There are probably a handful of websites you have in regular rotation that you check when you have some time, when you get an email that inspires you, or when you’re on the hunt for that perfect (fill in the blank here). And then there’s goop. It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say we go daily. Because we actually go more than that. And we have Elise Loehnen to thank for it.
As editorial director of goop, Elise is starting all the important conversations we want to have: about beauty, sex, toxins, shopping, cooking, traveling and more. She gets us thinking, talking and reading...like, really reading. And in this age of quick hits, that’s pretty impressive stuff.
So we were curious to see what this pregnant wondermom editor does in her down time. Turns out, she struggles with balance, mom/work guilt, and house clutter, just like us (albeit in a much more stylish house). Read on to find out how this soon-to-be mom of two spends her weekends, what it’s like working for Gwyneth Paltrow, and the one thing she wishes she could have told her postpartum self the first time around.
What does a typical weekend day look like in your home?
We’re usually up at around 7 or 8, depending on the night before. Max takes mammoth naps, so he goes to bed a bit later than the average 3-year-old (8:30-9). I don’t fight it, because I usually don’t get home from work until 6:30, and it’s really nice to be able to hang with Max a bit, give him a bath, and read him some books. If he went to bed earlier, I feel like I’d miss his whole life.
We usually get up and watch cartoons en famille in bed for a little bit, and then either make breakfast or go out for eggs and pancakes. Depending on motivation and energy levels (I’m almost 8-months pregnant), we will either go to: The Getty, the Peterson Museum (cars, cars, cars), the Science Center downtown, or the Santa Monica airport where we watch planes take off and land from the observation deck or the park. Alternately, we run a lot of mundane errands: Costco, the grocery store, the hardware store, Target…I really get off on that stuff.
After lunch (and possibly ice cream), Max naps, and Rob and I try to tackle our to-do lists. We live in an awesome, but aging, mid-century house.So Rob is generally always fixing something, while I’m paying bills, futzing around with paperwork, or sorting toys and secreting whatever I can away to Goodwill (our house is just shy of 1500sf, so I feel like I’m constantly battling clutter). I also use those uninterrupted hours to work—on goop or books that I co-write or ghostwrite on the side. I’ve been napping a lot, too (did I mention that I’m 8-months pregnant?).
Rob and I have been trying to be better about cooking—and the only realistic opportunity is really on the weekends. So sometimes he’ll grill, and I’ll bust out some risotto or the like. I’m trying to master less time-intensive and ambitious recipes. In these years since Max was born, Rob and I sometimes find ourselves eating soup from a can, so an attempt at one complete dish seems like a significant upgrade from that.
How do you draw weekend boundaries between work and family? On both sides! Are there ever blurred lines?
Oh man, it’s all blurred lines! Life is just not that tidy, and if I tried to establish concrete boundaries, I honestly think I’d break them incessantly and feel even guiltier. I’m trying to really just let it flow and go with whatever is ultimately going to cause me and the family the least amount of stress. So if I’m going to be miserable and preoccupied all day on a Saturday because I’m terribly behind on work, Rob will take Max on a power hike in the morning so I can power work for 45 minutes and join in the fun for the rest of the day. I don’t do it because anybody is expecting me to forfeit my weekend to work, but I do it because it better suits the pace at which I get my stuff done.
Do you have any hard fast rules or strategies that help you walk that tightrope?
I just try to not make it a tightrope—to establish no expectations or standards around how I need to be. It would be realllllllly easy for me to beat myself up about my parenting, about not being an exceptional mom who makes every minute of our time together thrilling for Max.So early on, I accepted that that wasn’t even remotely viable, that I could make myself miserable by trying to adhere to some sort of ideal and make everyone else miserable in the process. Does Max watch too much TV on the weekends while Rob and I are getting sh&t done? Absolutely. (I’m actually writing this while he watches Little Einsteins.) But are his weeks filled with fun and friends and being outside at the park? Yes. And do I think he’s both surviving and flourishing? Definitely.
Maybe that sounds like a cop-out. But I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t prioritize handling my own stress (knocking things off my to-do list, exercise, etc.), then I’m useless to everyone. And I think my husband gets that, too. It’s the whole “put the oxygen mask on yourself first, or we’re all dead.”
What’s it like being a parent at goop?
There are two things that have made this juggle possible: our nanny, Vicky, who takes care of all of us (and then some);and working at goop. It’s a company of all-women (save for five, very wonderful guys), many of whom are mothers. And what’s more: my co-workers are completely unapologetic about the fact that kids are the trump card. GP built goop in part because she didn’t want to go on location to shoot a film for four months and leave her kids behind. To this day, she barely misses a school run. She is a really great role model for all of us—showing us that with enough flexibility, we can get a HUGE amount done while still being there for dinner and homework. Moms are efficient as f&ck.
Has this second pregnancy impacted your sense of balance in any way? How is your postpartum prep different this time around, from a career perspective?
I was pretty panicked going into the end of my first pregnancy that I would lose myself in maternity leave, that my brain would depart my body, and I wouldn’t be able to get anything done. But Rob works from home. So not only was I not left alone with my (probably) crazy thoughts and a newborn, but I had a lot of support, which allowed me to do normal things, like go to the gym, the grocery store, and (if I’m honest)the Pump Station for more milk-storage bags and nipple cream. And I got a lot of writing and reading done because babies really do sleep all the time.
So this time around, I don’t have the panic—in fact, I think I’m probably feeling way too over-confident. I’m planning on going back to work, at least part-time, after six weeks, likely with the baby in tow. I will probably laugh myself silly at the fact that I wrote this down and ever thought it was remotely realistic, but that’s what I’m thinking today. I also have the perfect storm of extenuating circumstances: a great partner who happens to work out of our house; a full-time nanny; an 8-minute commute; a work environment where I can nurse on demand and install a Snugabunny Swing ; and GP for a boss. This isn’t how it goes down for 99% of families in this country, which is why it is totally unfathomable and terrible that there is no paid family leave. It is an ABOMINATION. We all deserve better.
Now that you’ve been through it once before, what’s one thing you wish you could look back and tell your New Mom Self to help the postpartum transition as a working mom?
The transition is tough—you will feel crushed at times, by all that you’re “missing,” and you’ll feel ecstatic to be able to slip away some days and be totally unencumbered. And that’s sort of the mixed bag of it all. The faster you can reconcile all those feelings, the less stretched and guilty you will feel.
When I was recovering in the days immediately after Max’s birth, I just let Rob do it all. And once I wasn’t so destroyed, I tamped down every urge I had to take charge and be the dominant parent and just let Rob lead. To this day, we really share the load, and I credit a lot of it to the fact that there was no learned helplessness in those first few weeks—he was in it even more than I was. So, that would be it. ACCEPT HELP. SHARE THE LOAD. FORGIVE YOURSELF. And then repeat.
Photography by Red Anchor Photo for Well Rounded NY.