The last time I talked with TV personality, best-selling author, and beverage mogul Bethenny Frankel was last November. From then to now she has gone though an intense variety of life changes in a compact timeframe. But now she's coming out the other side and is starting to "see the light."
Her children's book, Cookie Meets Peanut, comes out September 23rd and is based on a special dynamic in her own family -- how Cookie, her much loved 14-year-old dog, and her 4-year-old daughter, Bryn, became friends after a rocky start.
In an interview, I talked with Bethenny about the book, her life changes and parenting.
Photo Courtesy of Arthur Cohen
Cookie Meets Peanut
Bethenny believes that the dynamic in Cookie Meets Peanut is such a common one, it is surprising not to see it addressed in children's books. "When you have a dog, the dog is your baby. Then you have a baby, and your dog is a dog... Cookie was my life and of course, still is, but she got shafted for a minute."
I conducted my own focus group of one for the book with my 4-year-old daughter who gave it great reviews -- she was very engaged in the friendship aspect of the book, which Bethenny says is also the case with Bryn: "She likes the Snoopy and Woodstock of it all."
Cookie Meets Peanut has a few cute winks for adults including outings to "Starbarks" and "Bark Jacobs." Both children and adults are likely to be delighted by the illustrations.
Then and Now
In November, Bethenny was doing her now cancelled talk show for about a month and a half and in the thick of a tense, public divorce from Jason Hoppy. "I was very exhausted and stressed --feeling stretched, and running and running, and not that much stillness... I was probably at a personal two then, and now I'm probably a personal seven or eight... I feel calmer." At this point, Bethenny believes she is still defining her identity as a single mom.
Beauty, Image, and Health
From the beginning, it was important for Bethenny to reinforce the idea of being a kind girl over a pretty one to Bryn: "It started the second she was born, I remember my ex saying, 'She's so pretty, she's so beautiful,' and I said, 'She's a nice girl.'"
It is also crucial for her that Bryn has a healthy relationship with food: "I wouldn't want any of my friends or anyone around me and my daughter saying, 'I feel fat' or 'My jeans feel tight,' because you want them to have a healthy relationship with food. But people just think there's tofu and brown rice around my house all the time, and it's not like that. We eat a lot of greens, salads, lentils and healthy foods, but there's ice cream, pizza and French fries and all that stuff too."
Bethenny feels that if you eat the healthy foods, it's ok to have the not-so-healthy foods once in a while. However, "There's no such thing as a kids menu for us -- when we go out to dinner everybody shares everything," she says.
Bryn is not a particularly picky eater -- she eats her broccoli, but in general Bethenny isn't apt to push certain foods on her because she doesn't want to trigger rebellion. "Things like kale chips have changed the world because your kid wants to eat kale even if it's in that way -- it's great," she says.
Bethenny acknowledges that children feel the energy of what's going on between parents, however, Bryn doesn't tend to ask questions about the divorce. Because it's not brought up, Bethenny doesn't discuss the situation with her. "As long as they're loved, and feel important, supported and you spend time with them, then they are happy," Bethenny says.
Frustration and Joy
For Bethenny, the biggest frustration as a parent is being strict and "not negotiating with terrorists," but then trying not to feel guilty about it later.
Also frustrating is the competitiveness she sees among some moms. "There's a lot of talk about other people's kids... A very gossipy, judgy part of the world that I didn't know," she says. For her, dealing with it, is about ignoring it.
And the joy of parenting--"There's just purity, sweetness and love--just hearing your child say, 'I love you, Mama.'"
Bryn hasn't come up against bullies yet, but when she does, Bethenny will tell her that, "kids can be cruel," but it's important that Bryn keep on her path of being kind.
Also in this type of situation, Bethenny feels that having an open line of communication is the most important thing. "You want them to trust you and tell you what's going on," she emphasizes.
The Best Advice
"I make decisions in my life based on the fact that people say it goes so quickly," she says, but then pauses and thinks for a moment. Bethenny isn't big on advice: "I don't give it and I don't really take it because everyone's got their own way of doing things."
Bethenny had a difficult relationship with both her mother and her father and I wanted to know how the way she was parented affected her parenting: "It's not something conscious, it's not like I say I'm not going to do this because that was something that was done to me... but you're aware of what's healthy and what's not healthy."
The values Bethenny wants to pass on to her daughter are "creativity, passion, integrity, honesty, and strength--never say you can't. You can do anything you set your mind to!"
As of now, Bethenny has no concrete plans to come back to TV. She's had "offers and conversations," but no plans. "Maybe in the future," she speculates, "It's not the last people have seen of me, but I'm still enjoying my break -- I need a minute."
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