Sutton Foster On Motherhood, New Perspectives & The Importance Of Having Hobbies
The Broadway legend sat down for a virtual chat with Romper’s editor-in-chief at the Mom 2.0 Summit to discuss her new book Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life.
In January 2020, Broadway legend and Younger star Sutton Foster realized, for the first time maybe ever, that she had the next two years of her career planned out. She’d film Younger in the beginning of the year and wrap in time to begin rehearsals for The Music Man on Broadway opposite Hugh Jackman before the show opened in October 2020. Then came March 2020. "Suddenly,” she said, speaking with Romper’s Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Angell at the Mom 2.0 Summit, “what I did for a living didn’t exist anymore.”
But, like many of those fortunate enough to use the last 18 months as a pause on certain aspects of our lives, Foster found silver linings: lots of family bonding with her husband, screenwriter Ted Griffin, and their 4-year-old Emily; seeing her dad every day; cooking, gardening, and, of course, crafting. “Through my career, [crafting] has been — pun intended — the constant thread.”
“I give three pieces of advice: To say yes, to trust your gut, and to get a hobby.”
Crafting is the subject of her new book Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life, in which she reflects on important moments — growing up with a “complicated” mother, finding success on Broadway and beyond, adopting her daughter — through the tangible items she’s made via her various hobbies. (She can look back on writing the book via the sweater and crocheted tank top she made for herself, which are featured on the cover and inside jacket.)
For her, she says, crafting is something separate from her career that is entirely hers. Unlike performing, which often relies on many different people, it’s something she alone has creative control of. Moreover, it’s completely separate from the world of stage and screen, which she sees as important. “I play so many characters in my life,” she says. “Somehow, the hobbies I do are the most grounding and probably the most authentic.”
Foster says that writing the book was born of a desire to understand her mother, Helen, who suffered from undiagnosed mental illness and agoraphobia. While their relationship was often fraught, Foster credits her mother, who was determined to raise independent, strong-willed children who knew they had options and opportunities, with her success. Helen passed away in 2013, and in the immediate aftermath of that loss, Foster says felt shaken. “My mom really pushed me,” she says. “For so many years I just wanted her to see me... that was my early drive. It made me reassess where my drive came from.”
In the process of writing Hooked, Foster had the time and space to reflect and gain a new perspective on their relationship and who her mother was as a person. “So often with my mom I focused on her shortcomings — her weaknesses — and I think in writing this book I discovered her strengths.”
She also shared that becoming a mother herself “helped [her] immediately” in her understanding of Helen. After struggling with infertility, a subject she discusses in Hooked, Foster became a mother to Emily via adoption in 2017, a journey she describes a “wild... complicated and beautiful.”
“With fertility I was trying so hard to control and make something happen,” she recalls. “Adoption was all about letting go because it wasn’t about me at all; it’s about this kid and their story.”
When asked about how she is able to manage a family as well as writing and performing, Foster is earnest and humble.
“Honestly?” she says. “I have help. I work full time, I have a full time assistant ... and we have a nanny. We’re like a team. I’m a good multitasker, but I’m not afraid to ask for help.”
And, of course, the grounding, pleasurable, and exciting influence of her various crafts.
“I give three pieces of advice,” she confides. “To say yes, to trust your gut, and to get a hobby.”