In today’s episode, I chat with Kirstin Smith. Kirstin is a fitness entrepreneur and coach, gym owner, realtor, wife, and mom to four young kids. She has a new book out called Confessions of an Unhappy Housewife, How I changed my bullshit stories and created a life I love. Today we get into the sense of identity loss that often accompanies becoming a mom, the myth of ‘I dont have enough time’ and how a painful transformation has led her to help others.
Book: Confessions of an Unhappy Housewife: How I Changed My Bullsh*t Stories to Create a Life I Love
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/healthymomslivewell
1:15: Ideals vs. reality
2:20: Losing my identity
7:09: Depending on your spouse to fulfill all your needs
10:36: The downward spiral
15:30: The tipping point
22:42: Mindset shift
24:47: The Coaching Pyramid
28:40: Shifting off autopilot
35:30 Teaching other women to write their own story
Hello, and welcome to Women In Fitness Business. Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Kirsten Smith. Kirsten is a fitness entrepreneur and coach gym owner, realtor, wife, and mom to four young kids. She has a new book out called “Confessions of an Unhappy Housewife: How I changed my bullshit stories and created a life I love.” Today we get into the sense of identity loss that often accompanies becoming a mom, the myth of I don’t have enough time and how going through a painful transformation has led her to help others. Kirsten, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
So you’re incredibly accomplished. You have two masters degrees. You’re a two-time council of American overseas research center scholar, a gym owner, did becoming a stay-at-home mom kind of sneak up on you?
You know, I wanna say no, I grew up with a stay at home mom. OK. she was there when I got off the bus and I really valued the fact that she was always around. That was something that I think really impacted me growing and deep down, I knew that I wanted to be able to do that with my kids. So ultimately, you know, when I was working on a PhD, I chose a career field in academia and the back of my mind, the logic was I’m gonna be able to, you know, kind of have a career, work kind of school hours without, working in a K through 12 educational setting, right. I’m not usually gonna be working in the evenings. I can be around for my kids in the afternoons and evenings.
Now. I think my expectation of what it was going to be like being a stay at home mom was drastically different than the reality, and that’s what really snuck up on me. It was kind of the cognitive dissonance between, you know, sort of thinking I wanted one thing saying I wanted one thing and then experiencing it and being like, oh man, this is real tough.
Right. And in your new book, you talk about how this feeling of like losing your identity came about when you had kids. When did that sense really hit you?
You know, we have four kids and they’re all, they’re roughly around two years apart, right. We kind of stair stepped and spaced ’em out that way. I don’t think I was aware of it for a while. You know, it was playing a role, but you know, any mom to young kids understands that for a while, you’re in survival mode, right. You’re underwater, you’re so in the weeds with just trying to get through the day that the things that you took for granted before, like those things seem like luxuries now, right? When you wanna take a shower, when you’ve got little kids, you know, God forbid you wanna go to the gym or you want to invest in your personal development, those things just, they’re the first things that kind of fall off the plate. So I can’t quite pinpoint exactly when I realized it. I think once I realized it, I had kind of worked my way out of it almost, you know, I was so lost. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Right. As moms in our culture, though it’s changing, there’s kind of this expectation that moms will put their own needs on the back burner and prioritize their children, which is important. But it’s also the whole mask on the airplane thing. Like what was your experience with that?
Oh gosh. I call this the mom martyr and I was the supreme mom martyr. Whatever anybody else needs. Right. I’ll, I’ll sacrifice. I will give up. You know, I’m not gonna spend money on myself. I’m the mom. My kids need shoes or they need, you know, school tuition, things like that. But it is ingrained in us without a doubt that we’re not supposed to be selfish. Right. You are supposed to give, you have this cup, right. You pour outta your cup all day, every day. You know, if you’ve got a husband that you’re supporting, especially, you know, a husband that’s an entrepreneur, that’s a whole different story, but you’re pouring into him supporting that. You’ve got young kids who need you all the time. You’re constantly pouring into them, nurturing them, giving them everything that they needd. You know, you add your housework, responsibilities, managing a household on top of that. And it’s really common to think I’m going to give myself what’s leftover at the end of the day, right? Taking care of ourselves is almost, it becomes a luxury.
