Molly Sims on the trade-offs of taking care of your kids, your parents and yourself
Molly Sims, author, actress, advocate, lifestyle influencer and former model talks to Liz about how she's learned to be less hard on herself after having three children, the positive impact her mother has on her, and why she prefers staying in with her family to nights out on the red carpet. She also opened up about pressures of caring for sick parents and small children at the same time.
You know, for the last few years, my husband and I have been like in heads-down, full time, nonstop parenting of little kids mode. Our oldest is seven and a half and then may have a six year old and a three year old and a baby. And all we've been able to think about for a long time. It's just getting through the day.
But recently it started dawning on us that there will be this other season of life, which is as our parents get older, they're going to need us more and more. And so it was a revelation for us, and maybe it shouldn't have been, but it was a revelation that the responsibility of caring for children is not the only responsibility that's on our shoulders.
And. In some ways it's exciting to think that perhaps my parents may live closer and we could [00:02:00] have, you know, more of a day to day interaction with them. And then also it's a challenge because there's going to be real needs. Um, I know a lot. Of us as women. You know, we, we are not only providing primary childcare for our own children, but women also bear that burden.
And when it comes to caring for aging parents, and sometimes they're doing that at the same time as raising little kids or being in a really demanding stage of Parenthood. And I think we have to recognize the value of that work to society. We don't do a great job of that.
Liz: Hey mama, welcome to the motherly podcast. Honest conversations about modern motherhood. I am Liz Tenety, co-founder of motherly, and today we're talking to Molly Sims, actress, model advocate, lifestyle, influencer, and author. The pleasure of speaking to her. About her new book [00:03:00] and some of the pressure she faces raising three small children while also helping care for her parents who live across the country.
After our conversation with Molly, stay tuned to hear from one of our listeners. She told us about her own story raising a child while also caring for aging parents, and that is something that 47% of adults in their forties and 50s currently experience in the U S today. We'll get to her story at the end of our conversation with Molly.
Molly Sims. Welcome to the motherly podcast.
Molly Sims: I'm a super mama fan.
Liz: Thank you. We're so happy to have you on team Motherly, so, okay. Molly, tell us about your upbringing. What was it like when you look back on it and how did your upbringing shape what you thought motherhood would be like?
Molly Sims: You know what, listen, I'm from a little small town in Western Kentucky called Murray, the home of [00:04:00] Murray state university.
Go tigers. And you know, it's very family... small... walk to your school. Everyone knows each other, good and bad. But it was definitely familial. My mom was one of six. My mom grew up on a farm about 35 minutes, ultimately, from where to where we ended up and they used to grow everything. We didn't have money growing up.
And then we did have money after they made it. They taught us so much about working hard and you can achieve something. My mom, you know, she just was a badass in that way. She was the essence of… the title of your company and Motherly. She was so Motherly!
Liz: It just sounds like you had this… This ultimate, you know, embodiment you said, of what motherly means. Is that a lot of [00:05:00] pressure for you to keep up with or does it just, do you think it's shaped you so much with so much confidence that you know who you want to be as a mom?
Molly Sims: Both. You know, I'm like, Oh gosh, am I doing this right? You know, my first born, I die for him. I die for my second born, I die for my third born, but on the first it's like. Oh my God, are we ever gonna learn to read? You know, are we ever going to blend? You know, and I'm like a homeschool teacher. You know, it's like his sweet first grade teachers are like, he really likes one-on-one time! Of course he does! Because I'm like a freaking homeschool teacher. We read and then we read and we blend and we, you know… It's hard to trust the first time around. I think that's why on my second one I was like, Oh my God, I'm so much more confident and all my third one I'm like, Oh my God, I can actually enjoy this, you know?
Because I was so nervous and my beginning was so tough with Brooksie and I had him at the end of June in [00:06:00] 2012 and he was born with a tooth. I had no milk. I felt judged. I had a thyroid problem. It just like everything came crashing down. Before that, I'd gotten my man, I'd gotten pregnant, I'd got… I mean, I was like 120 pounds [before I was pregnant].
I was like, this is amazing! Cut to nine months later, I have a newborn with a tooth. My nipples are bleeding. I went into the hospital, documented at 204 pounds, and it was just a real blow for me. It was a blow for me mentally. It was a blow as a first time mom.
Liz: Yeah. I want to talk about that because on the one hand, all of us can relate to going through that experience for the first time.
And on the other hand, you are like a supermodel and this international star, and you had such a defined and glamorous public identity. Before motherhood, you know? And you still have it now, but how did your own sense of self change, especially that first time becoming a mom.
