Are you looking for a solo mom icon? Someone who flies to Puerto Rico to film the show she and her writing partner created? Who is a go-to for studios who want hit TV shows? A podcast host? And who’s rocking this with her young daughter by her side? In this episode, we have the pleasure of speaking with legendary TV writer Sarah Fain. Sarah chose to be a solo mom, and she’s all that. Today we’re chatting about how this role model thinks, and how her daughter has transformed her life.
In this episode, we talk about…
[5:26] Working as a solo parent in a field that requires travel
While Sarah had some idea of what her life would look like before taking the leap into solo parenting, the pandemic has taken it to a new level. When she was seven months pregnant, she went to Vancouver to shoot a pilot. She and her writing partner, Liz, were there for a couple of months. When her daughter, Violet, was seven months old, they did a pilot in Hungary for a couple of months.
Once Violet was school age, it was harder to travel for long periods of time. She was in remote schooling, though, so Sarah could decide to do remote schooling in a tropical location rather than among the frozen lakes of Minnesota. With their most recent trip to work on a show, Violet was able to come with Sarah, live at the resort, and spend time with her nanny while Sarah was working crazy hours.
[6:59] The bond between a solo parent and a child
Sarah and Violet have a powerful bond, and they call themselves “Team Fain”. They come as a pair, and there is definitely an intensity and a bond in the solo mom/child relationship that is unparalleled. Sarah still worries a bit about the teenage years, but it is definitely a bond forged in fire through all the hard work that goes into being the 24/7 parent.
[9:16] Traveling with a child as a solo parent
Sarah’s daughter will have phenomenal stories to tell about growing up with such incredible travel opportunities. She has gone to Puerto Rico and lived on a resort, and life may take Team Fain to other places in the future.
Violet had a wonderful nanny for six years, but when the pandemic hit she couldn’t make it work anymore. Sarah also had a lot of support from her stepmom, who came to live with them for seven months before they went to Puerto Rico. Once they were at the resort, a producer connected Sarah to the woman who was Violet’s nanny while they were there. As of the time of recording, Sarah shared that they don’t have a nanny currently. Violet is in school, and for the moment everything is working.
[11:04] The decision to become a solo parent by choice
Suddenly Sarah found herself unmarried in her mid-thirties, and she didn’t think the man of her dreams was going to appear. If she wanted to be a mom, she felt like she had to figure it out on her own. It was challenging for her to take that mental leap, because she had a picture in her mind of how her life would go: She would get married, have children, have a career, send the kids to college, and then have an empty nest. That plan, however, wasn’t happening.
Sarah did a lot of research, read a lot of books, and then decided to take the leap on her own. Her parents were a bit skeptical of Sarah’s plan, but she jumped in anyway. She did notice that when she was growing up, there weren’t any solo parents to look to as role models. Her writing partner had her back, which eased some of Sarah’s nerves.
[14:54] Conversations with others about having a non-traditional family
In addition to having support from her friends and family, Sarah shared that in some ways it seemed like less of a big deal because she was living in Los Angeles. There were all kinds of different families in their lives already, so it felt like everyone would be cool with her choice. If she lived somewhere else, she would likely have still moved forward with solo parenting, but she thinks it would have been harder.
Sarah used to have an arsenal of explanations at the ready in case she needed to explain her choice to be a solo parent, but now she hardly thinks about it. It’s just who they are – they’re a “mom/kid family”.
[17:13] Sarah’s industry and its impact on solo parenthood
In Sarah’s industry, there are other prominent women who have chosen to be solo moms, such as Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron. Seeing others rock the solo mom thing helped Sarah to feel like she could do it too. Celebrities were part of the equation, but Sarah also drew strength and inspiration from following people online and reading blogs about solo parenting who were kind of “everyday people”. It made her feel like it wasn’t such an unusual path. There are plenty of people who are solo parents, and it works out.
[19:09] Solo parent role models
It is so important to see others that have paved the way for us. Non-traditional families are okay. They are the new normal, and all families are whole. I bristle at the idea of broken families, because children take that into their psyches. That is not the narrative you want your kid to have. Rather, we want them to understand and appreciate the admirable qualities of solo parents.
Sarah is also quick to assure us that solo parenting isn’t easy. It’s not rosy and fabulous and akin to floating down a river on an inner tube. It’s definitely hard, and you definitely need to have a team and support from others. But life is always hard at times, and at our lowest, it’s so helpful to have other role models to remind you that you can do this.
[22:38] How Sarah’s experience as a solo parent has influenced her writing and her work
In an episode of Fantasy Island, I noticed that one woman’s fantasy was simply to get some rest. It was a huge episode for the show, as they had three stars from Melrose Place reuniting on the episode. That particular fantasy, however, came straight from Sarah and her experience as a solo parent who was working 24/7. In the writers’ room, there was some discussion about whether or not rest counted as a big enough fantasy. Sarah was adamant. If she could have her fantasy, it would be to go somewhere really quiet and beautiful, and sleep a lot.
When they saw the director’s cut, Sarah told Liz that she felt like they had accomplished something with their careers. She is so proud of that episode because it centers on women, and particularly on women at a certain stage of life that is often ignored in the media. It’s honest, but also fun.
Sarah and Liz also have a podcast called Happier in Hollywood. Sarah’s decision to become a single parent by choice was spurred by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. She says that her daughter is her happiness project. Gretchen Rubin is Liz’s sister, and they have a podcast together called Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Liz and Sarah’s podcast is kind of a spinoff of that show. It’s very circular, because without Gretchen’s book Sarah may not have her daughter. Now she has a podcast where she and Liz get to talk about how to have full lives in an industry that can be kind of maddening.
Sarah discusses her solo parent life on the podcast, and it has helped both her and Liz to personally and professionally center themselves and remind themselves of what they want and how to get there. They also see it as a mentoring podcast for others starting careers in Hollywood. They talk about what they have learned along the way so people can access those lessons.
[30:37] Sarah’s tips and tricks that make solo parenting easier for her
Sarah advises solo parents to plan ahead, and to ask for help. Solo moms can have an independent streak, and may not want to ask for help. While Sarah doesn’t like to ask for help, she acknowledges that the best things she has ever done as a solo parent were possible only because she was willing to ask for help.
Solo parents can achieve whatever they put their minds to. Take inspiration from icons like Sarah Fain — and go big!
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