I love a good entrepreneur hero’s journey, and Nell’s is a solid one. She started her business with seemingly every advantage —she studied at Ivy League universities and her father was a Wall Street titan who probably whispered business wisdom to her in utero. She also has impeccable taste, a key component when starting a home style brand.
She had it all figured out until, unexpectedly, she found out she was pregnant two weeks after launching her business. And not only was she pregnant, she had hyperemesis and was sick the entire nine months.
Here, Nell and I talk about how she’s juggled motherhood and entrepreneurship, how she built a thriving business while simultaneously growing a thriving human, and what she’s sacrificed—both knowingly and unknowingly at the time—along the way.
- 1:57 -Why Nell's style has gotten “even more aggressive and extra” since becoming a mom.
- 8:18 – Nell's entrepreneur hero's journey, a.k.a. finding out she was pregnant two weeks after launching Hill House Home. (Can you even imagine?)
- 10:40 – Never one to miss a great trend, Nell had hyperemesis and was throwing up her entire pregnancy just like the one and only Kate Middleton.
- 15:56 – Henry's birth story. (Surprise to no one: She went into labor at work.)
- 18:54 – On Nell's short maternity leave and why it made things hard for her.
- 19:59 – The trauma of being a NICU mom, and how devastating it was to leave the hospital without her baby.
- 25:24 – Nell talks about her experience with postpartum anxiety, including scheduling and going through with a full blown colonoscopy to assuage her worries.
- 28:36 – How she and her husband Teddy make parenthood work logistically (God love nannies and grandmas). makes this work logistically, nanny + camp grandma daytime care vs. nighttime care
- 32:08 – Why she loves parenting in NYC.
- 35:57 – Great books and trashy TV are her jam.
- 37:43 – Why we should all get better at asking for help. (WORD.)
- Hill House Home – The très chic NYC bedding and bath company Nell founded and runs.
- Doona Car Seat Stroller – Perfect for crowded NYC streets, says Nell. (Alicia‘s obsessed too.)
- How Toddlers Thrive by Dr. Tovah Klein – A great read for toddler parents and newborn parents alike!
- @nelliediamond – Where you can follow Nell and Nell's over-the-top outfits and get a kick out of her general wit and wisdom. (Oh, and Henry's on there a lot too.)
- @hillhousehome – For dreamy bedtime inspiration.
MEGAN: For those of us who don't know you, who are you? How do you usually introduce yourself?
NELL: I'm Nell Diamond. I'm the founder and CEO of Hill House Home, and I'm Henry's mom.
MEGAN: How old is that little guy now?
NELL: He is almost two and a half.
MEGAN: Two and a half, so he's right smack in that sticky fingers age?
It's so funny, I feel like I get the question a lot, “How has your style changed since having a baby?” And I think if anything, it's gotten more aggressive and extra.
MEGAN: So, you have this incredible sense of style, and you always wear these fun dresses and awesome coats and feminine pieces that most mothers would consider too woefully impractical even to consider, but you totally rock it. How do you do that with a little two and a half year old?
NELL: It's so funny, I feel like I get the question a lot, “How has your style changed since having a baby?” And I think if anything, it's gotten more aggressive and extra.
MEGAN: I love it.
NELL: And that's primarily because I see it as a personal mission to prove how little I've had to change my core self since becoming a mom.
But yeah, I think we've certainly had our fair share of accidents, and him getting crazy things on me. But, to be honest, it's no more than I was getting on myself to begin with. I spill coffee all the time. I get my makeup all over my clothing. As long as I factor in my dry cleaning bill into my monthly finances, I'm okay.
MEGAN: Yeah, but it sounds like that was maybe a consideration beforehand anyway, so.
NELL: Yes, exactly. It hasn't really changed.
MEGAN: What's an extra dab of syrup here or there? It's fine.
Clothing brings me a ton of joy, and I think getting dressed for the day really is something that makes me happy. I think I knew pretty intuitively that I wasn't going to change something that made me really happy.
NELL: Exactly. Clothing brings me a ton of joy, and I think getting dressed for the day really is something that makes me happy. I think I knew pretty intuitively that I wasn't going to change something that made me really happy. I also totally understand the way that working out brings some people joy—and brings me just only pain and anguish—that some people don't feel that way about clothing, so…
I also have friends who are just like, “Okay, I don't need this extra step in my life of having to worry about whether a button's going to fall off, or this suede is too gentle, or whatever.” I feel the same way about physical exertion, so…
MEGAN: That's fair.
NELL: To each their own.
