Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on what surprised her about motherhood: 'I'm not as nurturing as I thought I would be'

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Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on getting crafty with her kids and keeping it real about motherhood. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on getting crafty with her kids and keeping it real about motherhood. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

As the Bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky-Manno was tasked with juggling multiple suitors. As a mom of two who shares daughter Molly, 5, and son Riley, 3, with husband Kevin Manno, she's juggling... everything. That includes finding a place for budding artist Molly's stacks of art projects, something that helped inspire the TV personality and influencer to team up with the Pebbles cereal brand and its mission to "spark kid-powered creativity." From now until Dec. 5, parents and kids aged 6 to 15 can submit their artwork on CreateWithPebbles.com to be considered for the Never Stop Doo-ing Project, which will display winning submissions in an online gallery in addition to turning them into actual art wall murals in cities nationwide from Dec. 16 through Jan. 13.

"Moms are always joking, 'What do we do with all this art? You can't throw it away,'" Fedotowsky-Manno tells Yahoo Life. "So find a special project that your child has created and submit it... I just keep thinking if my daughter ever saw her art as a mural on the side of the building, she would just lose her mind."

Ahead, she opens up about getting creative with her own kids, being candid online and why she's not quite the type of mom she always imagined she'd be. 

Are you a crafty mom, or do you hand your daughter some crayons and leave her to it?

I definitely first started getting into DIY stuff when I worked at the Hallmark Channel because I did a lot of that on the show I worked on there [Home and Family]. But since then, if anything, Molly has really just taught me things. Like, she'll come home from school and be like, "We're doing weaving projects with strips of paper."... I feel like I'm learning from her when it comes to art. We're so creative when we're young and we are constantly thinking we can do anything, which is amazing and incredible. As we get older, I think we forget some of that. So one of the cool parts for me as a parent is just being able to see my daughter use her imagination to create.

What has surprised you about motherhood?

That I'm not as nurturing as I thought I would be. I know that that seems like a horrible thing to say. I think I'm a good mom for sure — I'm not trying to say that — but I've always said my entire life that my biggest fear in life was not being able to become a parent. And if I wasn't a parent [now] that would still be my biggest fear in life. But I always just thought I was going to be like the most nurturing, child-on-my-bosom-at-all-times [mom].

My mom was kind of a hippie growing up... so I thought it was going to be a bit like that. And I'm much more of an entrepreneur and business-focused. My husband is actually much more nurturing than me, so I think that surprised me. I've always thought I would be the nurturer or the one with the kids all the time. and it's actually kind of turned out to be the opposite in our family. And I'm with my kids a lot, but my husband is definitely more, so I think that honestly surprised me. I think for a while I didn't talk about it, and honestly, this is probably one of the first times I've really talked about it because I was kind of ashamed of it. I was like, "No, the mother is supposed to be the nurturing one." But finally I just sort of accepted that it's OK. It's OK that my husband is more nurturing than I am; that's OK. We have a role in this family and it's what makes our family work and our family special.

How would you describe your parenting style?

I feel like my parenting style is just sort of realizing, I don't know what I'm doing [laughs]. I feel like I'm constantly Googling like, "my daughter just asked me about 'blank' — how do I respond?" and trying to figure out what I should say. So I'd say my parenting style is realizing I don't know what I'm doing and Googling it. 

But I also try and ask as many questions as possible and just really encourage both of my children to express themselves to me. It's definitely changing nowadays, but a lot of times in the past, boys maybe were treated differently than girls and vice versa. And we really try to really treat our kids the same. I don't push pink on my daughter and blue on my son. I don't say, "No Riley, boys don't wear that." We're just very aware of letting them create and be who they are because we never want to put gender stereotypes on them or anything like that. 

So that's also important to me when it comes to parenting: just letting them be authentically who they are. And look, as a parent you're going to press your values or your beliefs or whatever it is on your kids, but we really try not to. Even what we eat — I'm a vegetarian and I don't eat meat. My kids ask about it. We had friends over the other day and we ordered pizza. We ordered pepperoni for some people and we always have cheese for ourselves. And my son said, "I want a piece of pepperoni pizza" — and he's 3 years old, you know? And I was like, "Oh, OK. If that's what you want." I let him make that decision for himself. So I really just kind of let the kids guide me on what they want and not guide them [myself].

I noticed your son's very cute pep talk video on Instagram. Are pep talks and affirmations part of how you empower them?

Absolutely. I think all parents definitely want to do that for their kids, but I think on the other side of that is also bringing them back down to earth. I always make sure to tell Molly that she's smart and she's brave and she's strong and she's beautiful and she's all these things. But I also try to let her know like, "No, you lost this game' you didn't win. It's OK not to win all the time." So there's definitely some balance there. 

I think every parent tries to build up their kids in the best way that they know how. And I think one thing I've sort of been realizing as a parent is how different my two kids are. Their personalities are just so, so, so different. Molly, for instance, is just so independent and wants to do her own thing, and I've kind of had to realize that I need to let her go be by herself. I don't need to be by her side all the time. If she wants to go be in her room and do her own thing, she can do that. Whereas my son wants me around every single second. So I think what you do and how you affirm your kids, you just have to go with the kid. 

You've been really candid on social media about whatever's going on in your life, but especially about motherhood and your postpartum experience. Why is it important to you to not carry on that messaging of "you have a baby and everything's perfect"?

Social media is a weird thing. On one hand, I want to say, "Oh my gosh, no, everybody's being so open on social media now." And I don't really feel like it's taboo to talk about postpartum and miscarriage and a lot of these things; people are being so much more accepting now. It's actually something I feel like is very much applauded when people do that on social media, which is so wonderful. 

But on the other side, social media is also still a bunch of filters and highlight reels. So it's a weird thing in the sense that it does so much good, it is inspiring so many people and inspires me to be open with my life and I think it's important to be transparent. But then also I know when I put up an Instagram Story, I swipe left and put on the Paris filter half the time. I myself struggle with being my most authentic self on social media, I think everybody does. 

Do you have a hard-and-fast rule you're really a stickler about?

I'm not too strict. I've always said this about my one deal-breaker when it comes to relationships — and this is obviously my kids and not a relationship — but my one hard rule in the house is to recycle. No question: Wasting is not an option. I try not to be like that with food because I don't want them to not want to eat certain foods, but in terms of recycling paper and cans and things like that, that's a hard rule in my house. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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