Shonda Rhimes — creator of hit television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and single mother of three — gets this question a lot: Shonda, how do you do it all?
“The answer is this: I don’t,” she writes in her new memoir “Year of Yes.” “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.”
“If I am killing it on a ‘Scandal’ script for work, I’m probably missing bath and storytime at home,” she writes. “If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I am probably blowing off a script I was supposed to rewrite.”
The one person who’s helping her keep it all together, as much as she can, is her nanny Jenny McCarthy (no, not that Jenny McCarthy). “To do it all, I have Jenny McCarthy,” she writes.
Rhimes takes issue with the fact that working women often don’t openly talk about the professional help they have at home. “Powerful famous women don’t say out loud that they have help at home, that they have nannies, housekeepers, chefs, assistants, stylists — whatever it is they have to keep their worlds spinning,” she writes, “because they are ashamed.”
“Or maybe a more precise way to say it is that these women have been shamed,” Rhimes writes.
These women are shamed for not doing it all themselves, which Rhimes deems “rude” and “sexist.” Doing-it-all isn’t something we expect of men, Rhimes says, something she spends a lot of time talking about with Caterina Scorsone, who plays Amelia Shepherd on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Rhimes’s other thoughts on motherhood include: It’s not a job. “I’m sorry but it is not,” she writes. “I find it offensive to motherhood to call being a mother a job. Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. It’s who I am. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. I’m a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation.”
“To the naysayers, I growl, do not diminish it by calling it a job,” Rhimes writes.
And don’t expect her to bake anything from scratch. At a PTA meeting, she writes, she once responded to a demand that bake-sale goods be homemade with what could easily be a Meredith Grey-esque response (if Grey were allowed to swear on network television): “Are you [expletive] kidding me?” Rhimes said, heads whipping around in her direction.
Rhimes prefers to spend her mothering energy on spending time together instead of doing chores or making things.
“I am devoted to knowing my children, to reading books with them, to hearing stories they tell me and to the conversations we have,” she writes. “To making them citizens of the world. To raising strong feminist beings who love and believe in themselves. That is hard enough for me without delivering home-baked goods to school on a Friday.”
But she doesn’t care to judge those who do those things. “I am already in the middle of a Great Mommy War,” Rhimes writes, “and it is against my own worst enemy — me.”