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Rebecca Woolf – Author

Welcome to the fourth episode of The Art of Sway! Each week, our CEO and host Danielle Wiley sparks candid conversations with industry insiders and influential tastemakers, in order to uncover all the ways influence impacts our work, our lifestyles, and the choices we make.

This week’s guest is Rebecca Woolf, award-winning parenting/life blogger turned authenticity media maven. Rebecca is a longtime writer/creator who has contributed to numerous publications, websites, and anthologies, most notably her popular personal blog, Girl’s Gone Child. Her most recent book, the hugely-anticipated All of This, was released this August.

Our discussion delved into ditching taboos and shame, transforming brand sponsorships into meaningful points of audience connection, the courage of vulnerability as a creator, and *much* more. You won’t want to miss this great talk!

Standout moments:

  • (6:43) Rebecca and Danielle discuss how at the beginning their mom blog community was pretty much the only community they had, and it all started as a very pure idea that eventually was affected by capitalism when marketing realized they could make money off of their content.
  • (7:29) Rebecca talks about how she rejected big amounts of money from sponsors like McDonalds and Walmart because she didn’t want to work with companies she wouldn’t genuinely recommend-and that’s what made her followers trust her.

Scroll down for a full show transcript!

Rebecca Woolf, author of All of This
Danielle Wiley hosting The Art of Sway podcast, speaking to Rebecca Woolf.
Rebecca Woolf on The Art of Sway Podcast

Episode 2: Rebecca Woolf Transcript

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway. This is a podcast that brings you inside the world of marketing through the lens of influence. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week, through candid conversations with industry insiders, we will uncover how influencer marketing is making an impact across all consumer buying habits and is changing the way we talk to each other. Let’s dive in.

Danielle Wiley: It was so great to catch up with Rebecca. She was one of the first 25 bloggers on the Sway group roster. So, I have known her for a long time and always loved working with her and have really missed hearing her voice. We had a really amazing conversation, talking about the heyday of mom blogging, whether or not our kids survived all the scrutiny and coverage that they got back in those days, and of course so much about the vulnerability and honesty of her groundbreaking new memoir, which I hope you all will read as soon as you can. Please enjoy.

Danielle Wiley: Rebecca Woolf has worked as a freelance writer since age 16, when she became a leading contributor to the hit nineties book series, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and its subsequent Teen Love series books. Since then, she has contributed to numerous publications, websites, and anthologies, most notably her own award-winning personal blog, Girls Gone Child.

Danielle Wiley: Woolf has contributed dozens of personal essays to publications, both on and offline, including Refinery29, Huffington Post, Parenting, and Romper. She has appeared on CNN and NPR and has been featured in the New York Times, Times magazine, and New York Mag. In 2008, Woolf authored her first memoir, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, and was one of three bloggers to launch parenting destination Babble.com, later acquired by Disney.

Danielle Wiley: Her latest book, All of This, a memoir of death and desire, came out on August 16th of this year. So hi and welcome.

Rebecca Woolf: Hi.

Danielle Wiley: It’s great to see you. We were just saying it’s been forever.

Rebecca Woolf: It has been forever. It’s kind of amazing, because I feel like we’ve now passed the generation; we’ve now raised the children that we started writing about. And it’s this bizarre thing where we’ve basically become these… I don’t know. I feel like such a Boomer.

Danielle Wiley: Totally. I literally listen to a podcast this morning called The Grandma… Or not podcast. A playlist called The Grandma Playlist on Spotify. And it was, “Get your cardigan. Think coastal grandma.” And I was, “This is perfect for me.”

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. It’s wild. I’m watching everyone’s kids go off to college. I think your oldest is now a senior too. He’s Archer’s age, right? Aren’t our kids-

Danielle Wiley: He’s my youngest. So, my daughter is-

Rebecca Woolf: Sorry, that’s what I mean. Your youngest.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rebecca Woolf: I know she’s in college.

Danielle Wiley: She’s in college, and then he’s a senior.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. So, it’s crazy.

Danielle Wiley: Nuts. And I just saw there was that article… It was so much fun, that article last week in Romper, interviewing all the kids.