MEGAN: Totally. Do you feel like you've had to get more practical in some regards? I'm just thinking about the design challenges that might go through your head as you're thinking about what pieces to wear, “I want this to look amazing, I want to feel extra, and I want to make sure that it's functional, so that I can squat down and not feel like Kate Middleton.”
Although my appearances might be deceiving, I think I've always been a fairly practical person living in an impractical shell.
NELL: Yeah. Although my appearances might be deceiving, I think I've always been a fairly practical person living in an impractical shell. Even when it comes to home design, I really love my home to be beautiful, but I think there are hacks and ways around it. For example, in my home I have outdoor fabric on all of the chairs in the kitchen. So it's super durable—is able to withstand outdoor weather—so it can also endure the indoor weather of a toddler.
MEGAN: They're basically hurricanes.
I think there are still ways to be practical and not lose your sense of self and sense of style. It just takes a little bit of looking, and I think I'm willing to look because I care so much about what I wear.
NELL: Yeah, exactly. So, I apply the same kind of thing to my clothing. So, if I'm going to be at the playground, which in New York, there are these big sand pits—and they definitely are not the cleanest thing in the world—I think I am able to be careful about which shoe I'm wearing or whatever.
I think there are still ways to be practical and not lose your sense of self and sense of style. It just takes a little bit of looking, and I think I'm willing to look because I care so much about what I wear.
MEGAN: Yeah. And that thesis seems like it probably is in line with the reason you started your business in the first place, right? Hill House Home.
MEGAN: Can you tell me a little bit about how style's to credit for that inspiration, and how you came up with that?
NELL: Yeah, definitely. So, I was working in finance right out of undergrad. I was working on a trading desk just in an analyst program. And I loved what I was doing. I especially loved the people and team and learning from a massive corporation how to be an employee, which is definitely something that I didn't feel prepared to do from undergrad and school. So, I feel like I took a two year crash course in how to work somewhere and came out of that feeling like I understood everything from email etiquette to how to work with a team.
But, the actual subject matter of the work that I was doing wasn't supremely interesting to me, and I think I was able to sense that after about a year of being in the job. So, I was sitting at my desk and thinking a lot about the amazing companies that were springing up in the beauty sector, and the fashion sector, and the food sector, all really focused at our generation—the millennial generation. And I was thinking about what interesting things these people were doing, not only with their supply chain—so making things cheaper and higher quality at the same time as Warby Parker pioneered in the direct to consumer model—but, they're also speaking to customers in a different way, and they're listening to them, and they're adapting to a modern way of living.
And I've always really loved the home. I grew up moving all the time, and my bedroom in particular was always something that was really important to me. So, I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, “Oh, the home one will come. Somebody will speak to me the way I want to be spoken to in home, and somebody will make this process of trying to figure out how to shop for my adult home simpler and easier and also higher quality.” And I just kept not seeing it happen.
So, I applied to business school, and I applied to a business school that had a little bit of a focus on entrepreneurship. It was a super small class, and while I was there I toyed with the seeds of this idea of what is now Hill House Home.
And the whole time there, I'm a reluctant entrepreneur. So, the whole time there I'm thinking, “Come on, convince yourself not to do this. You don't want to be an entrepreneur. It's so not your style.”
MEGAN: Why do you think it's not your style?
NELL: Well, first of all, I think most of the reasons I thought it was not my style were preconceived notions, but I'm generally a very risk averse person. I like order and planning and careful thought, and you have to just make a lot of decisions and figure stuff out.
But then, I think there are elements that I didn't know about that are so my style—like, extremely collaborative, extremely challenging all the time. I think I hate to be bored, and I definitely hate to be bored in a workspace. So, all of those things really appeal to me, but I didn't necessarily know yet.
But, sitting in business school, I basically couldn't convince myself out of this idea. I kept finding more reasons why it made sense. So I launched it about six months after I graduated, and it's been three years. Three years in business, and it's been amazing. We have a little store. We've shipped to dozens of countries, thousands and thousands of customers. It's been really exciting.
MEGAN: So, I think I read somewhere that you were pregnant while you were launching it? That must be true because if it's three years old …
So, I basically found out I was pregnant two weeks after I launched. Definitely not planned. I was 27, which in New York is teen mom status.
NELL: Yes. Yes. So, I basically found out I was pregnant two weeks after I launched.
MEGAN: Oh my god.
NELL: Definitely not planned. I was 27, which in New York is teen mom status.
MEGAN: Yeah. San Francisco too.
NELL: But in the rest of the world is not.
