Podcast

Episode 61 – Mandy Arioto, MOPS President/CEO and Author

Mandy Arioto is on a mission. In her life and in her new book she is challenging us not just to have moments of fun – but to live lives that are remarkable and defined by joy. Yet that’s ofter easier said than done, right? Today, Jessica and Mandy talk about the dedication it takes to have more fun and how all of us can do things right now that will empower us to enjoy life! Oh, and they also talk about Hallmark movies, rock climbing, and vasectomies. It’s a great conversation!

Mandy Arioto

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica: Hey, it’s Jessica Honegger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand, Noonday Collection. And this is the Going Scared podcast where we cover all things social impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. I had so much fun today with our guest, Mandy Arioto. And it makes sense that I had fun because she just released a brand-new book called Have More Fun: How to Be Remarkable, Stop Feeling Stuck, and Start Enjoying Life.We covered everything from vasectomies to rock climbing to how to do the most basic things like enjoy your children. She’s had the most interesting life and, honestly, I just wanted to pour a glass of rosé and keep this conversation going.

OK, please. First of all, tell me, do you know this show, Heartland?

Mandy: I don’t. Do I need to know the show Heartland?

Jessica: OK. No. It’s, by far, the cheesiest, cheesiest show ever. It’s one of those series on the Hallmark channel.

Mandy: OK. I’m all about, this. Yes, tell me.

Jessica: It is 110% Hallmark. And the funny thing is, it is the show that my husband vigorously watches with my children when I travel. So, I’ve kind of been left out.

Mandy: What?

Jessica: Yeah. Oh yeah. So, I’ve been left … and I travel a lot. So, they’re through eight seasons. And finally, a couple of months ago I was like, "Ah-ah, I want in on this, I want in." And so, they were like, "Fine, we’ll let you watch the show with us." And it takes place on a horse farm.

Mandy: What?

Jessica: Oh yeah, girl. And so, I hear you grew up on a horse farm.

Mandy: I did in Upstate New York, and it was the most magical childhood. Yeah. So, my dad…

Jessica: That’s why I’m talking about Heartland because it takes place on a horse farm and that’s such a unique childhood that you grew up with. So, I wanted to hear a little bit more about your horse farming life.

Mandy: Absolutely. OK. So, first of all, Heartland is now on my must-watch list, so I’m gonna be binge watching for the next couple of weeks. I thank you for that. And yeah, my dad had this lifelong dream of living on a horse farm, and so when I was in fourth grade, he convinced my mom who is terrified of horses that this was a good idea. And so, we moved out to the country, we bought a horse farm, and my dad was always looking to bring new horses to the farm, which meant we had a lot of adventures and traveling all over. But it was the most magical childhood that I could have asked for. And my parents were super laid-back. We have this joke that we are raised by wolves because every Saturday morning, they would sit us down at the breakfast table and look across the table and say, ”OK, go out and have an adventure and don’t come back until you do.” Which meant that we did so many dumb things, but we also had a blast and learned how to navigate the world and have adventures, and do it all together, and then come home for dinner, and do it the next day.

Jessica: OK. Tell me about an adventure where you were like, "OK, I might’ve just taken this too far."

Mandy: There were some times in the winter where we fell in water through ice that we should not have. We rode four wheelers miles away from our house and got stuck and were there overnight. We really pushed the limits and my parents let us, and it actually worked out really, really well. But looking back now as a parent myself, I’m like, "What in the world were they thinking?" But it worked out fine. It worked out fine.

Jessica: That’s good. Well, my parents actually have a ranch and so we go out there pretty frequently and I mean, I remember when my daughter was six, I pulled up on the four-wheeler, and she’s holding a snake.

Mandy: Oh my goodness.

Jessica: She’s holding a snake. I’m like, "OK, we need to do snake rules 101." Thank God it wasn’t a rattlesnake. Yep. But…

Mandy: So, she just picked it up and was making friends and no big deal.

Jessica: Making friends, yeah.

Mandy: See, snakes are my one thing.

Jessica: I’m not into snakes.

Mandy: No. And here’s the thing. I saw a two-headed snake as the zoo once. Have you ever seen a two-headed snake?

Jessica: I have not. I don’t really want to.

Mandy: Don’t because it will haunt you in your nightmares. So, yeah, it had two heads in one body, and I still have it seared in my memory. So, if you can avoid it.

Jessica: Yeah, I’m not into snakes. No, we just had our photoshoot out at Joshua Tree, California, for our Noonday Fall Lookbook. And the winds were insane. Suddenly, we got this warning that there was a, it was called a haboob. I’ve never heard of a haboob.

Mandy: What is a haboob?

Jessica: Do you know what a haboob is?

