Staying home all day with children is exhausting in ways I never quite expected. The thing I find the hardest is the lack of mental stimulation. I love to read, I love to write, I love to watch documentaries. I love to learn. I am happiest when my brain is actively engaged. I have learned a lot about myself and about children from motherhood, but I hunger for more. Plus, being home with the kids can be astonishingly lonely. It’s quite the conundrum to find yourself pooping with one kid on your lap and the other destroying the toilet paper roll … yet feel very much alone.
So besides a glass of wine at dinner, one of my favourite ways to keep my sanity is to always keep the radio or podcasts on in the background while I’m home with the kidlets. First thing in the morning, I tune into CBC Radio for my local morning show and then The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. (I love that lady!) Usually I’ll follow that up with q. (If you’re American, you can stream these shows or download the podcasts. The Current handles the world headlines with a Canadian perspective and q focuses on pop culture.) CBC Radio One is typically pretty family friendly, but my taste in podcasts is decidedly R-rated. I have always loved true-crime stories, so my favourite podcasts are ones like Generation Why, Life of the Law, Reveal, Thinking Sideways and Someone Knows Something. Little Miss is too little to understand the content of these shows, but the stories of serial killers and unsolved crimes are not appropriate for my preschooler! That’s why I have a selection of family-friendly podcasts that I love to play when I’m doing the dishes, assembling puzzles, building LEGO, getting dinner ready, folding laundry or really whatever the heck it is I do all day as a stay-at-home mama.
As a Canadian, it always surprises me that not every American listens religiously to This American Life! Every episode has a theme, and the show features interviews, essays, comedy routines and even music that touches on that theme. Subjects can range from the very serious to the completely and utterly ludicrous.
A great episode to start with: Episode 605, “Kid Logic”
This episode explores the sometimes brilliant and sometimes painfully incorrect logic behind what children believe.
Every week, Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark do some deep research on an intriguing topic so that you don’t have to! With humour and genuine curiosity, they teach you everything you ever wanted to know about anything from porta-potties to vocal fry to street gangs. Seriously, if you’ve ever wondered about it, they’ve probably done (or will do) a show on it.
A great episode to start with: “How Feeding Babies Works: The Breast”
This episode is both informative for new mothers and hysterical as two men attempt to avoid “man-splaining” breastfeeding.
The stories told by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are rooted in technology, but they’re human interest stories and they’re often absolutely hysterical. Often times I learn about things that I didn’t even know were things, like Pepe the Frog, Zardulu and Jennicam. Reply All does have some swearing, but the content is typically just fine for daytime listeners, especially since my children are usually doing something else while podcasts play in the background. I love Reply All’s “Super Tech Support” segment, in which they try to resolve some extremely tangled technological troubles.
A great episode to start with: #28 “Shipped to Timbuktu”
This is the tale of how an email about Girl Guide Cookies got sent to the wrong address and the incorrect recipient decided to respond … hilarity and astonishing Canadian politeness ensue!
As you can guess, this show is about the stuff that goes on in our heads. Motivation, bias, peer pressure, empathy, narcissism … there’s a Hidden Brain episode for every fascinating thing that goes on in the human mind.
A great episode to start with: “Lonely Hearts”
So this scam-artist got rich by creating fake female pen pals for lonely men all over America … And when the scam was exposed, many “victims” were grateful for their years of fake correspondence.
Words, words, I love words! I love grammar and expressions and everything related to language. Why do we talk like bumbling idiots when we speak to babies? Why is there only one word for “bra”? Etymology, semantics, emojis, puns … every aspect of linguistics gets a turn on The Allusionist.
A great episode to start with: “Please”
Host Helen Zaltzman and guests discuss how Americans and Brits use the word “please” in different ways.
As you might surmise from the title, this podcast is all about things that cannot be seen. This show blends science with personal stories. There are not very many episodes of Invisibilia, and when you finish them all you’ll be wanting more.
A great episode to start with: “The Secret History of Thoughts”
This episode marks the first time I have ever heard my own experiences with OCD voiced by someone else!
Radiolab is about everything. It’s a show for people like me who are simply curious about everything and anything. Each episode tells one story, and topics cover pretty much every sphere of human interest. There are a lot of intriguing science-based episodes, plus mysteries, history and politics.
A great episode to start with: “K-poparazzi”
The “star system” in Korea is a universe much different than what we’re used to in North America. This episode tells the story of Korea’s first “paparazzi” scandal and its implications for famous K-Pop stars.
Ever wonder where the idea came from for Instagram? How did the toy company Melissa & Doug get started? Did you know that the multi-million-dollar chain of salons offering ONLY blowouts—Dry Bar— was started by a SAHM with a crazy idea? How I Built This interviews entrepreneurs about the winding path that led them to business success. Totally fascinating!
A great episode to start with: “Melissa & Doug”
Considering how many Melissa & Doug toys we have at our house, it was so fun to hear how Melissa & Doug met, fell in love and started making toys.
Stuart McLean … my favourite storyteller of all time. Episodes of Vinyl Café Stories are recordings of Stuart performing the tales he has written about fictional couple Dave and Morley and their children and neighbours. God I love that family. Sadly, Stuart is currently battling melanoma so no new Vinyl Caf, and it looks like pickings are slim on the CBC website.
A great episode to start with: “Dave’s Hypochondria”
The title speaks for itself.
Did you know that some advertising agencies call me an “influencer”? They hire me to use my influence as a Canadian “Mommy Blogger” to help sell their client’s product. I know that what I say about a product (or a podcast) can have an influence on my readers, so I take this role very seriously. Terry O’Reilly explores the evolution of marketing and the behind-the-scenes stories behind famously successful (or unsuccessful) advertising campaigns.
A great episode to start with: “Sue Me, Sue You Blues: Famous Advertising Lawsuits”
Remember the lady who sued McDonald’s when she burned herself with her coffee?
What other podcasts should I subscribe to?