[00:07:00] Molly Sims: You know, I'd always had a hard time, you know, like losing weight, trying to be in an entertainment industry, modeling world that I probably should never have been a part of just physically, naturally. I was, you know, I'm not naturally thin. I'm not, I always say to girls out there on my guide, I didn't make it because I was the prettiest. I didn't make it because I was the smartest. I made it because I hustled. I was a good person. I showed up, I came to work, I was on time.
I gave it my all and I wanted it, you know… I got to taste it. I'm like, I wanted it. But back to what you were saying is that, you know, I, I was just a mess. Honestly. I was a mess. I was a mess because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I didn't know who to trust, who not to trust. You know, I was really hard on myself with the breastfeeding. I had a lactation specialist work with me for three months. She came to the house. We wore [00:08:00] bottles around our neck. We wore nipple covers. No one believed me that I've, I felt like he was going to bite off my nipple. He actually was born with a milk tooth.
Liz: Oh my goodness.
Molly: Actually it wasn't even a milk tooth. It was actually a real tooth, and it's so funny he always....He goes, "I'm really special. I was born, with a tooth!" But just that, you know, like, what am I doing? The hormones... that I've been married for nine months, I wasn't working at all. Like, I'm like, you know, I remember seeing Claire Danes… I'm like… You, like walked out of the house?
Liz: Yeah. I mean, what's, it's kind of hard to believe, to be honest. Because I'm hearing a woman who, you know, you're used to the pressure and the spotlight and high expectations, right? So of course you can do this thing that every, you know, most women have done and, and it can be, it is such a shock to the system that everyone around us is doing it. And it's. The hardest thing, the…
Molly Sims: It's the hardest thing I've ever done [00:09:00]... the most earth shattering. Amazing, hardest, unbelievable. Never thought I could love someone more in one minute from the next, but at the same time, I didn't get out of my robe for six weeks. I, you know, I remember my husband, I wrote this starting in the book.
I remember my husband came home and, or his assistant walks in with him and he, and I was like, I'm in the same clothes. That I was when you left 10 hours ago. And just the anxiety of everything, you know? I don't know if it was from the pain of the tooth, the breastfeeding, the pressure of like, you're starving your baby… oh, you're giving your baby poison.
Liz: Why do you think it is in our culture that women feel like so unprepared for that transformation?
Molly Sims: It's so funny. I just read something. It says the cultural debate over whether women can really have it all rages in the headlines. Um, we've been told to lean in, lean out girl, boss, [00:10:00] boss bitches, climb the ladders, grab the corner offices, but also at the same time to focus on self care and find balance. It's a dance. It's a delicate dance and it's often, or several thing has to give in an order. More often than not, it's you. It's easiest to let you need to go while you're taking care of your family, your household. And it's funny if you don't believe me, the UN reported that women are shouldering nearly three times more of the work associated with the home than men care. Elder care. I'm taking care of both my parents who are not well cooking, cleaning, transportation, you name it. It's never ending. It's just, it's never ending.
Liz: You obviously admire your mom so much, and you talked about… Did you say that she has a terminal illness?
Molly Sims: Yes, she does. She is, but she's doing awesome. She, uh, we had a tough couple years, but she is, uh, she had a Parkinsonism dementia, uh, [00:11:00] stroke vascular disease. Um. You know, my girl is doing awesome. We call her big mama, and big mama is, she's hanging in there and you know, it's, it's, it's just, it is what it is. And that's also why, you know, that's also one thing you learn… You know, give a busy person something to do, and boy, can they do it, give me a mission. Oh, let's do it. Get a biopsy, a lawyer. I can get a biopsy, a lung study, a surgery, and let, let's… you know, but then you also have to sometimes stop and you know, enjoy and be okay with what is.
Liz: It is so hard. There's a lot that's not fair. Even when you're doing your best,
Molly Sims: you know, it's just, it's, it's a lot [00:12:00] of pressure. It's a lot of pressure with three small children. It's a lot of pressure with, you know, being in the sandwich generation of like. You know, my parents are so far away and like had it not been for some key doctors like Dr.Susan Baker in LA and so many people helping me like to be literally bi-coastal blue, Nashville. Like it's just a lot of like, you just want to be there for your parents. You want to be there for your kids, you want to be there for your husband. You want to be there for your work. So. You know, because I'm the type of person who wants to do everything great.
I'm like that. That's just me. I want to like, it goes back to that like people pleasing, you know, Southern little girl who, and it's funny, my, that's what I'm trying to tell you about my mom. She did instill all of this in me. And so that is my main really focus as a mom to instill confidence. Instill [00:13:00] civility, safety, believing that you want to be an astronaut… Let's try to be an astronaut!
