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A Parenting Podcast That Doesn’t Sugarcoat It

Hillary Frank launches a Kickstarter campaign

On her podcast, The Longest Shortest Time, Hillary Frank aims to tell the truth about early motherhood — tantrums, poop, pumps, and all. In each episode, the longtime This American Life contributor conducts honest, funny, intimate conversations with different kinds of parents, such as an anxious new mom (who suspects her baby is an a*shole), a war correspondent (who compares childbirth to dodging a sniper), and her own mother (who cries for the first time about not having been able to breast-feed).

Our only complaint about the show? There aren’t nearly enough episodes. Luckily, Frank is conducting a Kickstarter campaign to fund a second season. It’s heading into its final stretch. We sat down with the New Jersey-based mom to find out more about the woman at the microphone.

q&a!

What prompted you to start a parenting podcast?
Three and a half years ago I had my daughter Sasha and had a really rough birth; I couldn’t walk for the first two months of her life. It’s hard when you see other women with their babies and it seems like it’s so much easier for them. But I thought, Well, that can’t really be true. So I started just taking my microphone and interviewing people.

Was there a moment when you suspected you had something really special?
Probably once I talked to Joyce, a mom with a daughter who stopped wearing clothes for over a month. I didn’t know her, but from the beginning I had said if people had a story they wanted to share to write to me. When I saw what she had written, I thought, I have to do this story. I just have to. And I thought, There’s an unlimited number of stories to tell about this time in a person’s life.

Why do a Kickstarter campaign?
I saw some other podcasters have some success on Kickstarter and I thought, Maybe it could be my job and maybe I should give it one last shot and see. It’s also a little bit in response to an article by Julie Shapiro about how the majority of podcasts are hosted by men. I kind of took it as a challenge.

You make it a point to approach each story with “nonjudginess.” Why?
All of us have different personal histories and we all have different children, so I think that what works for you with your kids isn’t necessarily going to be what works for me with my kids. And if you have two kids, what works for one of them might not be what works for the other. I don’t think there are any black and white answers for how to raise a child; it’s all shades of gray. And if you’re stuck, you need to find the shade that works for you.

hillary frank!

Tell us about the name. Why The Longest Shortest Time?
It’s something that one of my closest friends said to me. She came to stay with me when I was having trouble in the beginning, and she was like, “Just remember — this is the longest shortest time. It’s going to feel like it’s never going to end, but it will eventually feel like a blip.”

Has its meaning changed for you as your daughter — and the show — have grown?
Yeah, when I first started out, it was about a baby’s first three months. My daughter was a year old at the time, so I thought, you know, The longest shortest time is in my past. And then she broke her leg (she was in a cast for two months), and I thought, That’s its own distinguished longest shortest time. Now what I think is that as a parent you go through longest shortest times throughout your entire life with your child.

What’s been your most recent longest shortest time as a parent?
Well, there was the time Sasha pooped in the tub — and then refused to poop or bathe for about a month. I wrote about that a lot on the blog. And I also took a hiatus from the podcast for a while because it was so super intense.

What do you have planned for season two?
I have a ton of tape that I gathered but didn’t have the time to make into episodes. One is someone I know who tried for a decade to have a child and couldn’t (part of that was spent trying to have a baby biologically and part was trying to adopt). It was something that was hard for me to sit with when going through my own longest shortest time. But now I’m really excited to tackle it and figure out how to tell that story.

Looking back, is there something you’d tell yourself in those early, rough days?
I think it’s all about saying to myself, Things change — they will constantly change.

Episodes of The Longest Shortest Time are available at itunes, free. Frank’s Kickstarter campaign runs through October 16, 9 a.m. ET, at kickstarter.com. For more information, go to longestshortesttime.com.

Photo: Stephania Stanely / DailyCandy