And when you think about it, that is, I think it really ends up being profoundly detrimental for women. Because society has told us that that’s the way it’s supposed to go, that is the way that a lot of us operate. And eventually we run ourselves so ragged, right? It leads to resentment in your relationship, it can lead to poor communication. It can lead to resentment to your kids. It can lead to, you know, all the subtle stressors throughout the day that you’re not managing well. And then you’ve got this straw that broke the camel’s back in the evening because your husband didn’t take out the trash or because you had to ask your kids five times to turn off the TV and go brush their teeth. Right. And then all of a sudden you snap. It’s not because of the TV or the garbage, it’s that you prioritize everybody else all day long that you were maybe reactive instead of proactive from the moment that you woke up and you get to the end of the day and there’s never anything left over. Right? Yeah. So, I found myself kind of looking around feeling really empty all the time, pouring from this cup, and then ending up with this empty cup, thinking like, can’t anybody give back to me, please? Anybody like, can anybody pour into my cup every once in a while? And it just never happened. Right. And that’s kind of where I stayed in that really unhappy place for years, quite frankly.
And you talk about it in your book, how you kind of had an expectation that it was your husband’s job to fill that cup. How did that sort of pan out, like, we’re certainly bombarded with this idea that you can kind of find your missing piece and then get married. Everything’s gonna be copacetic, but then when it comes to that other person fulfilling all your needs, it doesn’t shake out that way.
Oh yeah. When you’ve got an expectation for someone else to show up a certain way and they don’t, it’s a big disappointment and that’s hurt feelings and it’s resentment. You know, I think another expectation that we have when we go into a relationship is that things are 50/50. Right. Right. I mean, how often do you hear that? And so that was kind of how I justified things in my mind was relationships are 50/50. And like, man, I’m showing up, I’m giving a lot of myself, I’m giving at least 50%. And I wondered, well, why is my husband not showing up with his 50%? Right. Like I’m carrying the bulk of the burden, I feel like, and I can’t get him to show up with his 50, you know, kind of reach across the table, meet me in the middle. And so what ended up happening was, you know, I’m sitting there with my empty cup all the time, waiting for him to show up and fill my cup. I’m running through my days, I’m in the weeds. I’m feeling, you know, battered and bruised by the end of the day. And then he rolls in the door. And my expectation is that he’s gonna put me back together. Which didn’t happen.
So then, you know, now I’m feeling like super dissed because this guy’s not showing up to put me back together. Well, that must mean that like, he doesn’t love me. He doesn’t value me. I’m underappreciated. My goals aren’t important. My well-being isn’t important. All of these stories. Right. And they just got reinforced day in and day out. And what I came to realize was I had to be the one to fill my own cup. Right. Ultimately that’s my responsibility, my wellbeing, if I can’t prioritize that for myself, it’s unfair to hold other people to that high of an expectation that they’re gonna prioritize my wellbeing for me. And so I had to confront those hard truths that I wasn’t doing that work. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t creating, you know, good habits, good discipline in my own life. And I had to do those things in order to fill my own cup.
Right. And I also realized that in doing so, a relationship is not 50 50 it’s 100, 100. Right. So when I showed up fully, that included showing up for myself, I couldn’t just show up for my husband and my kids and expect someone else to show up for me. My job was to show up for me too. Right. So when I started showing up 100%, then I started realizing how he was showing up. Cause the problem is when it’s 50, 50, he might be giving me the 50%, but it’s not the 50% that I needed. And I can’t see because I’m so narrowly focused on what I need to feel good and whole and healthy and happy that I can’t see the effort that he’s making because it’s not the exact 50% that I think he should be making. When I showed up and I was 100, 100, I was filling my own cup. And I was putting the effort into that. Then anything extra I got was just extra.
Right. Did it come to you all at once this realization? Like what was the sort of catalyst for this? Was there like a breaking point where you lost it and
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it didn’t come all at once. OK. But, but there was a low point, honestly, there was a low point in our relationship where, you know, every day felt like groundhog day. It was the same old thing. It was wash, rinse, repeat, you know, feed the kids dinner, put ’em in bed, hit the living room couch. Maybe like watch a couple episodes of a show, scroll on your phone. And you know, we would have some very like surface level conversation, but we were just really disconnected. My focus was honestly our family, you know, within the four walls of our house, whereas his focus was in growing a business. And to be honest, we were frustrated with other aspects of our life. And I think that it’s, there’s a lot of human nature that you put your energy and you put your focus where you know how to get wins.
