Olympic gold medalist-turned-Instagram influencer Shawn Johnson East is definitely a mom hero for our times. When she’s not busting out impressive postpartum gymnastics moves, drinking breastmilk cappuccinos, or clapping back at the ever-overreactive trolls of the internet (“Yessss mommy shamers… I am sure there is something I am doing very wrong” Johnson East wrote on an oh-so-wholesome video of her dancing with her baby), she’s busy in the chaos of raising a 5-month-old in this new and strange world of social isolation.
The 5-month-old in question is Johnson East’s daughter Drew, aka her “Nashville born and raised…boot scootin boogie baby,” who is pretty much the cutest thing ever. Johson East shares this sweetie with her husband (Drew’s namesake), Andrew East. Oh, and these days, the three of them also share their West Nashville home with Johnson East’s parents, because quarantine pods are what dreams are made of in April 2020, right?
We caught up with Johnson East to find out how she’s dealing with it all — the isolation, the shamers, the grandparents all up in her space, and her upcoming first Mother’s Day which is definitely not going to be spent at a spa. Sigh.
SheKnows: So it looks like we’re going to be spending our Mother’s Days in quarantine this year; how are you planning to celebrate?
Shawn Johnson East: Honestly, just spend time with my daughter, which will be amazing since it’s my first Mother’s Day. I dunno, it’s going to be special and such a memorable one given all the chaos! My mom started this tradition with holidays back when I was a little girl; she’d buy as many cards as she could and hide them around the house and I’d find them. So I started doing that for her for Mother’s Day, and I think, knock on wood it will be my husband, not Drew herself, doing that for me this year. Just a little distraction from the chaos all around.
I’m excited for my first Mother’s Day and I can’t wait. I partnered with Hallmark to curate an online gift guide that’s social-distancing-friendly; everything can be ordered and shipped online. Even though it’s such a chaotic time, there are amazing ways to celebrate moms…even while the world is in chaos.
SK: Sounds perfect! Did you have a QuarantEaster celebration too?
SJE: We actually did have an egg hunt; it was my husband searching for the eggs, though, with our daughter on his shoulder!
SK: How has it been going, being home all the time now with your husband and newborn?
SJE: Thankfully, we’re fine. It’s amazing and terrifying at the same time. We are really lucky that my mom and dad are quarantined with us and have been the past few months, so it’s awesome that they can still help with her. But I don’t know how my husband feels about that!
SK: Have you guys gotten into any new quarantine routines?
SJE: Yes, for sure. My husband and me, I feel like 5 a.m. workouts are a thing now. It’s crazy. We cook every meal, which, if you know our family, was not a normal thing before! Um, yeah and puzzles, and a lot of wine, and a lot of sitting in the yard.
SK: Man, at least we get yards here in Nashville!
SJE: Oh my god. I can’t imagine doing this in NYC. We’re very spoiled out here.
SK: Do you think you’ll stick it out in Nashville? Will Drew grow up here?
SJE: I don’t know about moving, but we love a bunch of different places. We have a place in Los Angeles and we talk about getting a place in Park City, UT. But Nashville is home for now. But also we’re kind of impulsive people; if we wake up tomorrow and want to go to New York, we do that.
SK: Is there any particular item in your home that makes this all easier? A piece of parenting gear you can’t live without?
SJE: Probably our sound machine. I literally cannot forget it, especially when we travel. Ours has a bunch of options but we only really use the white noise; it’s the best. I think it’s Conair.
SK: Has Drew traveled quite a lot already?
SJE: Oh yes, she’s quite the world traveler. She’s been to Miami, Park City a few times, New York and Los Angeles. She’s actually an angel child that way; she falls asleep on the plane and is very content.
SK: That’s amazing! Does her portability make you feel like you can handle more kids?
SJE: We definitely want more kids, but right now we’re focused on her. We want to spoil her.
SK: Are you reading to her yet?
SJE: Oh yes, all the board books. We have all the bath-time books and the floor books, and we have bedtime books… my husband’s favorite is Dr. Seuss, he thinks they’re the best.
SK: You have a great reputation for keeping it real and not letting the mom-shamers get to you. How do you keep a thick skin?
SJE: I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I try to choose ones to clap back to, but I feel like I have thick enough skin, and then all of a sudden someone really bothers me, and I think I have to say something. My husband has to calm me down a lot, and be like, “Brush it off.” I accidentally went after a grandma once, who was chewing me out, because I didn’t have freaking socks on my daughter at the beach. Like she’s freezing to death at the beach?!
SK: How do you decide how much to post about Drew on social media? Is that something you and Andrew decided on together?
SJE: We talked about that a lot, almost longer than I was pregnant we talked about that! As far as bringing kids into social media, we think social media is a beautiful place to celebrate life, and we just decided that it would be a day-by-day basis of, what do we feel comfortable sharing? And what not? We’ve had our moments of, we’ll get ready to post something and I’ll think, like, You know, I don’t actually want to post this, it doesn’t feel right. But it’s one day at a time, and by no means will we control it for her. As soon as she has an opinion, it’s 100% hers.
SK: Do you think she’ll follow in your athletic footsteps? Would you be into that?
SJE: Oh absolutely. We’ll support her in whatever she wants to do and make sure she has the opportunity to try it all, but there’s zero pressure on her to be anything other than what she wants to be.
SK: How are you managing the introduction of solid foods with Drew? Are you in the baby-led weaning camp?
SJE: We’re kind of in the middle of the two ways — baby-led weaning versus traditional. She’s still drinking a bunch of breastmilk and formula, and we’re starting baby-led weaning. She can feed herself with her own spoon now, which is adorable.
SK: Speaking of breastmilk, I heard about those breastmilk cappuccinos you made! I, too, have drunk my own breastmilk. It’s not great.
SJE: Oh my god, that was my husband’s whole thing. I don’t know why he felt so compelled to drink it. I tried it, and it was a little funky. I think he just had to do it to say he did it.
SK: What advice would you give to your pre-mom self?
SJE: Oh, I was terrified of all of it. I’d go back and say: Breathe. Because you just figure it out, and it seems normal and natural. Just chill out.
SK: You’ve mentioned wanting to have an unmedicated birth and ending up with a C-section and feeling guilt around that. Has your perspective on that changed at all?
SJE: I look back at that whole process of being pregnant and hand-writing and typing out and printing my birth plan, and I think it’s all amazing and great to have knowledge about it and know what your options are, but I truly just laugh at it now. The only thing I’d hope for in any future pregnancy is that the baby’s healthy. However we get there is how we get there, and I don’t care.
Are you, too, a fit mom trapped in quarantine with kids? Try these videos and apps for at-home exercise the whole family will love.