Mandy: What is a haboob?

Jessica: It’s a dust tsunami. Oh, yeah.

Mandy: What?

Jessica: We got warnings on our phone, "Head inside, possible haboob."

Mandy: No way. And then right before that, we were on this big ranch and the neighboring guy comes over with a bucket, and he has two baby rattlesnakes and he says, ”Just coming over to let you know that the rattlesnakes are out and about.” And then, Mandy, I don’t know what y’all did in Upstate New York, but in Texas we do not catch and release snakes. We kill rattlesnakes. That is what we do when we see … And this guy was like, "I’m gonna go and find a safe space for them."

Mandy: He’s just relocating them.

Jessica: No, we don’t relocate in Texas. That was a first for me. I was like, "Come on California, I need to give you some lessons here."

Mandy: That is very California. We’re just re-homing them.

Jessica: That’s so California. Yeah, totally. Totally. So, anyway, but nature…

Mandy: So, did you get caught in a haboob?

Jessica: No, the haboob didn’t come, but the winds were crazy and I’m just … I haven’t seen the shots yet. I mean, the models were gorgeous. The talent was amazing, but I’m like, everyone looks a little wind blown. I’m sure it looks a little bit crazy.

Mandy: Also, I feel like I wanna say the word haboob many times throughout the day.

Jessica: Right? I mean, for real, I actually, I was telling my Instagram followers about it and I spelled it wrong, and I put baboob. I thought baboob was even better. And then I had them say, ”We don’t know what a baboob is, are you meaning a haboob?” Yeah. So, you learn something new. You know, even in our 40s, we learn something new.

Mandy: That’s right. Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

Fun: The Antidote to Death by Papercuts

Jessica: Every day, every day. So, I feel like that childhood and that sense of adventure is probably what you are tapping into when you wrote your most recent book and your first book, Have More Fun. And I love this concept and I love how you wrote it. How every chapter is, “Have Fun with Your Kids,” “Have Fun with Your Friends,” “Have Fun with Your Fitness,” and all of these things. And I often find that authors write what we need to read, right? And it’s usually because we’re trying to aspire to be doing things. And I’m just wondering to that end, did you find that you weren’t having fun at some point, and then you realized what, I need to start having fun. Tell me the journey of how this particular topic came to you.

Mandy: Totally. So, I absolutely wrote this book for myself. It was the one book that I needed to read and because of my childhood, I always thought that I was really good at having fun. That is until I became an adult and I realized, like, 82% of adulting is admin and the rest is asking kids “How did this get wet?” Right? And then slowly over time, I just recognized that I had gotten worn down. And that one day I was yelling at my kids for laughing too loudly. And as the words are coming out of my mouth, I recognize, oh my goodness, we have a problem on our hands. And I think so often in life, we experience what my therapist calls death by paper cuts, right? It’s like so many little things that we think shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but then when we look back, the cumulative effect has worn us down and created maybe a gaping wound that we didn’t even know was there.

“I think so often in life, we experience what my therapist calls death by paper cuts, right? It’s so many little things that we think shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but then when we look back, the cumulative effect has worn us down and created maybe a gaping wound that we didn’t even know was there.” Mandy Arioto

And so, what I recognized was I had created a lot of habits that allowed me to over-function and that I was really good at keeping up at email and really good at making sure my kids were fed, and yet I was having no fun whatsoever. And I was so worn down and kind of the weight of life felt so heavy that I had even forgotten what fun felt like. I forgot what I like to do. I forgot to infuse any sense of joy throughout my day. And I recognized that when I look back on my life, I don’t want my kids to think, "Oh, my mom was really good at making sure our laundry was caught up." I want them to look back and say, "My mom was full of life. She laughed easily. She loved us so well. She was always having fun with us and making our childhood just a place of joy and laughter and adventure." And so, I recognized that, while I usually like to start the year with a list of goals that I can check off to achieve what I needed to do in that particular year was to set one goal and that goal was to have more fun. And quite honestly, it changed so many things about all the different aspects of my life.

Jessica: I love how you said that you had created habits that helped you over-function. And so, I’m curious what was the unraveling of that and how you set up new habits that helped you instead of over-functioning to have fun.

Mandy: Yeah. So, it was a lot of the normal things. Everybody in the professional world says these are good habits to help you produce, to be a high achiever. So, getting extremely early, going to bed late, having really strict parameters on email and when I check it and when I don’t. It was eating the same thing every day, so I didn’t have to make choices about what I was gonna eat, wearing the same thing, seeing a therapist, which is…

Jessica: Oh wow. So, this is quite extreme.