Right. He knew how to pull the levers in business. Create wins, feel like he was being successful. I knew how to pull the levers and create wins for myself at home, but we were missing the mark and we were falling short with each other. You know, I felt like we had the same fight over and over again. Like why can he not hear the things I’m asking? And he felt like that in reverse, like realistically we were just, we were not speaking one another’s love language at all. Right. And I think that my wake up call was we got to a point where we kind of both stopped trying. It was easier to just not talk in the evenings, go about our separate lives, essentially during the day, living in our own separate silos. And then kind of come together in the evenings for family time in a very cursory way.
But no real in depth connection. Like we were, we didn’t have a shared vision for where we were going. We didn’t have shared goals. We didn’t have things that we were working on. And that did not facilitate a lot of trust back and forth. Right. Cause I wanted to micromanage things or he wanted to micromanage things because we didn’t know we were on the same page all the time. Which makes things really hard. And I think that, you know, the low point was I was pregnant with our fourth kid and I realized that we had both kind of just given up and it was that like, are we gonna be one of those couples that maybe stays together for, you know, till the kids are 18 and they graduate and leave, and then you find yourself alone with somebody that you haven’t talked to in two decades, really anything more than like what’s for dinner.
Is that all there is? You know, and I think that coming to that realization one day that like this can’t be it. But I also felt really trapped cuz here I am a stay at home mom. Right. I don’t have any money. I don’t, what am I gonna do? If we don’t stay married, like what does this look like? Where did I mess up in my life that this is now, you know, something that I’m even thinking about? All of that kind of pushed me to realize that like I can’t control how anybody else shows up. Right. I can’t make him listen to me. I can’t make him hear things that I’m saying. Maybe I’m not saying them the right way, but regardless it’s been the better part of a decade of me, you know, pushing things one way and that’s not working. So I’m gonna focus on myself and I’m gonna work on being the best version of me that I can be because I don’t know what the future’s gonna hold. And once I made that commitment and I started going down that road that I started having these little epiphanies, right. I started seeing things that had been going on, maybe that I hadn’t seen before, because I was so deep in the stories I was telling myself.
Embracing your own health and fitness was a huge part of this rewriting of these stories that you were telling yourself. Can you talk about how that came about because you you’re a gym owner and you’re under a certain amount of pressure, I’m assuming, to look a certain way and compounded with having all these kids and then where were you at with that? And how did that come about, that journey?
Yeah. I felt an intense amount of pressure after our first kid was born to look the part of a gym owner.
And I didn’t. I gained a lot of weight with our first kid because, you know, they said, oh, eat 300 extra calories a day. At the time, I didn’t know what 300 extra calories looked like. So I’m like, hot chocolate from Starbucks. And that cupcake? Sounds good. And I probably gained, you know, 50 pounds easily and I didn’t lose it quickly. I thought I would, you know, I nursed each kid till well over a year and I thought, well, I’m still breastfeeding. So that’s probably why I’m not losing weight. And I was beating myself up in the gym and just not really bouncing back. Right. And then the second kid comes along and then it starts to snowball because now I’m not back at my pre-baby weight.
Right. So then you snowball weight gain and all the hormones and the postpartum journey with the second kid. And then you can throw in a third kid. Well, after our third was born, I was deep in the stories of my husband always gets the time to work out right. Health and fitness is a priority for him. And he doesn’t prioritize my goals. That’s why I can’t lose this weight cuz I can’t get any time to work out cuz he doesn’t really care. There are certain points in life where you may not realize it at the time, but you can look back and you realize it’s a pretty pivotal thing that happened. For mother’s day, he hired me a coach. One-on-one nutrition, fitness coach. He taught me how to track my macros. he wrote programming for me. It was different than what I was used to. It was not kind of the CrossFit style, high intensity interval training. I was doing, you know, I was weightlifting. I was doing hypertrophy stuff and stuff that was, you know, more geared towards body building and physique kinda work. And I saw results for the first time in years. Right. This combination, I felt like I’ve been fighting with one arm tied behind my back because I kind of been eating like an asshole, to be honest, you know, leftovers off my kids’ plate and stuff like that. That I just wasn’t I wasn’t thinking about. Bottle of wine in the evening because you know, us moms are stressed out, all that stuff.