But you want to know is one thing I will tell you that I will, I will say something like, it's weird, like I don't… my mom won in life. My mom wasn't, uh, she wasn't robbed. You know, she's 82 and she looks amazing. She has, you know, five grandchildren. She has two great children. She has a husband.
She's been all over the world with me. I mean, I've dragged her everywhere! Girl. I love her, but she's, she's won, you know, in life.
Liz: So many, so many women are actually going through what you call the sandwich generation. This challenge of, of parenting young children or children just in a stage where they need so much hands on.
Molly Sims: You know… I'll leave on a redeye, I'll fly all night, so I'll leave at 1130 at night. I'll get [00:14:00] there. American airlines and to Nashville at five AM. You know, then I drive two and a half hours. I'll stay two days and then I'll come back in the middle of the night. Two days later. It's like a, it's like I'm a ghost whisperer.
Liz: But you're taking this red eye. If I, if I'm guessing correctly, you're taking these flights to minimize, you know, putting the hardship on you, but like minimizing the amount of time that you're away from your kids.
Molly Sims: Yeah, they don't even know.
Liz: Exactly, but that is like so emblematic of some of the sacrifices of parenthood that we have to make, that the kids don't even really know, you know?
Molly Sims: Yeah. And they don't know how bad she is. They don't know. No. And that's tricky. I've had, I've gotten some really good advice. I work with, uh, some wonderful women, Elisa Pressman and Bronwyn, her partner from the Seedlings. Do you know the Seedlings group out of New York?
Liz: I've heard of them.
[00:15:00] Molly Sims: Oh great! They're awesome. And they've given me some wonderful advice about, you know, preparing our children to walk into a hospital, preparing yourself to walk into a hospital in front of your children. They've both given me such great advice because that was really hard for me. Like, you know, explain to them that she's not going to walk again. Do you need to explain that she's not going to walk again? Can I lie and say she had back surgery?I mean, listen, it's hard.
Liz: It is hard. And with the wisdom that you've gained now, you know, I know that sometimes I have to talk to myself with the same kindness and tenderness that I talk to my children with… If my children are struggling, like what would you say now with all of the wisdom you've gained as a mother?
Molly Sims: Everything will work out. It's funny. I go back to my mother. All the warring in the world won't change it, you know? But I will say one big piece of [00:16:00] advice. Don't be afraid of change. I hate change. I hate it. I'm in the middle of a big change right now in my life with my business and I hate it and it's horrible. But good things happen with change.
Liz: I couldn't agree with you more. There is so much good to come from change, so I want to talk about that. Now. You are writing a new book and you recently posted on social media about how much growth you've had over the last year, and you wrote that this year was about going deeper. So tell us about this project and you know why it's right for you and what you want other women to know.
Molly Sims: Listen, I love, you know... I love to talk about beauty and wellness. You know, a laser, a skincare serum, a package, a fitness, a video, a leotard, a great amazing pair of jeans.
But that's not what this book is about. This is like [00:17:00] about what's going on in the inside. This book is about your power of reinvention, you know, and about getting stuck and getting unstuck. You know, are you in neutral? Are you in drive? Are you in reverse? But saying "no," setting up boundaries, putting you first.
You know what I mean? Like I got up at five 45 this morning. My husband wasn't here. No one's help. And guess what? I put two babies on an iPad because I wanted to work out. I didn't realize that my husband wasn't going to be home. Like, was it. Terrible, bad mom, terrible bad mom. But I got them off. They did a learning thing and like what I mean, like it's just giving myself a break, setting myself up for success.
Saying no more often. Because every, every yes. That I say is a no to something else. Absolutely.
Liz: And in saying no, what are you hoping to say yes to more, right? Because it's, everything is about tradeoffs. So what do you, what are you hoping for more of in your life?
Molly Sims: Quality. Does it move the needle? [00:18:00] Do I really need to be there? It's like, I'll tell you a little dirty secret. So I went to an awards show with my husband and I really wanted to support him because he's a badass and I die for him. But every Sunday for the next six weeks of my life, he will be going to do something like that. Well, I have three little small children, so. I was like, listen, why don't I get ready? I'll get the dress picture. We'll do the thing. We'll get walk down the red carpet. I'll stay and have a drink with you, but then I'm going to leave. So recently I got all dressed up. It took two hours, 15 minutes. I rode in the car for 35 minutes with my husband. We had a great talk. We were uninterrupted. We had a pre-drink. I walked down the red carpet with them. I sat, I listened to the first thing of it, and I left the award show and came home, got into the shower, took two of my babies, took on my double lashes, my seven pounds of makeup, and did homework and made dinner and went to bed.