It certainly wasn't planned. A very happy surprise, obviously, but I think that I had thought, “I'm going to spend the next few years really focusing on work.” And I had this—again a preconceived notion—that I'm supposed to be settled in my workplace by the time I have kids. And that wasn't going to happen.
I also found out that my only other employee at the time was leaving. I think it was on the day I got pregnant—or sorry, the day I found out I was pregnant.
I definitely remember the high of that first week finding out, and being so excited, and it's all so new and crazy, and funny in many ways. And then, a week later throwing up into a bucket, like, “Oh my god. I'm here alone. I cannot stop any of these things that I've put into motion.”
I had literally just set the ship out to sea, and it was already going, and I couldn't pull it back. And I remember just thinking, “Oh my god, I wish I had known. I wish I had planned. I would've waited another year,” or whatever, whatever.
But, sometimes I think that the best things come out of those times when you have no choice. And I certainly had no choice. Every penny I had ever saved was in this company—people relying on me. My crazy factories in France that I had convinced to take a chance on us, they're sewing away, and I'm like, “Oh God, I've just got to do it.”
So, that's what happened.
MEGAN: Yeah, that's a wonderful introduction into motherhood, right? Because that's motherhood in a nutshell, just doing stuff that you're like, “Well, guess I just got to do it. Don't really have a choice.”
And I think that so much of the language around motherhood and entrepreneurship is similar. So, you hear a lot of “brave.” You hear a lot of “courageous.” And it's like, “No, no, no, no. There is no brave in this. This is just you just got to do it.”
NELL: Yes. And I think that so much of the language around motherhood and entrepreneurship is similar. So, you hear a lot of “brave.” You hear a lot of “courageous.” And it's like, “No, no, no, no. There is no brave in this. This is just you just got to do it.”
MEGAN: So, you were super just starting, and how was the pregnancy for you? Were you sick a lot? I know you mentioned throwing up into a bucket.
NELL: Yeah. I was super nauseous. So, I had hyperemesis, which—the only good thing about hyperemesis is it's apparently extremely chic because Kate Middleton had it.
MEGAN: So in.
NELL: I feel good about that. That was my silver lining.
I had hyperemesis, and that was pretty confusing, because—again,—you hear “morning sickness,” and you're like, “Alright, I can handle coming into work a little late.” But it's really 24 hours.
I was super, super nauseous. My doctor ended up prescribing me—again it's the funniest thing—it was a medicine called Diclegis, which Kim Kardashian got embroiled in a scandal for promoting on Instagram. And I was like, “Well, look at me living this modern pregnancy. Sure.” But, the medicine actually really helped me. It was the only reason I could leave my house, basically.
I was on that medicine until the day I gave birth, throwing up in the hospital from nausea. So, that was super isolating. I heard that it's not necessarily the same in every pregnancy—some are different—and sounds, like—again—that's a metaphor for pregnancy in general. We all have different experiences of the exact same physical situation.
So, that was hard. And then I also found it really difficult to be in such a different place from most of my friends. They were all on Tinder and in clubs and living a life that was so foreign to me. I had my fifth college reunion while I was pregnant, and I remember just walking up to the Princeton campus, so bloated, so disgusting, and just immediately seeing some ex-boyfriend who had been so mean to me, and just being like, “Alright, well, this is just my path. I guess I'm just going to go right up to him with my enormous face, but sure.”
So, lots of little anecdotal, humbling moments like that. Luckily, incredibly healthy pregnancy. Truly not one, single thing wrong the whole pregnancy. Totally textbook normal. So, especially as my mom went through horrible pregnancies, and I was an IVF baby—so was my brother. And all those things give me real perspective. I'm happy to have been nauseous and lonely because the baby was healthy. But, it is still funny. It's just a series of humbling moments over and over again every day.
MEGAN: Yeah. And I imagine just—yeah… it's lonely that your friends weren't going through that experience also, but I imagine you were also just working all the time, right? Because, you're building a business? Were you? Am I assuming something? Does that sound accurate?
You can never know what you would've done, but I think that if I had been working at a big corporation while I was so nauseous [during my pregnancy], I really think I would've asked for time off. I think I would've taken leave, and maybe even thought, “I can't do both of these things. Some women can do this; I can't.”
NELL: Yes. No, no, no. I definitely was working all the time, and I actually am really grateful for that. I'm grateful that I had a distraction.
