"Bad Mommies" Are Happy Mommies

Cynthia Dermody

Laura Bennett book cover

Project Runway star and

author Laura Bennett

You might remember Laura Bennett from the reality show Project Runway. I remember her from the lobby of our office. She met me there recently to drop off a copy of her book, Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?

Wow. We talked for, like, two minutes, and what an impression. The architect-turned-fashion-designer mom, wearing slacks and a fur wrap, exuded this sense of being so in control of her super-charged career and life with ... get this ... 6 kids! Five boys!

"I take care of myself, get my oxygen first," she says." When I stop to think about it, I often find my worst days are in direct proportion to how far I let myself drift away from that yellow plastic mask."

I asked her how I can achieve a smackerel of her confidence and that elusive little thing everyone calls "life balance." Here's how she does it:


Me: Are you really happy, or are you just faking it?

Laura: Marriage and motherhood are a constant challenge, but I love a good challenge. I am deliriously happy and have more than I ever imagined, certainly more kids than I ever imagined. It may be the nicotine gum, or the fact that I parent my children my way, not the way others expect me to, and that gives me the freedom to enjoy the crazy, chaotic home life that I have. My husband and I have a great relationship, mostly because we accept each other's flaws instead of trying to change each other.

Other moms might say getting your oxygen, in other words, attending to your own needs first, is selfish ...

If you're traveling with a child, put your mask on first and then assist your child. It works in an emergency; why not use it every day? If I am a happy, fulfilled, fully functioning person, I can be a better mother to my children. It's that simple. My favorite is the Jet Blue version, which adds, "If you're traveling with more than one child, pick your favorite."

You gave up trying to have a "nice" orderly home years ago. Clutter stress is a biggie for me. How do you just give in?

If I expected my apartment to be perfectly clean and organized, I would be setting myself up for failure and be reduced to a screaming lunatic. I've learned to let go; it's a battle I have chosen not to fight. I do have a system to contain all the headless action figures and sporting equipment that comes along with five boys, so things aren't completely disorganized, but I can't realistically expect this tribe to live in a china shop. Sometime in the future, when my children have homes of their own to destroy, I will have a beautifully furnished apartment. But for now, IKEA is all my kids deserve.

 Okay, you believe there's no excuse for a woman to leave the house looking like a total slob, even if you're penniless, which you're not. But I'm just not a slacks and stilettos type of gal. Pajamas are more my style.

A sheath dress and heels works for me, but I certainly don't expect other women to dress like I do. I do believe that every woman can develop a uniform, a go-to outfit that is comfortable but looks great. Casual clothes can absolutely look stylish. My friend Susie swears her most flattering top comes from a line of yoga clothing, so she has it in several colors. She always feels great in it. That's the key, find a comfortable outfit that makes you feel great. If you really feel great in yoga pants and sneakers, go for it, but wouldn't a pair of cropped pants and ballet flats be just as comfortable?

Your figure rocks. But you hate diets. So ....

I treat myself constantly. That's my secret. I never feel the need to go overboard because I never feel deprived. I take a calories in/calories out approach to my eating, making sure the calories in equal the calories out. It may not be the healthiest way to eat, but some days those calories just need to come from a piece of Key Lime pie. Most days, actually.

But you have another secret, right?

I am actually kind of obsessed with my weight, or at least I weigh myself almost everyday to make sure I stay within a five-pound window. If I am at the lower end, I cut myself some slack, and if I'm creeping up, I reign in my eating. It is so easy to put weight on, and so hard to take it off. If I can limit myself to never having to lose more than five pounds, it seems manageable.

But no matter how thin I get, I still have saddlebags, so I worship at the alter of shapewear. It's like a bra for my butt. The genius of shapewear is the tweaking it can do to any specific figure flaw. It's not going to change the size you wear, but it can make the size you wear fit better. And it's so much cheaper than liposuction.


Laura's book hits the shelves April 13. Visit the Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? website for more info.

Are you like Laura? Do you get your "oxygen" first?

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