"How do you do it?" is a question Keren Brown gets asked a lot. Not only does this petite powerhouse organize the wildly popular quarterly food networking event lovingly known as Foodportunity, she authored the book Food Lovers' Guide to Seattle and maintains her personal blog, Frantic Foodie, all while balancing her time between nine-month-old twins--a boy and a girl--and a three-year-old son. Somehow, Brown finds time to attend social events, keep updated on the latest restaurant trends and sneak in an interview now and then. The secret to Brown's sanity? It's not just being extremely private when it comes to her family life (which is why you won't see her children's names mentioned in this article). As she tells us in this week's column, it's raising three small children that keeps her focused.
Photo by Jackie Donnelly Baisa
How do you manage motherhood and a full-time career?
It's a challenge every time, but it's so much fun. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me happy. Whenever I get totally stressed about work I can switch into kids mode and just be with the kids. It's good for my mind; it keeps my mind busy. My mind always has to be busy on a million different things. The one thing I learned is that you have to compartmentalize all the time. I have these little rules that I have in my head where it's like, "Okay, it's 7 p.m. and I'm with the kids. Now that I'm with the kids, I'm only with the kids." During that time I try not to talk on the phone or do anything else. It teaches you to take life a little less seriously and more seriously--you just have to be more on top of it. I remember before the twins, when I had time, I would just lie down or read a book or something, which doesn't happen anymore. But when I have something to work on, I don't procrastinate. I go right to it and get it done and I don't get up until it's done. [Motherhood] just teaches me to be more effective and more organized.
Yes, totally different. When I had one baby it was like my whole world was this one baby. I was totally stressed out about everything. Even though I'm a super laid-back person, when the baby cried it was like the end of the world. I would let my baby fall asleep on me and then be like, "I couldn't get anything done today because the baby fell asleep on me!" Everybody has to go through that first child. But now with two it's just like, "Okay, they're sleeping. Let's go!" I clean the kitchen or answer emails; I don't have any other time to do that stuff, so it makes you prioritize. Having twins you have to be organized, you have to have everything in place or else you won't be able to get through the day.
How do you handle all of the social invitations you get?
I love being invited. I think I'd be really sad if I didn't get invitations. It's fun that in my life, there's always something to do. I could choose a day of the week. I've just learned to be really honest with people and just tell them that I'm not going out as much right now and people just have to understand that I'm going to choose the events that pertain to work at this point. But I still want those invitations. Keep them coming!
Do you have time still to go to restaurants?
It's a priority. I see it as work. As glamorous as it sounds, I feel like I need to be out there. I need to be going to restaurants, so I do. I make time to go out. A lot of times I go by myself or I go right before I pick up my son from school, so it's early, when the restaurant has just opened.
Yes. My kids come with me a lot. When my [oldest] son was younger, it was so easy to bring him to restaurants because he would get excited over silly things, like ketchup. With my twins, I can't really bring them out to restaurants much unless the restaurant is really big and has room for a stroller.
Anything you've noticed about Seattle restaurants that you didn't before you had three kids?
I realize that there are a lot of restaurants that don't have enough room for strollers, which I did not know because I always had one baby in the baby carrier. It's kind of forced me to go to more local chains that I'm starting to appreciate more because there's so much space. I feel like this is a very kid-friendly city and I feel good going to places. Of course, I want to be mindful of others. I won't bring my twins to a really classy restaurant because when I go out at night without the kids, I want to be able to enjoy myself and not have kids screaming in the background. But I've also learned that it's best to take them out when they might fall asleep. [My husband and I] try to keep them quiet as much as we can.
How important do you think it is to introduce small children to restaurants?
I think it's really important to introduce them to food from the beginning and get excited about everything. I've seen parents, and I don't want to judge other parents, that's like the dumbest thing to do, but instead of saying, "Oh, look! It's a cookie!," we get excited over everything--from cookies to heirloom tomatoes. We introduce our oldest son to everything. A lot of times, if there's a cookie or something, we'll let him eat it along with his dinner so that it's not like this big treat at the end of the meal. I don't want him to be one of those kids who automatically wants a cookie at the end of a meal just because it's a cookie.
Do you love being a mom?
I love it. I totally love it. I love the balance in my life and I don't have the mommy guilt that I had when I had my first child. With my first, I felt guilty every time I wasn't with him and now I get it. When they're about nine-months-old, they can play by themselves and still be happy so I don't worry about it as much.
More children for you in the future?
I don't know! Right now, I'm just trying to deal with the three that I have!