Shawn Johnson East on unsolicited parenting advice: “It’s so intimidating”

In an exclusive interview with Motherly, the former Olympian opened up about parenting during the pandemic and preparing for baby number two.

Shawn Johnson East/Instagram

Shawn Johnson East and her husband Andrew East are getting ready to welcome baby number two. The athletes are already parents to one-year-old daughter Drew Hazel and Shawn is in her last trimester with their baby boy.

As the former Olympic gymnast waits for her son to make his big debut, she's reflecting on all she's learned about parenting since welcoming Drew in 2019.

"Every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should," she told Motherly in an exclusive interview.

"I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent, you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly, if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong."

Johnson East is dedicated to supporting other parents and families. She's partnering with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on a new campaign, "Raising the 'Bar' to Help Kids." Now through August 13, Ferrero's Crunch, Butterfinger, and Baby Ruth will feature limited-edition wrappers with artwork drawn by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals' child ambassadors and sales will benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

"I'm a mama," she said. "And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby."

Johnson East has been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals since she was a teenager, but says the partnership makes even more sense now that she's a parent. Even little Drew is taking part.

"She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much," Johnson East said with a laugh. "Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that."

Read on to learn more about how Shawn handled parenting during a pandemic, what she's nervous about when it comes to baby number two, and what she hopes people take away from her social media posts.

Motherly: How are you feeling?

Johnson East: I'm feeling good! I am ready to have this baby.

How are you preparing for him? It is a boy, correct?

Johnson East: It is a boy and honestly, just trying to keep myself distracted. Really not much preparation. I should probably start preparing.

Can you tell me what it's been like being pregnant during the pandemic, parenting a toddler during the pandemic?

Johnson East: Just absolute chaos. I think for any mom going through a year of the pandemic was hard, rightfully so, but it's uncharted territory. Nobody's ever really been through that or done that so it was a learning process for everybody. Trying to work from home, trying to be a mom at the same time, trying to raise a toddler, trying to socialize her in a very safe way—all these different things and then getting pregnant, it adds a lot of fear. It's just one of those things where you just have to take it one day at a time and try to educate yourself as much as possible. Just hope for the best.

How did Drew do this year?

Johnson East: She killed it. She had an awesome year. She's the greatest little baby ever. I'm obviously biased but she's so fun and she's so outgoing. I think we're definitely ready to live a little bit more normal of a toddler life, hang out with friends more, see more kids. She did awesome.

Is she excited for her baby brother?

Johnson East: I think so. I also think she has no idea what's happening.

We love your TikTok videos with your husband, especially where he finds out what it's like to be pregnant.

Johnson East: That is all my husband. He is the nerd/creative/genius of the house. He always comes to me like, 'Babe, I have an idea!' I'm like, 'oh, okay…'. I've always been the serious one in the relationship, and I love his goofiness and I love his creativity. He makes life so fun.

The response to them has really resonated with mothers and people on TikTok. People really love seeing his honest reactions.

Johnson East: He's been such a go-with-the-flow husband and dad and I think he and I love being able to show people that it's okay to struggle your way through it and to make terrible mistakes and just fall flat on your face. He loves to learn, he loves to celebrate family and dadhood and momhood. He's a lot of fun.

Is that what you hope people take away from your social media?

Johnson East: Yes, that life is not perfect nor should it ever be. My husband is so tired of following social media and seeing these perfect people when that does not exist, especially as a parent. It's just messy. You have no idea what you're doing. And you're so terrified. I think for us, it's refreshing for us to be able to show the messy side of it because it just makes it feel like we're human. To see people respond and be like, 'oh, thank you, Jesus. Because I was going through the same thing but I thought I was the only one.' It just makes you feel normal.

You're preparing for your second child! Do you feel ready to bring home another baby? Or do you not know what to expect with baby number two?

Johnson East: Both. I definitely don't feel as terrified as I did with Drew because honestly my husband and I had never even changed a diaper before my daughter. Like ever. I had never really ever babysat, like nothing. It was very new to both of us. I think this time around, we feel more confident in the baby side of things. But I'm definitely terrified of... I was thinking of the process of, how do I put my daughter to bed and my baby at the same time? That stuff freaks me out.

Do you want to tell me about your partnership with Children Network Miracle Hospitals? Why is that so important to you?

Johnson East: Sure! Because I'm a mama. And I can't even fathom being in that position or having one your babies at the hospital and not being able to get whatever you might need for your baby. I've been working with Children Network Miracle Hospitals in as many ways as possible honestly since I was 16. Right after the Olympics, I went on a tour where we performed in all these different cities, and I got to visit Children's hospitals all across the country and meet all these incredible kids and families. I continued to do that since then and then my husband and I have done that. So whenever an opportunity arises to support Children's Miracle Network and the hospitals, we jump on it. Plus, this campaign is so fun! Being able to have the kids be involved with iconic candy bars and put their drawings on them and raise money on the same time? I think it's a genius way to truly raise the awareness that kids and families need.

You've been involved with them since you were a child, now you're raising your own children. Does Drew know about the partnership? Has she seen the candy bars?

Johnson East: She's seen the candy bars! I try to not let her eat the candy bars too much. Having a toddler running around on chocolate is terrifying. But yes, she's put together some of her own little doodles and been a part of it. I love that.

What's your best parenting advice? Or what's the advice you wish you had when you were pregnant with Drew?

Johnson East: That every single parent in the world parents differently, as they should. I feel like I had so many opinions thrown at me when I was pregnant with my daughter. 'You can't do this' or 'you have to do that.' For everything, literally everything. And it's so intimidating. It makes you feel like as a parent you're failing if you can't give that to your child. I feel like, truly if your intention is to love your child as best as you can, you can't go wrong. You're going to do the best you can in your way, and that's how it works for you.

What do you want people to know about you as a mom, athlete, parent, person?

Johnson East: That I'm learning every single day, just like everyone else is. I think it's really easy to put people on a pedestal. And to look at a social media platform and to interpret it as 'oh, they've really got it together' or 'they're that rock star mom.' And I'm not referring to myself, I'm referring to people that I see. And it's so easy to feel isolated and like you're not doing the best job. But I'm a hot mess who just had a meltdown when my baby doesn't eat the dinner that I fixed. I'm just like every other mom out there, just trying to learn and figure it out as I go.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.

    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:

    Belly oil


    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.


    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)


    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.


    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!


    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class


    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.


    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.


    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.


    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.


    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.


    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.


    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.


    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.


    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.


    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.


    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.


    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.


    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.


    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.



    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

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