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22 Mar, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

A talk with Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is well known both for her public and private life. A television and radio personality who gets involved in community projects aimed at helping women,she is married to politician Justin Trudeau and mother to their two children, Xavier, 5, and Ella-Grace, 4.Recently she’s added another accomplishment to her resumé, yoga instructor; she’ll be part of a mother-daughter yoga event on May 2 to raise money for women’s health at St. Mary’s Hospital.

What is your definition of a great mom?

I think there are many definitions as we all have our own particular parenting styles and different personalities. For me, self-respect and self-awareness are key to creating a good relationship with my children.

I deeply respect them. My issues are not theirs, and I work at creating balance within so they feel that positive energy. That’s one thing I’ve learned: children feel everything that’s happening around them.

I try to provide them with a fun, positive, loving and creative environment; we do arts and crafts: painting, drawing and collages. We also sing, dance and explore the great outdoors – we like being adventurous with them. We took them trekking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and they rode on mules all day and Ella-Grace even slept in a mule’s basket.

Ella-Grace LOVES to shoot with the camera and she’s impressively good at it! I lend her my camera and she’s super responsible with it and frames her pics really well!

As a parent, I also emphasize responsibility; I want my children to know that their actions have consequences and that they can have control over what they do. Good Karma starts at an early age!

What do you love most about being a mom?

Where do I start?! I’ve always been connected to the child in me so I love playing with my kids; I laugh with them every day. We love to go outside and play: biking, skiing, skating, swimming, trekking and snowshoeing. We do it all!

But what I love the most (and my husband, Justin, would say the same) is the tenderness of cuddling in bed with them. I still try to take naps with 4-year-old Ella-Grace, just so I can see her smile at me when she wakes up. Nothing compares to it.

What do you like the least?

I can’t say there are aspects of motherhood that I dislike, but obviously there are some (things) that wear me out more than others, like always having to repeat myself: having to ask them 10 times in the morning to get dressed or asking my son to leave his little sister alone for the 15th time in one day!

Being consistent with discipline can be very challenging. I get tired and overwhelmed like everyone else. My husband is away a lot and I don’t have a nanny, so I need to be organized.

Is there anything you would do differently as a parent if you had to start over again?

Knowing how much my children have brought to my life, I would have started a family earlier. But I can’t change the past and don’t want to live with regrets.

I wish I had breastfed for a year instead of six months, knowing the bond it helps create and the positive impact it has on a child’s health.

I truly wish that all moms could stay at home and have the time to raise their babies for the first year or two. We live in a stress-fuelled society and it’s not so easy to do it all.

I was able to stay at home. I did have “small gigs” here and there that gave me a couple of hours to myself outside the house. I might not have sent them to daycare as early, though. Maybe that’s why I kept picking them up after lunch time to nap with them!

What do you want to instill in your children more than anything?

Self-respect, openness, compassion, and internal peace. I want my kids to grow up aware of the world and other human beings. I hope they thrive in their personal quest to find their inner truths so they can serve the world better.

What do you do for fun? (without your husband or children!)

Good and important question! I always manage to do something fun during the day…even if it’s just for a laugh. I love to dance so I really enjoy doing Zumba. I also practice and teach yoga. Once in awhile, I’ll have lunch with a girlfriend but we inevitably wind up talking about our kids.

Do you and Justin speak English or French to the kids at home?

We speak to them in French, as it is their first language. They learned English at an early age because all the members of our family are bilingual. They attend a bilingual daycare. It’s amazing to see how easy it is for them to learn a new language.

I speak three languages (French, English and Spanish) and I think they should learn another soon. Mastering many languages allows you to open yourself to other cultures and to adapt to different environments. I see it as a great opportunity that will last a lifetime.

What books do you most enjoy reading with your children?

We read every night before they go to bed. It varies a lot. From Where’s Waldo to Where the Wild Things Are and What the Ladybird Heard. They have a lot of books in their room. We also love to look at books filled with pictures of animals or spend half an hour looking at their baby albums.

The demands of political life can be hard on a family, there’s a lot of travel and sometimes you have to give up your evenings and weekends. How do you carve out family time and how do you make it count?