Rebecca Woolf: It was really sweet. Because I had asked them… When Margaret reached out, she was, “Can I interview your kids?” And I was, “Let me see if they’d be down.” And they were. They’re, “Totally, you can interview us.” And they didn’t want me to hear them, so they were in their own room. So, it was so cute reading it. And especially reading it… She published it a couple days after my book came out. And my daughter was… It’s so her, it’s so the way she rolls, which is, “My mom’s… Leave her alone.” She’s so protective of me. She’s gotten into the comments before and fought with people.

Danielle Wiley: Oh my goodness.

Rebecca Woolf: And her whole thing was just being so flippant about people and being, “My mom, leave her alone. She’s brave” or whatever she said. And I was, “Ah.” Anyway, I was honored.

Danielle Wiley: For those who didn’t see it, this was an article on Romper, and Margaret was the writer. And she interviewed the kids of some of the biggest mom bloggers from when this whole thing all started. So, clearly we didn’t ruin them by writing about those days.

Rebecca Woolf: Right. I know. It’s so funny, but it’s always the way, right? It’s the people who are closest to the thing that are always kind of… they’re not phased by it. It’s not a big deal to them because it never needed to be or something. Do you know what I’m saying? I don’t know. It has a-

Danielle Wiley: They weren’t reading the commentary about it. They weren’t analyzing whether it was okay or not. It was just their life.

Rebecca Woolf: Right, right.

Danielle Wiley: And you’re a writer, and you share.

Rebecca Woolf: And I think there’s a difference between being and respecting your children’s boundaries. And I think for a lot of us in the beginning, that was part of it. You were writing about your experiences, but you were also aware of your children being their own people. And I feel like it was very respectful of the boundaries of our children. I know there was criticism, which is why she wrote the article. But I think it always felt really loving and supportive and just about women sharing their experiences.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. We’ve been talking about this quite a bit on the podcast, just how it was a way for all of us to connect and share our experiences and show others the realness of what we were all going through and allowing people to feel like they weren’t alone. We didn’t start our blogs to make money. Initially, it was just to write and to share. So, any accusations of being exploitative were kind of backwards and mixed up because money wasn’t there-

Rebecca Woolf: Totally.

Danielle Wiley: … when you started [inaudible]

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. And I don’t think people realize that. I don’t think people realize that the beginning of influencer culture and the reason why it is influencer culture is because capitalism, marketing people realized that our stories were valid and that talking openly about our experiences were worth something. And ironically or not so ironically, as that happens, the more money gets involved, the less authentic the stories are.

Rebecca Woolf: So in the beginning, it was this really punk rock space. We are making zines. We were doing our own HTML. We were hiring each other to do our banners. It felt like this co-op of just women talking about their experiences and supporting each other. And we all had blogrolls. We all linked to each other’s stuff. There was no competition. It was all about support.

Danielle Wiley: I miss the blogrolls.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. Right? I know. Your RSS feeds and your blogrolls. And waking up every morning and clicking all the links in your sidebar to see what everyone was up to was really-

Danielle Wiley: Yeah.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. I didn’t have any friends who had children when my son was born. So, that was my community. That was my only community. And I think it was that way for a lot of us. I think we only had that online community. And I don’t know what I would’ve done without it.

Danielle Wiley: One of the things I highlighted in your book, and we’re going to get to your book for sure, but one of the things I highlighted, that’s not even really what the book was about, was you talked about how, in the early days, you were one of the first ones making six figures. And you kind of started killing it way before a lot of other people did. What was that like? Because I remember there was so much controversy about, to our point, about making money. People getting angry if you dared to put a banner ad on your blog. And you’re talking big money that you were… You were supporting your family.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. For me, I said no to half of what I was offered in those early days. I never worked with McDonald’s. I never worked with Walmart. Really, the sponsors with the biggest budgets, I said no to. So, I said no to tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Because I did not feel comfortable working with a brand that I would not myself use, promote, frequent, whatever. That was really important to me.

Rebecca Woolf: I was always very much, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it on my terms, and I’m going to do this ethically.” So, that felt really important to me. And I was fortunate enough to be at a level or at least at the right place at the right time, where, if I said no to Walmart, I could say yes to Target. But I think, for that reason, my audience trusted me because I wasn’t going to recommend something or work with a sponsor unless it was something that I was down with.

