Twenty Questions with Cindy Kurleto

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Think you know Cindy Kurleto? Modern Parenting’s Thea Arvisu had a chat with Cindy about motherhood, parenting, and beyond…

Former MTV VJ, Philippine showbiz fixture and model Cindy Kurleto has always been on the go for work. Now she’s slowing it down (or trying to, at least) as a stay-at-home mom in Vienna with her family. We got the full lowdown on what’s happening in her life right now and more…

1. Was becoming a mother always part of your plan?

My feelings towards becoming a mother were rather relaxed to begin with. All in good time, I thought. I knew that becoming a parent and creating a family would always be high up on my list, but I did not actively seek it out. 

When I was told by a doctor that I could not have children, I knew with all certainty that he was wrong. I also knew that it was finally time to make a plan. My diagnosis was PCOS, but the plan I put in motion worked. I managed to get pregnant naturally—twice.

2. What was the hardest adjustment for you, after having kids?

The reconfiguration of the jigsaw. The hardest adjustment for me came in the form of how others viewed me, once I became a mother. Not worse or better, just different. It meant having to rediscover how to put the puzzle pieces together, and to once again achieve just the right undercurrent of energy for my life.

3. What’s something you wish you were told about early motherhood?

That it’s a phase. Whatever it is that you’re going through right now, whatever it is that’s keeping you up at night, it’s a phase. It has a clear start, and sometimes a more obscure end, but an end nevertheless. 

I know we’ve heard it all before, to enjoy it while it lasts, but that’s not entirely what I mean here.

My appreciation, or strength to endure, was aided by looking at it in bite-sized chunks. It felt more manageable that way, which in turn made me feel more capable. One day, I just realized, hey, I can do this, and I can even do it with ease, and that was a real Level Up! moment.

Photography: Cindy Kurleto

4. What has been the most important parenthood lesson for you, so far?

We do things for the greater good of the family and regularly place ourselves last on the list. 

A little lazy compromise here, another there, and soon they’re piled up so high that resentment, annoyance, and anger will start to muddle with the family’s energy. Allotting time and space for yourself can go a long way towards managing, if not avoiding these feelings. 

5 & 6. What were your worst and best moments in motherhood?

Where there are peaks, there are valleys, and my story has a few, but if we’re talking about a standout (worst) moment, it must’ve been when they told me that I was too far into the birthing process to receive any pain medication. My face fell in such a drastic manner, there was no need to translate for Daniel. He understood simply by my reaction. I think I actually felt the blood drain from my face.

There are of course daily moments when I’m in awe at my kids, but the one that particularly stands out has got to be the moment of birth. Both times, holding that baby in my hands was just otherworldly and unforgettable. My brain does a great job at obscuring the memory of the pain I felt, but the rest is deeply embedded in my mind. I remember both nights like they were yesterday, the sights, sounds and smells. 

It was on that first night, when I became a mother, that I caught a glimpse of my pupils in the bathroom mirror and I was surprised to see that they were so dilated! 

Of course, I had to take a closer look and I could actually see all my little baby hairs move with each expansion and contraction of the energy field around me, my aura? I don’t know, who knows? All I know is that giving birth is some real tribal, warrior stuff. Having gone through this experience initiates us into a club, exclusive only to us, forever and ever. 

7. What are some non-negotiable parenting philosophies in your home?

We do things with love and to the best of our ability. Aside from the usual please and thank you, I also talk to my girls about being aware and mindful. How a certain tone can be disrespectful, even if the words are nice, or how someone can be manipulative even though they seemingly let you have your way. My girls are 10 and 4, they have just joined new schools and the topic of inclusion and group dynamic has come up a few times. 

We talk about love vs fear and how naming and acknowledging your emotions lessens their impact, so we can find respite. More and more we also speak about preservation, about nature, and human nature, and how we are treating our planet and our fellow men. Of course we had to speak about the pandemic and the different approaches that everyone has.

So, What would you name that parenting philosophy? Gentle, gradual truth?  

Oh, and we have a rule regarding devices. iPads are allowed only once a week IF all of the week’s chores were done without complaining too much. (Weekly chores include the usual: no fuss at bath time, finish your homework, clean your room and take your plate into the kitchen after you’re done eating, etc)

cindy kurleto and kids
Photography: Cindy Kurleto

8. What is your favorite way to spend quality time with the kids?

I truly enjoy doing all kinds of activities with my family. We spend a lot of our time in the outdoors being physically active. Swimming, cycling, and hiking all rank very high on the list. I think it’s also fair to say that quarantine has extended our arts and crafts repertoire. We like to play board games, bake muffins, do a dance off, model clay or do puzzles, just to name a few. Goofing around and not taking yourself too seriously is highly promoted in my house. 

My favorite way to spend a Family Sunday would be to bike to the green, hang up a hammock at a park near a playground and get some ice cream. If I invite you to join us on a Sunday, I’m obviously very fond of you.