Mandy: It is. And I think so often in my life, I really want control. And so, it’s easy for me in my work, especially, to create habits that make me feel like I’m in control. But that tended to blend and bleed into my family life, which is never a good thing when you’re trying to go home and CEO your family. And so, I just recognized I needed to step it back a little bit and weave in more freedom, less scheduling, say no more often, which is something we all talk about what can we say no to and really just enjoy my family more.

“I really want control. And so, it’s easy for me in my work, especially, to create habits that make me feel like I’m in control. But that tended to blend and bleed into my family life … I needed to step it back a little bit and weave in more freedom, less scheduling, say no more often … and really just enjoy my family more.” Mandy Arioto

Enhancing Relationships with a Bit of Fun

And so, Joe and I, my husband, a couple weekends ago, we were out for a hike, and we decided to go down by this river that the hike was winding through and my kids wanted to go on the water and we were like, "Yeah, you guys go in." And Joe and I were looking at each other and we just recognized that one of the keys to our marriage in particular is choosing to have fun together. Because I think when we bring kids and careers ino the mix so often, that’s one of the last things that we prioritize. And so, we just have recognized that when we choose to jump in the water together and splash around and have fun, that in some way, it improves our relationship, our communication, and we thoroughly enjoy each other more, and we can weather the ups and downs a little better.

Jessica: It’s so true. My husband and I actually flew out to Joshua Tree and we went rock climbing for the first time, which I’ve never been more scared in my life.

Mandy: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.

Jessica: I mean, I was up to the half way at this 50-foot boulder and was like, "Get me down. What am I doing?" But we ended up, yeah. And it was basically like, “let’s have fun together.” And there is something that, it’s not like we had deep conversations, but you’re right. There’s just something, I think the way we’re wired that when we have fun, it connects us.

Mandy: Totally. OK. Was this a belay situation where you were like?

Jessica: Yes, it was belayed.

Mandy: OK, OK, good. Did you…

Jessica: But even them, I kept telling our guide, I said, "I don’t understand. I am belayed, and yet I am scared to death." I’m like, "What’s the worst that can happen?" He’s like, "You drop a few inches, you scrape yourself up. But I’m like…

Mandy: Still though.

Jessica: Yeah. I have not been more scared. I don’t think ever.

Mandy: I know. And isn’t it so good to put ourselves in situations where we feel scared sometimes?

Jessica: Oh yeah. No, it really was. And it was just, yeah, it was pretty wild. And to just be scaling a rock.

Mandy: Do you regularly find that you feel scared and have to do something? Well, I guess yes, I’m assuming with your book and just who you are, but do you regularly feel scared and choose to do it anyway?

Jessica: Well, honestly, that’s why I went rock climbing because I feel like the older I get and the more that I do, the less I am scared. And so, when I realized I’ve been in a place of like … I haven’t felt that adrenaline surge, I literally was on this rock and at one point, he had belayed to the top and was climbing from the top. And my husband was below me, roped in, and there was no escape. I had to get up there and I just remember going, "I can’t. I don’t see anything that my foot is gonna be able to, like, latch onto right now. It is a flat rock, like, what are we talking about?" And the guide was like, "You can. Like, you can. You’ve got this." And I just had to just do it. And so, it was thrilling. And you feel so confident, and empowered … and so, yeah. And I think that it’s probably gonna have to get more and more extreme. The older I get, the more do crazy things. I’m like, what’s next? I am afraid of scuba diving. Have you ever scuba dived?

Mandy: I haven’t. And that’s one thing. Like, I could go skydiving, anything like that. But the scuba for some reason feels claustrophobic.

Jessica: That feels … No, I feel very afraid of it. But I think it’s next on my list.

Mandy: That might be next, yeah.

Jessica: And as a matter of fact, I thought it’d be so cool for our whole family to get certified, because that’d just be a fun activity to do together even at certification classes.

Mandy: Totally. Totally. All right. Let me know.

Fun with the Kids

Jessica: OK. I will. I will. So, I love your book so much, and I love that you present this radical concept, enjoy your children. You know what I mean?

Mandy: Isn’t it weird saying it, you’re like, "Yeah, that seems very obvious."

Jessica: And yeah, you’re right. And we take sort of these productivity hacks that we bring to our jobs, which are good, and they help us at work. But then if we take that home with us, we’re just like machines instead of humans. So, tell me a little bit more about how you began to say, you know what, I’m gonna enjoy my kids.

“We take sort of these productivity hacks that we bring to our jobs, which are good, and they help us at work. But then if we take that home with us, we’re just like machines instead of humans.” Jessica Honegger

Mandy: Yeah. So, what I recognized is that … so I work with so many moms in particular, we often even fail to go through the day and look our kids in the eye, right? We’re so busy doing things that we forget to have a connection with them. And what I recognized was, it is really easy as a parent to get worn down to the place where you’re not really enjoying your kids. Maybe they’re going through a tough season where they’re particularly strong willed, or you have challenging decisions that are being made that you don’t necessarily agree with, or they have difficult personalities that might be hard to navigate in your home, compared with all of the other personalities that are happening.

