Mother Nurture: Life lessons from the mothers of America's Best and Brightest

After giving birth to her own son, Stephanie Hirsch set out to interview the mothers of some of the most talented artists, journalists and athletes of our time. See what the moms of Lance Armstrong, Nate Berkus, Sasha Cohen, Matt Lauer, John Legend, Joan Lunden and Tim McGraw had to say about mothering their famous kids.

Linda Armstrong Kelly
Mother of cyclist LANCE ARMSTRONG

"If you shelter your children, you don't really do them any favors."

Instead of pushing Lance to pursue a certain sport, Linda's approach was more to let him figure out what he was good at. "I think you have to help kids find their passion. . . . Once they find it, you've got to really focus on it. In Lance's case, he realized that he wasn't a great football player or baseball player, but that he was good at running and swimming, which I realized when he started doing triathlons at fourteen." To help him develop as a runner and swimmer, Linda would get up every weekend to take Lance to his races. More than focusing on winning these races, Linda said she made it about setting a goal. "I just felt like it wasn't important to stress winning all the time because you don't win all the time."

Linda's parenting style was defined largely by helping Lance cultivate his in dependence. "I wasn't packing his bags for him when he went to triathlons," she said. "I wasn't reminding him to get his goggles, his swimsuit, and his equipment and all that because I figured, you know, if he doesn't show up, that's his problem. So I didn't baby him in that respect. He realized that he had to be responsible. My role was to drive us there, get a hotel, get the food, and to cheer him on." It was this sense of ownership over his own life that Linda said was paramount to helping Lance get where he is today.

Nancy Golden
Mother of interior designer NATE BERKUS

"You can't box your children in. If they don't follow the road you had planned for them in your head, get yourself a new map and buckle up for an unpredictable, sometimes terrifying, and hopefully wonderful journey."

Nancy says they didn't even have a reading ritual. "When we did read, which happened informally, they were standard children's books. Today, Nate is a voracious reader, go figure." Describing a laid- back atmosphere to Nate's upbringing, Nancy says she never enforced strict rules about TV. But that hardly meant that they were couch potatoes. "We spent a lot of time biking and going to the neighborhood lake," Nancy recalls. "He also attempted to play Little League baseball, but spent most of the time in right field waving to me."

Describing her general parenting style as a smorgasbord, Nancy says she went from lenient, nurturing, and sympathetic to invasive and short. It's why she maintains that Dr. Spock, the parenting guru, "would have flunked me." What was always consistent, however, was the belief and pride she had in her son. "I am his greatest cheerleader."

Nancy maintains that it's a quartet of things--talent, a hard work ethic, a big heart, and a little luck--that has gotten Nate where he is today. While he always showed an interest in interior design--Nancy says he'd been redoing his room since he was young--she thought he'd end up in fashion. But with Nate's enormous arsenal of talents, Nancy says the world was his oyster. "He was fearless in his belief in himself. He honed his people skills and was excited by the unknown. He also has tremendous coping skills and a ton of common sense."

 

Asked about how she helped Nate get where he is today, Nancy says it's due, in part, to letting go of expectations. "You can't box your children in. If they don't follow the road you had planned for them in your head, get yourself a new map and buckle up for an unpredictable, sometimes terrifying, and hopefully wonderful journey."

 

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