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.
For author Carola Lovering, the latter half of 2022 was “a whirlwind.” “I don’t know how else to describe it,” she says. In June, she published her third novel, Can’t Look Away, which was a Good Morning America Buzz Pick. In July, she gave birth to her second child, Lila, whose big brother, James, had been born two years earlier. In September, the television series Tell Me Lies, based on Lovering’s 2018 debut of the same name, premiered on Hulu. And in October, she sold her next two books to Macmillan for $500,000. Amid the chaos, she’s trying to embrace the messy beauty of time with her infant and toddler, balance the whiplash of everyday life in Darien, Connecticut, with the occasional night out in Hollywood, and shake the guilt that comes with taking much-needed time off from work — all while gathering material for future novels.
On working through her early postpartum days:
I talked to my editor and agent before I had James in 2020 and said, “I’m going to try to take two or three months off.” He was born in August, and I was back to editing Can’t Look Away by November. It was pretty straightforward. With Lila, it was all such a blur. She was born on July 28, and the Tell Me Lies trailer dropped on August 4. Having our second child was incredibly exciting and, obviously, the most important thing in the world, but the anticipation of the Tell Me Lies show premiering on September 7 was hands down the most surreal thing that had ever happened in my career. There was this train moving forward, and I could either choose to get on it or not. I chose to get on, even though I’d just had a baby, because I knew this very well could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I wanted to be part of the Tell Me Lies ride — and I was back in the manuscript of my fourth novel, Bye Baby, by August. I didn’t have those lazy, slow, intimate first few days and weeks with a newborn the way I did with James. Everything that was happening was really exciting and positive, but together it was a lot.
On going to the Tell Me Lies premiere one month after having a baby:
I didn’t fit in any of my clothes because I’d just had a baby. I was worrying about what I was going to wear and Googling, “Can I get a spray tan while I’m breastfeeding?” It was all this stuff that you don’t want to think about when you’re three weeks postpartum, but I was just on autopilot, thinking, I have to do this. I have to try to find a way to look good at this event. The kids stayed with my parents, who live 30 minutes away from us, and I wrote my mom this never-ending list of what to do with them.
By the time my husband Rob and I got on the plane, it was just this huge sigh of relief, like, Oh my God. The children are with my parents. We’re going to L.A. This is happening. Hulu paid for business class, so I pumped in my little pod. I used this service called Milk Stork — they pick up your breast milk and ship it express across the country. I was storing my breast milk in a cooler that was shipped back to New York.
I pumped in the Uber on the way to the premiere, and when we arrived, there was literally a red carpet. When have I ever been on a red carpet in my life? Never. This was a red-carpet moment, and I was like, “Can you please hold on? I need to finish pumping.” So we stayed in the car, and I gave Rob a big bag with my pump and cooler and went onto the red carpet with Jackson White and Grace Van Patten. They were looking so hot, and I was a hot mess.
Rob and I took a red-eye home that night. I remember picking up the kids from my parents and getting back to Darien and just being like, What the fuck just happened? We were just in California with movie stars. Did it take me away from that postpartum cocoon? Yeah, it did, and I do have a little bit of guilt about that. I don’t regret anything, but I look back on it and have complicated emotions.
On keeping perspective:
This stage of life with babies is really hard, and it can be really stressful and anxiety inducing and chaotic. But I try to keep perspective because I know it’s also a precious phase that’s fleeting. When there are really hard moments, which there are often, I try to remember that, and it really helps because I know this time is so precious and I want to appreciate it, even the hard parts.
On her morning routine:
Lila, our 7-month-old, has been sleeping so badly lately, waking up at 4 a.m. It usually takes until 5 a.m. to get her back down, then she sleeps for a couple of hours until she and her 2-year-old brother, James, get up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. I nurse Lila in our bed, which is a cozy way to start the day, and Rob takes James downstairs for breakfast and a diaper change. Rob starts the coffee. If I’m still nursing, he’ll bring me a cup; if I’m done, I’ll come downstairs and we’ll have those first few glorious sips on the couch while James plays around and Lila sits in her bouncy chair. Our nanny arrives at 9 a.m. every weekday. I rarely do school drop-off. I feel guilty, but I try to be really sacred with my work hours, which are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., because that’s when we have child care. Once our nanny is back from dropping James at school, she takes over with Lila and I go upstairs, brush my teeth, get dressed, and go downstairs to my desk. Rob does the same.
On working after the kids go to bed:
Because our child-care situation is only part time, when I have a bigger workload, I will sometimes have to work after the kids go to bed. I don’t mind because I’m such a night owl. It’s a good time of day for me to feel productive and not be distracted by the kids. If I’m writing at night, I’ll occasionally make myself a drink. Sometimes it’s just a glass of wine. Sometimes it’s a negroni or Moscow mule. It allows me to unwind and be creative in a different way.
On avoiding burnout:
There is this piece of advice I’ve been given and I know writers often give, which is to write every day. I hate that. It’s not conducive to the lifestyle of a parent of young kids. I think breaks are really important to give yourself time off to recharge. It’s something I’m learning I really need. For example, I’m not really working on anything right now: Bye Baby has gone into copy edits, and I know I need to start another project but I just feel this gut instinct that I can’t do it right now. Every day, I feel guilty about it, but I need to take a breather for a couple of months. When I say yes to everything, I burn myself out, and it’s not helpful for me or my career.
On stress management:
A huge 2023 resolution for me has been doing yoga again. I used to teach yoga, and I totally stopped doing it. I go to a hot-yoga studio once or twice a week so I get out of the house, sweat, and get this spiritual element that really helps my stress.
On remembering her superpower:
There’s a quote from Fleishman Is in Trouble that I actually have pasted onto my computer screen: “Rachel knew the truth, which was that the culture was so condescending to stay-at-home mothers that we allowed them the fiction that being a mother was the hardest job in the world. Well, it wasn’t. Having an actual job and being a mother is the hardest job in the world.” I really relate to that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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