It’s like a monster truck rally for moms! That’s how Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley describe their live tour, Mom’s Night Out: Round 2 which will arrive full throttle at the Rosemont Theatre on May 8 and the Peoria Civic Center on May 9. No one will literally sit high off the ground on big wheels. But you will feel uplifted because these moms are operating in high gear and so are you! That’s the spirit-boosting, upbeat message of Kristin and Jen’s “momedy.”
Kristin and Jen will not be here to inspire or talk about improving our mom game – we’re all saturated with those messages! Instead, the two friends are here to spread some comic comradery (comomradery, you could say).
Kristin and Jen hit it off immediately when they first met in Los Angeles years ago and discovered that they lived within a block of each other. But their connection went much deeper. They were both from Nebraska and had burgeoning comedy careers in L.A. They became best friends who saw each other through dating, marriage, husbands and children, and that’s where their partnership really took off. Went viral, in fact.
Nearly two years ago to the day, they posted their first video under the hashtag #IMOMSOHARD. They wanted to let other moms know the truth: no matter what you see on people’s outsides, this parenting business is beset with foibles and doubts, and there’s comedy gold to be had in them thar hills. In the midst of their first video, Jen forgot one of her children’s names. (Kristin’s children are Ben, 7, and Eleanor, 5. Jen’s are Dashiell, 5, and Delilah, almost 3.)
With each video, their following grew. A now-famous swimsuit edition made an especially big splash. Jen and Kristin appeared on Good Morning America, Today, The Talk and have been featured in The New York Times, People, Huffington Post, and Variety. They have nearly 1.3 million followers on Facebook and their #IMOMSOHARD videos have been viewed more than 120 million times. A sitcom based on their lives is in development at CBS and they are working on a book to be released next year.
Kristin and Jen’s shows are selling out fast around the country with moms relaying how they’ve driven across states to be there. A fan recently posted on Facebook that she laughed so hard at the moms’ Nashville show that she finally went into labor at thirty-eight weeks.
Jen and Kristin kindly spoke with me by phone about next week’s shows in Chicagoland and their goal of empowering their audience with truth and laughter.
Teme: What inspired you to make your first video?
Kristin: Jen and I like to make each other laugh and we both felt, “Man, we don’t see each other enough because these children have gotten in the way of that. We feel isolated and it’s kinda bad sometimes.”
When we did get together, it was so much fun having someone who understood how terrible you felt when you make a mistake or when a birthday party wasn’t perfect. It was good to have someone say those mistakes are not that big of a deal and “Hey, I did it worse.”
Jen: It’s nice when you tell someone your failures and they don’t tell you how to improve yourself.
Kristin: They’re like, “I see you your failure, and I will …”
Jen: … raise you mine!
Kristin: Then you feel so much better. When we started the videos, we realized there was no voice out there saying, “You don’t have to be perfect. This is a hard road. Let’s just be together and laugh and get through it day by day.”
Teme: My kids are grown, but I wish I’d had your videos when they were growing up. I relate a million percent.
Jen: Well, thank you. We hear that a lot. We joke that if cavewomen could watch our videos, they’d probably talk about the same tribulations.
Kristin: “We’re just trying to keep the cave clean and you guys come in with your dirty hands and feet! Stop drawing on the wall!”
TO TOUR WITH KIDS OR NOT?
Teme: Are your families traveling with you now like on last year’s tour?
Jen: Not this year. We’re doing the tour a little bit differently.
Kristin: We use the word “differently,” but what we really mean is we’re smarter about it.
Jen: We had a whole bunch of people crammed onto this tour bus …
Kristin: … last year …
Jen: … because we thought “how can we be away from our kids that long? We’re going to ..
Kristin: … miss them too much.”
Jen: But looking back, it wasn’t a picnic or fun for anybody.
Kristin: The travel was hard. This time we know a little more, so we were able to create a touring schedule that doesn’t take us away from home for too long.
Jen: We’re gone long enough to miss them and then we’re back long enough to want to leave again.
Teme: How did you come up with “I Mom So Hard” and what other titles did you consider?
Kristin: Jen had used the hashtag #momsohard on her personal Facebook, and I thought, “Oh, I like that. That’s fun.” “I Mom So Hard” felt like a battle cry. Adding the “I” made it feel like we can all say it together and we all get the ownership of it.
We never had any other names, but I love the idea that we were sitting around like, “What do we call ourselves? ‘Two chicks with no sleep and lots of people following us.’”
