Zibby Owens: Welcome, Shari. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Shari Medini: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Zibby: I’m excited to be here with you, especially because both our books are coming out from Skyhorse Publishing this year. We’re book siblings of a sort or something.

Shari: I love it. That’s a new name for it.

Zibby: Book siblings. Parenting While Working from Home, your book, could not be better timed, seriously. Who is not trying to do this right now? Despite its title, it’s applicable for people who are just working from home and will be applicable for far into the future regardless of where people work because every month of the year you have really great actionable tips and worksheets and all this other stuff. Tell me a little about how this book came to be.

Shari: Thank you for saying all of that. I appreciate that. We really tried to pack a lot into it. I’m glad that that came across and that you found that helpful. The book, like you said, is broken down by months. Each chapter, we are focusing on things for that particular month. As parents, every month can look a little bit different. In current times, things seem to be running together a little bit more. In typical family life, there’s that distinction. Within each chapter as well, we break that down into sections where there’s something to help the parent focus on themselves, whether that’s self-care or building confidence or self-growth in some form or another. There’s a section for connecting with your kids, which is more that traditional parenting content. Maybe it’s activity ideas. Maybe it’s how to help your kids through something or work on that child behavior piece. Then we have a section for working from home which applies to working from home, but we tried to implement a lot of things that is just kind of career advice in general. As parents trying to advance in our careers, what insight, what ideas, what has worked well for us that we’re able to communicate and pass along for that aspect of our lives? I don’t know if you feel this way too, but I feel like there’s so many different aspects to parenting while you’re also trying to advance in your career. It was even helpful in writing the book to be able to segment those different areas. Karissa and I, my coauthor and I, we live our lives that way. We do tend to segment and try to — we are able to maintain a better balance because we recognize we can’t do everything all at the same time.

Zibby: Yeah, it’s impossible. You can. You can certainly try, but there will be evidence that you didn’t exactly pull it off perfectly.

Shari: And a lot of frustration. Any time that I’m trying to do multiple things at once, I end up just getting annoyed. That’s not helpful for anybody, so stopping or slowing down, taking one step at a time.

Zibby: Even just the acknowledgment that every month is so different for parents. I know you said, yes, of course, the days are sort of bleeding into each other. They’re not as extreme. For sure, December is hugely different from January which is very different from February compared to July. May, we’ve got camp forms. This month, we’ve got Hannukah gifts, holiday cards. Every month brings a new set of universal — maybe not universal. I’m sorry. That sounds very privileged.

Shari: Right. We can’t overgeneralize.

Zibby: I am very lucky that I send my children to camp and that I can give Hannukah gifts and whatever. In general, there are a lot of commonalities between the things that parents go through on a cyclical basis based on the months. It was so nice just to see it spelled out. What I really loved is that you encourage readers to quickly mark down the highlights, the things that really matter to them in certain months because it’s all well and good to be like, I should write every cute thing my kid says, but three things from the month of February? I could probably do that.

Shari: Definitely more manageable, yes, for sure. Like you said, we have the monthly intentions at the beginning of every month/chapter and the monthly reflections at the end of every month which are essentially journal prompts and space to write it in there. I know it can be tempting to skim over that or say, I’ll come back to that, but I guarantee you, you wouldn’t remember a couple days into the next month. How can we be purposeful in even taking that five minutes to just think about it? We have so much going on in our heads in any given moment that just taking that time and space to actually think about things is meaningful. You might come to conclusions that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Really encouraging people, step one of making positive change is just acknowledging what’s working and what’s not working. Then we can try to figure out a solution, but we have to start there.

Zibby: It’s so true. You spelled out, also, a lot of things when you’re — you have a whole Focus on You section. Part of focusing on you, there was this one little paragraph on reading and how that was great. Of course, I’m like, ooh, a reading chapter. Tell me about that and how you fit reading in and why you think it’s important.

Shari: First of all, I love the name of your podcast and all of this. I know everybody tells you that.

Zibby: Doesn’t get old.

