One of the reasons Trista Sutter, the very first Bachelorette, has been so popular all these years is because she embodies the sexiness of a former Miami Heat dancer, the skill and intelligence of a former pediatric physical therapist and the empathy of a mother -- and she is grateful for all of it.
Trista's book Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart, which is about practicing gratitude, is being released in paperback on December 30. Additionally, she recently launched her Grateful Heart Gift Collection in partnership with GloryHaus.com.
In the book, Trista says, "My intent here is to share not only the lessons I've learned, but also those of my friends and family, those of strangers and even some of the teachings of some of the world's most enlightened authors, philosophers, poets and educators." She acknowledges that much of the research cited comes from the field of positive psychology.
Trista met her firefighter husband Ryan in 2003 on ABC's The Bachelorette. They went on to marry in front of 26 million viewers -- the couple's wedding special was one of the most watched episodes in the history of realty TV.
Trista and Ryan, who are known for having one of the most enduring relationships from the world of reality TV, now have two children, Max, 7, and Blakesley, 5. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Trista about motherhood and parenting with a grateful heart.
What does it mean to be actively grateful?
It's about consciously choosing to live a lifestyle that you're able to look around you and not look at the mess per say, but get to the heart of your life -- trying to look at the bright side and not dwelling on what's bothering you.
For example, I just turned 42 and I wasn't super psyched about this birthday... but thanks to Facebook and social media, I was flooded with texts, emails and phone calls and I felt so loved. I thought, 'I should be taking a page out of my own book and being grateful for the fact that I've been around for 42 years and I have a beautiful life. Yes, I got called a grandma the other day by a little boy, but hey...'
How does having a grateful heart help you be a better parent?
It helps me pass that legacy on to my kids.
What is a favorite way to teach your kids about being grateful?
I got them gratitude journals for Christmas last year to write one thing that they are grateful for every day.
What is the best advice about parenting you have received?
We were really struggling with Max sleeping and we were backstage with Brad Paisley at one of his concerts ...he has kids about the same age. I brought up the sleep issue and he said, 'We just had a sleep specialist come over and work with us and she had us do the cry it out method.' I thought for so long it was so cruel and I couldn't do it, but we tried it after that and it changed our lives.
I was a pediatric physical therapist and I learned a lot of methods to teach babies how to self sooth and I think it's so important for them to learn that on their own -- obviously when their bodies and minds are mature enough to handle it and from what I understood 4-months-old was the key age.
How do you maintain the connection and romance with Ryan with two young children in the house?
Very carefully! ... I think a lot of it is time management. If the kids are at school and we have some time then taking advantage of time we have together alone... I know that a lot of mom's suffer from I-feel-selfish syndrome. I get it, but I feel like you have to get back to yourself and the foundation of your family, which is the relationship you have with your husband or your wife in order for that family to thrive and flourish.
What is your parenting style? Does it match your husband's style?
I'm much more protective. I'm very regimented. I like keeping to a schedule and the reason I like it is because my children are happier if they get their sleep -- if they do the things they are used to doing.
What do you worry about most as a mom and how do you cope with that maternal anxiety?
We had a family tragedy (Trista wasn't born yet). There was an accident with a tractor and she didn't survive. I grew up hearing about that. And my father fit custom wheelchairs to people with disabilities so I always heard about him visiting the ER and seeing people who had been in horrible, horrible accidents. I feel like it has been embedded in who I am.
I think Ryan is a great stabilizer of my fears. He's the cool, calm and collected one. But I deal with it every day -- constantly worrying about their safety. I've gotten better and I consciously try to be better even if I'm not perfect in every situation.
How will you describe your experience on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette to your kids?
They don't know how we met yet. They haven't seen it... I'm sure that we'll be answering questions, but I'm not ashamed of it by any means. The first time I just wanted to have a fun, new experience. The second time was a means to an end. I really, truly wanted to meet someone and thankfully, Ryan was there.
How often do you look back at it?
Oh gosh, never. The wedding we watched a year after, and it comes on television every so often. Ryan hasn't seen the full show. It was really hard for him watching me with other guys. It's completely unnatural and I totally get it. I don't think it will ever be something we replay unless our kids find the VHS tapes and they know how to use them!