What’s It’s Like Living as a Single Mom in New York City

Author, beauty blogger, and mom Tia Williams lives in Brooklyn with her seven-year-old daughter, Carolina (Lina, for short). She’s written for titles such as Elle, Glamour, and Lucky and is now the copy director at Bumble and Bumble, a full-time job that she juggles alongside her (equally full-time) role as a single mom. With Mother’s Day coming up (four sleeps to go, don’t forget it), we chatted with Tia about how motherhood has shaken up her life, the birth, and her newly acquired time-saving beauty tricks.

StyleCaster: What’s the one thing nobody ever tells you about actually giving birth?
Tia Williams: I had a C-section, and I was under the impression that I would feel absolutely nothing. I felt it! There was no pain, of course, but I did feel this tremendous pressure, a dragging, nauseous feeling as they pulled Lina out. I felt an entire person being dragged out of a tiny incision in my stomach. Crazy. So science fiction!

Tell us about the epidural. 
I would’ve had one anyway [if I didn’t have a C-section]. I was never really interested in experiencing the full-on agony of epidural-free labor. I’ve had chronic, daily migraines since third grade—I deal with enough pain already! My birth plan was very “please just knock me out and hand me my baby.”

What’s surprised you the most about motherhood?
The guilt. With every decision I make for her—from what summer camp she should attend to dinner—I worry that she’s going to be unpacking it in therapy for the rest of her life.

What’s the one piece of advice you give friends expecting their first baby?
It’s so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of mommy blogs and parenting books and nursery/cooking/clothing Pinterest boards, and then suddenly start feeling a ton of pressure and feeling like there are all sorts of standards and rules out there that you’ll never be able to live up to. I lightly browsed but tried to keep obsessive mommy-information-gathering to a minimum. Instead, I just sought out advice and guidance from my mom and aunts and mommy friends. And, while it’s important to be prepared, there’s a lot of on-the-job training that comes with being a mom. You have no idea who your child is or what they’re going to need until you meet the little nugget.

MORE: Get to Know the Most Stylish Moms in Fashion

What books or websites did you read when you first became a mom?
I checked in with TheBump.com pretty faithfully, read What to Expect When You’re Expecting ($8.45), subscribed to Pregnancy magazine, and then winged the rest!

How old is your daughter?

What three beauty products did you swear by while pregnant?
For some reason, the luminous pregnancy glow totally eluded me—my skin was parched and dehydrated the whole time! I drowned my skin in moisturizers. I swore by Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief ($39) and Estee Lauder Stress Relief Eye Mask ($40) that hydrates in just three minutes, and I slathered BioOil ($14.99) all over, every morning and night.

What brands did you wear most while pregnant?
I was a huge fan of ASOS Maternity and Gap’s maternity line. Though, in 2008, jeggings had just become a thing, and I wore a ton of those—very low-slung, and two sizes up.

What time do you wake up, on average, and what time are you in bed?
I wake up at 6 a.m. and get to bed around 1 a.m. I know, I know.

Any secrets to getting your daughter to go to bed?
Nightly rituals really help. We have about 20 minutes of “snuggle time” on the couch before bed, where we climb under a big, fuzzy blanket and watch TV together. Usually it’s “K.C. Undercover” (Zendaya is a goddess in my house) or “Gilmore Girls.” She looks forward to it every evening, it relaxes her, and she knows that a story and bedtime comes right afterward. She goes down with no complaints!

MORE: What You Should Be Doing Now If You Want a Healthy Pregnancy Later

What do you typically eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
Please don’t judge me, I eat horribly. Juggling single mommyhood, a full-time job, chronic pain, and writing a novel, I don’t always have the time or wherewithal to grab a sensible meal—and I’m not a fantastic cook. Oh, this is mortifying: Breakfast is a blueberry muffin and a chai latte, lunch is probably a hamburger or a Thai special, and dinner is whatever Lina eats. Which is usually a healthy kid’s meal from Blue Apron’s life-saving delivery service. On the days Lina’s with her dad, sometimes dinner is just a fistful of Doritos and a glass of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider. I need to add “Second Husband Must Be a Nutritionist” to my vision board.

Has your sense of style changed since having your daughter? 
You know how you’re supposed to become more conservative once you’re a mother? I think I went in the other direction. My skirts have become a tad bit shorter, my jeans a bit clingier, my hair a smidge wilder. I curl my lashes and wear bright-red lipstick to school pickup. I don’t know, motherhood is tiring and challenging, and the instinct is to kind of throw on some pajama jeans and your 20-year-old college sweatshirt and call it a day. I try to fight this as much as I can! Putting in a little extra effort really does make you feel more pulled together, sexier, chicer—even if it doesn’t match how you feel on the inside.

What is your idea of the ultimate indulgence?
The Bahamas.

Any time-saving beauty tricks you rely on now?
I never wash my face with actual cleanser and water! I’m obsessed with fancy cleansing wipes. I keep them on my nightstand, and quickly remove my makeup and moisturize while I’m actually in bed.

What are some of the challenges and rewards of being a single mother?
The challenge is that no one is there to help. I’m the mom, the dad, the teacher, the hairstylist, the cleaning woman, the homework helper, the chef, the therapist, the lightbulb changer, and the trash-taker-outer. It’s tough, not having anyone to divvy up the responsibilities. The rewards? As two girly girls alone in the house together, it’s almost like we’re having a slumber party at all times. There are a lot of impromptu dance parties and makeup lessons and “Grease” viewings (complete with loud, poorly delivered sing-alongs). We have a lot of fun.

What’s the one thing you miss doing that you did regularly before becoming a mom?
I do miss sleeping. And I miss having the time to write. Before she was born, I could finish a novel in three months. It took me three years to finish writing my new novel, The Perfect Find.

What do you do on the weekends to keep your daughter entertained?
I make sure she has a lot to do! She has dance classes, play dates, and my sister and her family live nearby, so she hangs out with her cousins. Sometimes we have mommy-daughter days, where we go to the city and just walk around, out in the world, with no plan. Her observations are hilarious. Those are my favorite days.