Name: JoAnna Garcia Swisher
Location: Tampa, Florida
Occupation: Actress, co-founder of The Happy Place and influencer who has partnered with Roku to share her holiday tips
Family situation: Married to Nick Swisher and mom to Emerson Jay, 7, and Sailor Stevie, 4
What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
One of the things that really struck me about Nick when I met him was his desire to start a family. Becoming a father was so important to him, so I knew right then and there that we were both aligned and wanted to experience parenthood together.
Nick and I fell in love pretty quickly and got married pretty quickly while he was still playing baseball in New York at the time. We were enjoying ourselves and open to the possibility of our family expanding, so we were really excited when we had our first baby in Cleveland and a few years later, Sailor came. I don't know if we're done yet, but we're certainly enjoying the ride.
How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
I grew up in a very Cuban house with a lot of family around. My dad has always been all about family. He actually was present for my first delivery and caught my first baby. My dad was an OB-GYN and so, the birth of my oldest was very much a family affair. Having him there was one of the most incredible moments of all of our lives. My first daughter is named after him. Her name is Emerson Jay, and my dad's name is Jay. He was also there for the birth of my second daughter as well.
The way I was raised has stayed with me into parenthood. Now more than ever, there has been nothing more important than family and that's how we will always prioritize things — everything for the familia.
What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
It's so humbling to watch these little creatures grow into their own little personalities. We get to hear their thoughts and feelings and experience the way they view the world. It's obviously a lot of work, but it's the best kind of work when you get to see how their worlds start to expand. You just hope that you can give them as much love as possible and teach them right from wrong by being a good example. I don't know that I'll be very good at allowing them to make mistakes or watching their hearts get broken … I don't know that handling those moments will be my specialty, but I certainly do love watching things unfold for them.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions and what do you have planned this year?
This year's a little different obviously with COVID. It's a bit smaller and more focused on our little bubble. We usually have a big family kickball game and it's highly competitive. We'll be keeping the tradition alive this year because we're just going to be with our immediate family. It's always family versus family and there's a trophy that gets passed around. It's really fun and I look forward to it so, so much. It's one of those things that reminds me of the holidays. Since we're here in Florida, the weather usually cooperates but come rain or come shine, we play that kickball game.
We also always have pork, black beans and rice, but this year we're going to implement a little bit of my husband's heritage. My mother-in-law is cooking a bunch of Italian food. She's the best cook I know, so we're very lucky that she's going to hit that out of the park this year. We also make a lot of homemade treats.
Since we've been at home and we're not running around as much, it's honestly been really nice. I got all of my wrapping done and everything's under the tree. I was just telling Nick that I was looking forward to taking a deep breath. It's been super refreshing to just be able to enjoy each other in a way that we haven't before.
What's the best advice you can share with new parents?
Savor each moment. For me, I love doing projects with my girls. They're often simple but they thrill the kids to pieces and gives us time to bond. Recently, I've been inspired by a project we did with Roku. Right now, we aren't shopping like we used to. Packages are on the rise and boxes are piling up so when we got our Roku box, I decided that we were going to make a fun holiday decorating project out of it.
When you're a parent, time goes by so fast so take those moments and slow things down by getting creative. It's great for the kids on so many levels. Don't be afraid to get a little messy, too. It doesn't have to be perfect. More than anything, this year has taught me to be flexible.
What would you want your kids to say about you as a parent?
I hope that they say that I always saw them for who they were — not for what anybody wanted or expected them to be. I would want them to say that my mom always had my back and that she got me — she got who I was.
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