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Allison Wojtowecz (00:00):
I kind of want to shift into maybe kids too for you, just because you mentioned the in-laws, and I know you like to talk a lot about having a village that helps and you have six kids in eight years. I guess starting off, how did you guys figure that out? Did the in-laws move in as you started having more kids? How did you get that support early on with the kids?

Jen Fulwiler (00:21):
Yeah, luckily I saw early on when I was pregnant with my first kid, it clicked for me because I had studied anthropology a lot in college. It wasn't my major, but I took a bunch of classes and best thing I ever did because by looking at all these tribes and modern villages and human history and whatever, I realized women have never raised kids in isolation, never, never, ever in human history. And so early on I started to see how difficult it is that we live in isolation. And the best thing about that is that, and then my husband, by extension, I set my expectations for myself very low. I understood we're meant to raise children in a village. And so therefore when you're trying to raise kids in modern society where you're just up living in the suburbs, you are quite literally trying to do the job of 50 people.

And a lot of times there's not a perfect solution if you don't have family around, if you're broke, if you have no money. But I think the most important thing is to simply know that this is why it's hard. The problem that women get into is when they spend too much time watching influencers on social media. So they've got three little kids and they think, oh, I should be doing this, I should be doing that. And it's like you can't without, you weren't meant to. There's no women in human history who have ever, ever been able to do all this on their own. So yes, you may be able to find solutions, but even if you can't, because you have zero resources and zero community, what you can do is at least give yourself a freaking break and realize the fact that you're not being the mom you want to be. You're not living up to your standards or even close to them. It's not your fault. You just don't have a village.

Allison Wojtowecz (02:12):
Yeah, that's really good. You talk to moms a lot about these things and you had a lot of reels going around for a while. It's making fun of the fact that people expect a single woman to do what used to be the job of 50 people. You used to have a community of women coming together and taking care of everyone's kids and then the men could go do what they needed to and it was this whole thing. So what's some of the best advice you could give to a mom who's feeling overwhelmed today and maybe she's lonely or all she can do is take care of the kids and she's even not doing that great at that, other than give yourself a break, what were some of the things maybe you did or what's some advice that you would have for that Mom?

Jen Fulwiler (02:50):
Okay, I'll start small and I'll go to big. Okay, so the small thing is I don't care how broke you are. We made this work when it was like account is overdrawn every month when you're so broke, it's like you can't get your car repaired, the car is broken. Now you just have a broken car in your driveway because we can't get this repair done. So even when we were in that phase, what we did is my husband and I were like, we have got to each have some just downtime, some break time. If you lived like all of your ancestors lived, you would have natural breaks throughout your day because your kids would be running around with the other kids from the village. Your 10-year-old cousin would be playing with the little kids. Your elderly grandmother would be living with you and your hut and she'd be holding the baby.

I mean, you would have these breaks. It was not all you 24 7 or even close to it. And so if you do not have a support system and you have kids, you are 100% running in the red zone. You need way more downtime than you realize. And luckily Joe and my husband, Joe and I both realized this early on. And so we would kind of tag team. We actually, our weekends were literally tag team. We would do shifts where I would sleep in until 11. He would get up with the kids at seven or eight when they woke up, he would take them till then my shift started. So I would get up at 11 and then he would go back to sleep. I would do about five hours. We would just tag team. And when the other person was not on shift, they could do whatever they wanted.

They could sleep. They were not expected to help at all. We would do it throughout the week too. He was very stressed and busy from his job. He was starting a business and it was very, very stressful. So I was limited in what I could ask of him. He had his own issues that he was dealing with, but we did try once a week, he would just come home and handle everything. And I had leave and go to a coffee shop or go to a bookstore. So that's something you can do that costs no money. Build in time for yourself each week. And if let's say you're a single mom, look, God will send you someone, okay, someone you trust, not some weirdo, not some weirdo, someone that you have a good reason to trust your children with them. God will send you someone, I swear, I think everyone wants to help struggling parents. And let's say you had a sweet lady who lives next door and said she'd be happy to help sometime. If you do that, the Simon Sinek talk, start with why you should watch that talk on YouTube. Start with why. And if you go and say, look, I'm so overwhelmed. I have no childcare. If you could watch my kids for three hours one day so that I can just get a freaking break, people would be so willing to help. I mean, they are so willing to help.

