17 Sep 2022

Emily Writes: getting adult about raising children

From Saturday Morning, 9:35 am on 17 September 2022
The Wellington author known as Emily Writes.

The Wellington author known as Emily Writes. Photo: Chris Tse

This story discusses suicide. 

In Emily Writes' latest book Needs Adult Supervision, the mother of two shares stories of growing up at the same time as your kids. 

The stories range from trying to convince your child's teachers on Zoom that your house isn't falling apart around you, to staging a funeral for a sea creature.

The book encompasses the complex emotions of parenting when you're not always feeling up to it, and what happens when you get "radically honest" about the challenges.

Emily, the best-selling author of Rants in the Dark and Is it Bedtime Yet?, tells Kim Hill that nobody is really ready for what parenthood is like.

"This is not what I thought it was gonna be," she said.

"I think that everybody tries to tell you, don't they, and you're like no, I'll be different.

Cover of 'Needs Adult Supervision' by Emily Writes

Photo: Supplied

"Like, I was such a great parent before I had kids because I knew exactly what I was going to do.

"I knew that I'd be great at it. And then when I wasn't great at it, I was like 'What? This is not the plan'."

Emily and her husband co-sleep with both of their primary-school-aged children.

"Before I had kids I was like I will not co-sleep, I'm not interested in doing that," she said, but life worked out differently.

Her youngest child at 7 is autistic and "really struggles to sleep at night," while her oldest, 10, has Type 1 diabetes and requires frequent medical care, so Emily's husband sleeps with him.

It's an unusual arrangement but it works.

"We often have this talk about oh, when will this change? But as we've got settled into parenting more we've thought, it doesn't have to change until it changes."

"We're all fine with it so if other people aren't, oh well, they'll live."

Her older son has had many health woes, including time spent in a coma and long-term damage resulting from it.

"Our whole life is around the really high needs of our kids," she said.

Emily admits to suffering from anxiety even before becoming a parent.

"The hard thing is when you have a new baby and you're like something is wrong, and something really is wrong."

Emily has battled trolls and toxic abuse on the internet, and writing the new book and putting herself out there again in the media is a challenge.

"I think that people really don't like women online having an opinion and they don't like when somebody's really sure of their opinion."

"People assume that when a woman says 'oh, the stuff I'm getting is really bad' they assume that people are just disagreeing with their work.

"What they do is I will say something like 'the flu vaccine is really great and it protects children like mine,' and they will respond and tell me to choke on a ... you know, or whatever.

"And these are men with families in their profile. I get vicious, rapey comments constantly."

At one point she said she was suicidal. She's since left most social media.

But she is trying to take a new approach to sharing her message and understanding herself.

You can be a "sort of functional mess", she said.

"I'm cruising through doing my best, and I guess that's something I wanted to put out there, I guess, that that's what it can look like as well."

In her new book, Emily remains quite candid and unguarded about her own parenting and life experiences - yet always with a bit of humour, as well.

"I want to make people laugh. I think that life is hard and I want a little bit of joy.

"I wanted my book to kind of feel like you're at a party and somebody gets up and tell the most ridiculous story."

Needs Adult Supervision is being launched at the University Bookshop Christchurch 6pm Saturday and Emily  appears at Verb Wellington in November.


Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.