Mommy needs a moment. Just one. Just to catch her breath. But Brooke Burke's probably not gonna get it, with four kids and about that many jobs, including co-hosting ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Luckily, she paused long enough to tell you how she stays energized through a nutso day.
I always tell people that I'm able to do what I do on live TV because it's a lot like my life at home! On Dancing With the Stars, I'm often hearing four different conversations at the same time because I'm interviewing the stars and listening to producers on earphones. My four kids have really prepped me for that. I'm used to being in overdrive and juggling a little too much. [The woman does not exaggerate: The 39-year-old is co-CEO of modernmom.com, as well as president of the online store babooshbaby.com. Earlier this year, Brooke also published a book, The Naked Mom: A Modern Mom's Fearless Revelations, Savvy Advice and Soulful Reflections.]
When I was a new mom, I used to think that life was going to be balanced, and I strived for that. But life is crazy! I've got two little ones a year apart - my daughter Rain, 4, and my son, Shaya, 3 - and two older daughters - Neriah, 11, and Sierra, 9 - and a million things to do. I gave up on the expectation that everything was going to be picture-perfect. Balance is a joke. Here's how I get through the craziness.
6:30 A.M.: RISE AND SHINE
Our 3-year-old is the alarm for the entire family because he's up at 6:30 like clockwork, asking for his sippy. I'm not a morning person. I'm really not. I stumble downstairs and I'm like, "Coffee!" David [Charvet, Brooke's partner of six years and the father of her younger two children] and I love coffee. It's regular coffee with Equal, and I heat my milk. Of course I never get to drink it all at once. It gets reheated in the microwave probably three times, and most of the time I end up taking it in the car. Usually I'll blend up a quick shake, too: berries for antioxidants, almond milk or coconut water, and a bit of protein powder and some greens. It tastes terrible, but I drink it every day. It's for fuel, not for pleasure. I think keeping your energy up and staying in shape are 90 percent based on what you eat. I usually set the breakfast table the night before, and I've taught my older kids to help pack their own lunches. There's so much going on in the morning, I need everybody to fend for themselves as much as they can.
7:15 A.M.: FAKE A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
With four kids, I haven't slept in a decade, and I'm tired! So I pull out all the tricks to mask that. This one is free, and works: I put spoons in the freezer, and in the morning I put them on my eyes, bottom sides down, for a few minutes. It kills any swelling fast.
7:30 A.M.: CONSULT THE SCHEDULE
I have my whole life organized on an 11x17-inch tear-away weekly calendar. I just made it available on my website, modernmom.com - it's the "Oh! What a Week!" calendar from erincondren.com - because I love it so much. Every single thing that's happening in our lives is on it. I'll get the school schedules from the kids, and on Sundays I write it all out on the weekly. If I don't write it down, something's getting missed and I'm totally failing as a mom. (But it's not color-coded or anything - I'm not that good!) Even my 11-year-old counts on it. So I might say, "It's Earth Day today. You have to wear your green T-shirt." And she'll be like, "Mom, I gotta go double-check." She'll run to the calendar and go, "Yup, it's Earth Day." There are some weeks when the kids have a ton of activities at school, plus sports games, doctors' appointments, and friends' birthday parties, and maybe I'm doing a photo shoot or TV interviews in addition to the show. I'll open the calendar and have a moment of anxiety where I'm like, Oh, my God. How are we going to get through all of this? So I pace myself. I say, "It's going to be a really tough seven days." It's almost like running a marathon - a mental marathon.
8:30 A.M.: SQUEEZE IN A WORKOUT
On show days [Mondays and Tuesdays], I drop the kids at school at 8:15. David and I divide and conquer; I'll take two kids to school and he'll take two, because they're in opposite directions. I work out right after that - I'll go for a run in the neighborhood or take a Pilates Plus class. You've got to figure out what works for you. If you only have 20 minutes, make it a kick-ass 20 minutes. Working out is my stress reliever and my me time. The way I see it, if you don't have 45 minutes a few days a week for yourself, you are in big trouble. Because here's the thing: If my kid has a doctor's appointment, or if I have a parent-teacher conference, I'm not missing it. I don't miss any of my kids' appointments. So why can't I schedule time for myself? I tell myself, "Okay, here are my priorities for the week," and I write them down. I make sure I allow myself enough self-respect to schedule my own stuff too. Then I'll say to my kids, "I'm going on a hike right now. I am taking an hour, just like I was in the car for 45 minutes driving you to your playdate. And I'll be back. And you're going to be fine. Bye." And I go.
9:30 A.M.: CONQUER THE CLOSET
I have these hanging rods in my closet, and when I'm feeling creative, I'll hang maybe five outfits up there. I'll even accessorize them. So if I have a dinner, I can grab one and go. You know what else helps my energy? Color. I realized that most of my clothes were black, so I started buying things that were brighter and more fun. Sometimes I'll make it easy on myself and just wear the same thing every day. I recently bought this yummy sweater wrap. I loved it. I wore it to Dancing With the Stars rehearsals; I wore it with jeans and T-shirts. Sometimes David will be like, "God, you really love that." The minute your husband says that, it's got to go!
10:00 A.M.: SNACK IN THE CAR
I eat as often as I can. I'll eat even if I don't feel like eating. It's kind of like when you say to the kids, "Do you have to go to the bathroom?" And they're like, "No," and you say, "You should." If you get too hungry, you're just a grumpster all day. I always have emergency snacks in my car: almonds, dried cherries, water for the kids and fruit. And I always carry a protein bar. My favorite right now is Bill Phillips's Nutrition Right bar. I also carry Emergen-C vitamin C packs and mix some with water for energy during the day whenever I can. And I drink tons of lemon water; I think it's good for your body and your immune system. I also always have a little moisturizer and an eyelash curler in my bag. Even if I don't have a lot of makeup on, I always curl my eyelashes to brighten my eyes.
