gail

As a trained chef, Special Projects Director of Food & Wine Magazine, a judge on Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels), host of the new show The Feed, overseer of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, board member of City Harvest and Hot Bread Kitchen, published author (if you haven’t read Talking With My Mouth Full you should) – Gail Simmons has a lot on her plate.

Add to the roster: mom to five month-old Dahlia Rae. But don’t tell her that “it’s going to get better” because she already loves every minute of it: “It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.”

The new mom leaves her Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, neighborhood – where they moved a week before she gave birth – for Boston soon to shoot season 12 of Top Chef with Dahlia Rae in tow.

We caught up with her (in between pumping and meetings) about the challenges of nursing and one of her most embarrassing moments (yes, it involves breastmilk).

What’s In A Name?

Dahlia is my favorite flower – it symbolizes sunshine and comes in so many amazing colors. It was our wedding flower and it was on our invitation. Rae is to honor my husband’s Aunt Rena, who passed away two years ago. She was so encouraging and supportive in our lives, and we love and miss her so much.

 Lifesaving Products

We opened the Fisher-Price bouncy chair when she was a month old, and we couldn’t believe we hadn’t opened it sooner. It allowed us to eat dinner, for me to pump and go to the bathroom when I was home alone with her. Once she hit three months, she graduated to the Mamaroo, which we call the hovercraft. She’s really into it now.

 Part Of The Club

On Top Chef, I was the only one who didn’t have kids, so they’ve been a wealth of knowledge and help. Michelle Bernstein made me realize it’s okay to be back at work and to lose the guilt associated with it because it’s the quality of the time you spend with your kids, not the quantity.

 Deep Thoughts From Gail

How will she sleep comfortably unswaddled? How can I leave the house without 14 bags? How do I pump when I’m running around all day? These are questions I don’t know the answers to.

 #Momfail

I was taping in front of a live studio audience and forgot to put nipple pads in my bra. They leaked right there. It was horrifying. You think you’re at least keeping it together on the outside. Of course I was wearing a beautiful silk dress. And in case you didn’t know, yes, milk stains. It was a low point.

Get In My Belly

After giving birth, you feel like you don’t know anything, including how to keep yourself fed. I have mastered the efficient grocery shop. Fresh Direct is tough for me because I like to physically walk the aisles and see my options. I went to Union Market and created a basic order with them. Sometimes I go and pick everything out and have them deliver it, others I just call and ask for my basics. I embrace anyone who delivers these days.

Flower Child

I love Honest diapers. Dahlia wears dahlias on her bottom – how cute is that?! Angela and Ethan Stowell [chef] gave me this amazing RoSK blanket that’s waterproof on one side, soft and fluffy on the other and it ties onto the stroller. It’s great for the park because you can put the waterproof side on the ground.

Neighborhood Nosh

We moved to Cobble Hill a week before I gave birth, so we’ve been getting to know the restaurants with baby in tow. We love Buttermilk Channel, Court Street Grocers, Nightingale 9, Red Gravy, Iris Cafe – they’re all so accommodating and kid-friendly. I spent a month in LA shooting and we frequented Cafe Gratitude, Alfred Coffee & Kitchen and lunch at Fred Segal.

Just Stop, Already

Everyone keeps saying, oh it’s going to get better, but we are actually loving the early days. She’s only four and a half months, and we are already reminiscing about things she “used to do”. It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.

Give Yourself A Break

I think new moms feel out of control so they obsess about routine and schedules, but the truth is they are babies, and you have to give yourself a break. They are going to be fine if you can’t feed them every three hours to the minute. Babies are adaptable and every child is different – you can’t prescribe one schedule for all. It’s all going to be okay as long as they are fed, dry and loved.

First Foods

I hope to make Dahlia Rae’s food myself in the beginning. I can’t wait for her to try avocado, banana, mango, sweet potato, peaches, corn. There would be great irony if I spawned a very picky eater.

Three Hours Alone On A Saturday

Will that ever happen again? I’m getting a mani, pedi and a massage anywhere that will take me at a moment’s notice.

Mom Brain

Now I know why my mom sometimes can’t remember my name. Because she had three children. I barely know my own name some days, and I only have one. Sleep deprivation is rough.