I'm not sure—you can never know what you would've done, but I think that if I had been working at a big corporation while I was so nauseous, I really think I would've asked for time off. I think I would've taken leave, and maybe even thought, “I can't do both of these things. Some women can do this; I can't.” And because I had no choice, I really had to just work all the time. And so, I'm grateful for that because I think that I probably would've made a different decision. And then, I'm also grateful for that because I think I needed the distraction. I needed something to focus on that wasn't my physical form, and how uncomfortable I was.
I think it worked out for sure, but certainly I was definitely very much working all the time.
MEGAN: Yeah. No, but that's a lovely way to think about it—as a silver lining—because I could imagine trying to keep up with your friends who are out there partying on Tinder, and you're like, “Well, I'm throwing up into a bucket, so… this is not the same experience.”
It's just funny when you don't have context, and you don't have really people to bounce this off of. You just go with what works, so that's what I did.
NELL: Yeah. I also just didn't really know the rules or have context. I literally didn't figure this out until six months ago, but basically you—obviously your monthly and then weekly check-ins at the doctor's office. So, my doctor's office is all the way uptown, my office and where I live is all the way downtown in New York, and the room that you go to do an ultrasound in is tiny. It's New York, it's in a super, super small room.
MEGAN: It's like a closet.
NELL: Yeah. And so, we had ultrasounds at the hospital. We had probably two or three of them, and my husband came to those, but I thought there's no way you're supposed to bring your husband to the other ultrasounds. And I literally heard probably five months ago that my OB-GYN probably thought I was a single mom because I never brought my husband a single time to those ultrasound rooms because nobody told me. And I just didn't ask. I didn't realize that that was a normal thing. I actually think I said to my husband, “No. Why would you come to these check-ins? That's crazy.”
So, just went the whole pregnancy with him never coming to any of those appointments. And I think he actually pushed on it. I think he was like, “Wait, I think I'm supposed to …”
And I was like, “No, why would you come? That's crazy.” [Laughter.]
MEGAN: “That's ridiculous.”
NELL: Yeah. It's just funny when you don't have context, and you don't have really people to bounce this off of. You just go with what works, so that's what I did.
MEGAN: But, you strike me as someone who makes her own rules anyway, so that works out.
NELL: [Laughs.] Yes. Yes.
MEGAN: Were you basically working up until the moment Henry popped out?
I used the contraction timer and pressed the button, and it literally after five contractions spit out a push alert, which is exactly what I wanted for my millennial pregnancy saying, “You're in labor. Congratulations, time to go to the hospital.” I just went, “Okay. I think my phone just told me I'm in labor.”
NELL: Yeah, so I went into labor at work. I was 38 weeks and two days, and I had in my mind been expecting a late birth because I wanted to prepare for the worst case scenario. That's just the kind of person I am.
So anyway, basically overnight, I thought I wet the bed, which was a totally normal occurrence. And so, what had really happened is my water had broken, and I just didn't notice—so, it had been a small water break. So I went into the office. We had a photo shoot all day, and I probably got in at 9:00 AM, and I just remember looking in Allie, one of the girls on my team, I was looking into her eyes, and speaking to her, and I just would fully zone out. Those were contractions. Just couldn't even see her, everything's fuzzy, and I'd have to ask her to repeat things.
And Allie just was like, “Are you okay? What's going on?”
And I was like, “I guess I'll use my contraction timer,” which was the app I had on my phone. So, I used the contraction timer and pressed the button, and it literally after five contractions spit out a push alert, which is exactly what I wanted for my millennial pregnancy saying, “You're in labor. Congratulations, time to go to the hospital.” [Laughter.]
I just went, “Okay. I think my phone just told me I'm in labor.”
So, I went to the hospital probably around noon, and then he didn't come until the next morning. So, it was a super long labor. It was almost 48 hours because I had technically been in labor since the night before.
And I just remember it was so funny, somebody had told me that your body knows before you do, so you get in major preparation mode right before you go into labor, and I had actually made this insane excel spreadsheet with shot lists for this photo shoot that we were doing. And I normally help with that stuff, but I have never done a shot list that intense before. It was sixteen tabs, and exactly the angle, and what they were getting. They were shooting our new pajamas. And I had done that two nights before.
So, I remember getting to the hospital, and being like, “Oh my god, how are they going to do this photo shoot without me? They weren't expecting me to leave,” whatever, whatever. And they were totally fine because I had prepared for it.
MEGAN: The nesting instinct went to Hill House Home. That's awesome.
NELL: Yes, yes, yes. Exactly.
And then, I remember being in labor, that long labor, and answering a few customer service emails. And Catherine, who is on my team, just texted me being like, “You should probably stop. We're okay.”
And I was like, “Okay. I guess you guys are good.”
