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Most of us know Nora Ephron from her rom-com hits such as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally and bestselling books like Crazy Salad and I Feel Bad About My Neck. Her career as a journalist, screenwriter, filmmaker and blogger spanned decades and touched millions of lives. Did you also know she was the mother of two?
Yup, here’s a woman who did it all and didn’t whine about it.
Think about the debate right now over Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Monthly piece and all of the mommy wars and superior parenting debates that came before it. Now consider Ephron, who graduated from Wellesley in 1962 – a time, she noted in her 1996 Commencement Address, when women “weren't meant to have futures, we were meant to marry them.” Ephron’s New York Times obituary details how she started out as a fact checker at Newsweek and later wrote about the 1970s women’s movement for Esquire. She had babies. She launched a successful career. Er, make that careers.
But before you wonder about “how she did it all” or question whether she ever agonized over her parenting choices, consider this: Ephron didn’t waste time pondering those issues. In essence, she laughed it off. Cavalier? Hardly. Ephron’s attitude was basically this: Smile, embrace the mess, and carry on.
From her 1996 Wellesley speech:
"This is the season when a clutch of successful women – who have it all – give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can't have it all. Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands.”
Refreshing, isn’t it? Ephron rarely wrote about her kids (Jacob and Max Bernstein, now in their mid-30s) and instead turned the lens back on herself with an incredible self-deprecating wit and style. When it came to parenting, less was more, and laughter was abundant.
When it comes to the stuff that keeps many of us moms awake at night, I’m inspired by Ephron’s outlook on life. So here’s my new attitude: WWND. Want to join me? Here are a few classic Nora quotes to get us started.
- "Suddenly, one day, there was this thing called parenting. Parenting was serious. Parenting was fierce. Parenting was solemn. Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic; it was unrelenting. Parenting meant playing Mozart CDs while you were pregnant, doing without the epidural, and breast-feeding your child until it was old enough to unbutton your blouse."
- “Here’s what involved in being a parent: You love your children, you hang out with them from time to time, you throw balls, you read stories, you make sure they know which utensil is the salad fork, you teach them to say please and thank you, you see that they have an occasional haircut, and you ask if they did their homework.”
- "If pregnancy were a book they would cut the last two chapters."
- "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."
What do you think: When it comes to “having it all,” could it really just boil down to laughing more and agonizing less? The next time you find yourself in a parenting pickle, will you ask yourself, WWND?