Credit: Rebecca Weiss Photography
After discovering that working as a lawyer didn’t fulfill her, Jackie Friedland made a major life pivot and went back to school to study creative writing. Her decision paid off, as Jackie’s debut novel, Trouble the Water, was just published. We spoke with this mom of four about her book and switching careers—and we commiserated when she shared her least favorite chore.
Congratulations on your just-released novel, Trouble the Water! Can you tell us a little about the book?
Trouble the Water is the story of Abigail Milton, a British girl on the cusp of adulthood who travels to America and unwittingly gets involved with a vigilante abolitionist. Set against the backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, the story is replete with details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.
As a lawyer who pivoted to a creative writing career, do you have any advice for other moms yearning for a career change?
Do something you love, even if it means making a big change. When you have children, especially multiple children, the day is short, so it’s best to fill the little free time you have with something that fulfills you. It can be scary to make such a drastic switch, but if you really feel committed to your new path, you should do your research, create a plan that makes sense and get moving.
How do you balance your creative life with parenting your four children?
The moment my kids leave on the school bus at 7:30 in the morning, I am all business—I’m at my computer, drafting new writing, editing chapters I’ve written already, and brainstorming new ideas. When the kids return home at 3:30, I step away from my computer, and I often don’t look at it again until the next day. If I find myself waiting at an afterschool activity, I might do some proofreading with a hard copy. I try to steal small moments where I can. I also discuss my plot ideas with my family—the kids get very wrapped up in the storylines and often ask surprisingly helpful questions.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Packing school snacks and lunches. At first, I thought the ritual was a fun way to show my love. I would include notes with jokes or hand-drawn pictures, but once I started packing multiple lunches and snacks on a daily basis, the novelty wore off at warp speed. Now I just get stressed that I’m not providing sufficient variety (dried bananas every single day? Really?) or that the snack isn’t healthy enough (because we all know what’s really inside those granola bars). I find the whole process surprisingly stressful.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
I love to sit on the couch with a good book while my kids are beside me shouting about whatever football or basketball game is on the TV. Rather than distracting me, the happy noises just relax me, and I read in blissful glee.
What is your best parenting hack?
Giving the kids jobs. My oldest son regularly cooks us dinner (and he’s pretty gourmet about it). The next two are in charge of feeding our two dogs. My youngest helps set the table for dinner. Most of these tasks sound fairly small, but the minutes add up to legit time savings.
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
I’m so bad at keeping things from my kids. Despite my creative mind, when they ask me something I don’t want to tell them, the best I can generally do is answer with “I don’t know.” My mother always made such a fuss about being honest with me when I was growing up so that I could always trust her, and I guess that attribute has been passed down to me.
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
Recently, I got a flat tire. I decided to try driving with the flat for the mile and a half it would take to reach our local body shop. My father happened to be nearby, so I asked him to come follow behind me and take the four kids in his car, just in case it actually was not safe to drive my minivan with the flat. My thirteen-year-old, who is pretty much the exact opposite of a risk- taker, was adamant that he should ride with me in case something went wrong so he could help. Seeing my child stepping up and finding bravery he didn’t know he possessed in an effort to protect me was one of my proudest moments ever.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Be thankful. Life is full of small disappointments, but as long as we keep those disappointments in perspective, we can bask in the joy of our greater blessings.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
There is a quote by Jacob Braude that I heard in my twenties that I think about nearly everyday: “Always behave like a duck. Keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.”
What was the last book you read?
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak.
Favorite Beauty Product: Flower Bomb perfume. Even when you don’t have a second to deal with how you look before you leave the house, at least you can smell good.
Favorite Form of Exercise: Peloton spin bike (my obsession)
What is on your DVR? This is Us and Blue Bloods.
Favorite App: Kindle. I love reading on my phone.
Favorite Kids Store: Lester’s Kids Clothing. I’m a sucker for the sports gear for my boys and the flip sequins shirts and pillows they sell for my girl.