MEGAN: So, you were literally working up until he was born.
NELL: I was. I really was.
Which I think you know, if I—my goal, also, for becoming a bigger company is to create an environment where nobody has to do that. I think it worked out fine for me, but I don't think it's ideal. But I was. I did happen to be.
I really have hesitated to even talk about it publicly because I think we get into a really dangerous territory of glamorizing short maternity leaves. I went back to work probably two weeks after, maybe a week with some flexibility, but it was really hard on me. And I think it made my transition back into normal life significantly more difficult.
MEGAN: Yeah. And did you take leave after he was born?
NELL: It's so funny because I really have hesitated to even talk about it publicly because I think we get into a really dangerous territory of glamorizing short maternity leaves. And so, I did not. I went back to work probably two weeks after, maybe a week with some flexibility, but it was really hard on me. And I think it made my transition back into normal life significantly more difficult.
I don't think I had other choices. Hopefully, if I'm lucky enough to have another baby, our company's big enough now that I will be able to take more time. But, I definitely went back way, way, way too early.
People talk about just snapping back into shape, and it's so body focused. Your mental capacity is not there. It's not even describable. It's truly not possible to return to your normal self, or any version of that, I believe, at least for a few weeks, if not months.
MEGAN: Yeah. And I think I read somewhere that Henry was in the NICU too, wasn't he?
NELL: Yeah. Yes, he was in the NICU.
MEGAN: Was he out of the NICU by the time that you went back to work?
I think I'm still probably processing that idea of me leaving the hospital without my baby because, again, that's something that you think about. You're sitting, throwing up in the middle of the night, six months pregnant, and you're thinking, “There is a prize. I'm going to have a prize at the end of this, and I get to leave the hospital,” and that's a really important moment.
NELL: He was. And again, actually this was a little bit of a blessing from not really having experienced birth through any friends before. Also, a blessing of having an incredible support system in my parents.
So, he was in the NICU because–a part of the problem from my long labor was that—this is why they tell you once your water breaks, you really have to give birth as soon as possible—he had gotten an infection. So, somehow bacteria had gotten into the placenta, and he had gotten an infection.
And he came out this huge nine pound baby. Super healthy, really high Apgar score, looking pink and rosy and crying. And I gave birth at Weill Cornell Medical Center, near Presbyterian, which actually has one of the best NICUs in the world I think, in the country at least.
And they are super conservative, so they drew some blood from him, and they came into my room maybe five hours after birth, and they were like, “Look, we think it's nothing, but his white blood cell count is a little bit elevated.” And they were like, “We just believe in an abundance of caution. We want to put him on antibiotics.” And of course, you spend hours and months on these message boards before giving birth about not even letting a baby touch formula, and skin to skin, and all this stuff. And then, they're like, “Antibiotics.”
And you're like, “Excuse me? What?”
But, they were so professional, and so straightforward that I was just like, “Yes, of course. Whatever you need to do.” And they really made it sound like it was very unlikely that there was a problem, but they just wanted to be cautious. So, I asked them, “Well, how do I know if there was an infection?” All these things.
And they said, “We will test your placenta, but you won't get that back for eight days. And by the time we get the placenta back, the infection will have already hurt him if it really is there.”
So anyway, fast forward eight days, they got it back, I did have an infection in my placenta, which is so crazy. So, imagine if they hadn't done that test, imagine if all of those things hadn't happened. So, I'm super grateful to how cautious they are at that hospital.
So, he was on IV antibiotics, and it's a course of seven days. And they stay in an incubator, and in a NICU, and you're not sleeping overnight with your baby in the room. And then, the most horrific part of it all is that they check the mother out, which had not even occurred to me. Because, you quite literally go from someone being a part of your physical body, like an organ inside of you, to there are different rules for the two of you.
I think I'm still probably processing that idea of me leaving the hospital without my baby because, again, that's something that you think about. You're sitting, throwing up in the middle of the night, six months pregnant, and you're thinking, “There is a prize. I'm going to have a prize at the end of this, and I get to leave the hospital,” and that's a really important moment. So, when I left the hospital without him, it was just absolutely insane.
And I really think that I did not process that for at least a year after his birth. Because even talking about it now I'm incredibly emotional. And if you had asked me when it was happening, I think I would've said to you, “Totally normal, I'm good. This is just what happens. Thank god they're cautious.”
And now, I think about it, and I'm like, “Oh my god, that was a horrific thing to do. To have to sleep under another roof, to be separate from him.” And absolutely not in my birth plan, or my idea of what my birth was going to be.
