curiouser & curiouser Podcast: Episode 20 (Dissecting “The Overwhelm” With Author Brigid Schulte)

I read Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, a few months ago, and it was one of those books that I nodded my way through and that has stuck with me in a big way. In fact, I’m relatively certain I’ve annoyed some of my friends to death with the number of times I’ve referenced passages from the book! It just hit home for me in such a meaningful way, and I think the timing for me (reading the book about a year after becoming a mom) was huge, too.

That said, this book is in no way just for moms. It’s a deep dive into our culture as it exists today and an exploration of what changes could be possible. Brigid spent tons of time researching this book and talking to experts as well as just average folks about topics ranging from the ideal worker (spoiler alert: an ideal that is not actually representative of a real person) to the importance of play as adults (and how to rediscover play) to what work/life balance looks like in Denmark to why mothers aren’t naturally more nurturing than fathers (even though culturally we often assume that’s the case) and a whole lot more.

You most certainly don’t have to take my word for how wonderful this book is. Overwhelmed is a New York Times best seller and has received rave reviews from the likes of Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation and the author of the iconic 2012 Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, who said about Brigid’s book:

“Every parent, every caregiver, every person who feels besieged by permanent busyness must read this book. A new wave of research, experience, and insight is challenging deep assumptions about why we have to live and work the way we do. Overwhelmed is a wake-up call and an exhilarating prescription for change.”

If you’re someone who, like me, often feels driven by an ever-lengthening to-do list and who wants to be your best self in all roles, despite feeling like there’s often not enough time to go around, read this book. You’ll be reminded that many of these feelings don’t come from a lack of anything on your part, but rather of a society that isn’t yet set up to support you. Since reading Brigid’s book, I’ve developed some new views of my to-do list. It will ALWAYS be there, and so I’ve tried to ditch the “when I finish the things on my list, THEN I can be present or have fun or just be still” mentality. I still have lots of work to do, but reading about her personal experience getting to a better place with what she calls “time confetti” was incredibly helpful for me.

And so, when I emailed Brigid a couple of months ago to see if she’d be willing to speak with me for a podcast episode, you can imagine how elated I was when she agreed. The conversation was even more fun than I’d imagined it would be, and after our talk, when Kevin asked how the call went, I told him I officially had a new “girl crush” (to add to my list of amazing, inspirational, and wise women like Anna Quindlen).

Image from brigidschulte.com

I’m excited to get to share our conversation with you here today, too, and hope you’ll enjoy being introduced to Brigid if you aren’t yet familiar with her. (Thank you again, Brigid, for being willing to speak with me and, most importantly, for writing such a relatable, helpful, and hopeful book.)

A couple of quick notes before I share the podcast link: Brigid is now director of the Better Life Lab, a non-partisan think tank whose aim is “to create a culture that enables people to combine work and life in meaningful ways in order for individuals and families to thrive across the arc of their lives.” I love that mission so much, and it aligns beautifully with the foundation Brigid put in place with her book.

Also, toward the end of this episode she references a couple of great organizations as resources for getting involved in change, and I wanted to link to them here, too:

Okay, ready to hear Brigid talk about understanding “the overwhelm”? Here we go!:

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