COVID-19 shifted the pace of the world, at times almost stopping it, but Zibby Owens, podcast host and author, didn’t let the pandemic get in her way. In fact, Owens used this time to launch her first book, Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology. As editor of the collection, whose proceeds benefit the Susan Felice Owens Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Research at Mount Sinai Health System, she curated essays from some of the biggest names in literature today, addressing all the things that moms, parents, and caregivers don’t have time to do. A follow-up, Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology, is due out in November.
Owens has freelanced for newspapers, magazines, and websites since 1993, when Seventeen Magazine ran her article “My Weight, Myself.” Her more recent work has been featured on Good Morning America and in Real Simple, Parents, Psychology Today, Redbook, The Washington Post, and more; and she is the editor-in-chief of Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, a Medium-based publication. On her award-winning podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, Owens casually converses with and prompts “authors to open up about what’s important to them, giving busy readers the backstory to their favorite (or as yet undiscovered) books.” Like many forced into quarantine, Owens adjusted her approach and began Z-IGTV, a live talk show on Instagram that features chats with one to four authors, both emerging and established.
Owens lives in New York with her husband and four children. Literary Mama senior editor Christina Consolino corresponded with Owens about the anthology, the importance of connection, and how to be more present in the moment.
Christina Consolino: Bess Kalb, author of Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, calls you a “community builder,” and connection serves as the foundation of what you invest time in, including the launch of Moms Don’t Have Time To. What do you find so special about community, and what is so important about connection (regardless of the pandemic)? What draws you to want to make connections?
Zibby Owens: I’ve always been someone who likes to introduce people to each other, to books, to articles, to films, to others who can help. It’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I think now the need to connect to others is even stronger. Plus, connecting helps me too. It reminds us all that we’re not alone. It makes this whole human experience more enjoyable to be going through it with others.
CC: You spoke with Katie Couric in March 2021 about how you chose the sections for the anthology, which include some of the things moms (and parents and caregivers) don’t have time for: reading, working out, eating, sex, and breathing (sometimes it sure feels that way!). Which sections were the most enlightening to curate and edit? What did you learn from the experience?
ZO: They were all really fun. I probably learned the most from the sex section, because those are topics I don’t think moms discuss all that much in detail and, if they do, it’s only with their close friends. I learned about other relationships, what’s important, and tips for making my own better. For example, I learned the average amount of time sex really takes from author Rachel Bertsche, how date days can make things hot and heavy from Lisa Barr, and how middle-age gay men—at least, one of them—feel about sex as they age.
CC: Bestselling author Claire Bidwell Smith wrote of the collection: “This anthology will be . . . something to turn to when you just need to be reminded how perfectly imperfect we really are.” That need for perfection (or the perception of perfection) is inherent in many parents. How do you keep yourself from falling into the trap of striving for the impossible?
ZO: Oh boy. I beat myself up all the time. I just have to remind myself (or my husband reminds me!) that I’m doing an okay job and that there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to parenthood. I love my kids. I model kindness. We try to make them better versions of themselves, as my husband says. But this is a tough one for me.
CC: Because we don’t “have time to,” parents have shifted their concerns and goals since a year ago. How has parenting changed for you during the pandemic?
ZO: I’ve loosened up on many things. My kids are between the ages of 6 and 13, so there’s quite a range of needs. I allow more screen time, but I also try to join the kids more when they watch and enjoy shows together. I’ve let the kids just be on their own a lot more. I can’t always sit and play with them because I’m doing my own work, or I’m doing the laundry. . . . So I let them amuse themselves. I used to micromanage more. I think they probably like me better now!
CC: One of the most poignant pieces in the book is your very own “Don’t Crush My Butterflies.” You pose the question, “why couldn’t I have stopped the chaos for a minute and let my own needs be met?” and you end that piece with “I’m the one who doesn’t always stop to see [the butterflies].” How can parents and caregivers be more present in each moment not only for their families but also for themselves?
ZO: We need to be! I think sometimes it’s just pausing and asking ourselves: “How important is this?” When it comes to the endless to-do list, ask, “what would happen if I didn’t finish this until tomorrow?” If the answer is “not much,” take the time to connect. Prioritize. Remember who and what is important. We all won’t be here forever.
CC: You’ve created something beautiful from a harsh pandemic that has affected you personally. That’s no small feat, and something I think is magical about parents—the ability to find beauty in the darkness. What other positives have you come away with over the last year?
ZO: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. I’ve found tremendous beauty and power in the global community I’ve tapped into. Truly. I’ve found my people everywhere. My personality is a compilation of many things—and I’ve met others, not where I live but where I reside emotionally—who are remarkably similar to me. It helps me realize I’m not alone, I’m not that unique, we’re all on this ride together, and I’m doing it with a true team. I used to think that it was only the people you lived near and interacted with regularly who could be your crew. But maybe “your people” aren’t necessarily living in your neighborhood or parents at the same school. Maybe you have to look beyond where you’ve ended up to see where you were really meant to belong.
CC: You’re involved in so much, and you seem to do it all well! Is there anything you’d love to become better at if you just had more time? And do you ever dream of taking a solo vacation?
ZO: Yes, I dream of a solo vacation because I’d love to write for a whole week straight in a beautiful place, but that would come out of the kids’ time or my husband’s time or my work time, so I’m not ready to do that right now. I don’t do it all well! I make mistakes all the time. If I had more time, I’d like to become a better writer. I’d like to be able to learn the craft of fiction, perhaps try screenwriting, do a fellowship, or hunker down at a writing colony and just write. Alas, it’s not in the cards.
CC: More anthologies are to come, and you’ve established a fellowship for memoirists. What else can we expect from you?
ZO: So much! I’m launching the Zibby Awards to celebrate the often-overlooked parts of books and the team behind them. I’m starting the Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Sex podcast with international sex expert Tracey Cox. I’m launching a short-form podcast Wake Up and Write, read by Kyle Owens and Nina Vargas. I’m launching Moms Don’t Have Time to Travel and Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve. Plus, I’m writing a memoir and finalizing my children’s book, Princess Charming. A lot of exciting things every day. I like to think I’m just getting started.