MEGAN: Yeah, NICU parents go through something really crazy and difficult. And I just commend you for thinking about it that way, and it's not easy at all. I don't think it'll ever get easy.
NELL: Yeah, and by the way, seven days is so easy in comparison to what some people have to go through. And even further, that entire time there was almost no worry. You know what I mean? We knew the antibiotics were going to work. The treatment was being given.
I have friends also who, there's a heart issue, or any number of issues where you truly don't know, and you're figuring it out, there are so many more layers. So, it definitely gives me incredible chills for the parents who go through it. And then, the nurses and doctors who man those crazy NICUs all over the world.
So yeah, it's such a sensitive time, and I can't believe we made it out alive.
MEGAN: I know. Well, so before we got on that tangent, we were talking about your maternity leave, or lack thereof. When did you start to feel good again? So, obviously you didn't ease yourself into your new reality as a mother and an entrepreneur. It was like, “Boom. I'm a mom and an entrepreneur, and I will do this, and I will beast mode through this entire thing.” And I imagine that was really hard on you. So, when did that stop being so hard, or what did you do to make that start to work better for you?
People talk a lot about postpartum depression, but—postpartum anxiety—I think I hadn't really had a handle on. And I certainly, certainly had that to a pretty crazy extent.
NELL: Yeah. I really believe in the power of therapy, and therapy as a routine. So, that's something that—pretty early on—I think I went back to my therapist appointment probably a week after birth. And that was really important to me. I remember my therapist being like, “If you need to take some time… even leaving the house is a lot.” But I remember that being a priority right away. And I think that that certainly helped me work through everything.
People talk a lot about postpartum depression, but—postpartum anxiety—I think I hadn't really had a handle on. And I certainly, certainly had that to a pretty crazy extent.
It's so funny when you look back in hindsight. Everything now is clearly so related, but then it doesn't seem related at all. I remember three months after giving birth, I read a New York Times article about the rise of colon cancer in young people. And I scheduled a full colonoscopy. I had a colonoscopy because I was so convinced that I probably had colon cancer.
And I remember everyone was so kind to me. My general physician was like, “Okay, you go ahead.” And she did it and helped me make sure that insurance could handle it.
And my therapist was like, “Yep. You go and do it.”
My parents were both like, “Yep.” My husband, same thing.
But, obviously in hindsight, of course I didn't. I had no symptoms, nothing was really there. So, that was definitely a clear anxiety thing. I was pretty certain all the time that I was going to have a heart attack. Lots of medical related worries all the time.
So, I think that those probably stopped around seven or eight months. But, I think to feel a little bit back to my normal self is probably a year, which I think was partly due to going back to work so early. But, that's my best recollection. I feel like are you ever really your normal self again?
MEGAN: Yeah. I guess I wasn't really asking so much about feeling normal, or just when it started to feel harmonious, you know? When it started to feel good?
NELL: Oh, it's so hard to remember. I think it felt harmonious and good… there were certain segments, right? So, being with Henry felt harmonious and good very soon. Very soon. But, the other elements of my life, I think took months, if not years. If that makes sense.
MEGAN: Yeah. And how's it working now? How does it feel now?
I feel like I really have someone that I love to hang out with, which is a feeling that I think I didn't anticipate. There's this little person that I have fun with all the time, a little best friend. And I think that's something that I hadn't really expected this early, or if at all. It just wasn't a facet of motherhood that I had really thought about.
NELL: It feels great. I think that I can see how much easier it is for Henry to be able to communicate and to be able to tell me what he wants and needs. And I felt the same way around when he started walking. It was like finally he had autonomy, and was able to express himself in that physical way. And now in a verbal way.
So, I think that I would say that it was clear to me pretty early that this was only going to be additive to my life, and I felt incredibly lucky, and all of those things. And also, just joyful being around him.
And then, I think that now that he's such a little person, I feel all of those things. Plus, I feel like I really have someone that I love to hang out with, which is a feeling that I think I didn't anticipate. There's this little person that I have fun with all the time, a little best friend. And I think that's something that I hadn't really expected this early, or if at all. It just wasn't a facet of motherhood that I had really thought about.
MEGAN: Yeah. Can we talk logistics really quick?
MEGAN: How do you make this work? What do you do for childcare?
I feel really lucky to have both my nanny and my mom. I think my mom's pretty acutely aware that I wouldn't really be able to have a job if I didn't have her in my life.
