it. Don’t let the little circus in your head hold you back. That’s a good one. Naomi, thank you. It was so nice to meet you.

Naomi: It was great to meet you too. Really, I’m going to go change my bookcase in the other room. I don’t know if I have enough. You have lots of yellows books. I love that. I’m going to have to add to my collection.

Zibby: I do. There’s more over here. Good luck.

Naomi: Thank you. Have a good one.

Zibby: Take care. You too. Buh-bye.

Naomi: Bye.



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