Allison Wojtowecz (05:40):
And oftentimes people in that scenario, probably the little lady next door already offered. And you kind of stepped on it by saying, oh, no, no, no, no, it's okay. When in reality, no, you shouldn't feel guilty for accepting help. I think that was a major thing is how do moms get over that guilt?

Jen Fulwiler (06:00):
By realizing a lot of times you are doing someone else a favor by accepting help. It's like you like to help people. That makes you feel good when you step up for someone. So what are you saying about your friends and neighbors? It's actually kind of arrogant to be like, well, I like to help people, but I know that they really don't. That's kind of an arrogant take or honest...

Allison Wojtowecz (06:17):
Or they can't help me in the way that I want.

Jen Fulwiler (06:19):
So you are actually doing other people a favor by letting them help. And you do have to humble yourself. So many moms, they're like, I can't afford help. I couldn't get a babysitter, not even a kid from the neighborhood. I couldn't get a babysitter. And I'm like, wait, doesn't that girl down the street, isn't she $5 an hour? I think you could probably afford that. What it really comes down to is they don't want someone to see their mess. And so in order to establish a community, a village and get the support system you need, you're going to have to humble yourself. And that'll be the hardest part of it is that that babysitter's going to come over and they're going to see overrun dishes and the potty chair has not been emptied. There's a new stain on the couch. Yeah, it's going to happen.

But you have to have that self-confidence to say, yeah, you know what? I'm parenting without a village. So yes, the health department is probably going to shut down this house at some point, but this is actually my A game. I am actually doing a great job that there are only four stains on the couch and not five and anyone can, I'm keeping this clean, but anyone can buzz off if they want to come to my house and judge me when I'm trying to raise kids without a village. So you really do have to humble yourself in order to get that support system.

Allison Wojtowecz (07:32):
It's also a bit of a mindset shift. Like yeah, it's humble. I didn't even think of that though. We are trained to be so private nowadays, especially in suburbia where everyone has their little privacy fence and they're raising their kids and no one, we just want to talk about little Timmy's grades and how well Sarah did in ballet, but it's like, no, we're all dealing with stuff and we all need help. And it just takes one person to admit that and everyone wants to help. I had a friend say that to me the other day. He's like, no, I'll talk about the fact that I lost my job because someone out there wants to help me. They just need to know when I need the help.


Jen Fulwiler (08:11):
People love to be a hero. They love to be needed. And what we're afraid of with letting people into our homes, especially when we're in an overwhelmed phase, is it's something that happened to me. I hired this woman. She was, I dunno, I'm guessing late forties or fifties. She had a grown child. So she comes over and I could sort of tell, I met her at a coffee shop and I interviewed her. I could tell she definitely felt like she had it all figured out. She came over and was so disgusted by my house and the way I ran things. I let my three-year-old have a bottle, for example, she likes a bottle, who cares? And by the way, she is a thriving, wonderful high school kid today. So I was right. I was right. It's okay. This woman, she was trying to put all these rules on my kids that didn't need to be there.

And my kids had never seen any of these rules. For example, I let them jump on the couch in their socks. We live in Texas, it's hot, they can't go outside, and it's a cheap couch. Anyway, let him jump on the, who cares. I mean, that just blew her Betty Crocker mind that I would let my kids jump on the couch. And she, in the middle of her shift, on her third day, she walked up to me and she was like, I don't know what kind of house you think you're running here, but I cannot be part of it. And she walked out. So that's what we're all afraid of, God, we're all afraid of that. I cried for so long, I wasn't that confident at that time. I was not confident. I cried so hard. I felt like such garbage. And that is what we're afraid of. That's why we don't hire babysitters because we're afraid of that.

Allison Wojtowecz (09:52):
Well, because afraid of the judgment of other women, I think. Right? So I mean, you've had jokes about...


Jen Fulwiler (09:57):
Boy did she judge me.