NELL: I have a nanny. I have a nanny who is at my house from 8:30 to 6:30, and I have my mother who fills in for babysitting as needed. So, if I have a work dinner, if I want to go out on a Saturday night to dinner with my husband, all of those nighttime things, my mom will help with. And then, day time work things Monday to Friday, I have nanny.
So, preschool—he goes to right now, but is literally an hour three times a week. So, certainly not a childcare solution for a full-time job, and my husband works full-time too. So, that's how we make it work.
I feel really lucky to have both my nanny and my mom. I think my mom's pretty acutely aware that I wouldn't really be able to have a job if I didn't have her in my life. She had a really amazing career of her own, and then had three kids, and moved around the world to support my dad's career. And really chose to do that. My dad was really doing incredibly well in his career, and she wanted to support that. So, I think she feels like she's able to give me something that she didn't have, and she would say that too. And that's one of the reasons she's so willing to help as much as possible.
So yeah, I feel really lucky about that. I also think the nighttime thing is interesting. People talk about childcare in a whole—in one term, but for me it really is separated. The daytime and the nighttime thing. Certainly, it's nice to have some social things, but I probably would not be able to have those at all. Childcare's super expensive, especially in New York, and you have to prioritize: Do you want work help or do you want help to go be social and be yourself? And that's the way we make it work for right now.
MEGAN: Yeah. I love that you call it Camp Grandma whenever you post about that on Instagram. I think it's hilarious.
NELL: Yeah. I'm so lucky my-
MEGAN: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
NELL: No, no. Go ahead.
MEGAN: I was just going to say, it just seems like you've created this super awesome extra large family for Henry too by bringing your parents into it, and I'm sure lots of other adults and grownups that he can be comfortable around. So, it's not just up to you and Teddy.
It truly takes my breath away when I see Henry in a room with all of these people on both sides that just love him. And I think that that's just the most incredible gift.
NELL: Yes. It's amazing. I didn't grow up with that because we lived abroad. We lived in London, and then a little bit in Japan when I was younger. My parents were American, so that was super far from my grandparents on both sides, and my aunts, and uncles, and cousins. So, I really didn't grow up like that, and it's so foreign to me, but it truly takes my breath away, how close Henry is all these people that love him.
My father-in-law and mother-in-law, my father-in-law just passed away in October, but they're from Baltimore, and Henry has three aunts on Teddy's side, and two uncles on my side. And both Uncles have amazing lives, my brothers. So, it truly takes my breath away when I see Henry in a room with all of these people on both sides that just love him. And I think that that's just the most incredible gift. And my parents make fun of me because I just cry to them all the time just being like, “I don't think you understand what a gift…”
It's not just, “Thanks for letting me go out tonight.” I can't tell them how much I think this will affect what kind of human my little man is, growing up surrounded by love like that.
So, part of me sometimes is also like, “Actually I just want to stay in tonight, but sure, Henry, go have a sleepover with your grandparents,” because what a gift. To wake up and have melon with your old grandpa.
MEGAN: So, they obviously live in the city too.
NELL: Yeah, they live in the city, which is really nice.
MEGAN: How do you like parenting in New York?
NELL: I really like it. I grew up in cities, so I like the hustle and bustle. I like being able to choose what you're doing that day, and not have to plan things out traveling too far. I like it. I really like it.
I live downtown where I see a lot of families that look different. I definitely think there are some neighborhoods in New York that everybody looks exactly the same, and there's such a certain type, but I don't feel that where I live. And I think it's really good for him, when we go to the playground, and play with a million kids, all from different places. And I love the kind of community downtown. It feels a little bit more like London to me, which is where I grew up.
MEGAN: Yeah. We're raising kids in San Francisco, and I always thought raising kids in the city would be awful, but it's been, for the exact same reasons that you just mentioned, amazing. I love it.
NELL: Yeah, I love it. I'm also one of those people who, if you gave me my choice of in the world where I could live, and what kind of house, and all of those things, I would choose the smallest space possible. I'm a family bed person. I'm like, “Let's all just live in the same room, under one tiny roof, with one tiny little fridge.” Like to be cozy, and close with people I love.
MEGAN: Yeah. There you go, then the city's perfect for you. You can all be on top of each other.
NELL: Yes, exactly.
MEGAN: Alright, I have a couple of quick questions, just super fast. Since Also Mom is a product site, what is your favorite baby gear, or books, or the gadgets, or whatever that you swear by, and you always buy of the registry for your first time mom friends?
I think that it's really important not to buy too much. I think the tendency is to buy like crazy because you need to arm yourself with all this stuff for this new thing is so intimidating.
