Editor’s note: Jill Simonian will be an honorary Parent Ambassador at the 2017 New York Baby Show! She’ll be at the Show both days (May 20-21) where she’ll help to open the Show in the morning, and will be chatting and signing books in the Meet the Experts Area in the afternoon.
If you’re looking to TheFABMom.com for fashion trends and ladies’ brunches, you’ve come to the wrong place.
“I love getting dressed up, and I love doing fun things, and I love a fabulous lifestyle. But ‘FAB’ is an acronym for ‘focused after baby,’” the site’s founder, Jill Simonian, says.
In introducing her blog, now in its sixth year, the parenting lifestyle expert is as sunny as her home base in LA. In a nutshell, it’s all about finding that individual confidence as a first-time mom. “If you and harness that and develop that [focus] in the early years of motherhood and really figure out what works for you, what makes you happy, those things are going to get you through the day,” she explains. “Then you’re going to have an easier time with the ups and downs that being a parent entails.”
Simonian has built up an entire brand around the FAB mom ethos—she’s also the resident parenting lifestyle personality on CBS Los Angeles, with a permanent twice-weekly segment, and has her debut book, The Fab Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump and Bounce Back Fast After Baby, hitting the shelves on April 4. And as some of the best entrepreneurial stories go, this was an accidental one.
After studying communications at UCLA and spending her post-grad years pursuing her love of musical theater, Simonian found her way to a flourishing TV career by way of a local news station contest. She landed as a runner-up despite her lack of broadcast experience, then snagged a full-time entertainment cable gig as an entertainment news reporter and host the year after. From there, she went full steam ahead at networks like ReelzChannel, the Travel Channel and HLN—until, three months into her marriage, she discovered that she was pregnant.
Though she now feels “so lucky to get pregnant easily when a lot of people are having trouble,” Simonian was initially petrified at unexpectedly adding a baby to the mix.
TheFABMom.com started as a way to keep one foot in media as she adjusted to being a new mom. She says of the blog: “It was a project that I started to keep my brain active, but then it spun into a real ‘this can be what I’m doing.’”
And what she’s doing is this: Helping new moms to be resilient through the drastic lifestyle change that is parenthood. Simonian achieves this with a “handle it” philosophy gleaned from her mother, which she applies to her blog, her book, her TV appearances, and beyond. “Whether it was for a school project or extracurricular or anything, the two words that were the motto at my house were: ‘Handle it,’” Simonian says.
Her forthcoming Fab Mom’s Guide is an easy and enjoyable read, both relatable in its no-nonsense frankness and fun with its contributions from Simonian’s star-studded circle. Anchored by a personable mix of stories and tips, the book aims to be “something that’s going to awaken a new mom’s ability to say: ‘This is great! This is not great!’ And shape her own way of being focused for that first year of motherhood.”
Just as with Simonian’s blog—which features both minor and major “fails” (from potty training struggles to baby rolling off the bed)—The Fab Mom’s Guide doesn’t shy away from the embarrassing or absurd. Simonian says she “doesn’t know how to do it any other way,” but at a deeper level, she astutely guesses that many moms may be “very sensitive on the inside” despite looking tough on the outside. Her honesty assures her readers that they’re not alone.
“For whomever reads my book, it hopefully is going to positively affect her life in some ways and also make her go: ‘Hell no, I absolutely do not want to do that,’” Simonian says. “Whatever she thinks, [the book] is going to help her make choices that are good for her, help shape her decisions, and make her feel more focused after baby.”
Simonian’s book balances personal experience and philosophy with practical advice. A section that deals with stressing out over baby gear, for example, points out that “billions of babies over thousands of years have survived and thrived without half of this crap”—but also lists the essentials along with tips on how to make your choices (courtesy of actress and fellow “mompreneur” Ali Landry). In another chapter, she pairs her reasons not to breastfeed with nursing tips from a pediatrician for those who might want to.
But the line that perhaps sums it up best is: “Bigger idiots than me have figured this out.” It’s a subtle rallying cry, capturing a declarative confidence that resilience is there for any mom’s taking—without judging or trivializing any of the pains that come with finding it.
Simonian’s daughters are now 5 and 6, and she credits them both for the inception of her book. It was with her first daughter that she “figured out the formula that worked for [her] to bounce back mentally.” But it was with the surprising realization that she still felt in control after her second birth that she recognized that she’d tapped into something. Writing a book had been on Simonian’s bucket list since college, and now she finally felt that she had something unique that she really wanted to share.
Presently, the formula that Simonian’s created is brewing just right. She tells us about one of those days she had a few weeks prior, when she started crying in the midst of chopping vegetables. Her girls, who were drawing on the kitchen floor, immediately rushed over to hug her and shower her with comforting “don’t worry’s.” “They were moved to get up and make an effort to help solve my problem,” Simonian says. “The biggest joy is when you see your kid doing the right thing, taking the nice option, being kind to someone else.”
So what are some of the magic ingredients involved? For starters, Simonian is unabashed in sharing: “I tell my kids, in front of my husband, so everyone can hear: ‘I need help, I can’t do everything!’” She’s also a big believer in having the children help out around the house, beginning with bringing their dishes to the sink when they’re as young as 2 or 3. If a toddler can carry 14 stuffed animals from one room to the next, Simonian says, they can pick up her plate after a meal.
“When you get kids involved at a young age, they don’t know that there’s another option not to help out. You set yourself up for well into the future,” she adds conspiratorially.
Of course, hammering out a routine with her husband is key, too—especially as Simonian’s schedule has ramped up. During the week, while she’s on air, her husband’s taken charge of dinner and bedtime on Wednesday and breakfast and school drop-off on Friday. During the weekend, the duties are split.
Simonian is open in admitting that that they’ve had to carve out their own path to get here, both coming from rather traditional Armenian families in which anything household-related fell to the women. “It took a long time for my husband and I to find an amicable rhythm,” she says. “You just really have to hunker down and figure out how you can split the duties.”
Continuing in the spirit of keeping it real, there’s certainly plenty that Simonian’s still figuring out as her girls grow. These days, discipline looms large on her mind. “The biggest challenge is to maintain the parenting style that I really do believe in,” Simonian says, adding that being strict and respecting the rules is part of that.
And just as she doesn’t force her philosophy as the ultimate solution for all parents, Simonian doesn’t force a bad day into a good one. Her go-to when she hits a wall is to go to bed so that the following day can be a fresh start. Or, if she’s only just started the day, Simonian tells us: “I will look the mirror and I say: ‘Thank you for this day. I’m alive, I’m here.’”
And that’s what matters at the end of the day. Because we all know: parenting comes with lots of curveballs, and navigating all of this involves hard work. “True, you’re not in control of everything, and a baby’s going to do what a baby’s going to do,” she says. “But if you stay committed to figuring it out and just handling it, you’ll be in more control than you think.”
To learn more about Jill Simonian, visit thefabmom.com!