7 AM to 7 PM: How Parenting Expert Emily Oster Gets Her Kids to Eat Vegetables

woman looking at camera sitting on rocks

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Emily Oster

Parents don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—we work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep. This is an unfiltered look at a day in the life of Emily Oster, parenting author and Professor of Economics at Brown University.

If you have a young child or have been pregnant in the last eight years, chances are you’ve heard of Emily Oster. The economist-by-trade has turned into a parenting whisperer, providing first-timers and veteran parents alike with data-driven research and knowledge to make more informed choices.

In her first book, “Expecting Better,” she breaks down popular pregnancy do's and don’t's, like whether it's okay to consume sushi or deli meat, the bottom line on wine, and how much weight you should really gain. Spoiler Alert: Cooked sushi from a reputable restaurant is probably okay in moderation—assuming the fish are low in mercury and high in Omega-3s, like salmon.

In her follow-up book, “Cribsheet,” she breaks down breastfeeding, potty training, and screen time. Although the answer of how much screen time is appropriate is not exactly clear-cut, especially during a pandemic, Oster does allow her two children, Penelope, 10, and Finn, 6, to watch about 45 minutes on school days.

Oster's “The Family Firm,” published in August 2021, explores how families can “manage” the early school years. Oster reveals that since she and her husband Jesse Shapiro are both data-loving economists, they spend a lot of time sitting down as a family discussing decisions that need to be made with their kids.

“We look at the calendar,” Oster explains. “I'll say, ‘If you do this [activity], here is what's going to have to change in the schedule. You're going to have to move violin to this time. We reflect on how [my daughter] is going to feel about it,” Oster says. “We spend a lot of time on those kinds of decisions in the hopes that we will make them correctly.”

“The Family Firm” is a practical toolbox to help parents tackle their own schedules. Oster admits that every household has a different perspective, and that's a good thing.

“The most important thing is to recognize that if a decision is yours and you have thought about it carefully, then you should feel confident about it,” Oster says, cautioning others against falling down the “Facebook mom advice” rabbit hole. “If you’ve made the decision thoughtfully, you should not listen to other people. It's also a reason to not make decisions based on what other people say. Otherwise you are inevitably going to second-guess your decision, because it's not really yours. It's just the advice of somebody else.”

Oster says that her household is “fixed” in their schedule. “It's not that it's inflexible. But in our family, structure is very helpful. Everybody knows what to expect most of the time," Oster says.

woman looking in distance

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Emily Oster

It may surprise you to learn that as a parenting expert, Oster tries to keep her own kids out of the spotlight as best she can. She doesn’t post their faces on Instagram, and tries to ask before speaking about them publicly. “I don't want them to be like, ‘Why did you post this? I can't believe you posted this picture of me when I was 8 doing this stupid thing,’” Oster admits. “I try to be respectful. If I'm going to write about them in my newsletter or other places, I try to talk to them about it in person. My younger kid really doesn't like it when I do that, so I've tried to be pretty respectful about not, as he says, ‘sharing his stories.’”

Oster lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and says that very rarely she will be recognized in public. “Somebody yelled at me out of the car window the other day and said, ‘I love your data!’ That was the best,” she says.

In addition to her books, she’s currently writing a twice-weekly Substack newsletter on topics like the COVID-19 pandemic and kids wearing masks. She’s also pushing for public health measures like Paid Family Leave.

Oster is currently deep in research about how children have been learning and developing during the pandemic. She predicts that so much will be understood better in the next few years based on this unprecedented time. “People really changed a lot of the choices they made around childcare and socialization," she says. "We're going to learn more about germ exposure and what happens when you isolate kids for 18 months.”

Not everything will be available in the near-term, however. “Research moves more slowly. It'll take a little time for the kinds of outcomes people are looking for [regarding pandemic repercussions],” Oster says.

In the meantime, see how Oster spends a typical day while writing and researching, along with her “pro tip” on getting her kids to eat their vegetables.


7 a.m. I’ve been awake since 5 a.m. This is an important priority for me: I have coffee and then I go running for about five miles. I do a little bit of e-mail, but this is my self-care time.

At 6:50, my kids are up. We have breakfast as a family. We have an extremely regimented breakfast schedule in an effort to arrive at school on time. The kids are supposed to be downstairs by 7:05 a.m. They are supposed to make their own breakfast and then they eat until 7:15. We spend a lot of time strategizing on what food is easiest to eat quickly. Most of the time they eat cereal, or sometimes there are frozen muffins around. We don't do a lot of cooking at breakfast because it's messy and takes time.

7:15 a.m. After breakfast, the kids get ready for school. Their school is about three blocks from our house, and my job is another 10 minute walk from there. My husband and I work in the same building at the moment, so we typically walk the kids to school and then keep walking ourselves.

8 a.m. I arrive at work by this time. At my job, I primarily I do three different things:

One is research, and that is some combination of writing papers, and running data in Stata, which is a coding program. Then I have a set of activities around writing. I do pieces for my newsletter or book-related work. And then I also do some teaching, which is both classroom teaching and meetings with students.

What I like about my job is that it's basically those three things, every day, in some balance. It’s one third, one third, and one third, but not always that predictable when they will happen.

1 p.m. I eat lunch almost always at my desk. It’s like Jessica Grose’s book “Sad Desk Salad.” It’s not that I don't like other people. I just don't like having lunch with other people, which is something I realized during the pandemic. I used to do a lot of lunches with colleagues. And now I don’t have to. It's like if you didn't enjoy shaking people’s hands—you don't do have to do that anymore either.

4:30 p.m. I’m leaving work now and I walk home. I try to be home by 5 p.m. but it doesn't always happen. There are some days I have later meetings, but I really try, because then I get to hang out with the kids a little bit before dinner.

5 p.m. Raw vegetables are set out for people to eat. My children do not really eat a lot of cooked vegetables. So there are raw vegetables set out when they're very hungry, and that means that they will eat their vegetables. It’s a pro tip.

5:12 p.m. The kids are allowed to watch television—I’m not making this up—at 5:12 p.m. I don't remember how we got to that. I can only assume it was once 5:15 p.m. and then it got moved back. They get to watch TV until 6 p.m. and I cook dinner while they're doing that.

My daughter is really into “The Great British Baking Show,” which I also really enjoy. So that's extremely fun to discuss. My son likes “Miraculous” and “Big City Greens.” He watched “Phineas and Ferb” the other day.

woman in nature looking at camera

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Christian Alzate / Emily Oster

6 p.m. We have dinner as a family pretty much every night. And we eat something that hopefully everybody likes, though it’s not always successful. We usually all like Eric Kim’s recipe for Gyeran Bap (Egg Rice).

6:30 p.m. After dinner, the kids take a bath or shower and we start getting ready for bed.

7 p.m. I read to my 6-year-old until 7:10 p.m. and then he reads to himself for 20 minutes and goes to sleep at 7:30 p.m.

I hang out with my older daughter for a while until 9:00 p.m. It’s great. I love that intermediate time, once my son is in bed. After my daughter goes to sleep, my husband and I have talking time. We talk to each other for about 45 minutes.

Sometimes I will watch TV for 10 minutes before I go to bed. That's when I get to watch “The Great British Baking Show.” I have one hour of television and I stretch it out over the entire week! I wash my face with Cetaphil and go to bed by 10 p.m.

By Dory Zayas
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer. She spent over a decade writing for celebrity publications and since having her daughter in 2019, has been published on sites including INSIDER and Well+Good.