It's been a year of transitions for actress and singer Jana Kramer: a divorce, a surgery, a new life as a single mom dipping her toe in the dating waters. Kramer, who shares daughter Jolie, 5, and son Jace, nearly 3, with ex-husband Mike Caussin, has been pouring her heart out on social media every step of the way on this bold new journey, sharing her vulnerability in tearful selfies and in her latest song, "Voices."
These changes have also inspired the former One Tree Hill star's new fashion collaboration with LULUSIMONSTUDIO, which features T-shirts emblazoned with mantras — including "Badass Mama," "Dare to Begin" and "Better Off" — that Kramer says represent "where I'm at in my life."
While the capsule collection speaks to women who, like her, are embracing their independence — with or without a wine-fueled weekend away with the girls — Kramer tells Yahoo Life that it's being a "badass mama" that strikes the most personal chord.
For her, that means being "a strong, confident woman and mom just doing the best that we can... being like a boss and working and juggling it all and doing it with grace and strength, because I think that's good for the kids to see as well."
Sharing her vulnerable moments with Jolie and Jace, however, is a more delicate matter. While Kramer is known for opening up to fans about the raw feelings she's been having during this upheaval, she's careful to shield her kids from negativity.
"As hard as it is to be around your ex, always keep in mind what's best for the kids and what is best for the energy when you guys co-parent and you go back and forth and you're around each other," she says. "I just think it's so important because how I feel about my ex isn't how my kids should feel about their dad. So that's just something that I always try to remember: to put my own personal feelings [about her ex-husband] away and just go, 'OK, that's my stuff. That's not my kids' stuff.'"
It's not always easy, she admits, especially when raising kids who are so young.
"My almost 3-year-old little boy, he doesn't really get it," she says of the divorce. "He's definitely having the hardest time with the transition days. He gets really upset, and he's dealing with it, but when he acts that way, I'm like, 'Mommy loves you. Mommy wants to give you a hug.' And if he's yelling for Daddy, I'm like, 'Do you want to call Daddy?' Whatever [I can do] to make him feel safe and secure.
"And then with my daughter, she'll ask questions," Kramer adds. "Sometimes she'll be like, 'Mommy, I wish you lived at Daddy's.' And I'm like, 'Oh, I know, baby, but you know, Mommy and Daddy are better off in Mommy's home and Daddy's home. And we're still really good friends.' Just to have it be positive for them, and never be like, 'I know it sucks.' Even though I have my own thoughts and feelings, my kids need to see me being positive and encouraging and that I'm OK with the situation too, so that they feel OK with it."
Being a mom is also having an impact on how Kramer — whose dating life has sparked headlines of late — approaches new relationships. At this point in her life, she'd rather take her time than settle for someone whose plans in life don't match her own.
"I definitely am dating and I want to be dating and I have a lot of love to give, so I want to be with someone, but it has weeded out [some men]," she says of dating as a mom. "There was someone that I was hanging out with and they wanted kids and I'm like, 'I'm very happy with where I'm at, with my two kids.' And so I definitely think it's about finding someone that's on your same playing field and figuring out OK, what do I want? Because now that I have my two kids, I don't need to settle for someone because I need to have kids.
"That's how I felt in my 30s," she says. "I was like, 'Oh man, I'm getting older and I want kids.' And would I have stayed with my ex if I wasn't thinking of my time clock? I'm not sure — there were many red flags back in the day. So I've always kind of wondered if I didn't focus on [having kids], what relationship would I have been in? Now, it's just like, who do I want to spend the rest of my life with? Someone that's healthy and has the same goals and aspirations and likes, and now I get to be a little picky."
While having more kids is "not totally out of the question," Kramer says it's not something she necessarily sees for herself.
"I could meet the man of my dreams and be like, 'Wow, if you really want a kid, then maybe I would have one,'" she says, "I don't, in this moment right now... I don't really see myself having another kid. I had really hard pregnancies. I had hyperemesis with my son, Jace. I puked until 39 weeks. I had a bunch of miscarriages. I don't see myself ever being pregnant again. But having said that, I don't know what God has planned for me. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. So if I meet the man of my dreams and he's like, 'I want a baby,' I don't think I would say no to that either."
She laughs, "Who knows? I didn't see myself getting divorced either, So I could be pregnant next year. I don't know."
One rule of romance she's not bending: Waiting to introduce a love interest to her children.
"No one's ever met the kids before," she says. "I'm not ready for that yet. My ex and I have a very good rule where we have to be in a very serious relationship in order to introduce the kids. I'm passionate about that because I don't want them to get into something, because it's not fair for them to be introduced to someone and then be like, 'Oh, it didn't work out.' And that's always the chance. We might be in a serious relationship and it doesn't work out, but at least it's going to weed out some of the ones that I go out with... They don't get to meet my kids, the ones that aren't serious."
While her shared custody schedule gives her some time to explore dating, Kramer thrives on spending quality time with her kids. The Michigan native considers herself a "big outside girl" who loves going for family walks after dinner, hitting the pool or just making up games in the backyard and letting their imaginations run wild. But she's mindful of striking a "healthy balance of being a strict yet fun mom." She's a stickler for polite manners, kindness and respecting consequences.
"I think discipline is really important," she says. "The kids need discipline and I need it for my life too, so that they don't end up being spoiled or just think they can get whatever they want."
Like most celebrity moms, Kramer's parenting has come under fire from mom shamers, something she has no time for.
"I definitely got a lot of mom shame because I didn't breastfeed and I didn't cook," she tells Yahoo Life. "I gave them canned baby food I got so much judgment on all of those things. At the end of the day. I was just like, you know what? I'm their mom. I know what's best for them. I'm doing what's best for them. And everyone else can just kindly see yourself out of my social media story or whatever, because I'm not here for it.
"I will let negative voices creep in about anything else, but when it comes to me being a mom, I know I'm a great mom," she adds. "Sure, I have my days where I'm not perfect, but I know that I'm a great mom and nobody can tell me otherwise. That's like the only voice that doesn't affect me like the other ones do."
While Kramer won't let her confidence about being a great mother be shaken, she admits that getting negative feedback or second-guessing herself in other areas of her life is harder to tune out — especially when she's so candid online.
"I think it's been therapeutic, but it's also hurt a lot because it's easy for people to pick things apart," she says of sharing her personal life with fans. "I do have a very hard time with voices in my head. When I hear those negative things, I start believing those negative voices... I let those dictate how I feel sometimes. But I do know that at the end of the day I am helping people. And the other people that aren't here for it, well, then they don't need to follow me."
She's channeling those feelings into her new song, "Voices," which was released on Friday.
"What I want people to take away from the song when they listen to it is that they are good enough, that they are worthy, that they are not broken and that they need to be a little kinder to themselves," she says. "Because when we don't listen to the negative voices and we are positive, so many more doors will open. I just want it to be an anthem for people to believe in themselves."
As she documents her new life as a single woman, Kramer, too, is learning to believe in herself.
"I have never been more proud of myself, truly," she says when asked if she's proud of how she's handling this new chapter. "Because the things that I've been able to do, the anxieties that I've been able to overcome, the voices in my head that I've been able to overcome, the challenges of the divorce — I didn't think I was strong enough to ever get through that. That's why I stayed for as long as I did. I never thought that I could actually go through with it and be strong and be alone. I never thought I could be alone. And now I'm thriving in being alone. I'm thriving in just doing what I want and it's been really cool. I am proud of myself. I've never really looked at it that way, but yeah, I am, because I didn't think I could ever do it."
—Video produced by Stacy Jackman.
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