Podcasting grew in popularity during the pandemic as a way to pass the time and communicate with others while cooped up at home, and sometimes even to find a few laughs.
Among the many pandemic-inspired podcasts was “Sisters Cracking Up,” started by Rhode Island natives and University Of Rhode Island graduates Julie Howard and Abby Rodman. The duo recently celebrated the podcast’s one-year anniversary of showcasing fascinating midlife voices, including relationship experts, stylists and working moms.
During the pandemic, both Howard, a beauty expert, and Rodman, a psychotherapist, had time on their hands while working from home, and they spent more time talking with each other about various topics than they had in years.
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“We have always wanted to do something together, and it really seemed like the right time,” Howard says. “We also both tend to be very curious. We love to meet people, hear their stories, and dig into the ‘behind the music’ stuff. I’m a marketer and Abby is a psychotherapist, so we thought our skills were synergistic as well.
“When we told people about the idea of the podcast, the typical response was, ‘Oh, absolutely. Makes total sense,” Rodman adds. “One friend said, ‘What took you so long? This has been years in the making!’ We’ve always been very close and have a deep friendship and loads of mutual respect. Also, no one makes me laugh as hard as Julie.”
Topics include relationships, divorce, parenting and aging
Before pursuing a career as a psychotherapist, Rodman majored in journalism at URI and spent several years as an assignment editor at WPRI-TV in Providence. Both she and Howard have backgrounds in writing from being self-published authors, which smoothed the transition to the podcast format, even though they initially had a lot to learn about it.
“It’s been both challenging and wonderful, but hosting and producing a podcast is definitely a full-time job,” Rodman says. “Luckily, we have each other to share the duties.”
The midlife topics “Sisters Cracking Up” covers include relationships, divorce, parenting and aging. Their guests are mainly women who are going through significant changes in their everyday lives.
“There are so many women out there struggling in this ‘second adolescence,’ and we really get that, because we’re going through the same stuff,” Howard says. “We brainstormed a list of topics when we first started, but we don’t stick to it religiously. We watch what topics are trending with our audience and we also jump on opportunities as they come to us. Sometimes we just come across a great book or article or podcast that inspires us, and we reach out to the creator to see if they want to speak with us.”
“We’ve been fortunate that so many amazing guests have agreed to come on the podcast. Sometimes we can’t believe it,” Rodman adds. “Personal experience most certainly influenced our decision to start the podcast. Many women in midlife start to feel invisible and underrepresented in the media space. We wanted to create something specifically for the midlife woman and normalize that at this stage of life, you will be confronted with many things that can ‘crack’ you, and hopefully just as many that keep you laughing. Hence, the name of the podcast.”
Howard and Rodman draw on their personal experiences when relating to their podcast guests. With the struggles they’ve both been through, they know how important it can be to have a laugh sometimes.
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“We’re squarely in the sandwich generation, and we still have both our parents,” Rodman says. “I have three young-adult sons and Julie has two young-adult daughters. We’re both married and I’ve been divorced. We’ve both struggled with the things life has thrown at us, but there’s been a lot of laughter, too.
“Also, our sisterhood has been one of the defining relationships of both our lives, as it is for so many other siblings. In other words, we’re typical midlife women who get it.”
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As for what they hope people take from “Sisters Cracking Up,” both Rodman and Howard want them to learn something while also chuckling a bit.
‘We define our podcast as infotainment,” Rodman says. “Our goal is to make our listeners laugh while digging into topics that resonate. This is such a complex time of life. As we watch our kids grow, it’s almost impossible not to acknowledge that life is speeding by, and it seems to be gaining velocity as the years pass. It’s also a time to try new things and be bold. If we inspire other midlife women to take a chance on something different, mission accomplished.”
“The most important thing to us is that our listener feels heard and seen and that the 45 minutes she spends with us is a great part of her week,” Howard adds. “We hope that women at this particular time in life can listen to our podcast and not only learn something but feel understood and have a few laughs at the same time. Like you would with a sister.”