And what I recognized was, enjoying our kids is a choice. And our kids desperately need for us to enjoy them because they know when we don’t. And that really informs their own understanding of who they are and how the world feels about them. And so, when our kids feel like “My mom enjoys me. She laughs at my jokes. She thinks I am just the most brilliant person in the world.” Our kids need us to dote on them, and to go overboard, and to believe in them so much because the world doesn’t. And they just need, from their parents, to thoroughly enjoy them so that they can feel like a whole person and take that into adulthood.

“Enjoying our kids is a choice. And our kids desperately need for us to enjoy them because they know when we don’t. And that really informs their own understanding of who they are and how the world feels about them.” Mandy Arioto

And the thing that I’m recognizing now that my kids are older is that, the thing that I wished away when they were little is the thing that I want most now. So, when my daughter was two, and she just kept asking question after question and I was like, "This introverted mama just needs a moment of quiet." Now at 14, I’m like, "Please just talk to me. Ask me anything, tell me anything. I just really wanna know what’s in your head." Or my kid who was up at 4:30 every morning when he was five years old and now is 17, and it’s like 1:30 in the afternoon. And I’m like, ”Hey, buddy, it’s time to get out of bed.” And so, the thing that we wish away when they’re little is often the thing in a couple of years that we want most. And so, I think the perspective of, can I enjoy this season I am in and just embrace the difficulties or the nuances of what is going on, because in a little bit, that might be the thing that I wish for most.

Jessica: So, I love so much of what you talk about is our mindset. Like, what is the mindset that we bring to those seasons? And it’s interesting because my daughter just turned 13 and we just … she just bought her first phone. She was the last person at her entire school to not an iPhone.

Mandy: Did you hear about it, mom, I’m the only one.

Jessica: I did. I heard about it. I did. And so, she babysat, she saved, and it’s been about four weeks, and I admit that I have grieved it. I’ve grieved it. She’s attached to the phone now. And I can tell it’s my mindset though, and I’m looking for this bias that, “See, now she has this phone and now we’re gonna be disconnected. Now she’s gonna be distracted.” And instead I could look for this bias of like, she has this phone. I could text her now. I could send her really funny memes. I can like … You know what I mean? And so, I feel like that is so much of motherhood is mindset. So, what are some of your mindset hacks on how we can bring fun into our mothering and actually enjoy our children?

Mandy: So, I’m a big fan of fun that doesn’t require extra cleanup. And so, for me, I like to infuse fun into the everyday things that brings stress throughout my day. So, when example, when my kids were little, getting everyone out of the house was really stressful and there were usually tears, and we’d get to school with one shoe and it was just not the ideal scenario. And so, I decided to make a playlist. And it was all my kids’ favorite songs. And what I sat them down and said was, ”Hey, in the mornings when you hear this song, this is when you brush your teeth. And when you hear this song is when you get dressed. And when you hear this song is when we eat breakfast.” And it really brought some fun energy to our home every morning and it didn’t last for long. We maybe did it for a month or so, but it kind of just reset our morning rituals and morning rhythms to where it wasn’t so stressful anymore. And I didn’t have to nag, I didn’t have to keep saying, "Hey, did you brush your teeth? Hey, it’s time to get dressed," because they just knew.

 

Making Fun an Intentional Choice

And so, I really love infusing fun into just our everyday normal habits. We have our tradition at our house that we have a lot of fun when our guests leave our house, and we call it a running goodbye. And so, whenever anyone comes over for dinner or to hang out for the weekend or whatever it is, when they drive away, our whole family lines up in our front yard, like in a runner’s position. And then as they drive down the street, we race them on the sidewalk down the street, waving goodbye and yelling and making a big scene and a huge, loud deal down our street.

And what people always say is that they feel so loved and appreciated and also find it hilarious. But it’s just those little choices, I think, that really we have to train our brains to think about as fun because there’s a really fascinating thing that happens is, when we don’t train our brains, when we don’t practice fun, our brains actually don’t think about it, and then they need it less and less. And so, it’s really just making an intentional choice to have fun. And then we start to think of it more, and it becomes more natural, and it becomes just more of a part of who we are.

