In my neighborhood in Nashville, I’m never not on the lookout for Connie Britton. She and I are recurrent patrons of a favorite local hipster watering hole/hotel, and I’m quite sure I’ve spotted the iconic redheaded actor/activist among her equally chic — and recognizable — squad of tri-coastal pals (yes the third coast is Nashville’s Cumberland River, OKAY?). I’ve thought about going over, saying hi, praising her amazing work with the United Nations Development Programme, introducing myself as a fellow single mom of a son — a kindred spirit, if you will. But…I haven’t quite drummed up the courage to accost her in the wild yet.
That said, as I tell Britton when we sit down to chat in advance of her appearance at our SHE Media #BlogHer19 Creators Summit this week, the next time I spot her gracefully lifting a wineglass while my kid races hazardously around the bar’s outdoor fire pits, I will definitely come say hi. (“Oh my god you have to!” she replies).
SheKnows: Okay, deal. In the meantime, we’re so excited to have you speak at BlogHer; it’s always such an amazing energy to be among so many women entrepreneurs in the digital space.
CB: I’m excited too. It’s funny because I’m not really — I sort of joke about how I’m so not social media-savvy.
SK: Wow, but you seem like it on those platforms.
CB: Ha, no I don’t, but you’re kind. I have such an admiration for people who are really capable of utilizing that platform for good. That’s one of the things I’m excited about in terms of BlogHer. I resisted social media, joining Twitter and Instagram and all that, for so long. I finally did it when I became a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN. I figured, well, this is a good reason to do it. So I’m excited to be in a place where people are actually thinking about using social media to encourage more expansive conversations.
SK: Speaking of social media, what’s your approach to raising a kid — 8-year-old Yoby — while you’re in the spotlight? You don’t share your son much on social media; I imagine that’s a conscious choice?
CB: It is a conscious choice, and it’s funny because every once in awhile, I’ll run across a picture of him and I feel like, oh my gosh I want to post that. And I really have to have the conversation with myself about do I post it? I’ve posted him a few times but I try to keep it very subtle, and I feel like that’s respectful to him. And I’m a very private person, which is part of why I resisted social media in the first place. But you know, at the same time, I love my son and he’s such a big part of my life, and it’s hard NOT to post him because of that. He’s just such a big part of my life.
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Human Rights Day. I love this day for several reasons. It allows us to reflect on ourselves as human beings, and who we are to each other. This is not a political day, we are all human regardless of beliefs or leanings. So on this day we can really look within, feel gratitude for the rights we have attained, some of which we have had to fight hard for and some we have been privileged to be granted as fundamental. And in that acknowledgment and gratitude we can feel empathy and compassion for those around us whose rights are compromised. We can feel the power of our own rights help us stand up for the rights of others, knowing that we are all equal as human beings and entitled to dignity, safety, and freedom. Check out @unitednations Universal Declaration of Human Rights at UN.org. Today and every day #standup4humanrights. @unitednationshumanrights @undp
SK: Do you and Yoby have any school-night or school-morning routines that really work for you?
CB: We have lots of them; it’s always changing. Like right now, he’s learning about chores, and we have three dogs and a cat — which is, by the way, insane, we have basically a zoo in our house — so we have our morning ritual where I get up and get breakfast and get his lunch ready for the day, and now we’re feeding the animals together, so that’s really fun. The point is he’s being helpful to Mom — but generally it takes longer with him “helping,” ha. But we do it.
Our nighttime ritual, which I love and cherish: I’ve read to him at night since day one, and that’s such a precious time for him, and it’s really fun. I mean, you have a 3-year-old so you’ll discover this later but what’s really fun is I have my son read to me and then I read to him. That’s a really fun progression. I’m going to hold onto that as long as I can; I’ll read to him when he’s 25 if he lets me!
SK: That’s wonderful. What’s your favorite thing to read him?
CB: Probably Ferdinand [by Munro Leaf]. I love Ferdinand; it’s always been my all-time favorite, but Yoby actually brought this really great book home from the library recently called The Bad Seed [by Jory John]. We finished it and I was like, honey, I love that book. It’s actually pretty deep, about this guy who thinks of himself as a bad seed, but he basically has major childhood trauma, and after that he feels bad all the time. It’s actually a beautifully written book. My kid is at this cute age where he says “he was a bad seed — a BAAAAAD seed!” Very dramatically. He gets super into saying it.
SK: Oddly enough my son is super into saying “Ferdinand” when we read that! But he says it wrong, he says it “FUR-DEMAND.” I love it.
CB: The cutest. My son still says “wathclosh” instead of “washcloth” and I want him to say it forever.
SK: What’s Yoby’s favorite thing to eat these days? Neil Patrick Harris just told us his kids love sea urchin and we were shocked. Is this a common celeb-kid thing? Liking to eat really elegant stuff?