So I had to kind of confront a couple stories. One, I could not stick to the story that he did not prioritize my goals when he hired me a coach.
Right. Cause I’m like the dude just dropped a whole bunch of money to support my goals now. So now I had to show up and do the work and I had to acknowledge that he was prioritizing something for me and for my own wellbeing. Also I had to confront the story that my body was never gonna look the same after having all these kids, realistically, I just hadn’t figured it out. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I was working harder, not smarter. So being able to see those results, those were two kind of two things that really on kind of a profound level shook my foundation and everything that I thought was true. Right. Everything that I’d kind of, I had accepted as just a fact of nature. You know, maybe it wasn’t true after all and if this stuff isn’t true, what else is out there that isn’t true.
Right? When did you decide to transfer what you you’d learned and use it to help other women who were in your same position?
The funny thing is it totally happened by accident.
2019, our fourth kid was born by that point. You know, I became a, got my nutritionist certification. I lost that baby weight quickly. I was really active. I knew exactly what to do. Right. And people started to kind of notice right. Neighborhood moms, you know, school friend, moms, things like that. People reached out and they were like, Hey, you look great. What’s going on? And so I’d help them give them some pointers. And then next thing you know, we got spring of 2020.
Now no one has gyms to go to and people are cooped up at home. And you know, we were working on the pivot with our gym going virtual. What does this look like? And I saw this opportunity where there were a whole lot of moms that didn’t know what to do. Right. We all feel outta control. So let’s control what we can control. Right. So I set up a Facebook group and I invited, you know, like all of my female friends to this Facebook group and I would post workouts in there every day, you know, stuff that they could easily do at home, no equipment, you know, cause everybody, there was a run on dumbbells and all sort of fitness equipment, you know, for the first half of 2020. And that worked out really well. There was a huge response to it.
So I started, you know, posting more stuff, kind of running some just habit based challenges, getting people to focus on their nutrition, on their sleep, on their intentional movement. And then, you know, even doing kind of nutrition, webinars, just, I tried to serve, figure out kind of what people needed, what skillset I had that I could offer. And people liked it, right. There seemed to really be a willingness. And I thought, you know, it occurred to me there could be an opportunity here for my own business. And I tried it on my own, let’s say throughout 2020, and I made all the mistakes, all the mistakes. And so I basically just shut it down. Right. I gave her the old college try and I was like, this isn’t really gonna work. I couldn’t figure out who’s my audience. Are they stay at home moms?
Are they working moms? I need people that can set goals, but like, we got this mindset gap, right. Because I need people that maybe have already figured some stuff out, but yet I wanna help people that haven’t quite figured out that they might have these stories that are holding them back. And so I just, I couldn’t really bridge that. And what the tipping point, you know, another kind of tipping point in hindsight for me was going on a mastermind retreat to Mexico, in January of 21. You know, one of those late night sitting around in a sushi restaurant, you know, with another business owner, scrawling things out on a bar napkin and kind of mapping out a business. Saying here’s my struggle. And he’s like, oh, easy fix. Right. We just kind of map all this stuff out. So I ended up joining a mastermind in early 2021, which is fantastic and got in the room with the right people that have really helped me set things up again and do it the right way this time. And you know, it’s been gangbusters ever since. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and I’ve just been kind of enjoying the ride. But I did not think that this was how it was all gonna pan out, to be honest.
What was the steep, what aspect of building out your business had the steepest learning curve for you?
Thinking that I was capable and or worthy to help other people.
Cuz I really, you know, massive imposter syndrome, massive imposter syndrome. I stayed inside my house, raising kids focused on, you know, Peppa Pig and snacks and potty training for years.
