Grace Farris is a doctor and illustrator, who lives in Austin with her husband and two little boys. (She also contributes a weekly comic to Cup of Jo.) Her new book Mom Milestones comes out tomorrow, and she says, “I’m excited, nervous and grateful.” Here, Grace talks about Texas-style hair, hot girl walks, and the most meaningful part of being a doctor…
Tell us about your job.
I have a dream job situation. I’m an illustrator, and I work as a full-time hospitalist, which is a type of doctor based in the hospital. Right now I mostly work with residents and medical students and pharmacy students; it’s exciting to share things with them and they’re all very enthusiastic.
My sister, who is a doctor, says that Scrubs is the most realistic show about working at a hospital. She says that even though it’s a comedy, it nails the intense hierarchy.
Yes! But now if you tell a 20-year-old about Scrubs, they look at you like you’re speaking another language! It’s an old reference. I’ve had babysitters who ask what kind of doctor I am, and I’ll say, ‘You know like on Scrubs,’ and their eyes will glaze over.
You spent two months away from your sons during the early days of the pandemic, since they stayed with your mother-in-law while you worked at the hospital. Thank you for everything you and other workers did.
It was an especially hard period. Everything was challenging and emotionally freighted.
When you’re feeling exhausted, what makes you feel better?
The only trick that have learned to feeling more energetic is unfortunately… exercising. It’s contradictory because you’re tired going into it, but it helps. I like to run outside when I want to feel like a doctor on TV. But even just seeing the landscape or looking at a tree is good cognitively and emotionally. Have you followed the Hot Girl Walk thing? [Laughs] My neighbor and I were talking about that. Exercise doesn’t need to feel punitive; getting outside just feels good. Also, these days, I want to watch fun stuff, like Emily in Paris and the new Bridgerton.
Congratulations on your book, which comes out tomorrow!
Thank you. I wanted to write a book and had actually written a very different proposal. Then I said, offhandedly, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there were a milestone book from the mom’s perspective?’ The editor was like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do that!’ I drew the whole book in black and white and went back to color it in the summer 2021. That was very meditative and very fun. Now I get to dress these ladies! This lady is going to wear strawberries all over her shirt.
How did you first get into drawing comics?
We moved to New York in 2016, and I was feeling adrift. My younger kid was only 18 months, still a little koala baby with a thousand pacifiers that constantly fell on the subway floor. That’s when I started drawing and posting motherhood comics on Instagram. Back then, I was still under the impression that my kids were doing weird things that no one else was dealing with. Now I know that you can have a kid who is doing something SO idiosyncratic, and it’s almost always universal.
What comics have stood out?
The one that resonated the most was the bedtime board game. It was another example of something I thought only I was experiencing, but literally everyone on the planet is having their kid bring them Seek and Find for a bedtime story. And you’re like, no no no no, I need a narrative story.
That’s so funny.
I was also surprised by the popularity of ‘Sleep When the Baby Sleeps.’ I didn’t realize that was an expression in so many different languages. Someone sent me a version translated into Portuguese!
Ok, let’s chat beauty. How do you care for your hair?
I get blonde highlights, and I’m growing out my hair now that I’m in Texas. Long hair is the style here. I use Living Proof Perfect Hair Day shampoo and conditioner, and then bring out the Revlon hot air brush — aka the Caroline brush! I bought it after her post in 2014, and my hair looks sleek for days. It was one of my favorite CoJ purchases.
What about fragrance?
Le Labo Bergamote body lotion. I use it instead of perfume.
What’s your everyday makeup routine?
For my cheeks, I use the Nars blush/bronzer combo — it’s perfect. I also use Clinique black honey lipstick, which has happy memories for me. I’ve been wearing it for 20 years!
And your eyes?
Wearing mascara and brow gel makes me feel empowered at work. Also, if I don’t, people will ask me, Oh, are you tired? NYX Tinted Brow Mascara in Chocolate was a hasty drugstore purchase, but I ended up being really happy with it. For mascara, I like Lash Blast Volume Mascara in black brown. You need a crowbar to remove it; it lasts forever. So, if I cry at work in the stairwell, my mascara will stay put. There are a lot of emotions in this career.
What is the best part of your job as a doctor?
It might be the worst day of someone’s life, but you can say, don’t worry, we are going to take care of this and you will feel better.
What is the hardest part?
There’s a lot of end-of-life care, which is emotionally challenging, but it also feels very meaningful. There is an opportunity to try to make things as good as they can be. I’ve been very fortunate to see memorable and, honestly, beautiful deaths. For example, a patient’s family played Sinatra for his last 24 hours because he loved Sinatra. To have a window into that is a privilege.
Finally, what advice would you give new moms?
1) There’s so much that you might feel ashamed about during the first year. But almost anything you’re feeling shame about is a very shared experience — nursing complications and drama, weird bodily stuff, issues of bonding with the baby. It’s all normal. 2) The old chestnut: everything passes eventually. The sleep deprivation resolves. The potty training somehow happens. My recent one is reading — we have so much reading drama while I feel terrible because are they watching too many screens? Have I ruined them? But everything is a phase.
Thank you, Grace! You are the best!!!
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