“I really love infusing fun into just our everyday normal habits. … It’s really just making an intentional choice to have fun. And then we start to think of it more, and it becomes more natural, and it becomes just more of a part of who we are.” Mandy Arioto

Jessica: I feel like that’s so counter-intuitive because our natural bent when we’re little is to have fun. We just wanna play. But then eventually, what you’re saying is our brains get trained for … wired for responsibility, and output, and outcomes, and making this effort will equal this. And you’re right that we actually have to be intentional about fun. And I think almost becoming aware of that automatically will bring more fun into your life.

Mandy: It totally does. And we even have developed a mantra in our family. When someone’s not playing along, we’ll tell them, like, "You need to have more fun." And then it’s like a challenge. And they usually always jump in. And I think that the thing that happens as adults is we kind of reframe fun into distraction, right? So, fun is binge watching Netflix. Fun is being on our phones at night when we’re laying in bed. It becomes a distraction that we think, oh, this is what I need to restore and replenish my energy, but actually I think it’s doing the opposite. And so, I think if we retrain our minds to think of fun as something that revitalizes our body or revitalizes our soul, that helps us reimagine what fun could look like.

“I think if we retrain our minds to think of fun as something that revitalizes our body or revitalizes our soul, that helps us reimagine what fun could look like.” Mandy Arioto

Jessica: That is a very important point. I was just reading one of my friend’s books, you might’ve heard of Andy Crouch. He wrote The Tech-Wise Family. So, he was distinguishing the difference between leisure and rest. And he was talking about his Sabbath. He’s honored … he keeps a really beautiful life rhythm, which I have gotten way off of my rhythms. And so, I’m trying to get back to them. I’m trying to find my way back, so what do I do? I read a book about rhythms. Yeah, and I’m reading Emily P. Freeman’s book right now too, The Next Right Thing. I’m in the middle of … I got out way out my rhythms and rest. So, that’s leisure.

 

Fun and Feeling Strong in Our Bodies

Jessica: So, he would describe, like, watching football on a Sunday afternoon or binge-watching on Netflix, or yeah, everyone’s in the same room being on their phones. That’s leisure, and that’s not rest. And that’s not actually what’s gonna bring revitalization. And I love how you brought fitness into your book because I talk also a lot about physical health and being active in my book, and people thought that was kind of random in this entrepreneurial story. But we kind of have neglected our bodies, especially in western culture. We forget that we are these integrated beings. And yet, for me, doing something fun with my body actually helps me get out of my mind and out of that place of, “I’m just a productivity machine” and into the fun, which is I think why I wanted to rock climb and why I want to scuba dive. So, what are some other, just because you’re so right, we would describe fun as, like, yeah, let’s all binge-watch tonight, which honestly, we’re doing that right now and, oh, we play games. Like Settlers of Catan. That’s another good one.

Mandy: Oh, that is a good one. That is good. Yeah. I think our bodies are so essential and I don’t know about you, but I go through seasons where I neglect working out and I get so tired. And at the end of the day, I’m like, "I’m way too tired to work out." And I forget that when I move my body, I actually have more energy, and it actually changes my physiology and makes me feel stronger and healthier, both physically and mentally. And I have a friend who, not long, I mean, ever since I’ve known her, which has been for 15 years, she’s always wanted to lose 15 pounds. And so, every day, she’d be at the gym super early in the morning, and she hated it. She hated going to the gym and seeing those tight 18-year-old butts on the treadmill next to her made her feel really desperate, right, pre-kid butts.

And so, she just one day decided that she was gonna take the money from her gym membership and invest it in something that she had always wanted to do, but that felt too frivolous to spend money on. And so, she went and decided to take tango lessons because that’s what she wanted to do. So, she invested in 10 weeks of tango lessons, and a couple of weeks into the lessons, she texts me and she’s like, "Hey, I just want you to know that I lost five pounds. I’m having the time of my life, and I’ve never felt more alive." And I feel like that story clearly, has nothing to do with losing weight. Like, who cares, whatever, if you feel strong in your body. But it’s sometimes we need to reframe and call a timeout of whatever we’re doing and do something fun, move our bodies in a way maybe that we have felt intimidated by, do something unique, and it revolutionizes how we interact in our own skin. We feel more alive, we feel stronger, it improves our work. We have more fun with our spouse in the bedroom. I just, I think when we pay close attention to these bodies that we have been given, it improves every area of our life.

“Sometimes we need to reframe and call a timeout of whatever we’re doing and do something fun, move our bodies in a way maybe that we have felt intimidated by, do something unique, and it revolutionizes how we interact in our own skin. We feel more alive, we feel stronger, it improves our work.” Mandy Arioto

Jessica: It truly, truly does. I had been trying this new workout called solid core. It’s this crazy, crazy Pilates, spin-type on a machine. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s Michelle Obama’s workout and when I read that, I was like, yeah, sign me up.

Mandy: What? Yeah. So, if Michelle Obama’s doing it, I’m in. Thank you.

