It's been a busy month for Bethenny Frankel. First she got engaged to her boyfriend Jason Hoppy; then, a couple of weeks ago, she confirmed she's a little more than two months pregnant. With the Real Housewives of New York City currently filming its third season, we thought it would be worthwhile to get some parenting advice for the mom-to-be from one of her costars. So, naturally, we reached out to model-cum-designer Kelly Killoren Bensimon—a mom with two daughters of her own, Sea, 11, and Teddy, nine—to offer parenting tips for Bethenny. Kelly's advice, thoughts on women who breast-feed in public, and why she wears shorter skirts now than ever before is below. Join us, won't you?
We thought it would be fun to reach out to you about what advice you'd give to Bethenny now that she's expecting.
You guys are so bad. I love it! This'll be a great article. I think it's hysterical.
So what do you think Bethenny needs to know?
In all honesty, I can't really speak to Bethenny. I mean, we're just castmates; I really don't know her that well. I've only met her fiancé twice, and she and I have only interacted with each other five or six times. I can talk about what mothering advice I'd give to any mother, though. I really don't know her well enough to give her advice. I know she's commented on me before, but I would never comment on her. That's just not my style.
Of course not.
I mean, she would be like "Oh my God!" and freak out. With her hormones, she would be like firecrackers! Literally. Maybe she'll learn something from it; I have no idea.
Okay, so what advice then would you give to any new mother then?
For Bethenny or for any mother, just live every day like it's your last. It doesn't matter how much sleep you had or if you're wearing the same sweatpants from last week. Enjoy every single moment because life is so short. It sounds simple, but it's true. Every moment you're not there, you miss. You can't bring it back. It doesn't matter how savvy you are with the computer.
Do you think becoming a mom changes a woman?
Yeah, it empowers you to become a better person. It's not about going to the bar anymore. Life becomes about building a bar, or financing a bar. You just think bigger, and it's exciting! It's crazy.
How do you juggle raising two amazing girls along with everything else you're doing, like the jewelry line and the show?
Flattery will get you everywhere! You're sweet to say that. Well, you don't juggle. You're a mom. And you work. It's not something you juggle, it's just life. The only thing you can do is embrace it. That's why it's called "life." Because it's ever-changing.
I get it, I think.
You know what's funny? Of all the interviews I've done, you're the first person who has asked me about being a parent, and it's my biggest priority. What's interesting about Housewives is that you can see through the children a lot into what the parents are like. Jill rears her children in one way and Simon and Alex do it another way. Everybody has their own way of doing things.
Am I a strict parent? Yeah, I am! Why? Because I'm giving my kids boundaries so they can learn to swim in and out of them and create boundaries for themselves. I want my kids to be empowered; I want my kids to be rock stars. I don't want them to be mini-me's. When they say, "I want to be like you, Mommy," I'm like, "No! I want you to be better than me!" And I'll do anything I can to make that happen. It's my job.
Did you work throughout your pregnancies?
When I was pregnant with Sea, I didn't work. You're not a pregnant mom, you're a vessel, let's be honest. You're a vessel for a new life that deserves to be nourished properly. You have to eat a really well-balanced diet because it's not about you, it's about the child. I didn't exercise at all for both my pregnancies. I thought it would be best for me to focus on being the best possible vessel for my kids instead of being like, "Oh my god! What's happening? I'm gaining weight!" Like, who cares? In New York, I don't think it's that moms are so focused on losing weight, it's that they're so focused on schedules and every day is like an A-to-Z, planned-out, methodical schedule. It's not about you, though. You could be really sick one second and feel great the next. I got really, really sick the entire time I was pregnant, but it was like the best sickness I've had in my entire life. Some people are blessed and feel amazing. I get pregnant really easily. I do.
Wait, I don't think I caught that. Sorry, what do you mean?
I do! I got pregnant and the next day I knew, like BOOM! I wasn't trying. Let's be honest, the word "trying" is kind of a weird thing. "Oh, we're trying..." Like, really? It means you're having sex. It's like, "Okay, keep trying, good luck with that." I don't know who came up with that. It's very strange. People talk about it at dinner! And you want to be like, "Okay, do you need to leave? Do you need to take your temperature?"
Speaking of awkward dining experiences, how do you feel about moms breast feeding in restaurants?