And I still, sometimes I view myself as like, well, I’m just a stay at home mom. Right. Why would anyone care what I have to say? And it took me a really long time to shake that voice in my head and realize that, you know what, like I’ve been through a lot and I’ve learned a lot of lessons and I made a lot of mistakes and I am in a position where I can share things with people and I can potentially help them avoid all the mistakes that I made. And if I can do that, then you know, as uncomfortable as it might be sometimes to put yourself out there and risk, you know, vulnerability and judgment and all those things. In a way I almost feel like it’s my duty. Right. So I had to really wrap my mind around that fundamental mindset shift to be OK doing that.
With the women you work with, they’re predominantly moms, I’m assuming. Busy, don’t have time to prioritize themselves. How do you help them deconstruct those ideas that they might have?
Usually we gotta go one by one. Right? And like you, you hit the nail on the head. One of the biggest stories that we tell ourselves all the time is that we don’t have time.
Always. So the way that I coach women is kind of like a pyramid, right? The basis of your foundation is mindset. Right? The next thing that we tackle is nutrition. And then above that’s gonna be movement. Because you can have all the diet and exercise is not gonna fix a crappy mindset at all. Right. So, you know, when it comes to time management, I had a client who, you know, she joined, she was really motivated initially. And then she started being kind of inconsistent with her workouts. So I reached out, I said, Hey, what’s going on? Like, how can I support you right now? What’s going on in life. And she said, I’m having a really hard time finding windows to get workouts in. So I said, OK, then we’re gonna back up a little bit. We’re gonna tackle your schedule right now.
So your homework is not to go work out. Your homework is to figure out, look at your week, map it out. When can you get 3 45-minute windows for you to exercise? Just time for you. No interruptions. And I want you to block ’em on your schedule. Well, she called me in an absolute tizzy. I mean, distraught. She said, I cannot find 3 45 minute windows in my week anywhere unless I drastically rearrange things. So I’m like, well, we’ve got a much bigger problem here. Right? First question I ask her. What time you wake up in the morning? Well…. So I initially knew what her issue was. You know, she set her alarm, I think for six, she had two, you know, late elementary, middle school, age kids. And she usually hits snooze, sometimes for up to an hour. Right? So now she is waking up same time her kids are waking up, she’s rushing around. She’s gotta feed them, get them off to school. Now she doesn’t eat breakfast. So her hair is on fire all day long. So we had to tackle the idea that she’s gotta look at her schedule. And you know, I use the analogy from, the book Richest Man to Babylon, which is all about personal finance, right? One of the big lessons in the book is you pay yourself first. Right? Right. If you earn 10 coins, you spend nine, right. That first one goes in your pocket to save.
So I use that same analogy when it comes to time, right? You’re not divvying up your 10 coins. Right. But you’re divvying up 24 hours in a day. Yeah. And if you are not skimming off that first chunk of time for you and the things that you have to do to fill your own cup, like you, you have to pay yourself first when it comes to your time. And I think that that’s a hard lesson for people to learn because we’re so used to thinking about finding time, right? Time is not like that hairy sour patch kid in your couch cushion that you are just gonna accidentally find.
Right. It is something that you make and you make time for things that are priorities to you. So gradually like that, we’ll kind of figure out what are the stories? How are you maybe conceptualizing something in a way that is not helping you reach your goals and then how can we look at it a different way so that you now have power over it?
Absolutely. When it comes to how you see yourself now as a leader, what would you say is your superpower?
That’s a good question. I like this. My superpower, I think my superpower is to help people open their eyes to the fact that they might be living life on autopilot, right? That this is their one life. There is no guarantee for how long you get on this planet. And they might be wasting a lot of opportunity if they’re simply going through the motions every day, right? If they are an actress in this play, you know, written by fate and that they don’t have any control over how it’s gonna turn out. You know, the flip side is like, you write your own story. You figure out, well, who do I want to be? There’s no reason why you can’t be who you want to be. Right? You are your own limitation.
It’s strange how so many people view themselves as just like a subject in their own life. Like they don’t have any agency. Why do you think that is?
