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Q&A with Kristine Carlson

The author of the newest addition to the popular Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series shares her advice for stressed moms this Mother’s Day.

The decision to add another book to the series she co-wrote with her late husband was not an easy one for Kristine Carlson, nor hers entirely to begin with. “The idea to add onto the series actually came from the publisher about two years ago,” she laughs. But nine years since the last title was released, and the first published since her husband’s passing, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms feels as fresh and necessary as ever, in a time when one in three women dies of stress-aggravated heart disease. We caught up with Carlson to discuss the new book, dealing with the ups and downs of motherhood, and tips for making Mother’s Day special.

Why a book specifically for moms?
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms hadn’t been done, but we thought we had covered mothers in other books at that time. We were so in the parenting process when the series became really popular. It’s much easier to write about once you’ve lived it. Kids haven’t changed much in the last ten years, but the world really has. There are new issues.

What does the book cover?
It’s really a complete guide, from raising a toddler to sending a teen to college and beyond. It has a really good balance of writing for new and seasoned moms, and chapters on self-care and communication with family and kids. There is a Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff philosophy that you can be happy no matter what, and the chapters for these books comes out of chapters of our lives.

How did your experiences shape the book?
Well, now that I’m a grandmother, and I have two adult children, I can speak from experience. You become really good at observing the patterns of life, the issues and struggles, the things you did do well and didn’t do well. I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was a young mom. I think almost every mom could write 1,000 chapters on the wisdom they’ve learned; I just happen to own the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff brand.

Does the book come from a personal place?
I brought my kids through loss; I’ve been married, partnered, and a single mom. I’ve lived a lot of what I write about in the book. You tend to understand things from a totally different perspective. I did weave everything back to those early principles of mental health and happiness: being resilient, being kind, what it means to be a good citizen, and what it means to be a good person.

Any surprises?
I didn’t realize how much traditional wisdom I would be bringing into the book that we had lost over the years. I write about not cushioning every single blow or picking kids up to too fast. Life doesn’t have to be so easy. Kids have to survive so much and there’s so much more coming. You want them to take those risks early so it prepares them for later risks.

Since writing the other books, have you seen increased demands on mothers, particularly in trying to be the “perfect mom”?
I sure haven’t seen a decrease. In the women’s book we wrote about wishing superwoman goodbye. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and women are more stressed than they’ve ever been. There’s an expectation of being perfect and on the flipside, feeling like you’re not doing enough, that you’re not good enough. Once you let go of that mountain of fear and expectation, you’re able to choose happiness and peace instead of stress in the household.

Any tips for reducing this stress?
Nourish your spirit first and create a sanctuary inside. Make it your first priority by just closing your eyes and accessing that inner quiet. When I’m stressed, all I have to do is to remember to take a couple of really deep breaths, close my eyes, and find that core peaceful place inside. So often we’ve trained ourselves to run around like we’re putting out fires. We got this idea that we’re great at multitasking, but what we’re really practicing is non-presence.

Now that you’re a grandmother, what is it like watching your daughter embark on the journey of motherhood?
It’s gratifying to see her being such a good mother, in some ways more patient than I was. The greatest part is that I get to be visiting nana; I just get to play and have fun. Someone said, “you should write Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff for Grandmothers,” but they don’t sweat anything!

Any plans for future books?
I try to live very in the moment, and right now I don’t have any plans for another Don’t Sweat book, but I do want to write a book about the next phase of my life. Ever since I’ve been heartbroken, I don’t hold back anymore. I talk about everything, and being transparent is the key to helping someone else.

What’s your advice to moms Mother’s Day?
It’s really funny that on Mothers Day, moms feel obligated to spend time with their kids. You should take the day for yourself and do what you want to do. Sometimes that’s being with your kids, and sometimes it’s getting away.

Kristine Carlson will be reading from and signing copies of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms on May 4 at 7 p.m. at Rakestraw Books, 522 Hartz Ave., Danville, 837-7337, rakestrawbooks.com.  The book is available to purchase at dontsweatmoms.com and bookstores nationwide.