Zibby Owens is a busy mom of four. She hosts an award-winning, popular podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” on which she has interviewed First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton, First Lady Jill Biden, singersongwriter Alicia Keys, actress Natalie Portman, and hundreds of other New York Times bestselling writers. She’s an author with a memoir, Bookends, out July 1, and she’s launching a publishing company, Zibby Books, and even a podcast network.
It’s no wonder that when she and her husband, Kyle Owens, bought their Hamptons house three years ago, they bought a move-in-ready house fully furnished.
“There was another family who had been living there, also with small children, and we were looking for something that didn’t need a lot of work and we walked in and I was like, ‘Leave the coffee table, books — don’t touch anything, just leave it and run.’ And that is literally what they did.”
The Water Mill property holds a tennis court, a must since her husband is a former tennis pro. “That was the number one thing that we insisted on having at a house,” she explains.
When they bought the home, the couple had been renting around the corner and liked the neighborhood. The beach being close by and her brother living biking distance away are definite benefits.
The podcaster has been coming to the Hamptons since 1979. Until she was 2 or 3, her family rented in Pound Ridge, but every summer since, they have made a home on the East End. Her parents soon built a house in East Hampton. (Her father is billionaire businessman and philanthropist Stephen A. Schwarzman.)
When Owens and her second husband were on a house hunt, there were a few other must-haves, as well, and this home fit the bill.
“I have four kids, so I wanted each kid to have their own room and also to have room for friends and family to come, stay, help out and all of that. I really wanted all the bedrooms, all the kids’ bedrooms to be on the same floor as my bedroom because I think my kids come in in the middle of the night more than any other kids in the world — still to this day,” she says.
The outdoor space was important too. “We wanted to have a pool and room for a pickup baseball game in the backyard,” she continues.
Her family ends up spending a lot of time on the trampoline as it’s an activity all of her children — the 15-year-old twins, a soon-to-be 9-year-old and a 7-year-old — can all do together. “I think we spend more time on the trampoline than in the pool,” she says. “I feel like that was my major mode of exercise throughout the pandemic and it’s not bad at all.”
She loves that the large home affords everyone their own space, but also lends itself to gathering as a family. Her kitchen opens into the living room, which is next to what she describes as “a hangout space where we play board games and the kids have all their toys. So we’re all generally together, which is really important to me.”
“I must say the walls are not thick in this house at all,” she says with a laugh. “I know when someone is taking a shower from anywhere in the house, but I like knowing that I can hear, that I can yell and talk to anybody at any point and . . . nobody’s off, in their own wing.”
When the pandemic hit in 2020, they retreated from the city to Water Mill, from March until September 2020 when school began, again. “My gosh, we were so lucky. I don’t take it for granted for a minute. We were so lucky to have it.”
Her home in the Hamptons is traditional and comfortable. “My home in New York is very colorful,” she says, but this home already had more neutral tones, “which is not something I generally gravitate towards, but it just kind of works.”
“Then over the pandemic, I let the kids all redo their rooms,” she exclaims. The children wanted their space to reflect their own styles.
“My younger son has like a great eye. . . . He’s only 7. I’m ready to have him redo the whole house!” she says. At first, she wasn’t so sure. “I’m like, ‘Really? You think this bright orange carpet is going to go with bright green walls?’ And he’s like, ‘Trust me.’ And then it ends up looking great. So who knows?”
At first, she felt it was unnecessary, but with not much else to do, she relented as long as they stuck to a reasonable budget. “I let them do it and now they love it and take such ownership of their own spaces,” she says of the final results.
She and her 15-year-old daughter spent two days putting up wallpaper they bought on Amazon — “which I’ve never recovered from” — and string lights. “We went to TJ Maxx in the Bridgehampton Commons and bought new bedding and fun towels,” she says, adding they ordered rugs from Overstock and Wayfair.
When the pandemic hit, she had already been doing her podcast for two years and was well-known as “a book-fluencer.” By 2019 she had 200 podcasts under her belt, which had been downloaded more than one million times.
That March, though, “The day after we got there, I was in my parka jumping on the trampoline with the kids and I was just thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what is gonna happen with all of the book releases that are coming out?’”
She says she was “very much tapped into ‘pub day’ and what it meant for books to come out and all of that.” She wanted to do something to help. “So I decided that next morning that I was going to have an Instagram Live show and anybody who wanted to come on, I would just have them on.”
She carved out an office space in a guest bedroom as she ramped up her podcasts to daily episodes, in addition to live shows.
“Every day from 11 to 12, I would interview authors live, back when Instagram Live was the place to be. I got to know a lot of people, even though it was only 10-minute interviews. I developed this whole community of people who would look forward to that as their one piece of structure to the day. Certainly, it was my piece of structure to the day!”
She also started a virtual book club during the pandemic and launched an online literary magazine, We Found Time, that features essays written by the authors on her podcast. A book called, Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology was released in February 2021.
How did she do all that while the kids were home during the pandemic? “My husband was so helpful — it’s insane. And, he’s the kids’ stepdad and he cooked all our meals, the whole pandemic. He watched the kids while I did my Instagram live show and my podcast and I could not have done it without him.”
Her husband was going through an especially hard time. He sadly lost his mother and grandmother to COVID in late summer 2020.
The couple started a nonprofit, The Susan Felice Owens Program for COVID-19 Vaccine Research at Mount Sinai Health System, to honor his mother, along with his grandmother, Marie “Nene” Felice. Even with vaccines approved, the center is still doing research and they’ve come up with a single-dose vaccine, administered through the nose, that doesn’t need to be kept cold, according to Owens.
“It’s hopefully going to be used still for developing countries,” she says.
Owens’ upcoming memoir, Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature, is about her journey to find her voice and rewrite her story. Appearances are planned for the summer. She will be the featured author at Hampton Library’s Fridays at Five in Bridgehampton on August 12 and she will be under the tent for East Hampton Library’s Authors Night on August 13.
In addition, her first children’s book, Princess Charming, a modern take on a princess character filled with a lot of girl power, was released in April to rave reviews.
How does she juggle it all? “It is sort of a mystery to me as well,” she says. “One is that I do things very quickly, I write very quickly. I prepare, I guess, quickly. I read really quickly. I’ve taught myself also how to speed read essentially.”
There are also weekends that her children are with their father. “I do a lot of stuff then.”
She also just launched a publishing company with books coming out starting in January of 2023.
“I have a 14-person team who helps not just do everything needed for the publishing company, but for all the brand offshoots I’ve launched and I could not do it without all of them. I’m not alone in this ecosystem.”
When there is downtime, it’s family time at home that she looks forward to and it involves one of her two favorite spots — a couch in the living room.
“It’s super comfy and I basically live on that couch. I’m reading, I’m working there with my laptop, I’m sitting there while the kids watch TV,” she says. “My husband might be cooking behind me and the kids might be playing in the next room or right there. It’s sort of in the center of the action.”
The other space? “I have to say, I love my laundry room. I spend a lot of time in there. We have two washers and two dryers, which I am very excited about. I’ve even had them go out and I’ve figured out how to fix them a couple of times myself!”