Does anyone ever have enough? I know I don’t. I’m a full-time working mother with a husband in graduate school with an assload of responsibility and very little time for relaxin’. In fact, it’s such an issue that even during the 20 minutes I have to myself every day, I end up doing some sort of housework just to make up for lost time because I’m not sure if a dirty kitchen will send me over the edge. January started the beginning of a very busy semester for my husband which means he’s in class 3 nights a week and I’m on mom-duty. Not that I really mind being on mom-duty, but weeks on end in the dead of winter with no time for yourself makes for a nutty lady. (Queue The Shining reference). I don’t even get that thirty minutes on the drive home to myself since there is a 2 year-old in the back seat who is eager to sing “Super Freak” or “Happy Birthday” to every single person she knows in between bouts of telling me she’s “stuck” in her car seat. Um. Yes, yes you are, kiddo. She can’t quite grasp that it’s for her own good.
The nights when my husband is home, all three of us eat dinner together and then he takes her upstairs for her bath. It’s during this 20 minute sweet spot between clearing the table and bath time that I soak up my most recent method of relaxation: THE PODCAST. I shove in some ear buds and crank up the ol’ iPhone, and PRESTO: 20 uninterrupted minutes of bliss. On the rare occasion I do get a morning or evening commute alone in the car, the podcast takes up every minute of drive time. I even listen to them in the five minutes it takes me to drive from my daughter’s preschool to my office parking lot.
When I lived in New York a whopping ten years ago, I discovered the treasure trove that is “This American Life” through a friend who worked for the TV show version of the show. I downloaded them on my first generation iPod to listen to as I made my morning commute down Lexington Avenue from my apartment on the Upper East Side. Even in the dead of winter, I’d walk the 25 blocks down to my mid-town job just so I could soak up the years of backlog I had missed. I still listen to it weekly.
Last year, the Serial craze hit nearly everyone I knew (myself included) and I was craving more intelligent story-telling. In an embarrassing moment of not understanding my own technology, my husband pointed out that PODCAST app on my iPhone and I felt like 24 year-old me discovering a back catalog of This American Life episodes in the dead of a New York City winter. It was like he just handed me the key to the universe… the PODCASTING universe, that is. And now I’m obsessed. Jessica and I were texting the other day as we often do and she was like, “HEY. Do you know any good podcasts?” And ya know what? This is totally in my wheelhouse. Yes, Jessica. I do know some good podcasts and I have made a list for all of you on-the-go moms.
If you were a fan of the story-telling of SERIAL, this is the podcast for you. It focuses on the strange and often-times overlooked elements of a crime story. One episode is about a scuba diver who dangerously takes on a dive to the bottom of the La Brea tar pits to recover evidence. One episode is about a white-collar criminal who shows up to serve his minimum security jail sentence and discovers that Louisiana was housing their white collar criminals in the last remaining leprosy colony in the United States. It’s intelligent and fairly short. They clock in at just under 25 minutes. *SOMETIMES not safe for kids
WTF with Marc Maron
You probably already know about this one. But if you don’t, it will bring you hours of listening enjoyment. I was late to the party on this one, too, but if you don’t already know, WTF is long-form interviews with comedian Marc Maron as the host. He interviews everyone from fellow comedians to musicians to President Obama. It’s honestly like listening to someone’s therapy session. I have no idea how he gets people to discuss the things they do. It’s fascinating and he’s very respectful of his guests. There are over 500 episodes. Be warned: lots of cussing, so maybe not great with your kids in the car. Also, I normally fastforward through the first 15-20 minutes of his monologue and ads to get to the meat of the subject matter. Favorite Episodes: Carl Labove, Lucinda Williams,
Love + Radio
A recently discovered gem. These are in-depth interviews/story-telling on a variety of subjects. It’s hard to pin down, but they are excellent. They’re emotionally complicated. Definitely not to listen to in ear-shot of kids, though. Some of the subject matter is sexual in a way that doesn’t seem suitable for children. Or adults. But whatever. Start with the episode called “The Living Room.” It will make you cry in your car.
Death, Sex, and Money
Aptly titled since all of the episodes deal with one of the aspects listed. My favorite was a five part series they did on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 10 years after the storm.
THIS is fictional. And it’s surprisingly SCIENCE fiction, which I normally detest. But it was great story telling that harkens back to the whole Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” situation. It’s structured like a podcast but tells the story of an experimental town where all of the people mysteriously disappear.
Another fictional, science-y situation that I didn’t anticipate enjoying. The premise is that the government has asked a group of linguistics specialists to decode a radio signal sent in the 1940s from space. They’re only 10 minutes long, so you don’t feel like you’ve invested too much time. This could be fun for older kids! A little scary, but not too much for a pre-teen I’d say.
LISTEN TO THIS. Seriously. This is where grown-ass people get on stage in front of an audience and share really, really awful humiliating things they created as teenagers/kids. They will read you journals, letters, poems they wrote, etc. This solidifies the rule I have that I don’t want to be friends with you if you didn’t have an awkward phase. Because awkward phases are the best and teach you how to be a REAL HUMAN.
This is a new podcast from the New York Times. Each week features a famous voice (think Judd Apatow, Sarah Paulson, Jason Alexander) reading an essay about an aspect of love and a subsequent interview with the author of said essay. It’s lovely. It’s sad, it’s funny, it is poignant. Thoroughly enjoyable.
These are just a few I really enjoy. If you have some you suggest, I would love to know! Happy listening, folks. xo