Rebecca Woolf: And I really think that that made all the difference in those days. I think it was very obvious to see who worked that way and who was just willy-nilly going with everybody. You’d have a vegan blogger who was suddenly promoting some sort of roast beef alliance or whatever. That was going on. And it was, “How, how?”

Danielle Wiley: There was this controversy because of there was a blog network that hired a bunch of bloggers to write about the high fructose corn syrup… pro-high fructose corn syrup, and then a week later, hired the same bloggers to write about no corn syrup ketchup from one of the ketchup brands. I was losing my mind. It did a lot, I think, to take all of us down. Take the whole industry-

Rebecca Woolf: I agree. I agree.

Danielle Wiley: Even if you are turning down money and being cautious about what you take on and being ethical about it, that there are such high profile campaigns going on that are so clearly just bullshit and copying and pasting of a press release. It hurt everyone. And there was so much money flying around in those days, and people were hoovering it up.

Rebecca Woolf: Oh, totally. And it was really hard to say no. I remember having these conversations and being in tears, being, “Oh my God, I really could use that $15,000.” And yet I’m, “But if I take the $15,000 from McDonald’s, I can’t…” I’m writing about my life. I can’t frame my life in something that doesn’t feel right to me.

Rebecca Woolf: And also, you amass an audience; people come to you. I really feel like I have felt this way, for the last 20 years, having an audience. I feel like lying to them, I couldn’t sleep at night. Or trying to trick them or trying to convince them to do something, that just… It’s very vulnerable to be writing about your life. And you want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and seen and that it’s authentic to who you are.

Rebecca Woolf: And I couldn’t. I couldn’t have done it. But it was really hard saying no to that money, especially when I needed that money. My house was about to be taken away, and I was like… It was shit like that. It was not, “Oh, I can’t go shopping this weekend.” It was, “I’m going to lose my house or take this.” You know what I mean? The stakes were high.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. No, there were stakes. Yeah. And I also think there’s a difference, like you’ve talked a lot about the authenticity of what you were sharing and how you have always been so vulnerable in what you share and what you put out there. And I think that, one, it makes it more important what you choose to say yes and say no to. But I think it also, it made your sponsored content so much more effective. I remember we hired you once for a campaign and you sold, there were these little baby lederhosen in or something. It was a used clothes-

Rebecca Woolf: Oh yeah.

Danielle Wiley: … something.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: They were very cute. But they sold out instantly because you were speaking so authentically and sharing so much that was so real. It comes through. And ironically, it sells product and works so much better commercially than something that isn’t.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah, well, you can tell. There’s a difference between a sponsored post. And I actually feel, I will give myself snaps. I feel like I was, “All right.” I think I did a campaign with almonds forever, months and months and months. And people were, “Oh my God, I look forward to your almond posts.” And I was, “Ah, good.” Because I’m getting paid for them, and I want to get paid for them. But I also don’t want people to be, “Ugh, another almond post.”

Danielle Wiley: No, that was really the art of the… You guys all created sponsored posts. It wasn’t a thing before that. And there were not that many… That’s back when we had a roster of bloggers. There were not that many who could be so artful writing about an almond or a set of baby lederhosen.

Rebecca Woolf: Ugh, baby lederhosen. Those were the days.

Danielle Wiley: It’s funny. Sometimes, I guess lecture at business schools, teaching… So weird teaching students about influencer marketing. And I have this set of slides, and it’s a retrospective, like 10 years ago versus now. And we talk about just a number of different things; just the technologies that are available. There are a lot of obvious things that have changed in the last 10 years. But one of the things we talk about is the photography.

Danielle Wiley: And I have a picture of you. I think it was an Ergobaby campaign that you did. And you were pregnant with the twins. Super, super pregnant. And it’s just a photo of you standing in front of… Maybe it wasn’t Ergobaby because you weren’t having to carry them yet. Whatever it was. But you’re super, super pregnant, and you’re standing in front of your door of your house. And it’s just a real photo. It’s a real-life photo of Rebecca. And then I superimpose it next to a photo from now, and it’s perfectly lit, and the baby looks-

Rebecca Woolf: Oh totally.

Danielle Wiley: And there probably was a ring light and maybe even a hired photographer. It’s so different now.