Allison Wojtowecz (09:58):
Going to say, you've had jokes about this in your special about how women will talk to your baby to insult you and things like that. So I mean, this is a question that I just thought of though. How do you handle it when you get critiques from other women? Is that the last star in the armor? That's your final stone?

Jen Fulwiler (10:17):
Think of it like a sport. Getting judged by other women is like a sport, and you can get better at it when you first play that sport. It'll hurt. It's like the first time you play football, I would imagine it's kind of scary. People are running at you, but you get used to taking the hits and you get good at it, give some hits back. Because now I'm like, oh, you want to judge me? Let's go, let's go. And so it helps with time. And that's one of the things as you go on in life, there are, honestly, I have only seen benefits to aging. I was thinking the other day, I spit on my thirties, forget my life started when I hit 40. Every year you go on, you know more, you learn more, you have more data. Your spreadsheets are more full with every year in life.

It's so great. And so I will say, you're young. I would imagine for women your age, it will be a little harder for you now than it will be in 15 years to truly not care what other people think of you. It is something that when you just have that accumulation of accomplishments and of being who you are and having different successes and having things work out, the data is just kind of inarguable you. People can't judge me. I've done this, I've done this, I've done, my kids are turning out great. Whereas I just didn't have that when I was 30. I didn't have that to fall back on. And let me jump in. I just realized earlier I said I would give two answers, one small and one big. I do think for overwhelmed moms, this is a little bit of a more ambitious thing.

And it's not for everyone, but nobody about this as an option, if you like me, are bad at housework, bad at all. Traditional domestic things. And you don't have a support system, but you like the idea of kids of having a squad, of developing this family. Why not set goals of like, alright, we got to make a lot of money because I want $2,000 a month just for staff and help. Seriously. I want a personal chef. I want someone I trust to drive my kids to their activities. So it doesn't always have to be me sitting in a car. I want a nanny, maybe even just part-time, but I want a nanny. I want twice a week housekeepers. I mean, yeah, making an extra $2,000 a month is not easy. But if you're starting kind of early in life and you build, and this is constantly a goal and you start at age 30, I can almost guarantee you maybe by 37, 38, you will probably have found a way to bring in that extra income and you can live that life and you can have, there's no shame in hiring a village if you weren't given one.

And nobody talks about that of why not set some higher financial goals? And it's not for everyone and it's not always possible, but I just think it should be put out there as an option.

Allison Wojtowecz (13:04):
Correct. I appreciate that. We've talked about this. I think similarly, if you don't cite the goal for yourself, it's not going to happen. Yeah. It's just going back to the comedy thing. It's like you were crazy enough to think you could do standup and now here you are. So it's like, okay, if I'm crazy enough to think I can make an extra two grand a month in 10 years, that seems like a pretty low hanging fruit.

Jen Fulwiler (13:25):
That's not a crazy ambitious goal, but no one tells moms to think that way. They're just try harder, get less sleep, beat yourself up more. It's like, no, I'm going to make more money and then have two nannies and a chef. How about that? That's a goal. That's what I'm going to do. And I just want to comment that one of the things that women have to reject so important is that there are different love languages. We know this in relationships, their love languages, like physical touch is a love language. Quality time is a love language, gifts are a love language. There are different love languages with your children. And first of all, that is seldom talked about that there are different ways to love your children. But our culture has this really insane view that the only valid love language for a mother to convey to her children is acts of service. Think about it. When we say someone's a good mom. Oh, she's the perfect mom. What do you imagine? 

Allison Wojtowecz (14:20):
She bakes, does everything. She cooks, they always say she does everything.

Jen Fulwiler (14:22):
Everything. She sweeps the floor, she vacuums, she does laundry. She's the perfect mom. That's the acts of service love language. It's a valid love language, but that's only one of them. And so think if you hear about a mom, let's say there's a wealthy mom and you hear, oh yeah, she hasn't cleaned in years and she has a nanny and she has a driver and she has a chef and all that. You instantly think, oh, she's checked out. Gosh. So she


Allison Wojtowecz (14:47):
Doesn't care about her kids, pray for her kids.