 

Photo Credit: Melanie Dunea

SHOP: Gail’s Registry Must-Haves

Uppababy Vista

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Sleep Sheep

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Born Free Bottles

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Jodie Patterson

Your mom may have told you that beauty comes from within, but you’ll never know how true that is until you get to know mom of 5 (!!) Jodie Patterson. Sure, beauty is her bread and butter: She founded the all-natural luxury skin and haircare line Georgia and an online beauty boutique DooBop, that everyone, including Oprah, is wild about. She’s also undeniably beautiful (that skin! those cheekbones! that smile!), but that is enhanced by her intense, gorgeous spirit – full of kindness, light, and, passion.

Jodie is also a trans-mom and advocate – you only need to read her unedited piece about creating a beautiful life for her child Penel to see that she embodies the kind of mind/body loveliness we aspire to. And while she doesn’t brand herself as a beacon for women who feel lost in motherhood, her actions and advice are proof she’s a worthy role model for those looking for inspiration, mojo, whatever you want to call it.

She graciously opened up to us about how she gets sh*t DONE, how she unwinds (equally inspiring), and her very teachable process for sharing her truth. Plus: The app that helps her get it all together (downloading… now!). Meet the awesome and fiercely heartening Jodie.

Sleep? What Sleep?!

After my first child, my sleep never went back to its normal pattern and I embraced the new hours – I worked at night whenever I couldn’t fall back asleep. The 5 years around when I was pregnant and nursing, I somehow got so much work down. You’re almost in this delirious state anyway, so you’re not sure what day or time it is – I tried to use that to my advantage.

Seeing Success

There were moments with my businesses that felt monumental at the time, like when we started selling Georgia to Whole Foods. With DooBop, I was answering the 800 number – it went straight to my cellphone! – so right away, I was in constant contact with our customers. They were asking me questions about the products, and then they started sharing about their favorite posts. I was thrilled when I realized we were hitting nerves and starting smart beauty conversations. Hey, people are enjoying who we are, not just the products we’re selling! Seeing engagement on social media and phone calls – I realized we were really onto something special.

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Balance 101

I have 6 touchpoints that I really try to hit at least once every day: Health, business, my guy, my kids, myself, and travel. Some days it’s more about the business, some days it’s more about the kids, but I have to make sure I touch on all those layers.

Exiting The Comfort Zone

Once I became a mom, I took on this different understanding of how much the body can take and how much the mind can do: The things I thought were totally unimaginable were actually just around the corner. We just adapt to these moments, tasks, and responsibilities. I’m fearless after becoming a mom. You can go past your comfort zone, and there’s something amazing on the other side. Childbirth is not a comfortable activity, but I did it 4 times. [Note: that’s Georgia, 16, Cassius, 9, Penel, 7, Othello, 5, and 23-year-old Nain, her love adoption – “he hasn’t left our side since he came into our lives at 19.”]

An Education In Intuition

The first year of each of my children’s lives, I studied them so I always knew what their bodies were telling me. I now use that skill at work – I brought that intuitive gut to my businesses and it allowed me to do more and be more attuned to a room than most people are. Motherhood also made me more productive. I never give up as a mom. If there’s something you want for your kid, you never stop until you make it happen. Schools in New York? It’s an impossible task, but we do it.

3 Hours Alone…

I’d go to my sink, open up my vanity, and start washing my face. Anytime I want to shift gears, I do something facial. Then I’d go for a run in Brooklyn…and come back home and make a plate of cheese, salami, and olives – my foods of pleasure. And a glass of rose. Then I’d clean up a little. I really enjoy cleaning – I’ll take a section of the house and use a whole container of disinfectant wipes. And I love my Sonos music system, so I’d have all that happening with a lot of good music playing.

Download. This. Now.

I love the Calm app, it’s guided meditation as short as 10 minutes, as long as 30. I’ve found them to be really great at night and in the middle of the day. Even the 10 minute sessions get me deep into meditation – it’s like getting extra sleep! And I wake up after those 10 minutes and feel really good.

A Phenomenal Outlook

I think that not only is it OK to be transgender it’s beyond OK: It’s actually phenomenal. I’m excited for my son because he’s two-spirited, which is the term some cultures use. When you’re two-spirited, you have a sense of the spectrum of things. Our society doesn’t always allow that space, so those of us who know it are really lucky to see the world through that lens.

Caring Through Sharing

Sharing was difficult because my family and Penel’s father’s family are pretty traditional. Transgender is not the first thing anyone was thinking of and definitely not talking about it. But when Penel started explaining to me that he’s not a girl, he’s always been a boy, that he dreamt about himself as a boy and about his future as a man – as I started to understand what was really happening, I had to normalize it for us. I just talked about it all the time. They say you need 10,000 hours at something to be an expert, so we talked about it all the time, shared it, discussed it, brought it up constantly. I didn’t want it to be something no one wanted to say. Now part of the success in embracing and being an advocate of it means you’re no longer stuck wondering what life will be like for your child, you’re in action. And then I saw Penel not being depressed all the time, not wanting to hide in the corner, not being a bully anymore…that was the number one point of the whole thing – for him to be happy.