9. Do you have any mom hacks or tips on balancing a successful career and making time for your family?

One thing I can tell you for sure is that trying to do it all is exhausting and I highly recommend

focusing on one thing at a time, if you can. Sad truth is that often we don’t have a choice and instead of running myself to the ground I had to learn to ask for help. I’m not in the game of proving myself to anyone, my goal is to create moments of happiness that stack together to make a fulfilled life.

I found that I personally was healthier and more balanced just focusing on one thing at a time instead of running after all of it at once. Again, I know I’m lucky to have that choice. I might be sporting milk stains on my chest one year and strut my stuff in a tv commercial the next. Just because I am a stay-at-home mom at one point in time doesn’t mean that I will be forever exclusively defined by that. The only constant, after all, is change. 

I can share something with you, a little mental exercise or homework if you will, that helped me in this regard. You can find it in the book “How to be rich AND happy” by John P. Strelecky and Tim Brownson. In the first chapters it teaches you to identify and write down your values and anti values. Once you’ve made some real effort (i.e. sit with pen and paper and write it down) in consciously identifying your actual priorities and their ranking, you will make the right amount of time, without regret, for each of them. This allows you to be present for each of the things that are important to you, and further make you happy and satisfied. At least that’s the plan. 

10. What is your #1 self-care go-to?

Therapy. Life coaching. Whatever you want to call it. To actually sit in a meeting with another highly competent person who has your best interest in mind and discuss the progress of your journey and goals, is a game changer. I wish our society would invest more in mental health and personal growth. 

Another vital clog in my self care that I enjoy a lot would be exercise. Both help me work at different facets of myself, and it all contributes to my health. 

Cindy Kurleto head shot
Photography: Cindy Kurleto

11. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

At this very moment I would like to visit friends in the states and go hiking around the The Boy Scout Tree Trail at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

12 & 13. Are you an early bird or a night owl? When do you prefer to spend your me-time?

The older I get, the more of a daytime person I’ve become. When I know the kids are safe and looked after at school for a few hours and the weather is bright but not too hot, I can’t wait to get on that hiking trail and forest bath.

14 & 15. You have an amazing sense of style – do you have a favorite piece that has been with you for over 10 years? And what must-haves would you recommend for modern moms?

Why, thank you. At this phase of my life, I follow the “less is more” aesthetic. Think of a clean, minimal palette that’s elegant whilst pragmatic. Classic and simple, so it doesn’t take much time to put together and fits most situations. Accessories go a long way, those wayfarers and gold studs make my simple white tee and black pants look like I care and made a little effort. My personal favorite to amp up any outfit? A chic bag. And that is probably also the only item in my closet that’s ten years old. 

Cindy Kurleto head shot
Photography: Cindy Kurleto

16. Do you have a favorite appliance/piece of tech at home that isn’t screen-time related?

Throughout all the stages of my life, my favorite piece of tech was always something to play music with. And yes, by now we even play that over a screen, so I’d have to say, my favorite device would be my Bose speakers. As for phases we go through, the Nutribullet is a current favorite in my house. Daniel creates fresh smoothies and makes the girls guess which fruits are in it. (We don’t mention the veggies just yet! Haha) They honestly see it as a fun game and love participating and at the same time get their nutrients.

17. Having lived in a few countries throughout your life, which place feels the most like “home”?

That’s a tough question. I feel most at home in Vienna, the place I’ve known since birth, but I feel most like myself in Manila, the place where I became an adult. Gosh, if you would only know the turmoil my heart is in regarding this. 

18. When you feel uninspired, what do you do to get yourself out of that funk?

Exerting energy, like working out, or going for a speedy bike ride will always help me initially. High intensity exercise truly does wonders for me. If I’m too tired to muster up the energy to do that, I will try to find alone time to create a bubble where I can recharge, get lost in music, day dream, get busy doing some mood boards on my ipad, listen to audio books or a podcast, basically just take it slow.

19. What is your preferred type of exercise that you do for yourself? What about as a family?

I love Lagree, Pilates and HIIT training. I like taking classes as well as working out with an app, such as the Nike Club, which one can do at home. By toggling the settings you can easily have it dictate a family friendly, easy work out for everyone to join in. Sometimes we follow kids yoga videos online and meditation podcasts at night.

20. One thing we would be shocked to learn about you that you’re willing to share?

Well, if you’ve read this far, my love for nature is pretty apparent by now and not shocking to you. Because of my long standing connection with the showbiz world, people sometimes imagine me wanting a glamorous lifestyle – the big house and a luxury car. When in fact I’ve been torturing my whole family with tiny house videos for years. I even, for a week or so, campaigned for our family to move to New Zealand! 

Just yesterday, I was walking my 10 year old to school when we stepped over a sewage drain and caught a swift smell of something unpleasant. After expressing her disgust, I explained to her that living in a city means having to deal with huge amounts of waste and the responsibility to take care of it. Without needing any more prompt she took over and said, yes, and if everyone would have to deal with their own caca, H&M and Zara would be selling composting toilets because that’s what would earn them the most money, since everyone would be looking to get one.

Thanks, Cindy!