Mom influencer Linda Fruits lost followers when she came out. Now she's written a book — and having a baby with her new partner using her ex as a donor
Linda Fruits was on her second date with her now-partner, Maddy, when the topic of motherhood came up. At the time, Fruits, who chronicles her life as a mom of two boys on the popular Fruits of Motherhood Instagram account, had been separated from her husband, and navigating life as a newly out lesbian, for just a few months. When Maddy revealed that she hoped to carry a child of her own, and was actively looking for a sperm donor, Fruits's initial response was a humorous one.
"She told me she wanted to be a mom, and, you know, jokingly, I'm like, 'I have two kids, you can have one of mine,'" the Florida-based podcaster tells Yahoo Life. But the conversation also got the wheels turning, and Fruits brought up the close co-parenting and cohabitating relationship she and her boys' father, Christopher, had been able to maintain despite their separation after six years of marriage. He's going to be in our lives anyway, she remembers thinking. Would it be weird to ask him to be Maddy's donor?
Six months later, Fruits popped the question to her ex.
"I asked him [on my own] because I didn't want him to feel pressured to say yes, and he can obviously say no to me — like, we'd been together for like eight years," she says. "And I told him, I don't even want you to answer me today, because obviously that's a huge decision. Take your time and we'll circle back."
A couple of weeks later, Christopher came back with an answer, and some conditions.
"He didn't want to be a silent donor; he wanted to be the father," says Fruits, whose first book, The Mom Life: The Sweet, the Bitter and the Bittersweet Fruits of Motherhood, comes out on March 21. While having Christopher more directly involved wasn't originally part of what Linda and Maddy had envisioned for the latter's pregnancy, they were happy to have him on board. "The more the merrier," she says.
In November, Fruits shared a blog post announcing Maddy's pregnancy — after five attempts using a DIY insemination kit — and the expansion of their modern, blended family, aka "the Fruity Bunch." The news was covered by the New York Post, and a PDA-packed maternity shoot posted in January "ruffled some feathers," prompting a rebuttal on her blog. But otherwise, Fruits says the response has largely been supportive.
"On social media, you expect the worst," she says. "I think as a mom too, you kind of expect the worst and hope for the best. And so when I shared our story ... seeing all of the positive feedback and messages and comments and love — like, I was just shocked. I'm always so impressed with people and this new generation of acceptance, because there's not a lot of representation in general. So when I put something out there that's kind of non-traditional, I'm always very pleased and happy to see the positive feedback."
The baby, who will be raised by Maddy, Fruits and Christopher in the home they all share with their two older boys, is due in May. Until then, Fruits is focusing on her other baby, The Mom Life. Illustrated and written by Fruits, the book shares her "relatable mom" perspective and firsthand experience with a number of challenges and pressures facing new moms, including breastfeeding, postpartum anxiety and depression, sleep and sex after baby. While Fruits admits going into motherhood with pretty rigid expectations for both herself and her kids, the overarching theme of her book, and Fruits of Motherhood platform, is that moms really need to cut themselves some slack.
"We think that motherhood is supposed to look a certain way, and it almost never does after the baby actually gets here," she says with a laugh. "And I think a lot of that is something that is within us that causes anxiety and stress and trying to uphold this idea that we created ourselves. Society tells us [to do this], but we are upholding these rules to ourselves, you know?
"I think the biggest takeaway that I wish I could just, like, implant in other mom's minds, is that when you have a baby, it's going to look different than you expect," she adds. "It's going to be harder, probably, than you expect. You're going to change your mind, but it's like, just meet yourself where you are every single day. And once you do that, and once you let go of these expectations, you can actually enjoy it more. It sounds funny, but once I gave up, it's actually when I was able to enjoy my kids more, versus [thinking] I need to do this, I need to do that, I need to clean the kitchen and do all this stuff and who's coming over? No one's doing a magazine shoot at my house — who cares? I'm miserable doing all that stuff every day. Like, I can't be present. I can't do all the things."
The book also stresses the importance of moms having support and making time for their mental health— not only for themselves, but also for the sake of kids who can benefit from learning what speaking out for their needs and not succumbing to burnout looks like. Does her awareness of the challenges ahead, in particular the postpartum period, put added pressure on her to walk the walk, so to speak, as a non-birthing partner who will soon have another baby in the house? Yes, says Fruits, though she acknowledges that her new family situation is a unique one.
"It's very interesting because my whole platform is basically based on my struggles," she notes. "Every single day I'm like, what am I struggling with? And I write about it. But [for Maddy] — obviously she's still gonna struggle, like all moms do — but she's not going to have a lot of this loneliness that I experienced and the not having enough help, because she lives in a house with three adults. So she's not going to actually ever really get that part. You know, she sees it, she understands; she is human. But to feel it to your core where it makes you cry? ... She's just not going to know what it's like, and I would never want her to either. It's just kind of funny how, because we are together, what I know and write about, she may not fully experience, and I think that's interesting and pretty cool."
But she does already see her partner feeling the expectation to be the "perfect mom." Fruits says it's taken some "reparenting" to help her alleviate that pressure. "[We're] unpacking why we feel a certain way about things, which I didn't have anyone to do with before I had a child," she explains.
Mom identity is another big talking point in The Mom Life. When she started her platform, Fruits was a married mom with long blond hair; she's now in love with a woman and rocking a dark pixie cut and tattoos.
"I was definitely trying to look and feel the part," she says of her former look. "Sometimes we dress ourselves on the outside to match how we feel on the inside, and I was trying to feel like a good mom, and so I thought that I had to look a certain way. Women have this preconceived notion of what beauty is and we try to live up to those standards at some point in our lives. Maybe not all of us, but I definitely succumbed to that, because I was tall and they're like, oh, she's tall and blond. And I'm like, OK, these are things that people like. So I kept doing that until I realized that it wasn't who I was.
"I wanted tattoos," she continues. "I wanted this stuff, but everyone's like, 'No, don't ruin your body.' But it's not ruining your body if you want it. So for my kids, they're growing up with the notion that they don't have to wait 'til they're 32 to do that. They can be themselves, whether it's sexuality, how they want to dress ... I am going to be supportive of them. Most of our parents, they were like, 'Don't get a tattoo, you'll never get a job. Don't cut off your hair. No man's gonna love you' — all these things that we just say, we don't realize how harmful they can actually be."
Fruits lost "a bunch of followers" when she first came out as a lesbian. But she was also flooded with support that had her in tears — not to mention questions from "countless" moms who wanted to know more about coming out later in life, whether it was scary being with a woman for the first time and if she had any regrets.
"I think a lot of people expect everyone to be the same person their whole life," she says. "And it's not that I've changed, it's just that I'm talking about it. And it reminds me that what I'm doing is important. If nobody cares that I came out and I changed how I identify my sexuality, then it's like no big deal, right? We're past that. But the fact that people are still upset about it reminds me that I have to keep talking about it. It's important that I am the representation for someone else."
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