Jen Fulwiler (14:47):
But what if that mom's love language to her kids is quality time. What if she's sitting there having really great deep conversations with her kids? What if her love language is gifts? She's constantly creating and crafting things for her kids. And this has been very important to me because acts of service ain't my love language. I do as little in my home as I possibly can. And that has actually been this great bonding thing for my kids. I mean, it's actually a feature, not a bug. Because we were talking about chores the other day and my kids weren't doing their chores. And I was just like, I know I can't believe I hate being poor. We're so poor and I need to make my comedy millions so that we can all outsource that. I don't want you guys to have to clean the litter box either, but I'm not going to do it guys because I can't, because it's just not part of my vibe and it's not on my mood board. And my daughters are just laughing and they're like, so we're like, we have to divvy this up

Allison Wojtowecz (15:48):
Your daughters are telling you to do chores.

Jen Fulwiler (15:51):
And yeah, I let the house get to the point where they're like, okay, can we give mom a chore list? This is insane. This is actually a big bonding point for me and my children that we're all like, we just need to be rich. This poor lifestyle is not really our vibe. We're just not into being poor. And so we all make a joke out of it that the other day I actually cleaned out the refrigerator. You would think that I had run a marathon while carrying someone on my back. I was bragging about it. And it occurred to me some moms would just do it and instead I'm just like, you guys will not believe it. And my kids were like, no way. Mom clean the fridge. We're like high fing each other.

Allison Wojtowecz (16:31):
This was a 45 minute conversation.

Jen Fulwiler (16:32):
Yeah, because listen, when the greatest gift that a parent can give to their children is for their children to know who they really are. Think about that. Because so many people you kind of feel like, did I really know my parents or were they kind of playing a role? Dad, he's the good provider and mom, she enjoys just this and that and she's fine and she's an upstanding citizen. And you kind of feel like, I kind of wonder if I looked at their incognito search history, would there be a different side to my parents? And one of the greatest things I think in my kids' life and in my life is my kids really know me. Ain't no pretending over here. They sure do know who I really am. And we are so close. My kids come to me with everything. I mean, the information flow that I have about what goes on at their school, they talk to me and I ask my kids for advice about things. We turn to each other for things. And that's all because I'm not pretending that I have a love language that I don't acts of service cleaning. It's not my love language and I'm not pretending like it is, but I have other great love languages and I share those with my children.

Allison Wojtowecz (17:42):
That's a really good point. I never thought of it in that context. And you said this a second ago, you've said it to me before. I love that my kids are my squad. Yeah. I think you get a lot of questions about how did you handle that many kids while building multiple different careers. You were on radio, you were an author before you did standup.

Jen Fulwiler (18:03):
So how does a working mom do what you did? Yeah, you do it in phases. And by the way, as speaking of my kids being my squad, my daughters were laughing the other day. I saw them looking at their phones and laughing. So I asked them what it was. They created a bunch of Instagram burner accounts to troll my haters. That is literally, it's like Alison, it's their part-time job. And my girls inherited their writers. They're very funny. I mean, oh, I've heard that all my kids are funny. But man, a couple of them are like, I mean they could write for SNL. They're hilarious. So they seriously sit around and they watch for nasty comments on my social media and they go after them with their, isn't that amazing? And then it's like a contest to see who control my trolls, the more who can get the mess. So my kids are absolutely my squad.

The secret is to do it in phases. And so what worked for my career when my kid, so by the way, for a decade, I had three kids in diapers. It was a different three kids as they phased in and out. And for more than a decade, I had two or one kids in diapers. So what worked for my career in those phases was different than what now my youngest is 10. And so what works now is just a totally different ballgame. So it's a constant evaluat evaluating how can I best love this family and have fun with this family and also make money and be awesome? You should ask that question anew every year and it's going to change. So when my kids were all little, it was like, okay. And for a while I didn't have any help or anything, so it would just, I said, okay, these kids do take naps, and I enforced that Drac taking a nap.

Do not care. You're taking a nap. I need to not die. So I could get them to nap for two hours, maybe three on a good day. My whole life revolved around getting them to nap at the same time. I was like splitting the atom, making sure that this worked. So I'd get them all down for a nap at the same time. And then during that time, I would do my writing. And also our church had a mother's day out program. It was just a few hours in the morning, but I would take them to that too, just a few days a week. And then that's when I would do my writing. And a point that I want to make is having that career. I made no money at the time. I made money later with it. But having that work, that blue flame, that hobby, passion, whatever you want to call it, people would sometimes say, why are you adding more work to your plate?

