Julia Sweeney on her new memoir on motherhood, ‘If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother’

 

Sweeney_def au_Photograph by Lauren Topel
Julia Sweeney’s newest memoir tackles motherhood. Credit: Lauren Topel

Julia Sweeney titled her new memoir after a pillow embroidered with “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” given to her by her mom that Sweeney hated until she had a daughter — who now dislikes the pillow herself. The former star of Saturday Night Live (“It’s Pat!”) and Broadway (“God Said ‘Ha!’”) writes about her long path to a nontraditional family with insight and warmth. Also, refreshingly candid humor: She received her adopted child, Mulan, in China, from a man who entered a crowded ballroom, holding the baby aloft in the air, while a Muzak version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” played from a boom box.



That must’ve been an overwhelming and complicated moment. Did you even register at the time that it was also funny?

Yes! I was so fixated on it, that I missed some of the emotional moment. And that, I would say, is something I do.

You write about investigating your genealogy. How has adopting a child affected your thoughts about it?
People have this idea that in the sea of 7 billion humans, our lineage has a special line from Africa to us. But I’ve been in conferences about it and they say, “In this room of 300 people, if you go back five generations, you’ll have one person in common with all of you.” You’re related to everyone. It’s terribly meaningful. And also completely meaningless. When I adopted Mulan, I felt like I had to not care about my family history. But then I realized, I do care. I just took my niece and nephew to the cemetery, and I said, “So, this is your great-grandfather.” Mulan added, “And my great-grandfather.” I felt bad, because I’d been talking more to them. So I replied, “Yes!” But then I thought, Is it? It’s a gray area.

How does Mulan feel about being in your book?
Right now she likes it, but if we butt heads, she’ll say, “And I will resent you for the rest of my days because you wrote that book.” I just say, “I’m sorry. I know. But when you’re older, you’ll appreciate it.”


Because of the book, does Mulan like the pillow more?
No! She still hates it. And I just looked at it this weekend, and thought, I should put it in the next bag to Goodwill. Then I remembered, Oh no, but it’s the pillow! I’ve infused it with all this meaning now. I guess I have to keep it.

How to tell your nine-year-old about the birds and bees, with Julia Sweeney:

1. Accidentally launch into it by speaking too knowingly about tadpoles. Be proud of answering her follow-up question with, “Women have evolved to have our own pond, right inside our own bodies.”
2. Be totally honest until she asks if people do it in groups, at which point you lie and say, “That would never happen.”
3. Tell the story as a wildly successful TED talk and then expand it into a funny and heartwarming book.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Police warn of attempted assault on woman near…

Police in Cambridge issued an alert after a woman said she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault after leaving Porter Square early Wednesday.…

Local

Kevin Kayvon Edson: Finish line hoax suspect sent…

The man who allegedly left a backpack near the finish line on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings was due in court on Wednesday.

Local

Wahlbergs expanding Wahlburgers fast food joint across North…

Wahlburgers, a fast casual burger restaurant founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg and subject of a new A&E Network’s original series, “Wahlburgers”, announced expansion plans in North America,…

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Movies

Interview: Johnny Depp says he looks like himself,…

Johnny Depp talks about his new sci-fi thriller "Transcendence," not wearing gaudy makeup and wigs for a change and how he's a bit of a Luddite.

Movies

Review: 'Heaven is for Real' tries to be…

The mega-bestseller "Heaven is for Real" becomes a movie that tries to portray wrestling with faith — or at least it tries to try.

Movies

Slideshow: Check out Johnny Depp looking weird through…

Johnny Depp says he looks like himself in "Transcendence." He usually doesn't. Here's a slideshow of his weirder faces.

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Home

3 easy DIY updates for your home

While you're deep into spring cleaning, why not make a few tweaks to give your home a fresh decorative twist? Don't worry, we're not talking…

Food

Martha Stewart's tips for a perfect Easter

Even if your dinner isn't as perfect as hers, you can use her advice.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from stylist and creator…

We hit her up for some space-conscious, budget-friendly design tips.

Food

Wahlbergs expanding Wahlburgers fast food joint across North…

Wahlburgers will open new restaurants in Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia.