September 11, 2019
Professor Emily Oster: Your Go-To Author for Expecting & New Parents

Are you pregnant? Congrats! But let's get real. There is so much noise when you become pregnant -- constantly being told by everyone around you (most of the time unsolicited!) what you can or can't do. But what you don't always hear is the 'why'. Why do you really need to worry about this or that and what can you shrug off as an old wives tale.There is an unnecessary fear mongering that happens when you are pregnant. Luckily, it is also very likely that you have been recommended the book "Expecting Better" by Emily Oster, by other moms. 


Emily Oster is a professor of Economics at Brown University, as well as a mom to two kids. We love this book for it's no-BS approach to having a healthy, relaxed pregnancy at the same time. 

This spring, she released her second book, "Cribsheet", which focuses on a child's development in the first few years of life. 
In each book, she brings economic thinking, presenting data and information in order to empower her readers make their own decisions around maternity and parenting dilemmas. She's quick to remind us that there's no one "right" decision but more like a lot of "good" decisions as it's based on individual family circumstances. So something that worked for one kid or one family, may not be the best decision for another (stop the mom-shaming!). In a world that's full of unwanted opinions, time-strapped doctors meetings and click-bait articles, Emily's books are a breath of fresh air. 

 

We're thrilled to have her on Team Bloomwell and to share with you our conversation. Enjoy!  

 

 

 



Tell us about how you became an economist focused on health, children and parenthood?  I definitely became an economist first, and initially I studied health in developing countries. But I've always been very interested in the "health" part of health economics so it was a natural fit to turn some of those skills to pregnancy when I actually got pregnant. The book (the first, and then the second) sort of snowballed from these interests. I have found that, among other things, I really enjoy writing for a broader audience of non-economists, so the books are fun to do.

The needs of modern parenting have led to some wonderful conversations in the public sphere about parental leave policies and workplace flexibility, but there is so much more we need to do. What needs to happen to influence or lead the way for more change?
How much space do you have?! For one, universal parental leave - both parents, guaranteed paid, for at least 8 weeks - which would apply not just to those of us lucky enough to work at flexible employers. But beyond this I think we need to work on normalizing parenting, not just during the baby period. We need to be able to recognize the constraints that parents of younger children face in terms of their time. How can we provide people the flexibility to be around for dinner and bedtime? Do we really have to have in-person meetings at 6:30 pm? Why not on the phone at 8:30? Or at 4:30? I think this is important for employers as well as parents, since good people will be lost from a firm if they cannot make it work.
 
After two successful parenting books, can you give us a sneak peek into what’s next? We heard it’s around food!?
Wait, what? I think you're like my agent. What is next at the moment is more of my "real" academic job; I started teaching after being off this spring. I am not sure about another book. As I've said in a few interviews, I do not think I'll do one on older children, for a bunch of reasons. I've toyed with something on diet, which is more closely linked with my academic work, but I'm not sure I yet see an angle.
 
It’s been 5 years since Expecting Better came out. What is the most common comment or question you receive from new moms?
A lot of moms write to say the book was relaxing, which is wonderful since that was a big part of my goal. I get a lot of questions about conception, actually, and especially about the data around infertility. This is an interesting area where I think there is a hunger for better evidence, although the research isn't as good as I wish it was for answering their questions.
 
What is the best piece of advice - in work or life- you’ve received?
In the area of work/life balance: Make sure you have a plan for when the nanny is out sick, so you are not fighting in the moment with your spouse about whose job is more important. My friend Nancy told me that before Penelope was born. She was really, really right.
 
Tell us about your friendship with Amy Schumer? How did it come to be? Are you on a texting basis with her?
I like to joke that Amy Schumer is my friend although I'm not sure she would quite describe it like that! She has been super, super supportive of the books - she read Expecting Better and liked it while pregnant - and I'm really, really grateful. I did get to meet her when I did her podcast and she is just as funny and nice and real in person as she seems in her public life. However, we are not on texting basis :)
 

Hot Seat Questions:
  1. Favorite vacation Spot? South of France (when I'm lucky...)
  2. Best book You’ve Read recently? The Queen, by Josh Levin. It came out this summer and I got to read a galley. So, so good.
  3. Biggest Oh S*!t Parenting Moment When I had to move seats on an airplane because someone shouted "SHUT UP!" at my two year old.
  4. If you have an hour to yourself…what do you do? Cup of tea, book
  5. Last one! What Bloomwell piece would you choose first or give to your bff? The Jana top (launching this fall!) 
Tara Henning
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