Amy Faust (Scripps ’87) is a Portland-based morning radio host, freelance writer and former department head on the IFC show Portlandia. She’s a native Oregonian who’s also lived in Paris, New York, and Dublin. Her daughter Alice is 16 and has so far survived Amy’s highly unscientific attempts at parenting.
Can you tell us a little about being a radio host, freelance writing, and work for Portlandia?
I’m the co-host of a morning radio show in Portland on a station called “99.5 The Wolf… country music.” We started the show in 1999 when my daughter was just 5 months old, and now she’s 16!
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About 3 years ago, we got fired because [the station] wanted to save money, and they replaced us with a syndicated show from Seattle. I figured that was the end of the radio host thing for me and went back into my old careers, freelance writing and TV/film production. So, for one season I worked on Portlandia as the location manager.
This was probably the hardest job I have ever done. I managed a department of 6 or 7 people and worked 13-15 hour days for the most part. Then, our radio station noticed that they had lost over a million dollars in revenue since we left, so they hired us back! I still do some location scouting for Portlandia every season, and I still do some freelance writing as well. And for the past six months or so our show has been the top rated show in town… yay!
How did you get started?
I met my radio host partner when he was cast in a commercial I was producing. He asked me out of the blue a few months later if I wanted to do a weekly show with him, as he had just been fired from a station (very common in radio). I said sure, and we did a weekly show for about 8 months. I quit right before I had my daughter, and then the job offer from The Wolf came when she was just a few months old.
What is the thing you dislike the most in your lines of work? What is the best thing? What are the biggest challenges?
Dislike: waking up at 4:40 am, lack of job security, knowing our jobs are dependent on a rating system which is extremely unreliable. The pressure of having to come up with entertaining content day after day with no support staff to help. Never knowing if what we are doing is really connecting with people or not.
Best things: being done with work at 10:30 or 11:00 AM! Time to myself when I’m done. Getting paid full time for such short hours, not having to go to very many meetings, zero paperwork or other boring tasks, doing charitable stuff that has a big impact.
Challenges: staying relevant to our audience, staying excited about the show when we have been doing it for so many years, getting a good night’s sleep!
How has becoming a mom changed how you work?
So so much. When I first started working on the radio, I had a young baby who was still nursing, so I was ALL BUSINESS because the sooner I could get everything done, the sooner I could get home to her. The idea of hanging around an office and shooting the breeze wasting time is completely alien to me now, even 16 years later.
When your kid is young, you feel tremendous pressure to be with them as much as possible. The guilt is real, pretty much unavoidable, and I would say in most cases the mother feels it more intensely than the father. I was lucky in that my job didn’t require long hours, but in the early days, even those short work days made me feel conflicted.
Do you have any tips, resources, or tools for managing work/life balance?
Well if you can get a job with full time pay and part time hours like mine, I highly recommend it!!! Otherwise, don’t beat yourself up too much.
Working moms do that a lot, and I have come to believe that the quality of the time you spend with your kid is more important than the quantity.
Having said that, you also have to stop yourself from letting the guilt stop you from ever disciplining your child. Moms who are home all day generally have an easier time disciplining their kids when needed, because they don’t have that working mom guilt, which causes them to feel bad about “ruining” what little time they have with their kid. I had no idea I was going to answer this question this way! Interesting.
Also, by discipline I don’t mean anything harsh at all, just consistency, rules, etc. Another thing I would say is you need to have a ton of communication with your partner, because things are going to be very tit for tat when a kid comes into the picture and you’re both working. Try to find a hobby that gets you out of the house (even just an exercise class or whatever) so that you have a reason to take time for yourself. Otherwise it tends to go by the wayside.
What creative activities do you like to do with your daughter?
My daughter is 16 now, so nowadays we like to relax together or occasionally do a yoga or workout class together. When she was younger, we did a ton of stuff: coloring, games, sometimes we made our own board games, made fairy houses, made our own mad libs (still do from time to time!). iPads had not yet been invented!!!
Do you have any advice for moms thinking about taking the plunge?
I think moms make great employees for the reason I mentioned before: they don’t mess around. Very productive. I would present that as an asset when looking for work. Also, the more open you are about being a mom from the get-go, the easier it will be to balance your life. When I started my radio host job, I was very clear about my priorities. If you’re competing against non-parents, it can be tough, as you will probably feel the need to downplay your responsibilities.
Do you recommend any resources (websites, organizations, books, etc.) for people interested in pursuing any of your careers?
Hmmm…not really, but I would recommend having a group of other working mom friends who get together regularly so you can vent and have some fun! Oh wait, I just saw the second part of the question…
I am terrible at finding work. I hate it and I am not a good example of “how to get into” anything because I have always gotten into jobs via strange paths. I will say my best weapon has always been the crazy number of people I meet and know. That’s how I’ve gotten many jobs.
How did you manage the day-to-day process of managing your career with children?
When Alice was little we shared a nanny with another family, which made it more affordable. Then she went to preschool next door, which was super convenient. Once she was in school full time things became way easier and more affordable. Interestingly, I would never have been able to do a job like Portlandia when she was little because of the hours.
In a crew of about 50, I was the only mom. There were a few dads of young kids, but zero moms. I was able to do it because Alice was in high school, but even that was tricky. I often had her visit the set, or I would just break away from the set and pick her up from school, just so I could see her.
Which of your work are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of the longevity of our radio show, which is rare in our business. I’m proud that our listeners were so loyal that they basically bullied our bosses into bringing us back on the air, which never usually happens to fired radio people. In terms of Portlandia, I like to watch the season I worked on (season 4) and think back on all the craziness…it’s amazing we were able to do what we did for such a low budget.
Fill in the blanks:
My favorite episode/sketch in terms of awesome locations is called “Celery.” Writing-wise, I like a few pieces I have written for 1859 magazine, particularly one about documentary filmmakers in Oregon and another about a famous guru in the 1980s who poisoned a town (and also my dad!).
If I could have a super power it would be to be in two places at once.
A famous person I would love to meet is Kendrick Lamar. Wait, no, this is such a hard question as it turns out! Michele Obama, Louis CK, Jane Austen, ok I’ll stop now.
Carrie Brownstein inspires me.
The things I love best about Portland are my friends, family and neighborhood
If I weren’t a radio host /freelance writer/department head of Portlandia I’d be a backup singer for a really awesome act.
If I had an extra 2 hours in the day I’d sleep! Sad but true.