The Roadmap To Opening Up

There are so many reasons people aren’t always transparent with what’s going on in their lives – I’m not just talking about transgender issues. Sometimes we need to be in it, and not tell the world yet because it’s a process that’s happening. A lot of times when you hear me talking about things, I’m just coming out of something. It’s important to find your process. Getting too personal and raw too early has never served me well. When you’re going through something, first, you go deep. Really think about who you are from the inside out. Then you have to let it out. Release. We are human, and sharing our stories is what our bodies are prewired to do. Once you start doing it it feels good. And then, you realize there’s a community for everything that you’re going through. It can be so isolating as a mom – you’re supposed to be directing your kids on the path of life. It’s an insurmountable goal and there can be shame if you don’t know what to do. But once you go inward, once you share your story and find your community, you find your answers, both through your own aha moments and others’.

moms helping moms

There’s a lot of internet talk of mommy wars. You actually use DISPOSABLE DIAPERS?! You HAVEN’T done cry-it-out?! And WHAT did you just say about co-sleeping?!

And yet, if you step away from the computer, you often find that out in the real world, moms – whether they’re friends or strangers – would often rather help than judge when it comes to the stuff that matters: keeping a lost kid safe, a new mom sane, or a poopslosion… contained. Here, 18 grateful women on the generous, kind mom saviors they’ll never forget.

And psst – have your own mom-savior to thank? Share your story on social and tag us (@cricketscircle) so we can help shout your thanks from the rooftops.

My baby was 2.5 weeks old and for whatever reason, I was vigilant about no bottles (even though I had a stash of pumped milk in the freezer). I went to a playdate with my 3-year-old, and before leaving the house, fed the baby to the gills and left her asleep with our nanny and longtime housekeeper. She usually sleeps in 3-hour chunks, but the nanny called an hour later – baby was awake, pissed, starving, and shrieking. I didn’t think to tell her to do a bottle; I just ran home as fast as I could. When I opened the door, I found our housekeeper, the mother of a 3-month-old, nursing her. They saved the day, and I cried in gratitude.

-Dannielle

Two moms I’d only recently met stayed with my baby in the park while I took my husband to the ER. I was in a panicked daze and just up and left my 7-month-old with them with no plan and only a head’s up of where his pacifiers were. They kept him safe and happy, and when we were ready, brought him to the hospital waiting room so I could take him home. And when we got home and discovered I’d left my keys at the hospital, guess who let us crash at their apartment until the super could let us in? A mom. (And: dad. He deserves credit, too.)

-Amy

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I made the rookie mom mistake of agreeing to go to a friend’s house so she could meet my brand new baby (note: everyone comes to you). Of course my baby was tired and cranky after our visit, it was torrentially downpouring, and there wasn’t a cab in sight. Baby and I were standing on a street corner sobbing (sans umbrella, naturally) when a cab pulled up next to us and the passenger insisted we get in. It was a mom who said she had so been there – she promptly dropped us off at home (after giving us a pep talk). I was too frazzled to even catch her name or contact info, but whoever you are, you are f-$*ing awesome and I hope you read this!!!

-Ashley

Another wonderful human helped me in the most unexpected way — she posted a photo of my daughter’s lost lovey on a neighborhood message board, letting everyone know where it was found and that she would kindly leave it at the yoga store. My daughter was so happy to be reunited with her special blanket!

-Sarah

Our first plane ride, we were lucky enough to be seated next to a mom. We had just gotten off of the jetway in 4-degree weather, and our 3 month old was screaming inconsolably. My wife was panicking, I was desperately trying to get baby to nurse to no avail. This woman just looked at us calmly and said: “Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, and it’s okay.” And just like that, we could breathe again.

-Jess

I ran into an old coworker at a wedding – we were both still nursing, so we went together to pump in the venue’s back office. Well, turns out I’d packed my bottles but not the actual pump… or flanges. She not only let me use hers but sat with me while I pumped after she’d finished… and we both watched the couple’s first dance on a fuzzy security camera screen. “Well, that looks fun,” she said cheerfully, in a dank room with my boobs out. That was kindness personified for me.

-Claire

The first time I nursed in public, another mom stopped to thank me for helping to normalize public breastfeeding. I had heard so many horror stories about nursing mothers being shamed, so I really appreciated the affirmation.

