In 2014, ABC lifestyle editor Genevieve Shaw Brown tried something radical. She decided that she would eat as well as her children did. After months of waking up early to fix her small children healthy meals while neglecting her own nutrition, Brown opted to treat herself as well as she treated her children, only to find that she liked the experience. The notion of a mother making her own care as important as her children’s is what turned into the new book The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First Is the Last Thing You Should Do. I caught up with the mother on what she learned about taking care of herself (ironically, while she was on her way to drop off some pizza for an event at her 5-year-old daughter’s school.)
SheKnows: In the book, exercise is a form of self-care for you, but some women consider working out more of a chore than a luxury.
Genevieve Shaw Brown: For me, it served a couple of different purposes. The first was getting exercise, which I wasn’t doing. But the second was giving myself time away from the kids, which I needed, and the third one was using it as an opportunity not just to feel physically better, but to feel mentally better.
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SK: Why did you need to get away from your kids?
GB: I was just completely and totally wrapped up in their lives, wanting to know exactly what they were doing at all times of day. It occurred to me that when I came back to them [after spending time away], I was always more grateful for them, always more patient with them. I was able to sit back and look at the wonders of having little kids and appreciate the things they say and they do. When you’re with them 24/7 they really get lost in between filling water cups and snack time.
SK: Maternal guilt is so prevalent. I’m less of a guilty mom than you were at the beginning of the book, but then that morphs into me thinking “Maybe there is something wrong with me if I’m such an independent mom.”
GB: Thus creating problems where problems don’t exist. I don’t know why we do it. Like, if I think about not volunteering at the school for some reason, I start worrying about how that might negatively affect my daughter when she has never mentioned it either way. You conjure up these things in your head that you’re not enough, you’re not doing enough.
SK: What’s the last thing you did just for yourself?
I went to a spin class last Wednesday. A mom friend is teaching the class and she invited me. It was sort of a mom playdate with exercise. It was fantastic.
SK: They say that people who study medicine sometimes become hypochondriacs. How do you, as someone who covers parenting news, avoid second-guessing your parenting after all the trends and studies and fads you encounter?
I avoid it by being a lot more confident than I used to be. I used to read a lot more parenting books than I do now because I was kind of looking for whatever my style was going to be. Then, once I started on this journey, I decided that somebody else’s style wasn’t going to suit me. I realized that a lot of stories on social media are just kind of hyped up — someone’s Facebook post has gone viral. I just take a step back because what’s fine for somebody else is not necessarily fine for me.