Author Lauren Smith Brody On The Importance Of Taking Care Of Yourself

As in: Date nights. Hikes. Workout sessions. And french fries. (Naturally.)

The journey of a mile begins with one step, according to Lao Tzu (the founder of Taoism, NBD). And also according to author Lauren Smith Brody: A sixteen-year magazine career yielded major professional success for the mom of two, but it was what happened after she left the glossies (i.e. discovered her true calling) that shaped her life’s path for good. Her just-launched book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, & Big Success After Baby, is a game changer for working moms everywhere. She shared her journey with here; it’s an inspiring piece, if you haven’t yet read it.

When she’s not booked with events or speaking engagements, Lauren is busy raising her two beautiful boys and perfecting her birthday-cake baking (more on that below). She has a weakness for French fries, loves a good night’s sleep, and cites her late-grandmother as her wellness muse.

Here, Lauren Smith Brody dishes on all the good stuff.

What three things do you do regularly that help you lead a happy and whole life?
Is it cheating if I say I book a sitter? Because Saturday nights out with my husband (usually with our friends, but sometimes just the two of us) are so normal and so needed that we almost take them for granted.

Exercise. I’m one of those people who hates all of it: I hate running, I hate spiritual yoga-type exercises, I hate spending money on barre classes. And yet, that one hour of doing the thing I hate makes the other 23 exponentially better. I eat better, I sleep better, I’m more patient with my children, and my husband is automatically funnier. So I do it.

I read to my kids, every single night (okay, except for those Saturdays that the sitter does it). We are a bookworm-y family for sure (my husband and I met in college in creative writing class), but it’s also just such a peaceful way to all share in a little bit of escapism together, especially if we are reading a series, like Little House on the Prairie, or Judy Blume’s Fudge books. And no matter how the day has gone, I can go to bed knowing that I’ve done one thing really right for my kids.

What’s your go-to recipe? The superfood that’s always in your kitchen? The food you can’t resist?
I’ll go backwards here. The food I can’t resist is French fries. That’s easy. Oh and my mom’s chocolate Bundt cake, which always seems to disappear one little “just-evening-up-the-edges” sliver at a time. It’s our family’s go-to birthday cake, and birthdays are very, very important to me, so…

Superfood: I’m going to say eggs. Are eggs a superfood? Because they are little miracles, whether you’re baking the afore-mentioned Susan Smith Bundt cake, or mixing a bunch of egg whites in to an ad-hoc no-recipe baked spinach dish like I made myself tonight. I’m in super healthy mode right now getting ready for the publicity that comes along with publishing a book, and I am all about fewer carbs and more eggs.

My go-to recipe is anything—really anything—from my friend Caroline Campion’s genius cookbook Keepers, which is so full of flavors I love. Lots of Asian-inspired dishes, lots of veggies. And everything is easy but not so easy that it feels lame. For truly easy nights, though, my husband and I both will lean on what we call kitchen-sink pasta, whole wheat pasta with everything in the veggie crisper thrown in: spinach, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, olives, every herb we’ve cooked with for a week. With anchovy paste, olive oil and whatever spices are at the front of the spice rack, and pecorino Romano (so much better than parmesan) on top, it’s perfect. Oh, and he usually insists on making it more perfect with a little bacon, too.

Your favorite way to move, and how it inspires you:
Face down in my pillow in bed. Nothing makes me nicer and healthier than sleep. Okay, but if I have to choose an actual exercise, I will say either a cardio barre class, which is efficient beyond belief, or riding my bike to work in the summer. Also very efficient and lets me be (internally) righteous about being good for the environment. And, I will admit, my bike is a yellow Jenny Schwinn with a basket because that bit of cuteness is very motivating.

The one place on earth you can always count on to help you reset, refresh, and refuel:
Any hike, anywhere—because if I’m hiking, I’m usually on vacation. That, or my own bed.

Your wellness muse:
My late grandma Dolores. She got very sick in her mid-thirties with an auto-immune illness that plagued her but didn’t hold her back for the next 40 years. She tanned too much, and tap danced, and wore crazy earrings, and drove around with an injured-pelican first aid kit in the back of her car, and made a mess when she cooked that spanned the entire kitchen, and took absolutely amazing care of everyone. You just walked through your days knowing she loved you. I aspire to that.

The travel destination you can’t wait to explore:
My list is so long. My husband and I had this idea on the last big trip we took two years ago for our 10th anniversary that we should pick up each next trip wherever we left off on the last one. That would put us at Monte Carlo, a very good place to start. I’d love to get to Corsica and Sardinia.

How you relax and unwind after a long day:
Just a real hang-out night at home watching whatever our latest T.V. show obsession is really all I need. I loved that my research for my book bore this out, too. In the survey I did of 700+ new working parents, I saw that a huge percentage—the vast majority—of mothers said that they fought more than ever before with their partners during their return to work (what I call “the fifth trimester”). But the majority also said that that very tough time period brought them closer to their partners than ever before. How do you reconcile that, I wondered? Who are these couples that are fighting more, but apparently effectively, because they are also getting closer? I looked at the other factors that the overlapping couples had and one huge one was that they spent time alone just the two of them together every week. That didn’t surprise me—of course date night is great if you can swing it. But was shocked me when I looked at the data was that all it took was ONE hour per week alone together to make a real difference. This wasn’t dinner out with candlelight. This was holding hands on the couch watching Homeland.

The hobby or endeavor that nourishes your soul:
Reading. For years I was an editor working nutty hours and reading manuscripts all day. I felt like I was reading, but I wasn’t, really. In my first year outside of corporate America I realized I’d been starving for books. Fiction, non, classics, new. I am constantly fueled and inspired by the books I’m reading now.

The best piece of advice you ever received:
That’s easy. It was from my dad on my wedding day. I share the whole story in my book, but essentially, I went for a run with him that morning and had asked him to share whatever advice he had for a happy marriage. His wisdom, it turned out, was all about life prioritization. I’m boiling it way down here, but he urged me to take care of myself first and foremost so that I would be most able to take care of my husband and then together we could take care of our kids. Extended family, friends, work, community, country all followed on the list, and to be honest, at any given moment since I’ve certainly been out of alignment. But having that baseline to reference, and forcing myself to really think about it every few months—am I taking care of myself? Am I showing my kids that mom and dad are good to each other? Am I doing work that I’m proud of? —is the most valuable tool I know.


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