Rebecca Woolf: It’s so different now that I can’t even look at it because I don’t even know what to do with it. To me, it makes me feel sad. I’m, “Ugh.” Because it felt like it was kind of the Golden Age. It was a really such a finite amount of time. I don’t even know how many years it was. Five? Six years? Where everything was working. I don’t know. Four years? It was a very short amount of time. But it just felt honest. And it felt really beautiful. It did. You got your trolls, and you had your people that said terrible things. I heard every possible terrible thing in those years, just as much as I heard all the wonderful things.

Rebecca Woolf: But it’s true. People looked like people, and their children looked like children. And they had messy hair and shit all over their face. And now you have matching outfits, and everyone’s in a line. And everyone’s from tallest to shortest. And “On the count of three, we’re all going to jump” or whatever. There’s no there there. There’s just no there there. And how does that make people feel whose lives are full of there? Which is all of us. But again, I also realize that I’m not the audience anymore. So, do I sound, again, like a Boomer who’s, “Get off my lawn?”

Danielle Wiley: That’s what we’ll title this podcast: Two Boomers Chit Chat.

Rebecca Woolf: Because I also want to… Look, good for you. Do your thing. I don’t want to ever judge or criticize how they do what they do. I just do feel like, oh man, you could all put everyone in a line and have it not be a perfect line and have people’s clothes be a little fucked up and to be a little more honest. I don’t know. That’s my kink.

Danielle Wiley: I have a few thoughts about it. Certainly, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if it wasn’t still working, influencer marketing. So, I do think some of it is generational. And what appealed to us, for whatever reason, just doesn’t appeal to the current… You were right. There was that four-year, five-year span where it was authentic and real and it meant something to us. And it’s just changed. And it’s more polished, which is, I guess, not to say that it’s not effective. It’s just maybe not what we would consume in our every day. I just posted something on Instagram last week that Gen Z’s going to save us all.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. Oh-

Danielle Wiley: I think things-

Rebecca Woolf: … they’re the opposite.

Danielle Wiley: … are flipping back.

Rebecca Woolf: Oh, a hundred percent.

Danielle Wiley: It is getting so much more real. The stuff that my kids post on Be Real and-

Rebecca Woolf: All the Finsta? Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: There would never be a single iota of anything fake.

Rebecca Woolf: Oh my God. No, totally. No, you’re right. Can you imagine? No. It’s all memes, and you can barely even… Everything’s blurry and like-

Danielle Wiley: So, I have a little bit of hope.

Rebecca Woolf: No, I agree. For sure. For sure, for sure.

Danielle Wiley: Even before Hal was diagnosed and everything went down that you talk about in the memoir, you had already turned away from the sponsored content and were working on a screenplay. Was it because you just felt like there wasn’t a place for you anymore, or you wanted more consistency-

Rebecca Woolf: I mean-

Danielle Wiley: … or, you were-

Rebecca Woolf: … I was-

Danielle Wiley: … over it?

Rebecca Woolf: Obviously, I stopped making the money that I was making. We all did. So it was kind of like, “Okay, I’m working my ass off. I’m writing for 40 different websites now.” At my height, I wasn’t just blogging for myself. I was writing for so many different other places. I was posting three times daily on Babble, at the height of Babble. I was posting once on Mom.me a week. So, I was writing daily on my site, three times for another site. I was writing 10 pieces a week. I was unsustainable.

Rebecca Woolf: And so, when the money started shifting and when it started going more to social media and just changing… And I was exhausted anyway. My kids were getting older. So, I wasn’t really writing about my older kids. I wasn’t really writing about them at all at that point, very rarely. But my little ones were starting to get older too.

Rebecca Woolf: And I knew that I wasn’t going to be writing about my experience as a mother forever. So, it just organically fell off. Nothing really happened. It was just a slow decline. And then I started working on other projects that I’d really been working on all along, but was, “I’m going to focus on these.” And I was trying to make a film, which timing-wise, I could do 17 podcasts on what happened with that project, which is hopefully it’ll pick up at some point. But every terrible thing to happen happened during that time, including Hal’s diagnosis with cancer and then his death. But yeah, I was ready. I don’t know how many of us who started are still really doing it. Not to the extent that we were.

Danielle Wiley: I actually accidentally found someone who I used to follow all the time. I discovered last night that she was still blogging. And I totally fell into her blog for over an hour last night. Just voraciously catching. And I was, oh my gosh. And she was just talking about her life and what’s going on and the struggle. And it was super, super old school and delicious. Sounds cheesy, but I was-

Rebecca Woolf: No, not at all. Oh my-

Danielle Wiley: … yummy. I was, “Oh my God.”