CB: Honestly, you’ll laugh because if you ask Yoby what his favorite food is, he’ll tell you it’s truffle fries!
SK: No! It is a thing!
CB. Yep. And, wait for it: The other thing he lives for that he’ll consume in massive quantities is caviar. It’s amazing. Here’s a secret: Most kids like caviar because it’s majorly salty. If you actually introduce a kid to caviar they generally like it.
SK: Wow. Adding it to the list. How often do you bring Yoby on your travels? Any kid-travel tips?
CB: Oh my god that kid has traveled so much in his life. I actually don’t love traveling without him; it makes me really sad because I miss him so much and we’ve become such a travel team. But now he’s in school and I can’t just drag him with me everywhere. That’s really changed for me. I think twice about traveling now, because it needs to be for a damn good reason if I’m going to leave my kid.
One travel tip I was taught when I was living in Nashville and Yoby was much younger, it was advice given to me by Nicole Kidman, who would of course drag her kids to Australia and everywhere else. Yoby was at that age when travel was really hard. Nicole said, “oh, we’ve got that sorted.” I was like, “How??” And she said, “I have an iPad and the only time they’re allowed to use it is on a plane.” And that was the first time I gave Yoby an iPad! To this day, he only uses his iPad on the plane. This week he even said, “Mom, I wish I was going with you [to BlogHer19] so I could play this new game on my iPad. I’d just stay on the plane and keep playing while you do all your stuff!”
SK: I’m also a single mom of one son, and I’m always trying to make sure my son has strong male adult role models in his life. Is that something you make a concerted attempt to cultivate for Yoby as well?
CB: I do. I’ve done the same thing. I feel really fortunate because I have amazing men in my life, men friends — you probably know some of them from East Nashville, Jed [Jenkins] and Cory and all those people. So I absolutely commission them to take on that kind of role, and I’ve been really fortunate because I do have really special men in my life who are like, “I’m going to take Yoby out and do this,” and they take it very seriously. The other thing I’ve done is I’ve hired male nannies, and I have to say, I’m on my third nanny and I’ve had such amazing experiences with having a nanny who is a guy.
SK: That’s so great. Do you call them “mannies” or is that awful?
CB: Ha, you know, I feel like with women, you know how you’re not supposed to say “actress” and just say “actor” and that kind of thing? I just call him a nanny, I’m like, why should I have to specify? He’s a nanny!
SK: Totally. Would you adopt again? Do you think adding a child would overcomplicate things or make it easier by giving him a playmate?
CB: You know, somebody said to me once that you don’t want to be outnumbered by your children, which I think makes really great sense. As long as I’m single, I don’t know that I’ve thought about it so often. Because on one hand I would love to have a sibling for him, but then I go the other direction and think about how he and I have become such a great little team that I almost wouldn’t want to rock the boat. But I’m always open, for sure.
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SK: I loved your piece in InStyle with my dear friend Laura Norkin. How have you shared those recent experiences at the U.S.-Mexico border with your son?
CB: We’ve talked a lot about people who are coming from difficult circumstances; I put it in context where he can understand it. Honestly, he’s so used to me going off and doing my do-gooder things, so for him he’s still at an age where he’s less concerned about what’s happening for them and more concerned about “when’s Mom coming home?” But that was a really powerful experience, and it helped for me to have more insight into the magnitude of this humanitarian crisis. I think there are a lot of different elements to that; I lose sleep every night thinking about what’s happening on our side of the border, so being able to see what’s happening on the Mexico side was very illuminating. Frankly, there’s not transparency about what’s happening, and there needs to be. If you want to try to do something, the best thing we can do is educate ourselves.
SK: How do you talk about race with your son? It is not an easy (or fair) time to be a Black man in America — how do you prepare him?
CB: I haven’t done it as much as you might think. He’s just reaching an age where he’s starting to have an awareness of that. As he’s getting older it will organically become a conversation; he goes to a very, very progressive school that’s all about social justice, and they have a lot of focus on that at school, so as he gets older I’m going to try to press him about all that stuff. Truthfully, it is so hard for me to remember that we’re different races. I just don’t see it, and we talk about it, but it’s an interesting thing; I never want it to be too sort of diminishing for him, but at the same time I want him to have an understanding of where he comes from. That’s the main focus.
Really what’s important for me up to this point has been more about encouraging and solidifying his Ethiopian heritage. We’ve already gone back to Africa twice since he was adopted, basically every other summer, and this summer we didn’t go and he was kind of like, “Mom, wait — when’s our Africa trip?” It’s very important to me that he has a real sense of pride and ownership about where he comes from. And if that’s a baseline and foundation, it will strengthen him as he grows up as a Black boy and a Black man in America.
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