For this special edition of “How I Get It Done,” we’re asking successful women about how they’re making their return to the “office” as new moms work for them.
When Casey Wilson calls, she is in the middle of backing her car out of her driveway; our hellos are drowned out by an insistent beeping, which intensifies and is joined by the voice of her neighbor in the background until she’s forced to hang up. Five minutes later, she calls back, apologizing — she lives too high in the hills and was having trouble maneuvering. “We don’t even need to do the interview,” she says. “That was it right there.”
The 42-year-old actor and co-host of Real Housewives podcast Bitch Sesh is used to this sort of chaos; she’s a mom of two young sons, ages 7 and 5 — and, as of six weeks ago, a baby girl. She’s in what she describes as a “half-in, half-out” maternity leave, and feeling the best she’s ever felt after having a baby — a fact she credits fully to having used a surrogate this time around, for mental-health reasons. “You wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to just get over it,” says Wilson. “Postpartum and peripartum depression are very real conditions, and they have devastating consequences if they go south. They’re not to be toyed with.”
Once she’s safely on the road, she explains how she gets it all done.
On a typical morning:
I have a 6-week-old baby. So I’m still trying to figure out what our routine is and would love to cling to one if I had one. But I think typically the baby’s been sleeping until about 5:50 or 6 a.m. I’ve been getting up with her — or my husband will, we’ll kind of trade off — and feeding her. I used a surrogate, so, blessedly, we’re doing bottle feeding, which has helped all of us have a more equal experience in terms of time output and bonding with the baby. Some women have an easy time with breastfeeding — it was so difficult for me. I feel completely liberated to be able to just feed her with a bottle; it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. My two other kids get up around 6, and we actually do a little TV in the morning, which I’m sure is wrong on every level. But that’s when my kids watch their hour so we can get all the lunches packed and everyone out the door. And then we don’t do it again at night because we’re trying to half be good parents, but we sometimes do anyway.
On maternity leave:
I’ve been attempting to do a “maternity leave.” I put that in quotes because I had every expectation of trying to slow down and really be present and do it. I envisioned it as I’m in the house serenely taking care of the baby and doing nothing else, and that has not been the reality. Maybe it’s my problem for not setting better boundaries, but no matter how many vacation responders I put out when I’m on maternity leave, I think the world does expect everything to keep turning at the same rate. I’m getting pulled back into work more than I’d like, but at the same time I have to work and it’s such a push and pull. And I have two other kids.
As much as I’d like to say people aren’t being respectful of my maternity leave, it’s also me. I think I have to work, and I’m in an industry where it’s not like I have a nine-to-five and can formally take off this time. I have to take jobs and work when it comes to me. So I’m definitely working more than I’d like right now. My feelings about it are complicated. I feel glad that I’m feeling well enough to work. But I also have a churning inside me, like I should be home.
On using a surrogate:
A big decision I made, which I don’t know if I’ll get flack for, but I’m standing behind it, is that I decided to use a surrogate for mental-health reasons, which had a lot to do with maternity leave and the postpartum days. With my first two, I had really tough pregnancies. I was sick the whole time and pretty down. With both of my sons, I had horrible postpartum depression. I knew I wanted to have a third. I talked to a few doctors and they advised against me carrying. Apparently, if you have postpartum depression with two kids, there’s a very high chance that you’ll have it with your third. I was like, I’m actually not willing to do that again — to my two boys or to myself, quite frankly. So I decided to use a surrogate.
Obviously, it’s prohibitive for a lot of people based on cost, and I’m quite privileged to be able to afford it. But it’s an option that I just want to throw out there. After having a baby, you’re so compromised emotionally, and then to be expected to take care of a baby and have this wonderful postpartum experience with this baby who you’ve always longed for and be working and be parenting is quite literally, I think, impossible. I’ve had such a different experience using a surrogate, It’s been the kind of healing I needed, really, after my first two pregnancies. I’m getting to enjoy the experience and not be compromised emotionally and physically. I feel good and energetic. With my other two, it just felt like I was underwater for the first six months, and this has been a completely different experience. I’m so grateful to my surrogate and that I was able to do this. I’m definitely the happiest I’ve ever been with a newborn.
On how her work ethic has changed:
Doing more doesn’t always produce more results. Sometimes it’s about letting go of the wheel. Letting go, I’ve had so much more come to me. You have to do the footwork, and I’m blessed to be at a place in my career where I just don’t feel that frantic need I had in my 20s and 30s to produce and work. By the same token, I’m writing a show based on my book for Netflix — I feel like I’m doing more exciting things than I’ve ever done. But I’m not emotionally tied to it in a way that feels really good. I have some distance from it. I’m able to say to myself, That’s amazing that you’re doing this, but also, if this doesn’t work out, you’re not ruined as a human.
Am I the most famous person in the world? Absolutely not, but I’m lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with my kids, to also get to work really hard, and I have really strong female friendships that I place as a huge priority in my life. Life is so short. We have to try to make joy where we can. I’m not finding that joy from work as much anymore.
On the people who help get her through:
I’m a very unorganized person. I’m lucky enough to have an assistant, Kristin, who is so important. I’m so aware of how lucky I am. There’s such a chasm between what you need to be doing and what you’re actually capable of doing, and it definitely cannot be done by me alone. Our nanny, Jennifer, is really one of the only reasons my husband and I are able to do what we love, make a living, and know that our kids are being cared for so beautifully. Our longtime cleaning woman, Rosa, is so special to us and has been in our lives for so long. My girlfriends and other moms around me give advice and help out and are dropping off food now that I have the baby. And they have kids of their own and are working full time. I’m so touched by the willingness that other women have to help.
The biggest shout-out I could give is to my surrogate, Stacy Wadsworth. People have been quite rude — when they hear you have a surrogate, they say incredibly insensitive things: “I could never do that.” “How do you trust someone?” “Wouldn’t you want to lock your surrogate up in a basement?” “Are you afraid she’s going steal the baby?” To them, I want to say, I’m so grateful to this angel on earth. There is no greater act of support than being a surrogate. We had such an incredible experience together, and, without her I quite literally would not have my daughter and my mental health intact.
On letting go of being perfect:
With my third, there just is not the mental or emotional capacity to care as much. It feels quite freeing. I’m not sitting here putting this pressure on myself to be the perfect mother. And in some ways, I think I’m doing a better job, because I’ve let it go. I actually think I’m more relaxed and present, paradoxically, because of that.
I have ADHD, and I was talking to my girlfriend who’s a psychologist and who also has ADHD. She was saying that for many women with ADHD, there’s a lot of extra work going on to seem as though you have everything together. It’s not just that you’re trying to do everything. You’re also trying to put on a show that everything is more together than it is. That’s such wasted energy. You might not have everything together, and it’s better to accept that and be your authentic self. Sometimes my brain feels so scattered, and I’m desperately trying to make it seem as though it’s anything but that. I definitely don’t have time to pretend like I have things together. I don’t have time to have flowers on the table. I can focus for seven hours straight and go so deep on a project in a way maybe others can’t, but my car will never be clean.
More From This Series
- How Designer and Artist (and New Mom) Sarah Nsikak Gets It Done
- How Creative Director (and New Mom) Anna Polonsky Gets It Done
- How Retail Consultant and New Mom Julian Paik Gets It Done