Being a mom is hard. It’s hard if we work in the home, outside the home, have one kid or four. And while being a mom is hard, period, being a mom in the spotlight — oh, let's say a spotlight that spans close to 3 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, plus a modeling résumé as revolutionary as Twiggy's — is a whole other (difficult) ball game.
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with supermodel and mom extraordinaire Coco Rocha in Manhattan. I was impressed by her ability to entertain daughter Ioni between interviews and photos — and still remain so chill and easy to talk with. Read on for Rocha's tips on going from one child to two, mom-shaming, formula feeding, mom fashion and what three things she finds most important in a baby's first year of life.
She Knows: What was it like going from one child (Ioni, 2) to two (Iver, 6 weeks)?
Coco Rocha: It’s been pretty good actually. I’m one of those people who expects and prepares for the worst, and I’ve been happily surprised so far at how easy the transition has been. Iver is such an amazing baby, a really good boy. Ioni is a hilarious older sister! She wants kisses and hugs and cuddles all the time. The first time he cried in the hospital, she wasn’t having it. She doesn’t like when people are upset. She’s so kind.
SK: That’s amazing. Can she share that kindness with the world?
CR: [Laughs] Yes, she should.
SK: Have you noticed any major differences between the two in their first weeks of life?
CR: When Iver came out, he cried for an hour straight. Ioni did not do that. The nurses kept telling me, “Oh, that’s good! That means his lungs are strong!” But all I could think was, "Ioni didn’t do this!" Then I freaked out a bit because I realized I was already comparing my kids. Iver also had a bit of an early reflux issue that Ioni didn’t have, but other than that, they’ve been the same baby. So much so that I’m often, like, "She — I mean he — I mean she. Who am I? What day is it?"
We just did our first trip to Paris, and he slept the whole flight. He was such a good baby. We’re headed to Europe for the first time as a family of four in a few weeks.
SK: What’s it like being a mom in the spotlight? It’s hard enough just being a mom!
CR: Prior to being a mother, my career as a model already put me in the spotlight. Sadly, being judged and scrutinized comes with the territory. As a model, you think you’re contributing to society in beneficial ways — as a spokesperson, cultivating creativity and fashion, holding a room with your personality and humor. But in a photo, no one can see any of that. People see photos of you and immediately start criticizing — everything. That’s the point of an image, to get a reaction from people, but most people direct their comments towards the people in the photos rather than the art direction or editors — as if you can do anything about it.
When I decided to become a mom, I was prepared in a sense. Modeling gave me thick skin in a sense. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mom-shaming.
SK: Wow. It’s 2018, and you’d think mothers would rally around other mothers. Tell us about the shaming you experienced or experience.
CR: I knew there would be some moments that elicited mom-shaming, but it was actually shocking just how much there was. When I think of women, I think we’d be uplifting and encouraging, share a little gossip here and there, but then all of a sudden, you see mom-shaming. From women who know what it’s like to be a mother!
My first experience with mom-shaming is how my partnership with Similac formula came about. At three and a half months with my baby girl, I stopped making enough milk for her to thrive. I casually posted about needing to find formula after a long flight, and the shaming that began in the comments was unbelievable. It felt worse than being shamed as model. I was thinking, “Wow. You’re actually telling me I’m a bad mom. That I’m not taking care of this little human being correctly.”
But rather than hide in despair, my husband and I made the conscious decision that we would craft a reply that provided context and important education to moms everywhere. So… I found myself on a morning show talking about breast milk and formula.
SK: It seems like the shaming you experienced is one that is a common back-and-forth between moms. The whole breast vs. formula battle.
CR: Yeah, I was frustrated and upset when our pediatrician told me at three and a half months that I wasn’t making enough milk. As a first-time mother, I was passionate about breastfeeding Ioni until she was a year old. But per the pediatrician’s recommendation to give her a bottle, watching her suck it down with such delight and rigor made me instantly happy. I knew in that moment that this was best for my daughter and for myself.
SK: That’s motherhood in a nutshell, isn’t it? What you plan to happen just doesn’t happen. How have your education efforts around formula-feeding been received?
CR: For the most part, very well. Mothers happily receive information and are interested in helpful dialogue and uplifting community. But there are always haters. And to be honest, I don’t have time for that nor do I deserve it. No one does, in fact. So those people are blocked.
SK: If there is one message you’d like to share with new mothers everywhere, what would that be?
CR: There is no one right way to be a mom. As long as your baby is fed, happy and healthy, you did it! What works for me might not work for the next mother, but making sure your baby is happy, healthy and fed is essential, especially in the first year of life.
SK: How did you decide to include your kids on social media platforms? (@ioniconran, @iverconran)
CR: When I first began modeling, there were no social media platforms like there are today. If I didn’t like something, there really was no place for me to say anything. In the modeling industry, we’re instructed to be pretty but not to speak, but I always knew the importance of letting my voice be heard. When social media really started taking off, I was one of the first to really utilize it.
[Editor's note: Rocha was the first supermodel to have over 1 million followers on Google+.]
Including my kids in this way is similarly empowering — I’m coming from a place where using your voice and having a platform that’s your own is liberating. It’s a healthy and positive way for me to mother in community. Plus, I’m like every other mom that wants to share cute photos of their kids! At the same time, I value other mother’s decisions to keep their children private.
SK: How has your style changed since you’ve become a mother? What influences how you dress your children?
CR: There are a lot of stigmas for mothers in the modeling industry… Once you’re a mom, you’re supposed to have a mom haircut, dress a certain way, etc. When you see a mom and her stroller walking around looking a bit too nice, you definitely get mom stares and sense that people are thinking, “Huh. She probably has a lot of help.” Moms are expected to be in a box. You can look cute, but not too cute, because if you do, you’re focusing too much on yourself and not on your kids.
It’s so fun to dress my kids up in creative and fun ways. Not to mention the feeling of superpower you get when you put on makeup, drink coffee and put on a nice outfit as a new mom! Maybe I smell a little — but if you look good you feel good!
My style or career hasn’t changed since becoming a mom — although I’m having a hard time zipping things in a few places. Kids can and will function around you and your lifestyle if you want them to. I want to be around mine as much as possible. They’re both here today, in fact, but they’ve learned to nap just about anywhere. Even when we become mothers, we should never stop being who we are.