Shari: Good. I love it. I think it’s perfect because it is important. What I’ve realized this past year, I loved reading as a kid and I stopped devouring books at some point in my adult life. I think part of it was my tastes changed and I didn’t really realize that. The other part of it was, if I’m reading, it should be for something. I stopped reading for enjoyment. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction. I read a lot of parenting books and self-help type stuff which absolutely has a place and is valuable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken the time to write one myself. This past year, I discovered that I love thrillers. I kind of shocked myself. I have read book after book after book in this genre and rediscovered that love of reading. It is important. I think it’s going to depend, the season of parenthood that you’re in. It is not going to be easy to sit down and read a book cover to cover in a weekend. Now that my kids are a little older, I have a little more time and space to do that. Just being purposeful about taking those small moments. Karissa always keeps a book in her car. When she’s waiting in school pickup line or maybe they got to a doctor’s appointment early or the baby’s napping in the back, she has that. She can flip through and read that a little bit. We talk about, in the book, treating a book more like a TV series than a movie. You can just watch little pieces at a time. You can read little pieces at a time. When it comes down to it, do what’s enjoyable to you and understand that you might get interrupted at any moment, unfortunately.

Zibby: Sometimes reading is more like a commercial than even a TV show, seriously. I get two minutes. Then something else shifts and I have to put it down again.

Shari: You’re right, which might then mean that you’re choosing different books at different stages in your life. That was something that we were aware of when we were writing this. It is an easy book to pick up and put down. You can get a little snippet and dive back into it later.

Zibby: And that you can feel accomplished because, yes, of course, you can read it all at once, but you could just have your goal be to read the December chapter in December or the March chapter in March. You’ve read one chapter of a book. Then when the book is over, you finished the book. You’ve had all these tips. You’ve done exercises. There are things in your book, too, that I loved. I’m always recommending stupid things to kill time. I know you had in there, keep your kid in the bath as long as possible, which is basically what you said, which is basically what’s happening in the other room right now. They’re not alone, but that’s what’s happening. Even how you said stuffed animal hide and seek, I’ve never done that. I was like, how could I have never done that before? That’s such a good idea. I think we’re definitely going to have to go do that after I get off this Zoom. That’s a great idea.

Shari: Thank you. I love that. Not every single idea is going to be this big aha moment that we’re sharing, but little things like that that you hadn’t done before that are just simple. Like you said, we can go do that this afternoon. That’s an easy thing. There’s no prep. We can just go try it out. Even while I was writing the book and going back through my own ideas and reading back through Karissa’s ideas, I was like, I forgot about that. We should do that one. That was helpful. Why did we stop doing that? Because life gets busy. You forget even your own best tricks from time to time.

Zibby: It’s true. Maybe that could be an addendum to your book, or at least a paragraph, things that got you through.

Shari: Tricks of the trade.

Zibby: The tricks of the trade, something like that. I used to throw in measuring cups and teaspoons and tablespoons into the shower with my twins when they were really little, like, I want to say three or four. Maybe they were younger. I don’t know. Whatever age that would be developmentally appropriate, not when they were thirteen, when they were really little. They would spend hours just pouring the water on each other and filling up the cups. I was like, this is gold. I could sit there. I could read. I could do whatever I had to do.

Shari: Like we talk about too, bring it into the bathroom. I can’t tell you how much work I’ve gotten done in the bathroom while my kids are in the tub or playing with cups in the shower. Once you can find those little nuggets, then it also inspires you to find other simple solutions in other areas where you’re like, how else can I apply this? How else can I expand on this? What’s another idea that we can do today? You’re right. A lot of parenting is passing the hours, especially if you’re stuck at home. Karissa and I were both stay-at-home parents when our kids were little. There’s a lot of hours in the day. They need you for all of them for a while. What do you do? What do you do when you have to spend so much time together?

Zibby: I liked your idea of listening to a podcast while you sit next to your kids on the couch while they watch TV. That was a good one.

Shari: There’s always those conversations, the most-hated cartoons. I can’t stand to watch this or I’m so annoyed with their voice. I’m like, just pop in an earbud. Do your own thing. They’re not noticing. They don’t care. Not to say you shouldn’t share in that sometimes and hear what they like to talk about or what they enjoy, but it’s okay to zone out and do your own thing if everybody’s safe and happy.

