Being a mom is awesome but being a stressed out mom who always puts herself last well… that’s not so awesome.
Genevieve Shaw Brown is ABC New’s Lifestyle Editor and now author of her new book, The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First Is the Last Thing You Should Do. She ‘s here to share with us how she changed her parenting style to become balanced, relaxed and the happiest mom you could possibly know!
1. Can you tell me when your “Aha!” moment was when you realized you needed to change your parenting style and start putting yourself first?
Genevieve: It was about when my now 3 year old was 17 months old at the time. I felt very overwhelmed and overall kind of yucky. One of the things I was really focused on at that time was nutrition. My oldest daughter was a picky eater but my son was not and I was committed to making sure I didn’t get another picky eater on my hands. I was really focused on different ways of expanding his palette. Simultaneously I was totally neglecting the way I was eating and I was eating comfort foods.
So here I was taking care of my kids and it never even occurred to me that I should take any kind of interest in my own nutrition. I was standing there one day at work in the cafeteria line thinking. “I wish someone would make me really good food like I do for my family.” So that was my aha! moment. From that moment on I started looking at every aspect of my life and comparing it to my children’s life. I didn’t make a choice to treat my kids better than myself.
There’s an emotional exhaustion that comes with being a mother. I don’t think men feel it the same way.
2. So how did you decide that you were going to write a book?
Genevieve: I wrote an article about the baby diet for ABC and then I didn’t think too much about it. Then Good Morning America wanted to make a segment about it. Then two days later if it aired I got an email from a book agent and he asked if I ever thought about writing a book. I thought the book would be about the baby diet. Then I started thinking about how I spent so much time on my play dates but I don’t see my friends, how I select beautiful outfits for them to wear and I am in workout gear all the time. I went into it thinking this felt strange putting myself first but then I realizes I was a happier mother so I was a better mother.
3. Your #1 Rule is to not put kids first. How do your kids deal with this? Was it tough at first?
Genevieve: It sounds cliche but its true, if Mama ain’t happy then nobody is happy. I believed if I was a happier parent then they would be happier children. One thing that manifested itself is when I decided to take up running again. I needed to be away from the kids for periods of time on the weekend. I was worried about how they would react. It was hard and they were sad and disappointed when they couldn’t come with me but I set my boundaries and said, “No you can’t come with me.” Of course, they don’t understand that they can’t physically go on a 5 mile run with me. Once I got back though they were fine. The more I did it, the more they were ok with it.
Now sometimes when my little 5 year old asks me if she can come running with me I say, you know what? I don’t have to go for a 5 mile run we can run together for a shorter time. Then she’s happy and I’m happy that I’m with her. Hopefully all these things together are setting us all up for a healthy life and a healthy lifestyle. I’m not looking back on their childhood and wishing I had done things different.
It literally never occurred to me to take care of myself. I didn’t even think about it.
4. How do you deal with children who want constant attention from you?
Genevieve: I believe that having time away from them makes me more excited to be with them. I’m much more present when I am around them if I had some time away. If I get home late and they are in bed then the next morning they are excited to see me again.
Instead of wishing their childhood away make the choice to make these years the happiest—for both you and your children. How? By doing the things that make you happy—not by completely sacrificing who you are for the sake of the kids. It doesn’t work. It leads to resentment and emotional and physical exhaustion.
5. Talk to me a little bit about a solution for when a mother is feeling overwhelmed?
Genevieve: If someone feels like they are drowning in parenthood which is a little bit how I was feeling. Then I hope they take bits and pieces from the book that work for them. For me it was about getting everyone sleeping including myself. Apply a piece of it for your own life. Take a closer look at life and identify what’s wrong and make a point to get back on track. Even just knowing the root of the issue (bad eating habits, not enough exercise, not getting enough sleep, missing friends) can give you the tools you need to get back on track.
Make this time special. I don’t know how they could be happy if I’m not happy first.
6. Now that you are focused on eating healthy, what food do you crave the most?
Genevieve: Chipotle for sure. A chicken, rice, sour cream, avocado burrito from Chipotle.
Click here to get Genevieve Shaw Brown’s new book, The Happiest Mom You know