Lauren Schwarzfeld was one of my first mom friends when we moved to Mount Kisco back in 2015. Our children quickly became friends and I gravitated to her laid-back style, so I’m thrilled to feature her as our latest “Meet a Mom” in celebration of her new book,“Unboxed: Essays on Learning to Trust Myself to Stop Doing The Things I Hate.” Incredibly refreshing, honest, and funny, Lauren readers on her “unboxing” by telling stories from her life, recounting life transitions, her sober mom journey, marriage, money, aging, social media, toxic friendships, motherhood, childhood, purpose, work, and more. As she tells her story, she invites readers to do the same, questioning what we think we know and establishing a new course for what’s possible. Check out more below about Lauren and how the book came together in our latest Meet a Mom interview.
Meet a Mom: Local Author Lauren Schwarzfeld
Northern Westchester Moms: Tell us more about your family and where you live.
Lauren Schwarzfeld: I live in Mt Kisco with my husband, Karl, three kids and two dogs. I grew up in Northern Westchester and didn’t necessarily think I’d be back here as an adult and mother, but it definitely feels like the right place for us. My two older kids are at Fox Lane Middle School and my youngest is at Mt Kisco Elementary School.
Northern Westchester Moms: Congrats on the release of “Unboxed: Essays on Learning to Trust Myself to Stop Doing The Things I Hate!” What was that process like for you?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: It was pretty amazing and also kind of overwhelming and terrifying. I love writing, I always have, so I loved being able to make that a focus for the past 18 months. I process through my writing, so my mind has been swirling, and as a result I’ve found myself needing a bit more quiet time and alone time. It was nice to prioritize that, too. I also worked with a small publisher that’s very hands on, so I felt very supported through all of the unfamiliar parts of the process.
Northern Westchester Moms: You get personal about everything from your childhood to work to aging — and more. How did you know stories you wanted to share? Was anything off the table?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: Nothing was necessarily off the table, but it felt important to not try to tell anyone else’s story, so you’ll notice that, with a few exceptions, there aren’t really many other characters besides me. I chose the stories that were most meaningful to me and my journey, and also that I thought could be most impactful for others. I wrote the stories I thought other women needed to hear.
Northern Westchester Moms: Time is challenging when you’re a mom. How did you “balance” writing a book with everything else you have going on?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: I like to write when it’s quiet, which usually means very early in the morning or late at night. It feels really peaceful and grounding. In the summer I like to write outside, in the winter I like to write in my office. I am very lucky to have a supportive husband and my kids are older (10, 12, 14) so hiding from them on the weekends for a few hours here and there is way more feasible now than when they were younger.
Free time is a luxury – I’m grateful I can make space for this – and while I try to prioritize rest and down time, this was really important to me. Because I really, really love to write, sacrificing other things for that feeling was totally worth it. I think “balance” can be a bit of a myth, but time is a zero-sum game… so if you add something, you have to take something away. When you’re making these kinds of shifts you have to think about what’s realistic, how long it’s sustainable and what works for your life. There’s no single right way to do this, so you have to make sure it works for you.
Northern Westchester Moms: I love the chapter on age and especially this whole idea of what we were taught that life is over at 40. You frame that to a feeling of possibility and excitement with a beautiful list of a vision for yourself in 10 years. What are some ways in which women can create new belief systems for themselves?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: For me, it started with not feeling guilty about doing things outside of my role as a wife and mom. That might feel like a huge, insurmountable task for some. It’s hard to embrace the possibilities of the future if you can only imagine it with you in a static role. It became really important to view myself as a full person, in various scenarios and seasons of life. Exploring things, creating new outlets and ideas and getting really curious.
Getting curious about myself and what kinds of things I’m drawn towards. There’s no right answer here, but asking the questions of yourself is a game changer. It can feel really uncomfortable and awkward for a lot of women, and especially moms, but creating a space, even if it’s just a teeny tiny bit at first, that is just for you. Create that space, get comfortable and then see if you can expand it a little. If you love to paint, draw, write (or used to love it), try to carve out 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time each day. Make that time just about you, and see how it feels. You deserve something that’s yours, and if you’re not used to doing that, you’ll have to practice! Doing this can shift your perspective so that you start to feel excited about taking care of yourself in a way that might otherwise just be reserved for others.
Northern Westchester Moms: What are some of your future writing goals/plans?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: The more I write, the more I find I have to say. The more often I prioritize time to write, the more I find my mind racing with new ideas. I definitely see more books in my future – I have lots of ideas percolating. I’m also a contributor for Westchester County Moms’ website and I’m working on a few other online places for my writing.
Northern Westchester Moms: What advice would you give for anyone who has similar interests in writing/creating, etc but feels stuck?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: Slow down. That’s usually my first piece of advice for most things. If you want to create something you need a bit of blank space in your mind to let the words and ideas come together. Blank space and a clear mind are centering and grounding, they help you connect to yourself and give your ideas a way to come to the surface. Also, sometimes you just need a random prompt, something to start the process. If I’m stuck and the words won’t seem to come, I spend a minute or two grounding myself – usually a hand on my heart and some slow, deep breaths to clear out the noise. Then I’ll open a book, any random book, turn to a page, point to a sentence, write that down and use it as a prompt. I’ll rewrite the sentence or a word in the sentence over and over until more words start to flow.
Northern Westchester Moms: Where are some of your favorite places to go in Mount Kisco and the surrounding area?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: Two of my favorite places locally are Mimi’s Coffee Shop and Katonah Reading Room. Coffee and books are two of my favorite things… and it doesn’t hurt that they’re owned by incredible, local women.
Northern Westchester Moms: Tell us more about your upcoming course and how it relates to the book.
Lauren Schwarzfeld: “Unboxed” wasn’t meant to be read like a novel, it was supposed to be a starting off point for those reading it to think about and assess their own lives. An opportunity to think about who they are, what they love and if there’s something more they want or need. I’m finding a lot of people are connecting to the words, but the real magic comes from the action they inspire. The process can be really intimidating and overwhelming, and I’ve found that having support, feeling like you have people on your side who understand and encourage you, can be really powerful. The course is a small group coaching program that’s based on support and guidance, but not a specific outcome – it’s a “come as you are and create what you need” kind of space. It kicks off the week of April 18th and runs for seven weeks with weekly Zoom meetings.
Northern Westchester Moms: Anything else to add?
Lauren Schwarzfeld: I’m really blown away by the feedback I’ve gotten from my book so far. It’s a bit overwhelming and also feels sad that so many women are struggling with these same things and we just don’t seem to talk about them. Women and mothers are such givers, we take care of so many people around us, and that’s great, but I hope we start to view ourselves as also being worthy of that care, too. I hope we start to prioritize our happiness and make sure we have what we need – which means understanding what that is and then asking for it!