What Keeps You Up at Night? Elizabeth Laime

At the start of the year, when I reached out about fresh ideas for the site, I got a very nice email from Mina Manchester about the value she found in posts that engender a sense of community: when one relates to a post and feels less alone because someone else is thinking (or wondering or worrying) about similar things.

So this week, we are launching a new series of interviews with women to relate to and be inspired by. The women we’ll be talking with women who are makers and creative professionals, as well as women accomplished across many fields. We’ll bring you stories from the trenches—of parents juggling kids and work, of freelancers trying to make their creative endeavors financially stable, and of women working multiple side hustles in order to follow their passion. And at the end of their day we’re asking them, ‘What Keeps You Up At Night?’

First up is Elizabeth Laime, a comedienne, podcaster, TV writer, and mom to Teddy (4.5) and Otis (3). Elizabeth created the podcast Totally Laime—“asking important people the least important questions,” with her husband and collaborator Andy Rosen. They added the spinoffs Totally Married and Totally Mommy and, now, Elizabeth has written for the second season of the comedy, I’m Sorry, which has been picked up by Netflix! She also wrote for The Village, which premieres March 12 on NBC. We talked with Elizabeth about how she makes it all happen.

How challenging is it to get creative work done when you have two kids?
I love this question because it’s really valid—it’s a balancing act. However, I look forward to the day when this is asked of fathers as well, because the way I balance it all is hand in hand with my husband Andy, and it’s a team effort. We don’t have permanent childcare, and I’m astonished when I look back that we’ve been able to pull it off! Every week feels somewhat cobbled together.

Logistics and scheduling now take up such an enormous amount of time. I never gave time a second thought before children, and now it’s my number one stressor.

What advice would you give other parents trying to juggle it all?
Everyone tells you becoming a parent is really hard—you’ve probably all seen coffee mugs emblazoned with “Mommy Needs a Drink”—but what I’ve learned is your time is incredibly precious. You only want to spend it with people and projects that fill your cup.

The challenge is not only to follow your passion, but also to provide financial stability for your children. We are very lucky that the things we are doing now pay the bills and are very fulfilling creatively, but this hasn’t always been the case. We’ve both had a million different jobs, and we always worked as hard as we could at our creative endeavors until we could fully support ourselves financially.

Who influenced you or helped you in your career?
The landscape for TV writers is different now than it has been in the past. There are more jobs, but seasons are shorter—instead of 20 episodes and multiple year contracts, there are 10 episodes for one season. This makes it harder for new entrants to the industry to find long term work.

I am indebted to many people who took a chance on me early on. Right after I had my daughter Teddy, two writers, June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson liked an idea I had, and together we sold a pilot to ABC. That was my first paid TV writing job. Andrea Savage also took a risk on me. I’m noticing a trend, they’re all women!

In your work-life balance, what ends up on the cutting room floor?
Unfortunately, it’s exercise. Which I know is not the right answer. You have to do it, it’s priority number one, but when you have 18 priority number ones, guess what.

We have also been very bad about date nights. (Sorry, Andy!)

What is the best thing in your life right now?
My kids are three and four-and-a-half and watching them play together is the joy of my life. I think as they’ve gotten older, things have gotten easier. There was a time about a year ago when, heading into the weekends, I would have to brace myself: like, here we go. But now I can’t wait for the weekends. Their senses of humor are blowing our minds. The jokes they tell! Otis delivers a punchline that he knows is going to kill, and it’s so satisfying!

What’s next for you?
I hope in the future to write and direct a narrative project. I would also love to write in another writer’s room.

What keeps you up at night?
In my mind, there are these alternate universes—in one, we live in Montana, where for what we pay in rent we could buy like seven very nice cottages. In this vision, the kids are playing outside by a bucolic creek instead of living this highly-scheduled urban life. I stay up at night wondering if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be and if we are doing right by our kids. Ultimately, I think it’s important for our kids to see us pursuing our creative positions and we’re so lucky to be able to do so!

So, dear readers, what keeps you up at night? 

Thank you, Elizabeth! I can so relate to the added stress of inconsistent (week-by-week) childcare schedules and the guilt of letting exercise lapse (I’m trying!). And I’m curious for how many this anxiety—the balance of free-range play versus a more scheduled childhood—resonates? I know it’s front and center for me tonight even, as I plot summer camps against dog days. 

And thank you, Mina for this series! Mina has worked in PR for eleven years, and writes fiction. Her short story was published in The Normal School this summer, and she in the process of revising her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. What keeps her up at night? “Trying to make sure I deliver my best on all the commitments I have said yes to, and constantly re-evaluating if I have enough bandwidth to say yes to one more.” 

P.S. Thinking About The Nod and Julia Child, The Ultimate Entrepreneur.

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