Jessica: Yeah. And so, it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. And when I was rock climbing a couple of days ago, I was like, "Man, if I wouldn’t have been doing that, I don’t know if I’d feel like the confidence that I have right now of, like, I’m strong, I can get up this rock. I’m scared to death to do it, but my body can’t do it." And it just got me into presence. When we get into our bodies in a way that isn’t for an outcome, like, yeah, I’m trying to lose the weight. I’m trying to burn 200 calories today. I’m trying to do this, but we just get into our bodies, that’s often when I can finally kind of connect to myself during a time of stress maybe where that’s been harder.

Mandy: Totally, totally. And I want to be the kind of person who at 95, can still go and dance with my husband every Tuesday and Thursday night. I want to enjoy my body and stop using so much mental energy, worrying about it, worrying if my butt is perky, worrying about all of the things that kind of nag at us in the back of our minds. And I think when we feel strong, it translates into enjoying our bodies more, and then we don’t spend so much mental energy with that constant white noise in the background reminding us of the things that aren’t perfect.

Jessica: Yes. And it’s true that feeling strong might not correlate with not having stretch marks or not having a flabby butt. You know what I mean? All of those things but still feel strong, and that’s really encouraging.

Mandy: Totally. Totally. It’s not about perfection. Yeah.

 

Settling and Sacrificing

Jessica: Right. OK. So, you also, I love this concept that you talk about, the difference between settling and sacrificing. Will you break that down for us a little bit?

Mandy: Yeah, I think so often, especially as women, I hear two things over and over again. And one is that women across the board feel exhausted because they’re doing so much. And the second is that they feel like they’re not doing enough with their lives, which is crazy thinking because we’re essentially running around like 12 hours on cocaine while simultaneously feeling like we should be doing more. But so often, I feel like our default and that the default of doing so much comes in the form of settling for our current situations. And particularly, this arises in my mind, in parenting, is that we deny ourselves the things that would bring us joy, and bring us life, and make us better partners, and better moms, and better business people, because we feel like we need to settle on the altar of caring for our kids and our family as well.

And here’s the thing. Caring for our kids and being a mom and being a good wife is holy work, and it is sacrifice, and sacrifice is beautiful. But when it degrades down to the level of settling is when we have a problem. And settling is when we say, OK, I’m not gonna take the art class I’ve always wanted to because that would mean that one night a week, I have to ask a friend to take a kid to soccer practice, and when they get home, they might have to make waffles for dinner. And so, we don’t do that, and we start to become a little bit miserable. And then we resent everybody around us because we feel miserable. And that is settling, and that is when we kind of lose that sense of self. So, settling is just a resignation that it can’t get better. And that the way our life currently is, is how it will always be. Sacrifice is holy. That is when we pour out for other people around us. We lay down our needs for those people, but that can go to a level that isn’t healthy. And that’s where we settle.

“Settling is just a resignation that it can’t get better. And that the way our life currently is, is how it will always be. Sacrifice is holy. That is when we pour out for other people around us. We lay down our needs for those people, but that can go to a level that isn’t healthy. And that’s where we settle.” Mandy Arioto

Jessica: It’s so important to pay attention, where is resentment showing up in your life. And just loved even the picture I got in my head as I was reading your book of the mom’s sitting there waiting for her kid to come to the car at soccer practice. And she’s there just because she needs to check this box that she’s picking her kid up and that she’s gonna make a home-cooked meal for him or whatever, when she’s actually resentful and unhappy. And when we’re resentful, we’re in a place of resentment, and we’re disconnected from ourselves. How can we connect to our children? And connection is really the ultimate parenting goal.

Mandy: Absolutely. And I think what is really great for our kids is when they see their parents doing things that give them life because it models for them, how they can be as an adult as well and how they can make choices where they show up for their kids, and at the same time, they are so alive that it bubbles out from them onto their families and their kids, and it helps their kids learn how to do it. It is generational, it is legacy, and it is a gift that we get to give to our kids.

Jessica: Well, your parents obviously gave you that. I mean, there aren’t too many people who go off and start a horse farm.

Mandy: They totally did. They totally did.

 

MOPS: From Moms to Leaders

Jessica: So, I wanted to talk a little bit about your career because in addition to being an author, you’re the president and CEO of MOPS, which is an incredible organization. And so, for those that might be listening who may not have encountered MOPS, can you give us the 101 for MOPS and then I wanted to just hear a little bit more about your career journey?