I really try to create routine and balance. I decline invitations to many social events because I know the kids need me weeknights (as Justin is away). Our family time is sacred. We usually try to spend it with just the four of us or with family and close friends.

Running away to the country, playing outside and reading in front of the fireplace is my idea of a great weekend! (Did I mention I also enjoy cooking a great meal, sipping a nice glass of wine and being surrounded by people I love?)

What are your favourite family activities?

Anything outdoors. I bike and walk my kids to daycare most of the time. We go to the park a lot and spend our summer days outside. In winter, we skate and play in the snow.

Justin taught the kids to do puzzles from a very young age. They love this activity and can already finish some with 100 pieces by themselves. (It’s great when mommy needs quiet time or wants to prepare dinner).

Photo Credit: Pete Bregg
Ella-Grace, Sophie, Xavier and Justin enjoying
some family time outside.

How do you feel about your children being in the public eye?

I don’t think about it that much as it only represents one per cent of their life. They are used to the cameras and the crowds; it has never been a problem for us as a family. I guess that will be different when they are teenagers, but I’m sure we’ll all be able to deal with it. We are teaching our kids that with opportunity, comes responsibility.

You’ve been very open about your struggles with bulimia when you were a teenager. Do you think your children’s generation will feel the same pressures to be skinny and beautiful? If so, is there anything we should be doing as a society to change this?

Yes I think they will still feel pressure as this is not something that will just disappear. But our level of awareness about these issues has grown over the years. As a parent, I feel that it’s my job to teach my kids about the realities of life (good and bad) and serve as an example not only with my words but with my actions. If I’m always talking about dieting and how others look, that sends a message. If I accept myself for who I am inside and see the beauty in others, that sends another message. This has to be a conscious choice and we must remind ourselves that, as mothers, actions speak louder than words.

I’ve been involved with many self-esteem issues and causes and I will continue to devote my time and energy to make sure that our kids respect and like themselves not because of their physical appearance but because of who they are on the inside.

You’ve supported many charitable causes, many of them focused on women and girls, including Plan Canada’s Because I Am a Girl campaign. Why are these issues important to you?

I could go on and on about how there is still an imbalance between the “masculine” and the “feminine” in our society and world. Women are still being violated, trafficked, raped, beaten and deprived of their most basic human rights because of one reason: they are women.

The research speaks for itself:

•           Violence persists in many forms. Sexual harassment, dating violence and racism, among other things, are still widespread.

•           Mental health in adolescents should be a national concern. Self-harm, symptoms of depression, low self-esteem and suicide attempts are a much more common problem among girls than among boys.

For more information, visit Girls Action Foundation.

You’ve recently been certified as a yoga instructor — congratulations! How and why did you become interested in yoga?

Yoga was “there” all along – as Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo says “all life is yoga.” But I wasn’t truly ready for that maturity of connection within myself and with others. Then one day, I felt a kind of calling to go to my first class. And what a great path of discovery this has been. The definition of this ancient practice is “to bind, to unite” with your true, divine self. It’s like it was waiting for me.

The meditation and physical practice of yoga (hatha) are ways to deeply connect with yourself and be in the present. It has changed my life. It takes discipline, openness and vulnerability to be able to grow as a human being, to face your flaws and to embrace your inner beauty.

I have met some incredible people through yoga classes and workshops. Because yoga made me feel so peaceful inside, I decided to take my teacher training (200 hours) so I could share it with others. Millions of people practice worldwide and the numbers are still on the rise. There is a reason for that. Yoga is not only a practice and a passing along of great sacred teachings, but also a social movement for more human goodness, compassion and peace. The world needs more of it.

I strongly encourage people to try it. It doesn’t matter if you are not physically fit because you don’t have to be “good” at it. All that matters is that you try and take the time to connect with yourself. It should be taught in schools just like any other subject. Our children could benefit from quiet time, more introspection mixed with the fun and adventurous exploration of what your body (and mind) can do.

Share the Love: Mother-Daughter Yoga Fundraiser to benefit women’s health at St. Mary’s Hospital, will take place Thursday, May 2 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Shri Yoga, 4846 Sherbrooke St. W.

Tickets cost $100 per mother-daughter team, and the dress code is black and white.

For tickets or more information, call (514) 508-7474 or visit www.shriyoga.ca.

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