Why don't you go get a pedicure while your kids are at their little preschool? But that doesn't fill me up. I actually find pedicures very stressful, separate topic about my crazy that totally scams. I'm terrified of pedicures, but really any of that traditional self-care stuff, it's not self-care for me. I don't enjoy going to the spot. That's not fun for me. What is fun for me is writing comedy or doing something like that. And so the key, especially for busy parents is to tap into those things that are constructive, that create something. But they give you energy. They give you energy. Doing that writing work at that time gave me energy. So in each phase with your kids, you just find that combination and your work needs to be something that gives you energy.


Allison Wojtowecz (21:17):
And I think that the energizing thing is a very good point. And I think you mentioning earlier to just have grace with yourself too. It's like, yes, you can have kids and a career, but you just gave birth two weeks ago, slow down. So Right, exactly. Not the timing has to be realistic and you can plan longer term, I guess.


Jen Fulwiler (21:38):
And that goes back to that trusting in a bigger plan. I mean, look, whatever your religion is, it doesn't matter. But I would say you do have to trust.

Allison Wojtowecz (21:46):
I think we can all agree on intuition or something.

Jen Fulwiler (21:50):
There's something that is a greater plan. So you have to trust that if you're meant to do something, it will come to you. And you don't have to be fearful. You don't have to be scared. You don't have to jet us in your family. You don't have to resent your family. You can welcome all the kids you feel move to welcome. You don't have to act out of fear, because if some calling is meant for you, it will find you.


Allison Wojtowecz (22:12):
Yeah. That's amazing. I think one last thing I want to ask you about the fear. When you find yourself in difficult or fearful stressful situations, how do you handle that so that the best good can come out of it? Is that a clear question? 

Jen Fulwiler (22:35):
For me, there are a couple different types of fear. The fear of, let's say it's something like I'm worried about a medical diagnosis that is out of my control. Whereas if it's fear, like we talked in another segment about me booking the comedy tour on my personal credit card. I think those are two very different types of fear. Because if you fear that you have done something wrong, then there's also that guilt component. Did I make the wrong decision? So for the things that are out of your control, I try to believe that something good will come out of it, even if I get the news. We had a plumber at our house the other day and it was like, oh, please, please, please. So luckily it was okay, but if we had gotten hit with some massive bill, okay, that's something. It's just out of my control. And all you can do is hope that something good will come out of it. And it sounds cliche, but it is very true that good comes out of bad always, always. Now for the things that it's like I am fearful. I think I might've just bankrupted our family, actually. I think that, yeah. So that's why I am afraid you have to believe that you are on a path that is building to something great. And so even if you do make that wrong decision, I had that happen. I had that happen last month.

I booked a show. I should have known I shouldn't have booked this show. But yeah, I was just there and I was like, I shouldn't have done this. There wasn't enough time. So anyway, it happens. I was out there and I was like, I'm losing money on this. I'm not getting anything out of this. It's taking a lot of time away from it. This was a mistake. It was just a mistake. So I had that fear of like, well, now there's all these negative impacts because I made a bad decision. But you have to believe that you are on a journey, and every step of that journey matters. And when I switch my mentality, I'm out in this place that I realize I just shouldn't have even been. I should be at home. But I was like, all right, so I'm not at home. I'm here.

So how am I going to make the best of this and just bring that great fun, do the next fun thing, not just the next right thing, but the next fun thing. How can I have fun in this place? And I did end up having actually a lot of pretty fun things come of it. I got some new material for my standup comedy, if nothing else. So I would say that that is how I conquer that type of fear. That's like, I'm really afraid that I'm going to make the wrong decision, or I did make the wrong decision. You have to accept that you will. That's life. Sometimes you're going to make a bad call, but you have to believe that that is a worthy point along your journey and that something good will come of it and it's a lesson or redirection or something like that. Yeah, and it is. It's true. It sounds cliche, but it's really true. That's really awesome.​

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