Mandy: Yeah. So, MOPs is an organization that gathers women, in particular, moms, together around the world. And we talk about all of the things that are closest on our hearts. And we help develop leaders. So, what we do is we work in 60 countries. We translate our materials into 14 different languages. We have 30,000 volunteers here in the United States alone and 100,000 mom members. And we influence about a million women a year. And so, we are just a force of women who come together. We create lifelong friendship. We help women remember that they are leaders, not only in their home, but in their communities, in their faith communities. And we help them to become better moms because we believe that when we’re better moms it makes a better world. And so, it’s really exponential growth that translates down into our kids and raises up kids who are becoming world leaders who are changing the world as well. So, it’s really unique work to speak into the lives of moms and help them remember who they are not only as a mom, but as a woman and as a business owner or whatever they choose to do throughout their day.

Jessica: Wow. I love how you encapsulated your organization. How long have you been involved with MOPS and did you always imagine, “hey, I’m gonna be a CEO someday”?

Mandy: Yeah, so I’ve been the CEO for going into my fourth year now. Before that, I was director of marketing here. And 10 years ago, I had a friend invite me to a MOPs group and I was like, that sounds super lame and it’s totally not my jam, but I’m gonna show up anyways. And so that really changed the trajectory of my life. And no, I never set out to be a CEO. I always thought I would be an entrepreneur owning my own company, not leading a nonprofit with a board. And so, it’s really been a unique journey, and what I’ve recognized was all of the times along the way … So, I was a teacher, I stayed home with my kids for a little while. I worked at MSN leading all of their digital strategies. I was a teaching pastor at a church in L.A. I’ve done all sorts of marketing. And my husband and I were entrepreneurs and have started a couple of businesses and sold them.

And so, I’ve had a very eclectic journey. And each stepping stone along the way, when I look back, I recognize, “oh my goodness, it all adds up. Nothing’s wasted. It all comes together and I’m using all of it in the work that I do now.” And I feel like so often, when maybe we’re in a different season where we feel like we might be stuck, or we should be doing something but we’re not quite sure what it is, or maybe you were just starting a side hustle and we’re waiting for it to take off. And I just feel like if I could tell myself now looking back, “do not fear. Things are in motion. Do the very best with what is before you in the moment and it will always pay off.”

“I just feel like if I could tell myself now looking back, ‘do not fear. Things are in motion. Do the very best with what is before you in the moment and it will always pay off.’” Mandy Arioto

Jessica: I love that. Joe and I … my husband and I were talking this weekend about, like, I would love a fourth kid right now even though of course, I wouldn’t, and he got, you know, chopped, is what we say, so he can’t.

Mandy: He could get a reversal.

Jessica: He could get a reversal, and listen, this is no joke. The guy here in Austin that performed the surgery, let me just tell you what his name is, and this is for real, Dr. Dick Chopps.

Mandy: What?

Jessica: That is real. That is a true story.

Mandy: I mean, you have to go to him. There’s no other options. If you find a doctor with that name who does that procedure, you’re like, "Yup, he’s our guy."

Jessica: You do it, and you trust it’s gonna work. Yeah. He has T-shirts that say, "I got chopped by Dr. Dick Chopps," of course.

Mandy: Amazing, amazing.

Jessica: So, he’s been chopped, but I would love to have a fourth again just because I’d love to experience being the kind of mom that I am now and not the woman that I was when I was 30, and I was so uptight about motherhood.

Mandy: Yes, I agree.

Jessica: So, I love that you’re writing this book and, I mean, it’s one reason why I wrote my book is to just pour into that younger generation to hopefully … maybe their path is gonna be just as windy. I certainly don’t want someone to walk a straight path, but man, I want them to do it with more joy than I had.

Mandy: Totally. Totally. And hindsight is such a precious gift, right? Now that my kids are a little older, I feel the exact same way. If I could have relaxed a little more and not worried so much about what the future held, it would have been filled with so much more delight and peace rather than just that constant inner turning of, “is this gonna be OK? Are we gonna be OK? Are my kids gonna turn out OK?” Yeah, hindsight is such a gift.

 

Modern Motherhood

Jessica: It’s like I hope our books help these women, but then part of me is like also is it just age? Like, it’s just what you have to walk through. I mean, I hope it’s not, and I feel like I have younger friends who are new moms who were doing it definitely differently than me. But I’m glad you wrote your book and I hope everybody reads it because it truly is inspiring and it’s important to be intentional about fun. So, I did wanna ask, as your perspective as the CEO of MOPS, as you look through the history of your organization, what remains unchanged about motherhood and what has changed, do you think, about motherhood?

Mandy: So universally, moms want what’s best for their kids. They want their kids to thrive, they want them to be healthy. And I think that is just, throughout the ages, the under-girding of motherhood done is our natural bent. That is who we are. Whenever I travel in the world, we have the same hopes and fears and the same longings for our kids. And then I think one marked difference that I’m seeing, actually there’s two, over the course of the last five years, I would say, was, I think we are desperately lonely. I think there is something happening, and I have my own theories, but there is something happening where women in particular are lonelier than ever before. And it’s really undermining our quality of life, our sense of well-being, our feeling of being enough. And so that is number one.