Rebecca Woolf: … gosh. Totally. Yeah. And I know people who’ve recently picked it back up with Substack and stuff. I think Substack is as close as we have to the way it was because it’s embracing longform again. And I’ve thought about starting a Substack 400 times. And I’m, “Just the idea of feeling obligated to write a couple times a week, I think it’s overwhelming.” I think I was writing so much, and I was putting out so much content for so many years that I would be… Because the pressure that you put on yourself, or at least I did, I was, “I need to be posting.” And that was one of the reasons why I think my blog was so successful, is because I was literally giving birth and writing while still bleeding out.

Rebecca Woolf: I remember the twins had just been born. They were in the NICU, and I was literally blogging. I was still numb from the waist down, and I had my laptop propped up on my computer. And I had just given birth, and I was, “Hey guys, just gave birth. It really hurt. The recovery’s been brutal. BRB, I got to go to the NICU and say hi to my twins.” I was writing about it. And now I think people, they TikTok or they do films. But I was actively writing an essay in bed still because there was this fear that, if I didn’t keep talking and didn’t keep writing and didn’t keep sharing, that people would leave. And that was my livelihood. And it sort of becomes this addiction, like, “Oh God.” Well, and you’re dependent on it financially.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. You become a slave to the beast, really.

Rebecca Woolf: You do. And you have to keep people coming back and back and back and back and back. And there is no such thing as maternity leave for a mommy blogger, which is ironic. It doesn’t exist. And I had no breaks for years. I wrote over the weekends. I would go on a trip, and then the trip was part of my content. And I definitely don’t want to go back to that. I don’t want to do that again.

Rebecca Woolf: But at the time, I felt it was amazing. And my kids got to go on these amazing trips because they were free. I didn’t buy a single crib. Four children and none of the cribs I had to pay for. And none of their strollers. That was amazing. I don’t even know how much things cost because it was did a thing with Graco or whomever. I remember, when I stopped writing, when I stopped mommy blogging essentially, having to buy things was a real… it was humbling experience. Because I was, “Oh, shit.” I didn’t that this is how much this stuff costed. Because there was so much of it that would just be sent to me.

Danielle Wiley: It’s like when I left Edelman and started my own company, I was, “Wait, I have to write my own emails?” We had people to help.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. Totally. Yeah. It was, “Whoa. Okay. God. Man.”

Danielle Wiley: “Oh, man. Real life.”

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah, totally. “I have to buy my own trip to Hawaii next time?”

Danielle Wiley: What the hell?

Rebecca Woolf: That’s why we haven’t been to Hawaii. Because I [inaudible 00:21:55] So, I do. I feel really grateful. I have no regrets over that period of my life at all. I was so lucky to have been at the right place at the right time, which I know it was all a timing thing. And I know I did my job well. But also, it was the right place at the right time thing. And I just feel really grateful and lucky that I got to do that for so many years. Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: I think people also feel grateful that they got to read it. When your book came out two weeks ago, so many of the comments been were, “I’ve been reading Rebecca for 10 years, and I missed her voice.” And I felt the same way, just diving into it.

Rebecca Woolf: Thank you.

Danielle Wiley: I follow you on Instagram, and I know how to reach you and catch up with you. But it’s just different. And it felt like getting back to know an old friend and-

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah, that’s been the most amazing thing about this too. We all grew up together. I feel like I grew up publicly because I started blogging at 19. I’ve been doing it really for even longer than my… I started Girls Gone child in 2005. I was 23. But I started blogging before that for several years. So there are people that even have reached out about this book who followed me pre-Girls Gone Child when I had a blog called The Pointy Toe Shoe Factory. I don’t know if you know about that, but my first blog-

Danielle Wiley: Was it a live journal blog?

Rebecca Woolf: It was still blog spot. It was blog spot. And it was this sort of metaphor about, “Take a walk in my shoes.” My pointy-toed shoes or whatever it was. I had a business card with a high heel on it.

Danielle Wiley: Of course.