Jen: The idea of naming it like a solid scream felt like bad marketing.
Kristin: That’s more of an onomatopoeia. It would be really hard to spell.
Jen: “How Come I Never Sleep” is just a little complain-y.
Kristin: We wanted to get across that we unapologetically mom. There’s momness infused in every part of our being at this point.
HOW TO BE A TRUTH-TELLER
Teme: Moms are often pushed to be way too serious about meeting impossible mom standards, and that’s actually a really lonely pursuit. How did you become people who call that out? What was your path to becoming funny people who aren’t afraid to tell the truth?
Kristin: Jen and I are similar that way. We also have an incredible group of lady friends who are there to say, “Hey, we get it. You’re doing the best you can. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself.”
Even if our friends pull off the most perfect birthday party, which is generally Jen, there’s no way that I go to that party and think, “Oh, that’s a reflection on me.” I’m there to celebrate how awesome she is. I have a strength at something else.
I really think it is saying to each other, “Hey, you’re doing great. You put on pants today. Let’s all lower the bar a little bit and feel good about where we’re at. The idea of improving feels unfair because what if this is as good as it gets? Are you just gonna feel terrible all the time?”
Jen: As long as you have one friend who tells you that it’s okay to just be okay and not be breaking any world records, it gives you permission [not to be perfect]. Then you’re able to start giving yourself permission.
We wanted to be that one friend to any mom, maybe someone who is isolated, and we wanted these videos to be something she could watch and laugh at while she’s up all night breastfeeding and not feel alone.
Kristin: And we’re not going to try to inspire her. We’re not going to try to scare her. We’re not going to tell her how she needs to improve. Jen always says that we started these videos because if we showed women the terrible job we’re doing, they’d feel better about the job they’re doing.
We’ll keep doing our best, but we’re going to hit our head against the wall a lot and then once in a while, we’ll have great moments. But you shouldn’t stop having fun when you’re hitting your head against the wall.
Teme: That’s very liberating. Then you can clear the part of your mind that’s saying, “be perfect” and just enjoy what you’re doing.
Kristin: Yes, and it speaks to more than being a mom. It speaks to being a woman. The standard that we’re all supposed to be this rock hard, solid, hot bod in order to wear a bathing suit to the beach is bullshit, and we should all be able to have a good time and wear a suit that sort of covers our parts and everybody keeps their mind on their own business. Just play with your kids, get out in the sunshine, and stop worrying that you don’t look like a Kardashian because nobody does. The Kardashians don’t look like Kardashians.
Jen: No, that’s just really good lighting.
Kristin: So go out and build a sand castle.
Jen: Do you know how much time a man spends thinking about being perfect and comparing himself to other people? About zero minutes.
Kristin: They’re like, “I feel bad about… oh, hey, what’s on TV?”
KRISTIN AND JEN’S FAVORITE VIDEOS
Teme: I love your swimsuit video. Which of your videos is your favorite?
Kristin: Thank you. It’s hard to say, but “Fitness” was one of my favorites because I remember laughing all day long. Jen was ridiculous with boxing gloves on. It was so fun. But then I also loved “Wine Night.”
Jen: “Body Hair” is my favorite for the same reason. I still laugh and I’ve seen it a thousand times.
DO JEN AND KRISTIN IMPROVISE?
Teme: How much of your videos are improvised?
Kristin: We kinda have our own little secret sauce. Half and half-ish. It depends. We write heavily, but then if we find something that we really enjoy talking about and we’re on a roll, we’ll let it go. We have a structure, but we let ourselves have freedom inside of that structure.
DAY OR NIGHT?
Teme: So what is your favorite time of day?
Kristin: Good question. I am a morning person even though it’s hectic and crazy. I like to get up early and suck down a cup of coffee like my life depends on it, and then I’m a decent human for a good forty minutes.
Jen: I hate to say it, but I like coffee better than I like wine, but I need both. If I can get one of my kids to cuddle with me in the morning and just get a sweet minute or two before I have to get out of bed, then I’m like, “Alright, I can do this.” At the end of the day, we feel like we’ve been away from our kids, so it’s great coming home, plopping on the couch and getting dogpiled on. It’s all worth it. Then everybody starts screaming and complaining, and it’s a little less worth it but, yeah, those are nice times.
Teme: What would be your ideal Mother’s Day?
Kristin: Is it bad to say a vacation by myself? I’m just kidding! I just need to be outside with the kids. I’m fine with subway sandwiches and a picnic bench. I don’t like going to restaurants. It’s too much pressure.
