In time for Mother’s Day, journalist-turned-author Grace Timothy talks to us about books and beauty, me-time and memoirs…
Motherhood? “It’s the identity crisis that no woman is immune to, belying the credo that being a mother is the most natural thing a girl could do.” Meet Mum Face: The Memoir of a Woman who Gained a Baby and Lost Her Sh*t – journalist-turned-author Grace Timothy’s searingly-honest, blindingly-funny new book. Tackling a topic that might seem taboo – after all, motherhood is a serene, empowering series of experiences, not the loss of your own identity, right? Right in time for Mother’s Day, we’re delighted to quiz Grace – talking all things from motherhood, me-time and memoirs to books and becoming a different kind of writer.
What books would you recommend buying for mums?
When I first had my daughter, I really liked Your Baby, Week By Week because it was sort of no-nonsense, practical advice, seemingly without an agenda. It felt like with the other baby books you had to commit to being a certain kind of parent. Then I just really needed a laugh, so now I’d recommend Unmumsy Mum, Parenting The Sh*t Out of Life and Scummy Mummies! Now she’s older I dip in and out of three books when I have a question: Calm Parents, Happy Kids (I’m still working on that one), Raising Girls and Playful Parenting.
How about for daughters – both grown-up and littlies?
My favourites are the ones from my own childhood – The Worst Witch, The Paperbag Princess, anything by Shirley Hughes – but I also love Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus and The Snail and The Whale, which I’ve discovered via my kid. For grown ups – SO many! Most recently I’ve enjoyed Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
Any reading memories with your mum?
I’ll never forget snuggling on her lap for another Alfie & Annie Rose story, because I knew she liked them as much as I did. But for years now we’ve passed books back and forth, especially John Irving. It’s such a nice thing to share with your mum.
How have you found the transition from writing articles to writing books? Any tips?
I honestly thought writing a nonfiction book would be like writing a whole bunch of articles and then knitting them together, but it turns out this kind of memoir is NOTHING like that! I don’t think I have any tips, but I would say at the proofing stage, read it out loud. Because when I did the audio recording I spotted things I would have changed!! But in general, I think once you’ve mapped out what you’d like in the book, just start writing. Don’t worry about what’s coming out on the page, you can go back and finesse afterwards. Just get started!
What was the last book you were recommended – and the book recommended to you?
My friend Isabel recommended the Nina Stibbe books and now I’ve read them all, I’ve given them to my Mum to borrow (BORROW, mum). Love, Nina is brilliant. I recommended Cat Marnell’s How To Murder Your Life to all my mates in the beauty industry – it’s such a rollercoaster but also has that insider look at a world we all know so well.
Any favourite memoirs?
I absolutely love Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl and I really enjoyed Alexandra Shulman’s Inside Vogue. I’ve got Jenifer Lewis’ Mother of Black Hollywood and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened on my bedside table, waiting… just realised this whole list is quite memoir-focused, actually.
What does your me-time look like?
If it’s just me, a book in bed, or if we’re being realistic, on a train, because I usually fall asleep as soon as I get into bed these days. If there’s two of us I love TV. I just love it.
Your must-have me-time products?
I don’t have the same time for indulging myself these days, with a kid in tow, so instead I make the most of those moments I do get. That has meant rather than lounging in the bath for hours on end, I use a really good shower oil or body wash – my current favourite is Diptyque Eau Rose Shower Foam – to feel spoilt and sexy. Or hand cream – I used to just use whatever I’d been sent that looked pretty or smelt good, but now I’m really discerning, and it has to counter all the Miltons and wet wipes I use to clean with… Apicare Repair Me Handcream is AMAZING.
Mother’s Day celebrations – what are you planning this year?
I just want to sleep, but then when the lie-in happens I find myself awake wondering what they’re up to… dammit! I think my favourite way to spend it is over a long (well, we-have-a-kid long) lunch at The Richmond Arms in West Ashling, with someone else driving. I think the ideal is where nobody bickers, where the 5-year-old is full of joy all day long and nobody gets hangry, so frankly I think it’s better to just treat it as any other Sunday and not build it up. Plus Mother’s Day has made me feel uncomfortable ever since my friend lost her mum when she was 10 – it’s a horrible day for people without mums or who aren’t mums and want to be. So low key is GOOD in my book.
Who are your favourite writers?
Caitlin Moran because she says things you FEEL but don’t know how to articulate. And she makes me laugh. Bryony Gordon because she shines a light on mental health issues in a way that makes for a brilliant story but also makes you feel like she’s holding your hand whenever you recognise her feelings in yourself. John Irving because the stories are pure escapism, they’re the kind that transport you somewhere, but somewhere real that you know will be so true to his descriptions. It’s like travel and voyeurism in one. I still love Roald Dahl because you get different things from his books in adulthood. Stephen Fry because his books are moreish.
Mum Face: The Memoir of a Woman who Gained a Baby and Lost Her Sh*t by Grace Timothy is published by HarperCollins, and available to buy online here. You can also follow Grace on Twitter and on Instagram.