Rebecca Woolf: And I wrote about traveling mainly because I was very into traveling for the one year that I was an adult before I got pregnant. There are people that picked up my book who were Pointy Toe Shoe Factory readers. So-

Danielle Wiley: Amazing. I love it.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah. That’s been really amazing is the people like the OGs, the people who’ve been around from the beginning. And also, they’re so loving and protective of me. And worried. And there’s a lot of love in the room. A lot of hate too, but a lot [inaudible].

Danielle Wiley: Sure, sure. But I think people can tell that you are putting so much of yourself out there. And I think, for those who aren’t assholes, there’s this appreciation and this desire to… You are providing so much, and there’s this desire to protect that.

Rebecca Woolf: Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: And take-

Rebecca Woolf: No, I-

Danielle Wiley: … care of it.

Rebecca Woolf: … appreciate it. I feel the same way. I would feel the same way. So, yeah.

Danielle Wiley: We talked about the fact that I think your blog was so successful commercially because you did share so much. And for anyone who’s read the book, it’s so vulnerable and open and-

Rebecca Woolf: Thank you.

Danielle Wiley: … you talk about… I’m trying to figure out how to sum it up for those who haven’t. Well, everyone should just go read it. But Rebecca’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and died just a few months later, and this book is about that. But then it’s also about your life after and the fact that your marriage was kind of breaking up before he was diagnosed. And so, you actually ended up feeling like you were in a better place afterwards, despite the horrible circumstances. And that’s not what people typically write about in grief books. But true to form, you were sharing how you were feeling and what was really going on. And just like with all of us, when we had babies, feeling like we didn’t want to be alone, and no one was talking about the awful stuff, it’s so important that you put that out. And just reading what people are taking from your book and seeing how you’ve impacted people. Do you ever question whether you want to share so much or is that just, “Of course you have to?”

Rebecca Woolf: I think of course I have to. I’ve always felt compelled to share. I’ve been doing this since my teens. I wrote about breakups at 15 years old. And it’s funny because I remember when those stories started getting published and the Chicken Soup books. And I was literally writing about all of my breakups in high school, not even really thinking if my ex-boyfriends were going to read them or if they were going to care. I changed their names obviously, but I wasn’t afraid or worried. This was very much, “I’m just writing about my experience. This is what happened to me.”

Rebecca Woolf: This book really, it’s not unlike how it felt to start a blog about being a parent because what was happening and what I was writing about in those early years was the duality of being human, mother was the love I felt for my child, but also the want to run away sometimes. It was not unlike this book that I wrote. I’ve basically been writing the same story forever, which is that it’s complicated. It’s complicated being a mother. It’s complicated being a widow. And I think, again, going back to what influencer culture has become, this idea that you completely filter all the truth out of the story, and what do you have? You have nothing.

Rebecca Woolf: And for me, the reason I was able to love my kids the way I love them and to write about my kids, loving them the way I did, was also because I was writing about the things that drove me crazy about being a mother and the stuff that I wanted to get away from. People keep asking me, “What do your kids think of your book?” or “How are people receiving this?” And it’s, “This is always been the way that I’ve written about my life.”

Rebecca Woolf: I’ve always held space for all of the different conflicting feelings. And I think that’s why people have read my stuff for so long and why they still do and why I feel like I can write about these things. Because I’ve been doing it my whole life. Maybe not to this extent. I wrote this book for the same reason I started a blog. I did not know anybody who was going through what I was going through. I had no peers. And I read the parenting books, and I got all the What to Expect… All the things that whatever the early aughts parenting books were. Nothing was relatable to me. And after Hal died, I was reading books about being widows and obviously Year of Magical Thinking and all the different books that people were throwing at me. And none of them were relatable to me again.

Rebecca Woolf: And I was, okay, well I guess I got to write my own then. Because my experience was not the perfect, “Oh, I’m so glad to be a mother.” No, I didn’t want to be a mother. I got pregnant unexpectedly. I became widowed unexpectedly. Both of these situations were not planned. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my child. And he’s my life. That didn’t mean that I loved my husband at one point. I didn’t at the end. And these are not abnormal stories. These are very common situations.

Rebecca Woolf: And yet, we don’t hear from them or we don’t talk about them because it’s taboo to talk about something that no one else is talking about, which is why we have to keep talking about it. Because the more we talk about it and the more we normalize all the very real feelings that come with being a mother, that come with being a wife, then suddenly there’s no taboo and shame and guilt anymore. And I feel like, as a mommy blogger, that was always my intention, was how do you normalize an experience lovingly but honestly?

