Theoden Janes

The surprising story behind Molly Grantham’s new book about motherhood

Ask Molly Grantham about the inspiration for her first book – “Small Victories: The Off-Camera Life of an On-Camera Mom” – and initially, she’ll tell you that being an author has been on her bucket list since junior high school.

Ask her again, and she’ll talk about how people kept telling her “You should write a book! You should write a book!”

But if you keep pushing, you’ll get to the real reason:

“My mom died in May of breast cancer, and it was a really fast decline once we found out that she was on the decline,” says Grantham, mother of 6-year-old daughter Parker and 3-year-old son Hutch, and anchor of WBTV (Channel 3) newscasts at 5:30 and 11 p.m. “But I had one conversation with her (where I said), ‘Mom, I’m thinking about doing this book.’ 

Grantham explained her idea was to string together dozens of Facebook essays about raising Hutch and Parker, written over a period of 2  1/2 years. Wilsie Hartman’s feelings about her daughter’s dream were quite clear: She should go for it.

“It ended up being one of the last conversations we’d had before she wasn’t able to communicate (very well). At that point, I thought, OK, I’m gonna do this.

Less than six months after her mom’s death, Grantham’s “Small Victories” is done, bound and in stores – self-published, with an initial printing of 2,000 copies. It’s available as of Monday at Barnes & Noble stores in the Charlotte area, Park Road Books, Trackside Trader in Kings Mountain, on Amazon and via www.MollyGrantham.com.

And virtually no one knew this was coming. Instead of spending weeks or months hyping its release, Grantham stayed quiet about her project right up until revealing its existence via her various social media channels on Sunday evening.

That was the place to launch “Small Victories,” she says, because that’s the place where it all started: On Facebook, in 2014, with a post about her very first experiences as a freshly minted mother of two.

The book is a collection of these mom-centric Facebook musings, but it opens with a statement she hasn’t used publicly before – one that belies the smile she flashes in pictures on its cover:

“I like working sometimes more than I like being a mom.”

‘I just really missed work’

A 1999 UNC-Chapel Hill alumna, Grantham joined WBTV’s news team in 2003 after a stint at WLEX in Lexington, Ky., and quickly developed a reputation as a bulldog reporter, diving head-first into stories about gang members, rapists and killers.

She tempered that hard-nosed image with a softer side, often gravitating toward heart-warming/-wrenching profiles related to illness. (Much of that inclination, she says, came from her familiarity with breast cancer, which struck her grandmother and great-grandmother, in addition to her mom).

But whatever stories she was doing, they were her babies. And while she knew at some point she wanted real babies with her husband, Wes – whom she married in 2007 – she wasn’t in a hurry.

So when a surprise pregnancy caught the couple off-guard in late 2010, she remembers having awfully mixed feelings.

“(I thought) ‘This couldn’t have come at a worse time,’ ” Grantham recalls. “ ‘What am I supposed to do with this? OK, well, I’m just gonna be Molly. Doesn’t matter that I’m pregnant; I’m gonna go into jails and interview convicts and I’m gonna be seven months pregnant, big as a house in high heels and just do it. Like, I don’t care.’ I truly pretended that I wasn’t (pregnant).”

She adds: “It almost had to happen where I had zero idea, because there was never gonna be a time where I would have said, ‘Well, now I’ll just take a break and do this.’ Never. I just wouldn’t have.”

On April 6, 2011, she started having contractions in the morning, appeared on the 5:30 p.m. newscast, emailed her 11 p.m. co-anchor with notes on a story she’d hoped to present but now wouldn’t be able to, went home to meet her husband so they could head for the hospital, got an epidural – and insisted on watching the 11 o’clock show from her bed.

Less than an hour later, Parker was born.

“She was great. She was beautiful. And it was kind of crazy to think, ‘That was your human body that did that,’ ” Grantham says. “But in the same breath, I mean, I missed work. I missed people. I missed activity and editorial decisions and intelligent conversations. I was never upset, or wanting to ‘send her back’ – it was never that. … I just really missed work.”