NELL: So, I really love, this one's a little expensive, but it's the Doona stroller for the city. I don't know if you've used it, but it's the car seat has wheels attached.
So, for me in New York City, I really needed to be mobile, and I found being stuck inside was really stressful to me. So, if I needed to just get out of the house with Henry, and if I wanted to take a taxi, if I wanted to go on the subway, that Doona has made things actually possible.
I also am a huge walker. I love to walk as a stress relief too, so just being able to get that car seat out the door super easily was really nice, and not feel like I was taking up an entire New York City block.
So, I really liked that. And then, I'm really into this book by Doctor Tovah Klein. Oh my gosh, what's it called? How Toddlers Thrive. And I think it's good to read even when you don't have a newborn baby. I love, love, love her philosophies around parenting and kids. She talks a lot about impulse control with young kids, and with toddlers, and how your parenting style really should evolve as their brains evolve. I just love her whole philosophy and found that book fascinating.
Other products and stuff… I think that it's really important not to buy too much. I think the tendency is to buy like crazy because you need to arm yourself with all this stuff for this new thing is so intimidating. So, I definitely tend to recommend against that. But, that's why sites like yours make sense.
MEGAN: Yeah. I'm sorry, I'm going to let you finish that, but I'm first going to tell you… my recommendation to new moms is always, “Whatever you get that you don't think you're going to use in the first two weeks, return it, and make sure you have a Prime membership.”
NELL: Yeah, smart. Smart, smart, smart. I love that.
MEGAN: And just buy it back.
NELL: Yeah, so other first two weeks thing, I really liked have a diaper pail. I think that's a non-negotiable. I think you do have to have that in the first two weeks. Unless, you have somewhere really good to put your trash, but I don't.
And then, other first two weeks things, just a million different onesies that are soft.
MEGAN: Soft onesies. Okay, what's your favorite thing to do if you're gifted a little extra free time just for you? You don't have to work. Put your computer away.
NELL: Oh my gosh, read. Read or watch reality TV.
MEGAN: Those are so different.
NELL: I know. I think they challenge different parts of my brain. [Laughter.] Also, I never told you what kind of books I'm reading. Maybe I'm reading like totally trashy books.
MEGAN: That could be true, but…
NELL: But, I'm not, so.
MEGAN: Yeah, I'm doubting it.
NELL: I'm not. No.
MEGAN: Maybe you intersperse a trashy one, but yeah.
NELL: I actually hate trashy books. I can't even read a sentence of a trashy book. It offends me in so many ways. But, a trashy show is all I want. So, I think those are two things that I really like. And then, I love to walk in New York City. So, those are probably three things.
MEGAN: I love it. [Laughs.] The cognitive dissonance is very strong with you that you can watch the trashy show, but not the trashy book.
NELL: I know. Oh, yeah.
MEGAN: For me, I can't read a trashy novel because I feel like it's just wasting my time, and it's offensive. And I'm the same way with a show.
NELL: With TV?
MEGAN: Yeah, I'm just offended by mediocre anything, which is just an asshole way to live, but that's just life.
NELL: I love reality TV because it just requires such base level operating for my brain. So, it's nice to have something really simple. There's almost no way I can overthink reality TV. I overthink everything, so it's a nice break.
MEGAN: That's awesome. And you're learning about the human experience.
NELL: Well, yeah. There I go, there's the overthinking part, I guess.
MEGAN: Oh yeah, shit. Wait, stop.
Okay, last one. What's your number one recommendation for moms to be? Either about pregnancy, or the postpartum experience, or motherhood itself. Something that you tell others because you wish you'd known it yourself.
If I've been beautifully surprised by anything, it's how much help is available for me, and how useful it actually is, from people you wouldn't really expect.
NELL: Ask for help from anyone and everyone. So, if you're on an airplane, ask for help putting up suitcase. If you're on a subway ask for seat. If you're just met someone, and you're wondering how she did X, Y, Z, ask her.
I think that certainly, all of the communication around everything that women are supposed to do in the world is that we're supposed to muscle through and figure it out. And I think that if I've been beautifully surprised by anything, it's how much help is available for me, and how useful it actually is, from people you wouldn't really expect. Strangers, acquaintances, all that stuff, so…
I think it's really important to challenge these notions that we have about how we're supposed to be behave and how much we're supposed to know. And the first way to do it is to just practice asking for help.
MEGAN: Yeah. That's beautiful.
NELL: That's why I think what you're doing is great. I think it's really important to challenge these notions that we have about how we're supposed to be behave and how much we're supposed to know. And the first way to do it is to just practice asking for help.