-Ashlie

My husband’s friend’s wife, who had a toddler of her own, dropped her child off with family and drove to scared and sad me to help with my newborn. She brought TONS of yummy food and taught me the eat-activity-sleep cycle: She basically provided the instructions babies should, but don’t come with. And lifted a very dark cloud off of me.

-Meredith

My mom, a veteran mom of three, took the nighttime shift with our baby so my husband and I could have our first full night of sleep together since… the day he was born. Which is exactly why I call her my best friend.

-Crystal

My husband and I took our 6 week old to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend (note: never do that). We were on the car ferry and the baby had a MAJOR blowout – exploding poop through the diaper, all over his clothes, up his back… my husband ran to the car to get the diaper bag. He fumbled around but no diaper bag. While we packed up our whole house as panicked new parents, we forgot the most important bag of all. A woman nearby handed me a diaper and wipes and said, “don’t worry, it gets easier”. As I continue to find out, she was lying through her teeth, but so kind nonetheless!

-Sara

Just after my separation, my daughter was only one and obviously too young to make something for me for Mother’s Day. A friend (I still do not know who) mailed me a card, filled out from my daughter. I will never forget this person’s endeavors – the fact that she never wanted to be known, even after the fact, showed me how selfless her act was. Whoever you are, I heart you!

-Angelina

After standing in line for a very, very, very, long time to see my toddler’s favorite musical group, we reached the entrance and were told the theater was completely full and they could not admit any more people. My daughter was heartbroken, and I was almost in tears myself. But then (miraculously!) an employee told me that my daughter and I could go in. Turns out the mom that had been standing in line in front of us volunteered to keep her child in her lap and to give the seat next to them to us. I couldn’t even watch the show I was so grateful and choked up over her act of kindness.

-Tangela

At the end of a flight, the woman seated next to me and my daughter remarked with wide eyes, “Why she’s been such a calm pleasure to be seated next to.” Regardless of if whether that was true or not, the gesture was much appreciated!

-Daphne

One of my dearest friends gave up her time to come and tape my baby girl’s preschool graduation because I was stuck at a meeting two hours away and unable to make it. That’s a really good friend.

-Tiffany

One of the nicest things another mom did for me was to come over one morning when my first son was about 5 weeks old, and hold him so that I could take a shower!! My son cried whenever we put him down, so this wonderful friend came over so that I could relax and enjoy a clean self – what a gift! That was 20 years ago, and I still remember it with gratitude.

-Holly

My husband and I were told by a fertility specialist that we would never have children, so we splurged and bought a big, beautiful new home. We were there one month when I found out I was pregnant, and we had NO room in our budget for maternity clothes. I told a friend about my dilemma, and a few days later, she dropped off two large bags of designer maternity clothes. She had called a friend of hers who had just given birth and was no longer in need of the clothing and asked to borrow them for me. I am forever grateful for this particular act of loving kindness and generosity and have been paying it forward even since.

-Eileen

I had rushed my daughter out of the house to get to the grocery store before it closed, and she was NOT happy about it. Once the cashier rang me up I opened my purse to find that I didn’t have my wallet (guess which toddler thinks mommy’s wallet is a hilarious toy?) I shrieked, which immediately set off my daughter, making us a VERY sad sight at the check-out counter. The woman behind me in line quietly leaned over and said “let me get this one for you,” as if it was a coffee. Who does that?! A saint.

-Jolie

The mom who was there in the split second that my son stepped back into the closing subway doors to retrieve his backpack. (I, of course, still OFF the train, watching in horror as it sped away to the next EXPRESS stop.) To hear my son tell it, the nice lady talked to him all about Minecraft as they traveled to the next stop…and then got off the train with him and waited until I showed up from the next train. That mom kept my son so calm he had no idea anything bad had happened until I showed up, sweating and hysterical. Meanwhile, that 15 minutes aged me 15 years.

-Aziza

We dumped a bag of pacifiers at my neighbor’s door, my 3-year-old son only momentarily brave enough to “gift” his beloved pacis to her infant. That night he sobbed as I reminded him that now the new baby had his pacifiers, and in the morning he announced that we needed to go take them back. He opened the door and found a card signed by the baby, thanking him for being such a big boy and saying how much the new baby loved the pacifiers. He was so thrown by the surprise card – from a baby! – and proud, that he managed to handle another day without his pacis. She sent a few more cards over the next few weeks, and managed to make the very painful process much easier.

-Gloria