“There is something happening where women in particular are lonelier than ever before. And it’s really undermining our quality of life, our sense of well-being, our feeling of being enough. And so that is number one.” Mandy Arioto

And then number two is kind of a random thing that we’re seeing, and it’s in regards to sexuality. So, what we’re seeing is that in the last five years, up until that point, the majority of conversations we have had around sexuality in the work that we do is that the husband was typically the higher drive partner. And in the last five years, that has shifted 100%, where most of the women that we’re encountering have a higher drive than their husbands. And I was talking to a therapist about this the other day because it’s such a noted difference, and he’s like, ”Yeah, it’s clearly happening. And it’s because of pornography.” And so that is really impacting the women that we encounter on a daily basis because our sex lives and our sexuality is shifting so dramatically, and we don’t have good narratives around it, and we don’t have good tools to talk about it. So that’s something that we’re seeing. I know it’s kind of random, but it’s fascinating.

Jessica: It isn’t random. No, that makes a lot of sense. I saw a Facebook group I’m in, a discussion broke out about how some of the men in their life are just not … yeah, not as driven as they were anymore. I thought it was an age thing, but maybe it could have to do with pornography or a combination of the two. Now, you said that you had your own theory about the loneliness. What’s your theory on that?

Mandy: So, I mean, this is what everybody else is talking about, and I don’t like to vilify technology, but it’s just we … I was in the airport the other day and everybody was waiting for their bags. And maybe 10 years ago when we were all doing that, we’d maybe strike up a conversation with someone next to us, like, "Hey, where are you going?" You know, whatever. Just finding out details about their trip. But on this particular day, every single person around the baggage claim was on their cell phone. And just, I think we’re missing out on those interactions that just happen throughout the day, whether it’s knowing the name of the cashier who checks us out every week when we go grocery shopping or knowing the name of the school bus driver who picks our kids up. It’s those micro-interactions that we’re missing out on that are creating a lack … the cumulative effect is creating a deep loneliness, in my opinion, that is only going to be remedied by eye to eye, face to face interaction.

Jessica: I believe it. I believe it. And yeah, I’ve been sad seeing my daughter on her phone even though we held out longer than anyone at her school, and she’s only in the seventh grade, but I’m already seeing some … and we’re already kind of trying to have reflection times of like, and I shouldn’t be harping on my daughter because she’s learning it from me.

Mandy: Me too. We’re in the exact same boat, right? I’m like, "Get off your phone." And I’m like on my phone at the same time. So, we’re in the same boat. I am trying to monitor myself as well and, like, put parameters on my own phone usage. And so, yeah, it’s this new frontier that we all get to try to navigate together, and we’re on the cutting edge of how to do it well and figure it out. So, I think we can show ourselves grace and also, it’s no joke trying to parent these kids with phones.

Jessica: Well, and even though this wasn’t the lens of your book, in so many ways, Have More Fun is the antidote to technology. Because when you are in your bodies, swimming in the pool, or let’s go water skiing, or let’s play Settlers of Catan together, or let’s have a dance party, or let’s Karaoke. I mean, all of those things get you off your phone. And so, in so many ways, I think you’ve written the book that is the answer for us, that if we can focus on having more fun together and it has nothing to do with bingeing on Netflix, or all commenting on our each other’s Instagram posts, then that is what brings connection. So, I just I loved your book. I’m so glad you wrote it. And for those of us that want to follow along and learn more about you, how can we find them?

Mandy: Yeah, mandyarioto.com or on Facebook or Instagram.

Jessica: I don’t know about you, but I am definitely ready to have more fun. In fact, I’m going to opt out of our normal binge-watching Heartland tonight. And we are going to play some Settlers of Catan. So, there you go. What a great conversation. And y’all, thank you so much for hopping over to iTunes and leaving a review. I wanted to thank jessmaclistening who said “Numero uno choice. When I open my podcast app, this is my number-one go-to. I love the diversification of guests, the many topics that are all tied together by having courage even when we’re scared. It inspires me and hits so many topics that are relevant to my day-to-day life and goals.”

You guys, I so appreciate you leaving a review and leaving a rating, because it helps more listeners discover these types of conversations that are ultimately helpful. We’re here to serve you. Pop on over to Instagram and let me know—what are you learning? What guest do you want to hear more from? DM me, I get back to all my DMs, and I really love hearing from you.

So, thanks so much for tuning into today’s show. Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz, and I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.