I never thought that I would enjoy motherhood as much as I do until I had my daughter.
My friends will tell you, I always said, “I’m never having kids.”
Everything with me is pretty intentional. Before I met my husband, I was always focused on my career and finding a good partner. But when I met the right person – my husband, Chris – I knew I wanted to be a mom.
I was positive that there was no way that I wouldn’t be a working mom, and I thought I would go straight back to working 12 hour days, five to seven days a week. But things changed when Milly was born – I wanted to be with her as much as possible, and it shocked me. I had anxiety around not being with her and knowing that she was safe, and missing out on all the amazing “firsts.”
That’s why my daughter has been on 34 flights with me to and from New York and she’s only 22 months old! I’ve created a very flexible schedule so that I’m only away from her maybe two days a week. That’s even too much for me. It’s funny, because now I can totally see that if we didn’t live in LA, and if I didn’t have the job I have, I’d have four kids, and I would be with them all the time, homeschooling and everything.
The unexpected change in my perspective on parenting could be a reflection of my personality, in that I am fully dedicated to what I’m passionate about. But a lot of it is my husband. He’s so amazing, and I definitely wouldn’t be the the worker or the mom that I am without the support he gives me. I mean, the man cooks dinner for us at least three days a week, after coming home from work. He’s just so hands-on that I do have a lot co-parenting help.
The thing that surprised me the most about motherhood was how hard breastfeeding is.
Man, what a commitment it is. What a mind game it can play if you are a little too stubborn about it and don’t really listen to your body and listen to your baby.
My husband was doing all the night feedings, so we were bottle feeding and breastfeeding. I didn’t expect how tethered I would feel to the pump, or how much dedication and the level of physical exertion it would take.
Luckily, I had a couple of close friends and my sister who told me to give it a certain amount of weeks, just to stick with it. So by setting small goals I ended up going 18 months. With each month I thought, if I can just get through one month, if I can get through two months…. and I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it.
My number one bit of advice for postpartum mamas is to find a community.
When Milly was seven or eight weeks old, I had already signed up for a mommy and me class, and it got postponed a week. And I remember, even that week, not having Mamas in the exact same chapter with me was tough. I was anticipating the relief of being able to connect with other moms who were going through the same things I was. Everyone has plenty of mama friends, and friends that don’t have kids, or even a significant other. But there’s something so special about experiencing that crucial fourth trimester with other mamas in the same stage as you.
I’m so grateful that I had signed up for the mommy and me group in advance. I went every week, and it forced me to be in this space with other moms where we could connect. I had women that I could lean on and laugh with and learn from. That is the number one thing that got me through.
I’ve had so many friends that thought mommy and me was so cheesy, or they just didn’t think it was right for them. But it’s not about that. It’s about being in such a wonderful, safe space, where you you don’t have to explain why you’re late if you are running behind, or why you feel the way you do. I could not have made it through the first year of motherhood without my mommy and me friends. And what’s great is we’ve all stayed friends; there’s eight of us, and a couple of us are super close.
Postpartum is a time in your life you can never get back. You’re looking down at your kid for so long, feeding them and taking care of them. When you are finally able to look up and realize that you’re in a community of mamas now, it’s really special.
I’ve been cooking with Milly since she was in her Dock-a-Tot on the kitchen island.
I would explain to her what I was doing. Then she was in the carrier and I would have her help measure. And then my husband made her a toddler stool, and now she helps me do everything. A lot of times, I will set up an activity for her like transfer work: she will transfer one ingredient to a bowl while I’m doing the actual recipes. Often I’ll have her sort things and separate items into another bowl. Now that she’s a little older (she’s almost two), she’s learning how to crack eggs. I bought her her kid-safe knives and she’ll help me chop. Now Milly can help me stir or she’ll turn on the Kitchen Aid or the VitaMix or help me pour.
When cooking with young kids, it’s important to go into it thinking that this is an activity you’re doing with your child.
If the end game for you is getting the muffins in the oven within 20 minutes so that they’re done in 40, it will get frustrating. That’s not how you should approach cooking with your kids, because so much of the process becomes a learning lesson. We talk about colors and ingredients, and she wants to taste along the way. It’s always a disaster when we’re cooking together. But if I really treat it like a fun activity we do together, rather than something we’re trying to get done, I have so much fun with it. I encourage all parents to cook with their kids – even if you think you’re not a cook or a baker, you can learn together and it’s so enjoyable.
My sister has taught so much about being a mom. Her boys are 12 and 10, and a couple weeks ago, she said, “I just wish I wouldn’t have cared so much about controlling and cleaning things, or the order that I wanted things done in, because now my kids are about to be teenagers, and they’d rather go outside or play video games or meet up with a friend instead of helping me.” So I am definitely very good at letting go and being laid back when Milly and I are in the kitchen together.
Another rule that I have is that I never rush my child.
We are not usually late, because I make sure that we give ourselves plenty of time. I remember being little, and always rushing out of the door. Everyone was stressed out and grabbing things, saying, “We’re going to be late! We have to get into the car!” It just created like this thick air of stress. So my husband and I decided, nope, we’re not doing that to our kids. We prepare ahead, the snack bag is done the night before. If Milly wants to change her opinion on what shoes she wants to wear, she can. I never want to project my stress onto her because it’s not her problem. Her job is to be a toddler and have fun.
Understanding and knowing where your child is development-wise, especially when they are little ones, is so key in the expectations we set for them and ourselves.
For instance, when we go to Target, my daughter’s job is not to sit there for 30 minutes while I peruse the aisles. Sometimes I think we forget what a big deal it is for them to have to sit there, still and quiet. We forget the basics: if kids are acting out or they’re trying to get our attention, what exactly are they trying to tell us? A lot of times it’s the simple things – they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, they’re uncomfortable, or they’re bored. I got a lot of feedback when I talked about this on the air, because so many moms were like, “Oh, my God you’re right, the temper tantrum at Target was just trying to get my attention – they just wanted me to talk to them and engage them in our in our list.”
I have never felt more powerful than when I became a mother.
I remember the first time I left the house, just Milly and me, I felt so proud. I had all of her stuff, we got in the car, and we made it outside the house. I felt the same pride when I flew to New York by myself with her for the first time, or when I went to the zoo with her by myself, or any time when we’ve spent the entire day inside because it was pouring rain, and I survived 12 hours of just being with this little person that needed me.
Motherhood has taught me how much I can do, and that the possibilities are endless as far as what we can do as mothers. There have been days where I’ve completed pre-production notes on videos, wrote scripts, and took care of my daughter during a conference call because she was upset. I put her in the stroller, and had that call on the go while I was walking.
It’s important that moms, every night, think about all the things that they were able to accomplish as a parent that day.
So you did one load of laundry today? That’s huge! Because you probably got stopped five times when your kids wanted something or needed you.
I think those small victories are so important. I feel so proud of myself some days. Even if no one else is telling me this, I tell myself: I am proud of myself. Every day, motherhood teaches me something to be proud of.
Brandi Milloy is a TV host, food reporter, lifestyle & parenting expert and an at-home cook known for her simple and fun approach to food. She recently starred in the Food Network series, Let’s Eat, and frequently appears on the network as a judge on such shows as Guys Grocery Games. She also appears as a contributor on TODAY Show and Cooking Channel's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. When she isn't in front of the camera, she shares her recipes, family stories, and time (and money) saving hacks on her popular blog, BrandiMilloy.com. She loves spending time with her daughter and husband in Coastal Los Angeles. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @BrandiMilloy.