Zibby: Yep. It’s taken me a while to learn all those things and not feel bad about it. I feel like the pandemic, I don’t know about you, but has made me go much easier on myself. Do you feel like that? Especially in terms of technology and watching TV, I used to be like, thirty minutes a day, max. It’s been twenty-eight minutes. In thirty seconds, it’s almost time for it to be over. It’s like, why? Why did I care so much? Really? An extra hour? I get stuff done. They get stuff done. They’re happy. I’m happy. What’s the downside? Maybe I shouldn’t say that.

Shari: I’m a hundred percent on board with you. Again, I’m not doing the research, but in my own life and looking back through history, we have done this with kids. I saw a thing. They said when books started becoming more accessible and more popular, all the adults were like, can you believe that kid? They’re just sitting under a tree and reading all day. They’re just so lazy. They’re wasting their time. Now we’d be thrilled if our kid sat under a tree and read all day. I do think that it takes us a while to catch up to current times. Our kids are always ahead of the curve because that’s just what they know. Quite frankly, a lot of the video games that they’re play, they are learning skills. My older son, he plays with his friends. They have to be cooperative. They’re building things. They’re learning. They’re problem solving. I don’t see a whole lot wrong with that. Everything in moderation just like anything else. Just like it’s not the best for us to go watch Netflix all day every day, but we need that downtime. We need that distraction. Our kids are human too. They’re littler versions of us that also need to be able to tune out and do things to pass the time.

Zibby: It’s true. It used to be that I thought TV was the worst thing ever. Now if I can just get them off the iPad to watch a show together, that’s a victory. A family movie is hitting gold. That’s the best I could do as a parent.

Shari: Although, even that has slowed down, which has been sad that since they’re not able to be producing new family movies, we miss those, having that movie night every once in a while. There’s not really family shows. I don’t blame them. I also want to watch what I want to watch. We try to get together every once in a while and share that, but it doesn’t happen as often as maybe it should.

Zibby: The only thing I’ll say that I’ve realized — I don’t even know why we’re talking about TV and technology so much. I’m sorry. I don’t even know why we’ve gone off on this tangent.

Shari: It’s fine.

Zibby: The only thing I’ll say is not to rely too much and say, they’re fine, they’re watching TV alone. I always remind myself it’s so much more fun if I watch TV with my husband than if I watch it alone. Of course, I’m fine either way. If I watch Sex and the City with a girlfriend, it’s much more fun than watching alone. It’s the same for your kids. Every so often, just go sit and watch with them. It makes the experience completely different. You’re doing something together. Not every time, but every so often.

Shari: Absolutely. You’re right. Throughout all of this, and especially back to the working-from-home piece, you have to do what you have to do. That’s fine. We talk a lot about making sure they’re set up and ready to go before you need to jump on that call or before you need some focus time. It’s okay to use those kind of things. One last technology piece, I appreciated the one day that grandma had said to me, “Oh, I think iPads are amazing. When I had my kids and they were little, we never went out to eat because it was a nightmare to sit at a restaurant with four little kids. If we had iPads, of course I would’ve used them.” I was like, “You are amazing. You just made me feel so much better. You understand that it’s a resource.” It shouldn’t be your only resource, why not use it from time to time?

Zibby: Since the pandemic has started, I have not been out to dinner with my kids. I do not miss that at all.

Shari: No, I don’t.

Zibby: other things I miss, but trying to manage lots of kids in a restaurant is not one of them. Working from home, per your book, is also always a challenge. I meant to flag that. I’m glad you brought it up, that piece of when they’re like, “Mom, can you just do this? Mom, can you just do this?” Instead of saying, “Five more minutes. I just need to finish this first,” your advice is just stop, get them whatever they need, essentially, and then go back. You’ll be less interrupted. Take the time up front. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but it’s very helpful advice.