12:10 P.M.: PREP FOR THE SHOW
I usually shower in my dressing room, and then I have lunch in there while I read the script. I eat the same thing every day (I'm so boring): a chopped chicken salad from a restaurant in Los Angeles, The Farm, but I substitute salmon for the chicken, which they put over lettuce with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and a really yummy cilantro dressing. It's just one less thing I have to worry about. Because eating a heavy meal drains you. This way, my body can count on that energy.
3:00 P.M.: TAKE A ZEN MOMENT
On show days, the afternoon is about getting ready: hair and makeup and wardrobe. Then, before we go live (we're on from 5 to 7 Pacific time), I take 15 minutes in my dressing room - or sometimes just five - to breathe, be quiet, and visualize a really successful show. I'm usually sitting on the arm of my couch, because I'm in my dress and it's so tight that I literally can't sit; it's so funny. I get everybody out of there, I close my eyes, and I think to myself, It's going to be a really positive show, and everything's going to go really well, and there are going to be very real moments. It's a moment of affirmation and gratitude. I love live TV. There's always drama, but even the awkward moments can be fun. When I interview the dancers after their performances, I'm always trying to bring those real moments to the public. I see that as my role. [To that end, Brooke is also a Twitter fiend, broadcasting behind-the-scenes details like watching fans rush recent DWTS guest band the Backstreet Boys and bumping into American Idol contestants who are rehearsing in the next studio.]
On non-show days, I like to be with my kids as much as I can. A couple months ago, my daughter Sierra was like, "Mom, I really want to spend some time with just you. Can we get away?" Our house is near the beach, and there's this place we call Crab City. It's like a tide pool where we can explore all this great sea life. She said, "Can we just go there alone? I really need it." And I was like, "That's fair. Thank you for expressing yourself." So we went to the beach and we had this amazing hour.
6:00 P.M.: GET DINNER ON THE TABLE
When I'm not doing the show, we have family dinner together every night. I love to cook. And because my family's so big, when I shop, I get to the checkout line and they're like, "Oh, are you having a party?" It's like, "Nope, this is my usual!" A lot of times I'll marinate some chicken in the morning while the kids are eating breakfast. I put it in a baking dish so I can come home, put the oven on 350°, slide it in, and 30 minutes later it's done. The most amazing marinade is the Williams-Sonoma dry brine. I use the leftovers to make a new meal the next night, like chicken burritos, matzoh-ball soup - one of our family favorites - or fried rice with leftover chicken, vegetables, and eggs, Benihana-style. It's not as good as Benihana, but I try. Every time we go to Benihana, my kids go, "Now, Mom, pay attention!"
7:45 P.M.: BATH TIME (MY BATH, NOT THE KIDS')
My kids love to shower with me. They love to hang out in the kitchen with me. They love to climb in my bed. They love to be in my vanity, all over my nail polish and in my makeup. They're going in my closet now, too. Yesterday, my oldest daughter pulled out these beautiful five-inch platforms and she's like,
"How old do I have to be to wear these?" And I said, "Twenty. Twenty. Okay? And when you can afford them!" So when I need a moment, I take a bath. I let my kids sprinkle in Epsom salts, and then I make it really hot so they can't get in. Isn't that awful? They beg. And they insist on getting in, so I say, "Go ahead, try it." And it's so hot that they finally lose interest. I'm like, "I need my moment."
Whatever I've got going on, I play music to accompany me. I have different playlists for every mood: One's called "Easy," and it's for chilling out and calming the kids (it's instrumentals from Buddha Bar and a lot of Café Del Mar). When we entertain, I play my "International" list, which has Luis Miguel and beautiful Spanish, French and Italian music. If I need to know what's hip and current, I go to my 11-year-old. Neriah keeps me cool! We'll do dance-offs to those songs at home with the kids. And I have a "Sexy" playlist that David and I listen to when we're alone; it's got Adele, Maxwell, Kem, Sade - groovy, soulful music.
8:30 P.M.: "HANG OUT" WITH DAVID
It's Familyville in my life, but David and I make sure to escape once a week. So maybe on a Sunday night, we'll go out to dinner at a favorite Malibu restaurant. Or at home we get the candles, the music - the whole deal - and we close the bedroom door. We have a rule in our house that you have to knock on closed doors. Someday the kids might be like, "I smell the candles, I hear Maxwell playing ..." but thank God they're not old enough to figure that out yet. I do not want to have to explain that one! The funny times are when we've planned a sexy night and then we're too tired to actually go through with it. We'll have a glass of wine and be like, "It was a great idea, but I'm wiped out ... Are you?" And then the best thing we can do for ourselves is sleep. I mean, how boring, and it sucks, but sometimes we're too damn exhausted! I think that fatigue is a demon for every woman. But even saying, "I love you, and I want you, but I'm so exhausted" goes a longer way than just, "Let me ignore you and pass out," you know?
10:00 P.M.: SLEEP!
Bedtime for us is usually 10 or 11. I wind down by catching up on a favorite TV show. Or I light a candle in my bedroom - my favorites are from Dayna Decker (the Dahlia scent) and Kai - crawl into bed, and do some writing on my laptop, mostly blogging for Modernmom. When Modernmom was getting going, there was a period when all the moms involved would be online at 11 o'clock, doing all the work when our families were asleep. But these days, I'm way too tired to do much. And I have to confess: On a lot of nights? I just end up falling asleep with the kids when I'm putting them to bed.
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