Jen: I’d like to have good pictures of the kids.
Kristin: I’ve given up on that.
Jen: Wait, are we talking gifts or are we talking how we want to spend the day?
Kristin: No, how you spend the day. You’re not getting a present, what are you talking about?
Jen: Alright. I would have somebody else dress them up in nice clothes and take a picture.
Kristin: Yeah, so you don’t have to wrestle them into the outfit. They’d just come out in the outfit.
THE NEW PROJECTS!
Teme: I’d love to hear more about your book and TV show!
Jen: For the book, I had to google what a book was, because with two toddlers …
Kristen: I haven’t read a book since 2002. We’re baby-stepping our way into it. We’re taking our time and doing it right. We want all our friends to know that they’re hearing our voice and getting a deeper peek into our lives.
For the TV show, we’re just fingers crossed we make it to the next step, which will be whether we’re ordered to series. We’ll find out at the end of May. The show is a sitcom. It’s based on our lives so there are husbands and kids, but the show is centered on the friendship between Jen and me.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT EACH OTHER?
Teme: When it comes to your friendship, what trait do you most treasure in each other?
Kristin: There are so many about Jen. The thing I like about her the most is that she’s not defensive. You can tell her how you feel, even in those hardest moments and she listens and takes it in and isn’t quick to respond in either direction until you’ve had a chance to really talk it out. And she’s funny sometimes!
Jen: The thing I immediately thought is that Kristin is fearless, but I think that’s the wrong word. Brave is a better word.
Kristin: Aw, thanks!
Jen: I think that she’s sometimes scared …
Kristin: Yeah, like when putting on a bathing suit and wearing it in front of people.
Jen: … but it doesn’t stop her from doing things. Sometimes if I’m in a scary situation and I don’t know what to do, I’ll think, “What would Kristin do? She would say what she thinks. She would stick up for herself.”
FINDING FRIENDS LIKE THAT
Teme: So when moms are looking for compatible friends, what would be good screening questions?
Kristin: It’s about making the first move. I don’t think you really have to do much screening. Find a mom at a park, strike up a conversation, and next time you go to the park, bring a Starbucks for her and see what happens. Even if you’re not super compatible, it’s nice to have another person in the bunker with you anyway.
Jen: Most women, especially moms, just want to be seen and heard. So it’s just nice to have somebody to do that for you.
Teme: So true! Is there anything you thought you would know as a mom by now, but don’t?
Jen: I read all the books, but as soon as I brought the baby home I knew I was in trouble. Every day there’s something new that we’re learning.
Kristin: My kid just got in trouble yesterday at school and I got one of the formal emails about his disruptive behavior, so I’m not doing anything right.
Jen: I thought Kristin did a really good job handling it.
Teme: What will happen at your Chicago and Peoria shows and what do you hope the audience will leave with?
Jen: We hope everybody leaves feeling empowered and like life is a little less heavy.
Kristin: It’s R-rated, but it’s an adult show for women. It’s not going to be about what sippy cup to buy, let’s put it that way. This is about us as a group of lady friends who happen to be moms, but not everyone who comes is a mom and that is totally cool. We also have some dudes show up. So it’s a welcoming environment of fun as long as you’re down to laugh and not too serious. We want everybody to walk away going, “I feel good right now and it’s not just the wine.” But if it’s the wine …
Jen: … that’s fine, too.
Kristin: The show is a lot of fun. There’s a Q&A, there’s improvising and we have some new videos. So if you’ve been with us and seen the show before, you’ll love it. If you’ve never been to the show, you’ll catch up real quick.
Teme: What is the most memorable question you’ve been asked during the Q&A?
Kristin: We have been asked a lot of questions, but the number one question is have any of our kids walked in on us having sex? That is the question of the hour.
Jen: It’s a mad epidemic.
Kristin: Yeah, like in one hundred cities it’s been the number one question. Does nobody know about locks on their door?
Teme: What are you most looking forward to in Chicagoland?
Kristin: We love that area. The ladies are so fun. We’re from Nebraska, so it doesn’t get bigger or cooler than that. It was always like, “You’re going to Chicago? That’s the Beverly Hills of the Midwest!”
Mom’s Night Out: Round 2 is Tuesday, May 8 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont at 8:00 p.m., and Wednesday, May 9 at the Peoria Civic Center, 201 SW Jefferson Ave, Peoria, at 8:00 p.m. All ticket information: http://imomsohard.com/