‘Showered today. Small victory.’

After her maternity leave was over, she returned to WBTV feeling overwhelmingly grateful to be back. She’d look for the hardest-hitting stories she could find, then throw herself into them, often shifting conversations to what she was working on when people tried to chat her up about Parker.

It wasn’t until October of 2014, when Hutch arrived, that everything actually seemed to change.

“That first week … I felt pulled in a hundred uneasy directions,” Grantham writes in the book’s introduction. “I didn’t know my own self. Everything was off-kilter. I felt victorious just finding time to shower. So victorious, in fact, I jotted it down: ‘Showered today. Small victory.’ I timidly copied that proud thought to Facebook.”

Positive reaction from her 85,000-plus followers came back like a wave, and she decided to write something again the next week. And the next. And the next. She went on to share impassioned, sometimes fairly lengthy recaps about her kids and how they made her feel – the good, the bad and the ugly – at the end of each of her 12 weeks of leave from WBTV. She’s continued doing so, once a month, ever since.

Posts about Hutch’s helmet therapy. Posts about the disastrous day in which Parker’s most beloved stuffed toy went missing. The time Hutch (and Mom) nearly went nuclear on an airplane. The time Parker was dead-set on a fashion choice she really had no business making.

Though she didn’t know it then, Grantham was working toward checking “Write A Book” off on her bucket list.

‘It felt very full circle’

As her mother’s health rapidly deteriorated this past spring, Grantham sat by her bedside editing Facebook posts-turned-chapters on a laptop – expanding upon certain thoughts, cutting others, and toying with the idea of including reader comments as a significant part of the book (somewhat late in the process, she decided to go with it).

In the process, she was struck by two profound thoughts.

One is deeply personal, appearing in the afterword of “Small Victories”: “I was writing this book about being a mom as I watched mine die. It felt very full circle.”

The other, she says, is more universal: “I would totally recommend to anybody that they should write down what’s going on in your life – even if it’s not this organized. Just write stuff down. Write your kids letters. Do something that gets those life moments on paper, because I had forgotten stuff. I could see who I am as a person – not just as a mom, but as a person. (By the end, I was) totally different than how I was in the beginning. … I was not expecting to look back at what I’d written and see the growth of me.”

Grantham will swear up and down that she never intended to turn those Facebook posts into a book, that her dreams of being an author revolved around a gripping novel, or a brilliantly researched piece of nonfiction.

But her experiences with pregnancy and parenting have taught her that life is constantly throwing you curveballs. And perhaps one of the biggest curveballs of all is that, in a way, her book about parenting honors her own mom and dad.

Molly Grantham turned 40 years old on May 11. Her mother died seven days later, at age 69. Her father, Joseph Grantham, died of colon cancer back in 2006, when he was just 58. (The couple divorced when she was 3 years old.)

“She said she had always thought I would author a book,” Grantham writes in the afterword, again recalling that last lucid conversation, “but … she couldn’t believe I was writing nonfiction about raising children. ‘You’re going to do what I wish I would have done,’ I remember she’d said.”

As for her dad, she says, “My biggest regret in life is that he doesn’t know (his grandchildren). … But I think he’d be thinking this is really cool. He would be more happy that I’m writing about family and kids than if I wrote some other book that I always had in my head that I wanted to write.”

Grantham pauses, swallows hard.

“I think,” she says, blinking back tears, but smiling, too – “they’d both be really proud.”

Théoden Janes: 704-358-5897; @theodenjanes

More Molly

Website: www.MollyGrantham.com has details on where/how to buy the book, and information on several upcoming book signings around the Charlotte area.

Social media: www.facebook.com/WBTVMollyGrantham; @MollyGrantham on Twitter; @Molly_Grantham on Instagram.

On TV: Grantham anchors the 5:30 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights on WBTV (Channel 3).

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