Um, no. That was a big no-no for me. There are two different kinds of people in New York: There are the kind of people who are like very free-to-be-you-and-me and there are people who are like "I'm a business person. If I don't have Purell on my hands, I can't come near you." Regardless of whether you think you're too cool for school or you're a workaholic, you have to have discretion and be polite around other people. To be honest, most people are not interested in seeing that. There are ways of going around it. I breast fed both of my children, and nobody ever watched me do it.
I see. Do the difficulties of being a mom ever get to you?
No, it's awesome! Are you kidding me, I want more kids. I think it's so amazing to have children and be around them. Everywhere I go, kids come up to me and my daughters will be, like, "Mom, we don't even know that kid!" And I'm like, "It doesn't matter, they're coming up to us to say hi, be nice." Kids like me, I don't know.
So what challenges is Bethenny going to face?
Well, as far as any new mom goes, I mean, it's a life-altering situation. It's no longer about you, it's about "we." The other thing that's really interesting is that when you're an adult, you're always looking up, into people's eyes, at tree lines. When you have kids, you're always looking down. One day I realized, oh my God, I'm always on the floor! Everything is always down at their level. The irony of that is you become so much more open and alert and visual and aware of your environment and what's going on around you.
When you are a mother, it's so empowering because all of a sudden the world is so big to you. It's kind of like when you're a kid and you're questioning everything. When you're a parent, you question everything! You're like, "Do I like the way that person is raising their kids? Is it appropriate to do this? Is that skirt too short?" You're basically redefining everything you did before in your life. In your 20s, you're like, whatever, who cares? It's really exciting that you have another opportunity to find out what you really want because whatever you want is going to be passed on to the child that you gave birth to.
You mentioned short skirts. Did you find yourself dressing differently after you had kids?
Right after I had kids, absolutely. I was working at a magazine; I had to have lunches with people all the time. I was much more conservative. When you become a mom, you become more conservative. You just do.
How about now?
Now, my kids are 11 and nine, and my they're always like, "Mommy, you're so pretty! You're so beautiful! You're so this, you're so that" and to be honest, they're the ones who have really inspired me to want to dress better. I wear shorter skirts now than I ever have. When my daughters and I go shopping, they'll be like, "Mom, what are you doing? Put on something tighter. It looks cooler." They're incredibly empowering. Even, for me, going on Housewives, I was like, "I don't know if I should do this," and they were like, "Do it, Mommy! It'll be so much fun!" and I'm like, "Okay."
Was there anything you wish someone told you or warned you about before you had kids?
Well, it doesn't even have to do with Bethenny, but I wish I'd known that there really is no handbook. The reason is because every case is unique, which is awesome. I always tell my kids, "This wasn't in the handbook," and they're like, "There is no handbook!" and I'm like, "I know!" [Laughs]
We laugh about that all the time, the fact that there's not a handbook and I don't know what I'm doing.
Do you ever see parents doing something you don't agree with and tell them?
It's a judgment call. Does it mean it's up to you to tell them you don't like what they're doing? No, it's not. Some people are just more verbal about the way they want to raise their kids. Is that good or bad or ugly? It's everything. Is it my job to judge? No. I'd rather focus on what my kids are doing than what other kids are doing. Leave other people and their families alone.
How do you and your daughters communicate during the day?
I bought my older daughter a Blackberry because I think that people who can send clever BBMs, that's a sign of intelligence, versus just rambling. I'm trying to get her to think in a different way, to speak and write in short sound bites and be witty.
What do you love most about being a mom?
Everything about it is the best part. I'm not traditional. I mean, I don't raise my kids in a traditional way. I don't put them in the corner. I'm like, "Talk to me." I'm constantly pushing them to be better and do unusual things. One of my daughters wrote her own book when she was four; the other made her own magazine when she was seven. I want my kids to be big thinkers.
They seem to be really well-adjusted.
Let's be honest. People are jealous of people that are just happy. I'm not miserable, I'm not. I'm the most grateful person on the planet. I'm always like "yep, yep, yep, yep, yep," let's try it and see what happens. I'm raising my kids to be like that, too. To be open and available and excited about life. You know, the glass is half-full, and I'm just trying to fill it even more and have it overflow.
I am a really genuinely happy, nice person. I just am. You can't fake niceness. I want my kids to be like that. People are always like, "Oh my gosh, is Kelly really that nice?" and other people will be like, "Yes, she really is that nice," and then people are like, "Oh, I can't stand her." [Laughs] I'm Midwestern; I'm nice. I don't have one malicious bone in my body.
— Molly Fahner