If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother: Julia Sweeney

It’s one thing to share your life experiences—your relationship with your parents, how you raise your kids—with your friends.

But to write a book about them? That’s another story. Author and comedienne Julia Sweeney admits that she took a big leap with her latest book, “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother.”

“This is book is so personal,” she says. “Being an actress is a good training ground for a being a writer.”

The book is a collection of essays about her experiences being parented and of being a parent herself. “A lot of these stories have been told here and there,” she says. For example, her piece on explaining the birds and the bees to her daughter originated as a TED talk.

Writing about family is touchy at best—the book’s title alone is testament to that idea. Sweeney admits her relationship with her mother is complicated, so writing the book and the subsequent talk with her mother about it was challenging.

“I really had to walk a fine line with that,” she says, “to know what to talk about and not talk about.”


“It’s tricky,” she says, in that her relationship with her mother-in-law is closer. “She’s wise and funny and it feels like being parented the way I never really got.”

Though she had been at work on the book for more than a year, it truly came together over a four-week period she essentially had to herself. The essays are pieced together in a series of those weeks, during which her brother passes away.

And if you’re looking for advice? Those books are in another aisle. “If I have a problem, I’ll look at parenting books—I have looked for advice. But here, I didn’t really get into sharing. I took care to really craft this; it isn’t venting.”

On the heels of Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s women and careers manifesto “Lean In,” she says she’s thinking about writing about women, careers and motherhood.

“I consider my first job to be a mom,” she says, admitting she’s developed some fairly conservative views in the ongoing debate. “It’s really just being present and not having your head also in your career.”

That’s not to say she’s not keeping busy. There are several projects on the horizon,  including a video production of her show with singer Jill Sobule and the development of a website to market her previous movies, books and more.

Louis CK is the king,” she says in deference to the web portal he’s created for fans to buy products directly from him without the additional costs of marketing. “It’s a huge amount of work,” she admits, but she’s excited to see how the effort pays off.

For now, she’s looking forward to the book release on April 2. “It totally empowered me,” she says, “and I am very happy with it.”