August 01, 2019
Country singer Jessie James Decker first came onto the scene in 2009 when she released her debut album, Jessie James. Since then, Jessie has released several more albums, had a hit reality TV series, "Eric & Jessie: Game On" co-starring her husband, NFL star Eric Decker, launched a clothing line called Kittenish, published a book, and is also at work on her very first cookbook.
Amid all of this, Jessie is also the mother to three kids under 7 and has been very open with her fans about the joys and challenges of motherhood. We managed to catch her on-the-go to talk about how becoming a mom shifted her life's focus, deepened her relationship with her husband, and how she keeps her head above water through it all.
Liz: Jessie, welcome to the Motherly podcast.
Jessie: Thank you.
Liz: Okay so I'm always curious speaking to fellow mothers, what was your view of motherhood before you became a mom yourself?
Jessie: To be honest I didn't even think about motherhood. I didn't think about it. I wasn't one of those; I always like to compare things to like Sex in the City. Remember how all Charlotte could think about was being a mother? That was not me. I was totally career. That's all I could think about. I wasn't the girl that dreamt of having fairytale wedding. That was just not me. But as soon as I had a baby it was like life made sense all of the sudden. I knew I was meant to be a mother and now my view of motherhood is like my purpose. I know I'm so good at this and I enjoy it so much. And I can't believe how I didn't view motherhood before 'cause it's just so me now.
Liz: Now I love that you say that you feel like it's something you're really good at. I love that. I think women don't give themselves enough credit. What makes you feel like you're good at being a mother?
Jessie: I used to be that woman that would sometimes beat myself up like am I a good mom. Finally I had a moment where I snapped out of it and said if I have to keep asking that question I am a good mom because only a good mom would care. Only a good mom would wonder and question if she was being a good mother. And I stopped that because my children; I look at my children and they're happy. So I do. I do feel like this is something that I know that I am succeeding in because I can tell by my children.
Liz: I love that. So let's talk about your childhood then. Your father was in the Air Force and your mom worked in television. So you grew up on military bases or different towns around the country and even around the world. How did moving around so much and being uprooted so often affect your life?
Jessie: It was a positive and sometimes a downer. The positive was; I was able to adapt to situations fairly easy. As an adult now I am; I don't get stressed out very much about being in different environments. I can roll with the punches. I'm good at meeting different people, from walks all over you know the world and having something in common with them. I would say the downer though is I used to and still to this day have to work at holding onto relationships. I got so used to moving and never seeing people again and being okay with that, that as an adult I also struggled with maintaining friendships and relationships. I would just never talk to people again, I didn't feel like I needed anyone else but that was not true. Like friendship outside of my family are like family to me.
Liz: You've also talked about how when you were growing up that you felt like you were always this new kid and as a result like you were bullied a lot. How did you actually get through that?
Jessie: I would say high school and middle school were probably the hardest times of my life. That is the truth. I did not have a good high school career whatsoever, did not have a good middle school career, experience. They just weren't. They were not enjoyable. I still have visions of sitting at my desk looking at the clock waiting for it to ring and I would run to my car so I could leave as quickly as possible. Being new and having to plant yourself in a community where people all know each other and everyone knows their place and me coming in was never an easy scenario. So it definitely caused me to create bad habits such as being antisocial and still being uncomfortable in crowds and feeling as if I walked into a room no one in that room is going to like me. I mean that was that way for years and Eric was truly the one that helped me and coached me through it.
Liz: You talk a lot in your book about these seasons of poverty that your family went through. Now yet your three children are growing up so differently than you grew up. What values are you trying to instill in your children?