Shari: It’s hard because on a day-to-day basis we experience that when your kids are home. Everybody wakes up, and they start doing something. You’re like, okay, cool, I can go sit down at my computer. You might get five to ten minutes in before they’re hungry or they need help with something or they just want to chat with you and check in, so trying to do that first. I notice that even when my son was really little, that if I could just give him my undivided attention, not for hours at a time, only maybe ten minutes that I made sure he had food and water and that he got to tell me all of his toddler jokes that he had been brewing up, that we got to connect and laugh together and then explain what I needed to do. There’s a reason that I need to step away. There’s a reason I need to focus. There’s a reason that I’m not going to be paying attention to you for the next however long. I’ll help get you set up first and make sure you have something fun to do, but then I have to go do this other thing that’s also important.

Anything gets hard when we’re caught in that middle ground where we are feeling pulled in too many different directions, so just trying to create those boundaries a little bit. As your kids get older, keep them a part of that conversation. Keep that connection with them. Also, if they’re seeing you work from home and seeing all of that, I love that I can have those conversations with my ten-year-old about what I’m working on and hear his insight and hear his ideas. It’s a fun thing. It’s helpful. It’s good for him to see what this looks like. Especially since we’ve been home and they had been in virtual school this past semester, I’m like, this is what I do when you’re in school all day. I don’t just play around and have fun. I work. Since you’re not at school, you’re seeing me work. I know that’s hard that I’m not a hundred percent available to you. When we have that distinction, they would come home from school, I would try to make myself a hundred percent available to them for snippets of time. It changes. It changes every day, every week, every year. We troubleshoot as we go.

Zibby: Having written a whole book about this and having coauthored this book — first of all, how was it working with somebody else to produce this? How did you do that? Then second of all, what advice would you have to other people attempting a similar feat?

Shari: Google Docs is your best friend. Karissa and I have been running for almost four years. Our four-year anniversary is two days after book launch, which is fun. We have been writing together, collaborating together on a daily basis for the last four years. It really was a surprisingly seamless process. We understood each other’s voices. We were able to divide and conquer. It would be like, which of these things do you feel really passionate about, that you feel like you could really run with? We divided up who would start with it. Then the other person would read through it and add their own piece of it. Then that other person would go back through and make sure it all meshed together. Being able to do that, one, it’s really motivating. It’s really nice that when I was burnt out of writing, I could go back through and read what she wrote and spark some new ideas. She lives in South Carolina. I live in Pennsylvania. To be able to work together virtually on the same document in live time, it worked well. That’s not for everybody. We both have a very similar parenting style perspective kind of voice which obviously makes it easier. If I were writing a book with someone else, I’m sure it would not mesh as well. Advice for other people, I do think if you’re going to go into something like this, a book that gets to live on past when you write it, making sure that you have somebody that you work well with because it’s not just about getting the words on the page. As you know, there’s so much that goes into this. There’s so many different elements to getting a book published. Once it’s out there in the world, your work is not done. Finding someone that you really trust and that you can collaborate with long term is step one. Then the rest should hopefully fall into place.

Zibby: Love it. I always wished I had somebody who I could collaborate that well with. I never want to take the risk because what if it doesn’t work out? I’m glad you time tested it for years before you did the book project.

Shari: I would recommend that. What are the trial runs? How can you work together on other things before taking that leap? It’s hard to find that. It took us both time to figure that out and what that looked like because we’re both go-getters. We both have a lot of our own ideas and ways of doing things. It’s hard to let go of control when you’re used to doing things on your own. It just takes time to build that trust.

Zibby: Awesome. It’s true. Shari, thank you so much. Thanks for chatting with me on the podcast. Thanks for all the tips in your book. I am going to keep flipping back through it and finding new things to do for me, for them. I’m really committing to filling in those highlights because I know I’ll be glad once I’ve done it. Then I’ll know where they are, even. It’s a great incentive early in the new year to stick to a goal. Thank you for that.

Shari: You’re welcome. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it so far. You know how to get ahold of me if you need any extra insight or have any questions along the way.

Zibby: Thank you. Congrats. Thanks so much.

Shari: Thank you.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Shari: Bye.