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, because there’s so much that’s… it’s supposed to be so amazing and wonderful. And then you feel guilt that you’re like… I remember feeling like, who is this vampire sucking all the lifeblood out of me? Am I ever going to be myself again? And I’m so miserable. And all I was reading in these books was, “Enjoy this magical time” and “You should be so happy.” And when you’re not, where is there to go with it? It’s so helpful to people to read the truth, whether it’s motherhood or widowhood or whatever it is that they’re going through.

Rebecca Woolf: Totally. And women, especially women and mothers, there’s so much shame. Even in those early years, we had the mommy wars. And it was article after article after article, criticizing us for everything. Breastfeeding was wrong. Formula feeding was wrong. I remember I wrote an essay or a blog post or something about how my twins would not sleep on their backs. They would only sleep on their stomachs. And it became this thing where people were, “I’m calling CPS on you. You don’t deserve to be a mother. Your children are going to die, and you’re going to deserve it.” “Whoa, man.” And I remember people being, “Thank you so much for writing about that. Me too. My children can only sleep on their stomachs too.” Anyways, that was what was happening. It was, “Oh my God.” People were seriously coming for each other for the way they let their child sleep.

Rebecca Woolf: And then it was, “You’re going to die, and it’s your fault.” And that kind of stuff just made me want to double down and write about all the times I was letting my children sleep on their stomachs. Because somebody had to. Right? Somebody had to.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah.

Rebecca Woolf: And I don’t think I could have written this book if I didn’t have 20 years of having that feeling of, somebody needs to do this, somebody needs to write this. It’s important. It’s real. It’s true. There’s nothing wrong with putting my children to sleep on their stomachs. It’s the only way they can sleep. They have to sleep.

Rebecca Woolf: And I think that’s carried me all those years and why I felt compelled to keep writing honestly. And knowingly. Knowing that people are going to be critical. I feel like I want to make it easier for my daughters. I want to make it easier for other women who feel like they can’t come forward or be truthful or have to hide. And I’m willing to front lines it. That’s what this book has felt like.

Danielle Wiley: I have this vision of you leading this crew of women. And you’re like-

Rebecca Woolf: It’s not like that. It’s not that heroic. My point is that it shouldn’t be heroic. It shouldn’t be heroic to be honest. And the “You’re so brave. You’re so brave” almost feels like a backhanded compliment because what people are saying is, “I wouldn’t do that. I’m not going to go there.” And why not? Why? It shouldn’t be brave. It shouldn’t be. But I also understand why no one wanted to write about putting their babies on their stomachs because no one wants to get death threats. No one wants to be called a terrible person or a terrible mother, certainly. Oh my God. The worst thing that you could possibly be is a bad mother. So, I get that.

Danielle Wiley: I for one am glad that you put it out there and take the heat for everyone else. And I don’t know how to close it up, but I just want to thank you for the book and-

Rebecca Woolf: Thank you.

Danielle Wiley: I loved reading it, and everyone I know who has read it has felt the same way. And it was amazing to get to just read your voice again and so nice to see you-

Rebecca Woolf: So good to see-

Danielle Wiley: And have you here.

Rebecca Woolf: … too. Thank you for having me.

Danielle Wiley: Yes, of course. And I hope that everyone will go buy and read All of This by Rebecca Woolf and they can follow you on Instagram. And you’re @RebeccaWooolf with three O’s on Instagram. And then, you are still at Girls Gone Child on Twitter.

Rebecca Woolf: On Twitter, yeah. And you can go to my website, which is just RebeccaWoolf.com, and that’s linked to all the things too.

Danielle Wiley: Perfect. And you have a new column on Romper-

Rebecca Woolf: I do.

Danielle Wiley: … called Sex and the Single Mom.

Rebecca Woolf: Yes. And it’s biweekly, although the month of September it’s weekly. But usually it’s biweekly.

Danielle Wiley: Okay. Awesome.

Rebecca Woolf: Thank you.

Danielle Wiley: Well, thank you so much.

Rebecca Woolf: Thank you for-

Danielle Wiley: It’s so good-

Rebecca Woolf: … having me.

Danielle Wiley: … seeing your face. Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.

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