Liz: I love that
Molly Sims: dirty little secret.
Liz: And I [00:19:00] bet you felt great. I bet it felt…
Molly Sims: so good. I mean, I was, I looked, came home and my kids Brooksie and Scarlett were like, I love your makeup. And I was like, I know. Now, let's go take it all off.
Liz: What, what do you think are the big lessons that you, that are just most important for you to teach your children?
Molly Sims: Um. Having good confidence, believing in themselves, you know, trusting their instincts, trusting themselves. Um, having a voice, being heard.
Liz: You know, you are an incredibly ambitious and driven and accomplished woman. But what I hear is, is that motherhood has also given you this real sense of grounding and peace.
Molly Sims: It's given me such grounding and peace, you know. And I have to be honest with you, isn't it great to not focus on you all the time? I think as a model and then a host and then an actress, I'm like, there was so much time just to focus on me that almost in a weird [00:20:00] way, I'm more accepting of me, because I'm not as focused on me.
I mean, heck, listen, don't, don't, don't get me wrong. Mama misses her some self care. But. There's an interesting thing when it's not focused on you. I'm less hard on me.
Liz: couldn't agree more. Well, Molly Sims, thank you so much for joining us on the motherly podcast.
Molly Sims: You're awesome. Liz and I, and I love your site, and I love, you know, the good and bad and the ugly of what you show.
And. How you embrace, um, how motherly truly embraces motherhood and all the crazy roller coaster things that come with it.
Liz: Thank you.
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Liz: So, Henry, tell me about your grandparents. What are they like?
Graham: Well, my grandpa, he lets me actually watch TV.
Liz: They'll let you watch TV.
Graham: And let me have some ice cream at the country club, maybe sometimes we have at home. Oh, at his house.
Liz: So grandpa's basically ice cream and TV
Graham: and grandma pretty much does like she's a hugger. And then our other grandparents. They just take us to cool places because they are from Texas…
Esther: [00:23:00] Yes. So I guess I am one of the sandwich generation, as they like to call them.
Liz: That's Esther Crow and award-winning singer, songwriter and kids entertainer. She teaches music classes for kids and founded the popular children's band, thunder and sunshine.
Esther: So when I was . It was less than two months pregnant in December of 2012 my mom spontaneously broke a back, a bone in her back.
Not, it wasn't a fall or anything. She was at a matinee with her friend and couldn't get up out of the chair. And, um, yeah, it was less than two months pregnant. I had already had a couple of miscarriages before that, so it was a very, very stressful time. And I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to have a third miscarriage for, she went into the hospital for a few months, so by the time she finally got out of the hospital.
Um, she had had a [00:24:00] major surgery on top of that as she was recovering from her, uh, broken bone in her back. Um, she ended up having an infection in her stomach from diverticulitis, so she didn't finally get out of the hospital until about four or five months later, which is crazy. At that point, I was going on six months pregnant.
We all live together in this temporary apartment and. We renovated her apartment, which was my childhood apartment, and then we all moved back in there together. But scrambling to find the care for her. We eventually finally got Medicaid, but at first we were paying out of pocket for it. You know, I had just had this new child. So after, after my son was born, Vincent, it just became incredibly challenging. But this is the kind of thing that nobody prepares you for. Like I had no idea that this was coming down the pike for me. And, [00:25:00] um, we had to quickly, I mean, thank God I have a support system. I have a husband, but now that I'm on the other side of it and we're a well oiled machine in terms of.
You know, Medicaid's in place. Caregiving is in place for my mom. It's a much better time now. But yeah, and you know, I'm meeting more and more people like myself, which is nice. We, we've got a handle on it.
Liz: Thank you Esther. I know it can't be easy caring for a young child and your mother, and it's so important than more stories like yours are told.
That's it for our show this week, and thank you so much for listening and learning about Molly's story and Esther's journey. If you have a story you'd like to share on our podcast, you can email us at podcast at mother.ly. We'd love to hear from you. And if you liked what you heard today, please spread the word [00:26:00] to all your mom friends.
We've got a lot of episodes coming soon that we're super excited about and we know you'll enjoy. And if you can please leave us a review on Apple podcasts. It really helps people to discover this show, and we'd love to hear your feedback. The motherly podcasts. Produced by Jennifer Bassett with additional help from Jordan Gass-Poore, and Renata Selletti.
Our music is from the blue dot sessions. I'm your host, Liz Kennedy. Thank you so much for listening.
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Hosted by Liz Tenety
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.