“We have the power of a thousand stars. It’s time to wake up and shine.” —Leigh Koechner
Podcaster, speaker, parenting expert, spiritual teacher, and mother of five (yes, five), Leigh Koechner is not technically a single mom. But with her husband, comedian/actor David Koechner, spending most of his time on the road, in essence, she is a Solo Mom and a master of juggling it all.
Raised in Kansas City in a family of six kids, with a mentally-ill mother and “a father who worked hard and spanked harder,” Leigh found herself feeling alone and invisible at a young age. “I interpreted in my seven-year-old mind that I was unworthy. I wasn’t even good enough for my own mother to get out of bed. So I created this tough-as-nails persona. I lived out my unworthiness with sex, drugs, and Rick Springfield through high school, college, and into the streets of LA. It wasn’t until I was 30 and completely worn out that I dropped to my knees and asked God for help.”
Leigh’s help came in the form of Dave Koechner, her husband of 20 years. “My life-changing work started when we were first together and I didn’t know what the heck to do. I was used to getting drunk and making out at bars—not actually talking to someone.” Dave suggested they go to a therapist. Leigh ended up going by herself for the following two years. Therapy helped her understand her behaviors and “started to melt the armor I had created from childhood. It no longer served me.”
Q: What is it that you actually do? Given all your fields of expertise, you must have an extra-long business card.
A: I live my life out loud with compassion and balls and show others how to be unapologetically who they are. I do speaking engagements for women about how badass they are regardless of the stories their brains tells them. On my Messy Imperfect Life podcast, we talk about the mess of life and what we learn from it. I also share my wisdom and my heart in my free 33-day series on my website. I love to coach those who need guidance, encouragement, and accountability, and I’m starting a Mastermind group for powerful, like-minded women.
Q: I’ve known you for years and have no idea where you get your boundless energy (or rockin’ bod). What drives you?
A: My sole purpose is spreading love. Oh yeah, and letting people know they’re never alone. Oh yeah, and allowing people to unleash their messy and imperfect lives. The messiness is where the good stuff comes from. My mother used to tell me that every morning I’d run into her room and say, “What are we doing today, Mom? What does life have in store for us?” She’d reply, “Get out of my room.” She said her other children got it: she was not getting out of bed. But every day I’d still come in as if something might change. She told me I had more gumption than anyone she’d ever seen.
Q: How did your own childhood shape who you are today and the sort of mother you are?
A: When I was young, my mother was behind a locked door, and when my dad raged, he’d beat the crap out of me—so I started out as a blank-slate mother. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. My mom didn’t hold me, brush my hair, give me baths, attend my events . . . When I had my first kid, I had to learn mothering. So when I ended up living out of bed and not beating anyone, I was like “Yes! I’m winning.” But when my own son would be on the floor crying, I’d step over him. Then I’d look back and go, “Oh shit, there’s more.”
With each challenge I learned, and it hasn’t stopped. I had to learn how to hold him, to comfort him, to be gentle. I got better with each child. And I got even better as I learned how to comfort, love, and be gentle with myself!
When I started healing my younger self, that was huge. One day my daughter Audrey, who was around three, was crying. I picked her up and held her. I closed my eyes and thought about what I looked like at her age. Then I held that little girl as I held my own. I rocked her and soothed her, and in my mind I was holding little me who didn’t have her needs met. I wept. I realized I didn’t need my mother to have done anything differently as a mom. I could give my little girl what she needs now. That was pretty damn awesome.
Q: With Dave not around much, and you being so busy with five kids, how do you not lose your shit?
A: I do lose my shit, scream, and cuss from time to time, as well I should. I am human. I am doing the best I can where I am. We all are. The big thing for me is to be aware of myself. To observe myself. When I freak out, I pause, take a breath, tell my little girl I’ve got her and everything is OK. Then I make amends. “I’m sorry I lost my shit on you. You do not deserve that. Please forgive me.” And when they say, “That’s OK,” as we are programmed to do, I tell them, “No, it is not. It’s never OK to be spoken to that way by me or anyone else.”