Jessie: You know yes early on we definitely had lots of memories of simply having no money and money that my mom couldn't even afford to pay for diapers. I remember that very clearly. I think because I have experienced both; I feel blessed that I've experienced both. That I know what it's like to be in a situation where you don't have money for food. And I also know it feels so blessed to be able to provide. I think it gives me a difference sense of values and I try to instill that in my children. Yes I'm able to give them and provide but I make sure to let them know. If they try to throw something away there's children that don't have food, please don't throw that away. Or you need to be grateful, some children don't have toys. Or why don't we take out some toys you don't play with anymore and let's donate them to little children that don't. I'm constantly; even though they're young and little I still make sure I educate them as much as I can that this is not the normal life for other people and we need to be grateful for what we have and we can enjoy that because Eric and I have worked hard to be able to provide that but we still need to know what's out in the real world and you know try to educate them as much as possible.
Liz: So you experienced a lot of early motherhood while starring on your show, Eric & Jessie. I can't even imagine. What was that like to have a camera crew following you around, raising small children and going through so much change?
Jessie: Luckily you know in this day of reality TV everything is pretty structured. So it's not like back in the day when MTV Newlyweds were there. They literally had cameras planted in the home 24/7. There was always a set schedule so it would be, "Hi, we're coming over to set up at 10am. We'll be out by 2pm. This is what we're shooting today." It was very much like a TV show. We were never told how to act or behave or given a script but there was always a topic because it is television. You have to keep the structure going or we would be filming for hours and wasting time. So there were times we'd say, "That's not going to work today. You just want to shoot during nap time. You're going to have to come another time." So there was never really them hanging around while I was trying to juggle or raise kids whatsoever and I was very strict on that which is why I was one of the executive producers and had quite a bit of say on we're not filming that or the kids are not going to be involved, this is unnecessary. I also didn't want to completely take it away and not showcase my children whatsoever because I am a mother and I'm proud of that and my children do exist and so that's the side that I am proud to share and hopefully inspire other young mothers.
Liz: Absolutely. You talk on social media a lot about your husband and the work that you both do to parent your three children together. How has parenthood changed your relationship?
Jessie: It's made it even stronger and made us even closer because you know think about it. We created these people out of love together and now we're raising three people that we have in common, not just biologically but we have in common that we are so madly in love with these people that we created together. And we have the same goal which is to love them and take care of them and give them the best life we possibly can which makes us closer and stronger. We already liked each other a ton before they came along so it's made us like each other even that much more because we get to see each other as parents. And I think we both are proud of the mother and father we are together.
Liz: Do you guys have different parenting styles? I mean everyone in their relationship you come from a different place and sometimes those parenting styles can come out only after you have kids and you kind of figure out what your style is.
Jessie: I would say that we are like 90% the same. We honestly grew up very similarly. Not in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways our upbringings and our parents' belief and the foundation was very, very similar. So the way we raise them is with the same values and pretty cool. The only thing I can think of as pretty different is I would say he's way more lackadaisical with them and I am a nervous, nervous wreck. Meaning going up and down the stairs makes me scared. I don't want them to fall. His theory is they're fine, you've got to let them be. So he's not as like protective in that way. I'm always scared they're going to hurt themselves or I'm panicked. I can't even sit with them on the dock on the bay where we have our home because I'm so afraid if they'd fall in. But they know how to swim. Still the idea of them falling in stresses me out.
Liz: I totally relate to that and I wish I was more like my husband who can take them to the dock and not stress out and I'm there thinking about everything that can go wrong. I totally get that. Have you learned something about how to be a mother from your husband's difference that he has as a parent?
Jessie: I'm trying to think. I think what I have learned is maybe the preparation. He is always; I'm kind of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person. Eric is a little planner and organizer so I may wait 'til the last second to pack their baby bags before I run out the door which will make me late. Eric that morning before anyone got up, already packed their bag full of diapers and wipes and outfit changes and sippy cups. And he is just so much more a planner. He wakes up in the morning and he makes their lunches every single morning. And he just likes; he's preplans. I'm always last minute so I've learned from him to really try and preplan the way he does.
Liz: He sounds like a keeper.
Jessie: Yeah. He makes our lives easier.