I mean, gosh, I’ve watched something interesting in my own kids over the last couple years. Obviously, you know, 2020 was a weird school year, the 2020 to 2021 year, my husband and I ended up making the decision to pull our kids outta school. So our older two are school age, our younger two are not in school yet. OK. but it was a tough decision, but my at the time, my six year old, you know, she was going into kindergarten and I didn’t want her kindergarten year to be, full of things like wearing masks to school and social distancing. And, you know, they could go outside, but they still had to wear their masks. And like, they weren’t supposed to go within two feet of each other. They couldn’t touch the playground equipment. And I just said, no, this is not what I want for her. So one of the things that I have noticed in my own kids being home and being exposed to maybe a different way of thinking is they’re a little less robotic.
Than they were in a school setting. You know, and I think that that is it’s the nature of the beast, because if you’re a teacher, how do you have 25 kids in your room, all sit down and do the same thing. How do you reach them? How do you help them without essentially kind of getting them to behave like little automatons. Yeah. But it’s been interesting to watch kind of their personal growth over the last year. The personalities that have emerged, the confidence that’s emerged in them. They’re a little bit more imaginative than I think they used to be when they were in a school setting all the time. And you know, I don’t wanna say it’s just school, but if you think about it in a lot of ways, you go, you sit in 12 years of education, whether it be public or private and you sit at a desk and it’s essentially training you for kind of a nine to five job.
And then when a lot of people think I’m going to go have this career and I’m gonna have security and you know, I’m gonna have two kids and the picket fence, and I’m going to get, you know, a new Camry every three years. And you know, I’m gonna have a, you know, three percent raise tossed my way annually and that’s the American dream. So I think that a lot of people are content to do that. Right. And it takes all types in life, but you can still do those things, right. And maybe open your eyes to having more control in other aspects. Right. Cuz we all value different things. If you value security, you know, then maybe working for a corporation and having, you know, solid W2 income, that’s way different than being an entrepreneur, right? Yeah. Like you gotta be pretty risk averse, you know, to be comfortable one place versus another place. And, I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s an element of once, like you think in terms of the matrix almost right, you get a little red pill. Yep. And it’s hard to not see what else is possible in your life. Right. When you take control of one thing and you can change and you can kind of create your own destiny, it’s kinda like if this is out there, what else is out there.
Exactly. Where do you, what’s your plan then? What’s your big vision for yourself five years from now?
Five years from now? I think the way that I have built my schedule now, and the way that I can reach people, I kind of filled my time initially by working one on one. And once I realized that there’s an upper limit to that. Right. I only have so many hours in the day and I got a lot of responsibilities and a lot of people pulling me in different directions, I rolled out a group coaching program as a way to kind of, you know, essentially replicate myself and be able to impact people on a broader scale that has worked out very, very well. One of our core values as a family is freedom. So I do not, I’m unwilling to be tied to an office, to a physical location. You know, we hop in an RV and we might be on the road and live in an RV for a month. That’s what we’ve done the last two years. We’ll do it again this summer. And you know, I’ve got visions of, well, let’s just rent our house and let’s head out west, go, you know, explore all these amazing national parks, you know, homeschool our kids on the road. And we know one day a week we need a really good wifi connection for some zoom calls.
Right. I wanna keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can because I love it. I love the people that I work with. I love seeing these women, you know, take an active role in writing their own stories and living a life that they love. I think they show up as better moms. They show up as better wives. They show up as better, you know, employees or business owners. It just creates this halo effect that it’s thrilling honestly, for me to watch. So I don’t wanna stop doing that. I wanna continue to expand if that means that, you know, eventually we need to scale and I bring on some other coaches to help out with those things, you know, maybe run some different classes in group coaching, then that that’s what it looks like. But ultimately I wanna keep doing what I’m doing. I wanna do it on the road. I wanna, you know, live my life and make sure that it’s kind of in alignment with our core values and the things that, you know, make life worth living while my kids are still little.
You’ve come a long way from, you know, being pregnant with your fourth one and in the depth of despair.
Indeed, indeed. It probably couldn’t get any lower at that point. Yeah.
I really appreciate you talking with me today. It was a pleasure.
Absolutely. The pleasure was all mine. Thank you for having me.
That’s all for Women In Fitness Business for this week. If you like this episode and you wanna hear more, be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.