I also have shared with them where I came from. The tools I was taught were neglect and abuse, so I’m working daily to heal myself so that I can show up in a more connected and beautiful way—for them and myself. They give me wiggle room because I practice “Ownershit.” I own my shit every time. I don’t let them walk around thinking they suck or they were the cause of my anger. We have no control over what happens in life. The only control we have is how we respond to what shows up and how we treat ourselves during it.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for us Solo Moms who can get overwhelmed, lonely, and—let’s face it—the blues?
A: The blues suck, but you don’t have to stay there. Take a contrary action. You want to hole up and cry? Go for a walk and say a few things you are in gratitude for, “I am in gratitude for that mighty tree. I am in gratitude my legs work. I am in gratitude I could have sex if I allowed myself.” Depression and blues are one of the lowest energy levels. Gratitude is up there with abundance, joy, and love. You can jump up a couple of levels just by practicing gratitude. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
I went to an Al-Anon meeting the other day. The leader said, “Today we’re going to focus on what we’re doing right. We’re going to acknowledge ourselves for the things we are doing that are positive.” I came into the meeting wanting to cry, so I was a little pissed. When I shared, I started crying, “I have a lot to cry about. Things are really hard right now. Why do I have to focus on the things I’m doing right when I want to cry?” Then I took a breath, “OK, I acknowledge myself for being here. I acknowledge myself for being in the good fight. I acknowledge myself for not sitting down. I acknowledge myself for seeking help when I’m hurting.” As I spoke, I felt my energy level rise. When I was done, I felt good. The shift can be that easy. Allow yourself a new narrative. Allow your mind a new thought.
“Yesterday I was blue, but today I choose happiness.” If that feels overwhelming then just write down five things you are grateful for. You just started your swing back up. Goodbye, blues.
Q: What’s your latest project?
A: On March 7, 2019, in LA, I have my one-day workshop, “Unleash Your Messy Imperfect Life,” where we’ll use my 10-step program to unleash our power. It will be life-changing.
Q: What’s your favorite parenting hack?
A: I make a new game plan. Two kids fight in the morning, then from then on, one sits in back and the other sits in front. One kid loses his shoes? Then shoes are laid out every night before he gets his electronics. For every single thing that arises, I find a remedy—because I don’t want to do this Groundhog Day shit.
Q: Of what are you the most proud about yourself?
A: I’m proud that I’m a teacher. I took the time to answer the two most important questions: Who am I, and why am I on the planet? Once you know who you truly are, you can live in line with why you are here. We are all here for a purpose. Not one person out of 7 billion has the same fingertip. We come into this Earth as brilliant, bright lights directly from God. Then our parents start covering it up—teachers, siblings, friends . . . so as adults we don’t know who we are. Our job is to peel back the layers to get back to our greatness. I help people do this.
Q: Any words of wisdom for the struggling mom?
A: Be gentle with yourself. There will never be anyone on the planet meaner to you than you. Know you’re doing the best you can where you are. Ask for help! When you constantly give, you get depleted. You need to give and receive. And guess what? People want to help!
Know you have everything inside of you that you need. If you remember there is a piece of God inside of you, then you’re never alone. Just close your eyes, put your hand over your heart, and quiet your mind. There’s magic in there. It’s God talk, and it’s available to you all the time.
Meditation is the best way to connect to God within. Deepak Chopra says everyone should meditate at least once a day. And if you don’t have time to meditate once a day, then you should be doing it twice.
But the most important thing you can do is love yourself. When you fill yourself up with love, it bubbles over to those around you. Practice self-care. What is self-care? It’s writing affirmations, meditating, walking outdoors, having lunch with someone who is kind. . . . It’s asking for help and allowing yourself to be loved.
Gandhi hit the nail on the head when he said “Everything starts within.” All of the work that we are here to do is within. He told us to “Be the change you [wanna] see in the world.” You can apply it to every part of your life.
Love yourself, dammit!
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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