Liz: So it sounds like following you on social media, reading about your life, it sounds like you and your husband who played in the NFL, you have such busy lives. What is your secret to making sure that you have enough energy to be present for your job, for your kids, for your marriage and for yourself?
Jessie: Well I took a test once and they said I had an extremely high level of B12 naturally in my body. So I think by nature I am a very high energy person and it takes a lot for me to get worn out. The only time I ever shut down is the no food thing. That'll shut me down real quick. But if I've got food in my system and a lot of coffee or caffeine I'm ready to rock and roll. I really think that you know that's a lot for me, is just the food, the coffee and having those extra dose of B12 in my system seems to keep me going.
Liz: So you are a celebrity but you also are have a mother just like all of us, and I found it super interesting reading about how you've called on her, relied on her at moments when your life spins out of control and I know that I've done that. I've just said, "Mom like help. I need you to come and be here with us through this time." How has motherhood changed your relationship with your own mom?
Jessie: I don't know if it's changed except that I feel like it made me love my mom more too because I see her with my children and her grandchildren. And she loves them so much that it makes you feel so good to see your parents love your baby so much, which just makes me love my mom even more. And I also, it makes me more grateful for her because I feel like I'm really good to my babies and love them really well because she taught me how to love. And so I'm grateful for her for showing me that way.
Liz: Is there a moment when you look back on your own childhood and you think that was such a perfect example of what that motherly love looks like that your mother showed you?
Jessie: Yeah I think so because I had such a hard time you know in school growing up and being bullied all the time. My mom's advice was always; she cared so much it was always, "You're going to leave them in your dust one day." Or, "You don't let these people get you down." You know it was just her words. Her words always made me feel empowered and confident that I was going to get through those tough times. She always had my back no matter what. I remember if I ever even got in trouble; I remember I got kicked out of choir once which was ridiculous. And she sent my dad, Air Force dad, in his flight suit uniform to go talk to the principal about how wrong this was that I got kicked out of choir and I didn't do anything wrong. They always had my back. It was never automatically I'm wrong and the teacher's right. It was they defended me to the very end.
Liz: What is something that you struggle with as a mother that your fans might be surprised to know about?
Jessie: I think; let's see. Probably equally splitting my time between the three because they all love so differently and they all communicate so differently. So Vivi is really good at vocalizing that she wants to spend some time or what she wants. Bubby's on the shier side and isn't as good at vocalizing so I have to really take extra thought into okay I need to spend some one on one time with Bubby because I know that even though he may not be communicating that with me, little boys are not as good communicators as little girls in my home. But I would say just dividing up the time between them three, making sure they all get that quality one on one time because it is important to do that.
Liz: Well I certainly struggle with that as well. It's really hard when they have different needs and different ages. But I know that I've experienced seasons where I feel, like, closer to one child or the other and been able to spend that quality time with one and really build that bond up. So it can be done.
Liz: At Motherly we talk about how motherhood helps to bring out our superpowers. So those are these hidden forces within us that we can discover after becoming mothers. What do you think is your superpower?
Jessie: Multitasking for sure.
Liz: Can you give me an example of a recent time when you were multitasking like a superhero?
Jessie: Yeah. I would say cooking dinner while feeding snacks because there's a predinner snack and Forrest is in his highchair, Vivi and Bubby are at the table and I'm cooking. I'm on a phone call trying to organize some Kittenish stuff while also answering Eric about where some of our furniture was going in the house. So I was like doing four things at once and I kept it cool. And at that moment it was like, "Whew a lot of people in this space would freak out right now but I am not."
Liz: I love it. Well Jessie James Decker thank you so much for joining us today on the Motherly podcast.
Jessie: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
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Liz is an award-winning journalist and editor, and the co-founder of Motherly. A former Washington Post editor, she thrives on all things digital community + social media strategy. She's passionate about helping to provide women with more support, (and way less judgment), on the journey through motherhood. This podcast is an extension of her commitment to hosting honest conversations about modern motherhood. Liz resides outside NYC with her husband, two sons, one daughter and one amazing au pair.