Out of all the women on Bravo’s reality documentary TV program, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Peggy Tanous (who joined the sixth season cast) resonated with me the most.
Maybe it was because I empathized with her postpartum depression struggles and noted her courage to talk about it in a very public forum.
Maybe it was because she, with her holistic edge, championed for healthy living. Or, maybe it was simply because she had the moxie to walk away mid-season from a hit TV show.
Whatever the reason, I was excited to meet with her one Monday afternoon at the Winery Restaurant in Orange County, California. It wasn’t long after we initially met that I would realize why I was drawn to her – and it was for reasons I hadn’t expected.
Google “Peggy Tanous,” and you will likely find stories about her as the beautiful blonde housewife on TV, or learn why she quit the show after one season, or see what cast members she still hangs with; however, the first question I direct to her has nothing to do with all that. I want to find out what her life is like now – away from the cameras and the tabloids. And so I ask her about life as a mom.
Contrary to popular assumptions, Peggy does not have a staff of nannies, and her days do not center around spa visits, shopping, partying, and gossiping. She really is a housewife and a stay-at-home mom. With her husband, Micah, of almost eight years, she is raising their two daughters, London (five years old) and Capri (three-and-a-half years old).
Potty training her younger daughter is currently her daily struggle. “Capri is my wild child,” Peggy tells me. “She doesn’t want to grow up. My older daughter, though, is completely the opposite. London is an old soul, and I always find it very endearing that she tries to mother her little sister. Coming from a family of five girls, I love seeing my daughters’ strong sisterly connection.”
Peggy would be the first to admit that she’s not a perfect mom and is working on becoming more patient with her daughters.
“Patience is really hard for me,” she says. “And, I’m a mom who really needs my breaks. I take my hat off to single mothers – motherhood is hard. My husband is amazing, and he watches the kids so I can take those breaks. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go through certain life experiences without him.”
One of her most profound experiences: postpartum depression.
“I talked about my postpartum a lot on the show,” she tells me. “It was actually one of the reasons why I decided to join the cast. The depression had such a negative impact on me during my first year of motherhood, but I learned how to eventually overcome it. I wanted to raise awareness about the issue and empower other new moms to know it’s not their fault and to learn how to fight it.”
Like many women struggling with postpartum depression, Peggy did not know she had it the entire first year after giving birth to London. Peggy shared how tough it was for her. “I was crying all the time for no reason; I had major anxiety; I was overwhelmed; I didn’t want to leave the house. And, I was completely in denial that anything was wrong with me. All I knew was that since the age of 20, I always wanted to be a mom, and here I was, at 38 years old, and I was now a mom, and yet I was so unhappy.”
When Peggy became pregnant with her second daughter and her depression showed no signs of slowing down, her husband and mother-in-law staged a type of intervention.
“They sat me down and confronted me with how I had been feeling and behaving the past year; I wasn’t the Peggy they knew, and they saw that I was drowning in depression.”
With the help of her mother-in-law, Peggy, who is a homeopathic and organic food activist, embraced natural methods to help her cope with the depression. “My doctor had dismissed my feelings as ‘the baby blues’ but I knew it was more than that. I took SAM-e supplements during my pregnancy, and then after the birth of my second daughter, I tried a bunch of natural medications until I found those that worked best for me.” Peggy’s website includes a Healthy Lifestyle page that promotes these supplements.
Supplements, however, were not a cure-all for Peggy, and she makes sure to tell women there are things they can do that are beneficial.
“The number one thing I tell new moms who feel depressed is to just get outside. If they live in an area where the weather is bad, then I encourage them to visit an indoor mall or someplace that puts them around people. With postpartum depression, it is really easy to want to stay in your house and hide from the world; when you go outside your box and get in the fresh air or in a different environment, it helps put things in perspective. Just somebody saying “hi” to you and starting a conversation can make a difference. Walk, jog, or just move. It can really help.”
I ask Peggy if she would encourage moms to talk openly with others about their struggles.
“Sometimes it’s hard for a new mom to talk about her depression with her friends or even her husband. If the other person hasn’t gone through it, it can be very hard to relate to them. I never felt entirely comfortable telling my mom friends–some of whom were blissfully bathing in motherhood–about the dark feelings I was experiencing, and so I tried other things.”
Peggy found journaling very helpful. “Writing down my feelings was beneficial–it helped me get things off my chest. There are also different organizations and support groups, some of which are online, that enable you to communicate with people who know and understand how you feel.”
While Peggy was putting depression behind her, she was starting a new chapter: as the new cast member on The Real Housewives of Orange County TV documentary show. It put Peggy back into the industry she worked in before having children.
“Not only did the show give me a platform to share my postpartum depression story, it enabled me to start modeling and TV hosting again. It also opened doors for me to explore promotional opportunities and creative projects that embraced my passions for health and fitness.”
And even as a busy mom, Peggy still has time to pursue those projects, one of which is a fitness workout DVD she will be launching early this Spring. “Ever since I was on the show, women have emailed me asking what I do to stay in shape. This DVD answers that…and more.”
As a former fitness model, Peggy shares with me how her DVD is different than others. “This isn’t another generic celebrity workout DVD. It has a very creative and unique spin to it–and one of its target audiences is moms. It’s an upbeat, 30-minute total body workout that enables busy on-the-go moms to work all parts of their body in a very easy, fun and healthy way. I think they’re going to love it.”
Peggy has also returned to TV hosting and writing. For example, she will be hosting a shoe show online and is currently writing and pitching three of her own TV shows, two of which cater to moms as well as the dating scene. She has also been approached to do her own denim line.
Although Peggy is seemingly happy and content, I ask her if she has any regrets about leaving the show.
“Right after I walked away, I did question if I had made the right choice, and I thought maybe I should have stayed another year. But, when I had initially agreed to do the show, I assumed I’d be having more fun with my husband and kids on it, but that just wasn’t the case. I’m happy that I was on the show, and I’m also happy I left. It was good to jump in the water and then jump out…before it got too shark-ridden.”
An avid fan of the show, I tell her it was already shark-ridden long before she even joined the cast.
Peggy laughs. “Well, I didn’t get eaten.”
Even though Peggy is still friends with people from the Housewives series (certain members from the OC, Jersey, and Beverly Hills casts), she tells me she doesn’t really watch the show.
“I realized that while I was on that show, I was getting so caught up in the lifestyle–and was so consumed with myself. Closing that chapter in my life has made me enjoy and value my daughters even more.”
Although now busy with projects, Peggy has learned to appreciate the beauty of sometimes staying home and doing nothing.
“My daughters’ happiest moments are when we’re at home, cuddled up on the couch with a blanket, and reading or watching a movie. As a person who is always going, going, going, I’m learning to like having ‘stop days’ and embrace the art of doing nothing.”
Peggy’s focus at home also includes instilling in her children core values of active communication, responsibility, and love.
“We have weekly family meetings where our girls share about their day and talk about anything that makes them happy or sad. I also have them on a chores schedule, which enables them to see how actions can lead to rewards or consequences. Also, we always try to model one of our most important values, which is love.”
It is at this point when I realize that Peggy and I–two moms living in the OC (pictured on the right)–are not altogether different. I’m drawn to her genuine passion for inspiring other mothers to improve themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically…while having fun with their families along the way.