Why This Mom Champions the Smallest (and Weirdest) Parenting Wins
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There is no parenting win too small—which Hillary Frank knows from firsthand experience. Though perhaps best known for her acclaimed podcast, The Longest Shortest Time, which discusses the surprises and absurdities of parenting, Frank is a mom first. She started her podcast in 2010, the same year her daughter was born, as a way to connect with other parents. On the show, she’s covered a variety of topics—from transgender pregnancies to working moms to birth injuries to the sex lives of parents. She’s also the author of several books, the most recent of which is Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches. The book—a hilarious and original take on parenting books—is mostly compiled of desperate but effective strategies used by real parents and caregivers.
While Frank may have ended The Longest Shortest Time, she has something new up her sleeve. We spoke with Frank to hear more about her podcast, her own weird parenting wins, her approach to balancing work and motherhood and what’s next on her career path.
I started The Longest Shortest Time in 2010, the year my daughter was born. I was recovering from a rough childbirth injury and had just moved to a town where I knew nobody. The podcast was a way for me to connect with other parents and feel less alone.
In the first few years of my daughter’s life, I felt like a failure all the time. Sometimes that was because I felt judged by other moms; other times it was because the techniques I was reading in parenting books didn’t work for me. I felt like something must be wrong with me or my baby or both. But after awhile, I started to realize that certain strategies were working for me—I had just made them up myself, often in moments of sheer desperation. In 2013, I wrote a post on The Longest Shortest Time website asking other parents what worked for them. Years later, I made a more formal ask to the podcast audience… and the book was born.
One time I stopped an argument between my daughter and her friend by quietly doing a headstand in the middle of the room. I hadn’t done one in like 20 years and I surprised both them and myself! Here’s another: Recently, I have gotten my daughter to stop stalling her bedtime routine by promising her a “booty dance” on Friday night if the week has gone well. A booty dance means that for 10 minutes she gets to choreograph a dance for me and my husband, in which we shake our booties in various embarrassing ways. There is a lot of grabbing our own butts.
I wish someone had told me that everyone is making it up as they go along. But most of all, I wish someone had told me about pelvic floor physical therapy. I lived with a painful birth injury for three years before I found the help I needed. I think it’s important for anyone going into childbirth to know that most pelvic injuries can be healed.
Trust your gut and be creative. If you stumble upon a strategy that works for you and your kid, go with it, even if it seems silly. Remember that kids love games, so whenever you can turn an annoying task into a game, they’ll be more likely to listen to you. And keep in mind that all kids are different, so what works for you might not work for your friend’s kid—or even for another child of yours.
Nothing is solid yet, but I’m hoping to do something on the topic of middle school. Before I started the podcast, I published three YA novels, Better Than Running at Night, The View From the Top and I Can’t Tell You and most of my reporting was about teenagers. I’m excited to return to that beat.
Self care is a new concept for me, but ending The Longest Shortest Time was partly a way to reset and prioritize de-stressing. I’ve started running, and I sign up for races to make sure I don’t fall off the wagon. And I bought an electric shiatsu back massager to give my sore muscles some love.
Raising another human is exhausting. It’s okay to cut things out of your life that are adding to your stress so that you can be more emotionally available to your kid. I know it can be hard. But just do it and don’t feel guilty.
Published January 2020