Mom Shares the Secret to Laughing Your Way Through Motherhood

Her laugh-it-off approach to parenting helped land a sitcom inspired by her life.
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By Stephanie Grassullo, Associate Editor
Published January 22, 2019

The Bump presents #MomBoss, a series dedicated to showing off all-star moms. We catch up with mompreneurs behind products we love, influencers who get real about motherhood and SAHMs who can multitask in their sleep.

Ellie Knaus is the mom you never met but know would be your best friend IRL.

After Knaus had her first kid, she quickly realized she needed an outlet to release her pent-up parenting woes. Like many, she turned to podcasts. But never in a million years did she think her own brain child, Atomic Moms, would take off so quickly. Fast forward more than four years later, and moms still can’t get enough of the hilarious show. It’s this dedicated fan base that helped seal the deal for Because Kids, an upcoming ABC sitcom that draws inspiration from the mom and her podcast.

We talked to Knaus on all things parenting, podcasting and producing, and how she manages to stay sane through it all.

How did motherhood introduce you to podcasts?

Back in 2014, I was a new mom seeking a judgment-free zone to explore diverse parenting styles and have real conversations about motherhood. Podcasts kept me company during those isolating early months of parenthood, but I couldn’t find “the one.” I wanted to listen to a podcast that felt like I was checking in with an understanding mom friend and learning from experts who could teach me how to be a more joyful and well-adjusted human being, or, at the very least, how to get my kid to sleep.

So Atomic Moms was born. We’re more than 200 podcasts in now, and we’ve created a show where we talk with world class experts and bestselling authors about the growing pains and funny moments, the heartaches and victories and how to build that village everyone recommends we have.

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Atomic Moms celebrates the “joys and complexities” of motherhood. What are some of those for you?

The biggest joys are those little moments that sneak up on me—when my 17-month-old Eliza grabs the back of my legs to give me a big squeeze, or when my 5-year-old Sabrina hands me a drawing she’s been working on all morning. Sure, it might be a drawing of Sabrina marrying her father (my husband), but I’m in the front row, and she drew me with amazing lashes, so I consider it a #MomWin!

As for the complexities, I wish I could feel the joy of motherhood without the pang of sadness in recognizing the impermanence of the moment, but the two have been intertwined since the moment I gave birth.

Who’s someone you’d love to have on your show?

I would love to interview Tara Brach. She’s a psychologist and meditation teacher, and her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of the Buddha changed my life.

Can you share any details about Because Kids?

Yes, I’m so excited to be creating a sitcom with my husband Adam Sztykiel inspired by my podcasting and family life with CBS Studios and ABC. I moved to LA in 2005 to get into the entertainment industry, so I know what a rare opportunity this is, and I am enjoying every minute of it. After we pitched the show, there was a bidding war between networks, and we were thrilled to find our home at ABC. It felt so good to partner up with four brilliant, mom network executives who understood exactly what we were going for.

Do you have a mom crush?

Michelle Obama. It’s been so nice to see her in the news again. I wish her book tour for Becoming would last forever!

Was it difficult to juggle work and kids when Atomic Moms first launched? How about now?

Honestly, I’ve always loved the escape the podcast gives me. It feels good to be making something and putting it out in the world every week. The community of listeners energizes my work.

Now that I have two kids and we’re writing this TV show and recording the podcast, it’s definitely getting intense. But, overall, I am getting better at shutting down the work stuff at night. I’ve learned that all my perfectionistic tinkering doesn’t always improve the end result—at least not enough to warrant the headache. The podcast has taught me I am in charge of how I spend my 24 hours each day, and I need to prioritize sleep and play time with my kids, or I turn into a real jerk.

What’s your best advice for busy moms?

Find your crew of other “busy moms.” While it can be so hard to get together, I’ve found that even a quick coffee or chat in the school parking lot can leave me feeling inspired. And without a doubt, busy moms always have the funniest stories about when things go awry, because, when we try to do it all, things inevitably go wrong. After four years of podcasting, I still believe a sense of humor is the single most important tool for modern parenting.

Name one product that was a life-saver during your first year as a mom.

The Baby Shusher Sleep Miracle Soother is my go-to baby shower gift. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, my girlfriend Becca gave me one, and I was like, ‘yeah, right.’ But it was a game changer! No joke.

How has your parenting style changed from your first to your second kid?

I’m more relaxed because I’m not experiencing the extreme FOMO I had with our first born. I’ve come to terms with the fact that weekends are not “weekends” once you become a parent. I’m also more present because I know how quickly it goes. It’s hard to believe there will never be another swaddle in my laundry basket or baby spit up on my bra.

Do you have a guilty mom pleasure?

Eating all the playdate snacks other moms put out for our kids. I mean, it’s irresponsible to let Pirate’s Booty go stale!

Published January 2019

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