FEMME ROUGE got together for tea with four of the most talented, driven, community-oriented, and beautiful new moms in Sarasota. These upbeat, busy matriarchs discussed the joys and challenges of motherhood and the struggles every working mother faces maintaining a healthy balance.

DIANA BUCHANAN is a former Miss Florida who recently welcomed daughter Lilly to the world. Diana began her own footwear line, Diana E Kelly Inc., in 2010. Named one of Southern Living’s top 3 designers under 30 living in the south, this Sarasota-born beauty queen has a commitment to giving back, with 10% of the profits from her shoe sales going to one of several carefully selected causes.

HOW HAS BEING A PARENT CHANGED YOU? Being a parent has made me slow down and realize my priorities.

WHAT MISTAKE ARE YOU AFRAID TO MAKE AS MOTHER/PARENT? The “mother guilt” has already started to hit me! Am I working too much? Am I teaching her enough? I just don’t want to look back and have any regrets, so I’m determined to cherish every moment I have with her.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU REALIZE YOU DO LIKE YOUR MOTHER? I love to “try” to balance career and being domestic. I always admired how my mother worked full-time and yet always had time to make us dinner and keep our house a home (in addition to many other wonderful maternal qualities).

WHAT DREAMS DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR DAUGHTER? To become filled with purpose, love, kindness, leadership, and ambition … and maybe one day become President of the United States!

ANY MOMMY BLUNDERS? Yes, the first time we left the house with her. I had never packed a diaper bag before, so I didn’t think to pack an extra blanket and outfit. Sure enough, we arrived at the doctor’s office and she spit up all over her clothes and I didn’t have anything fresh to put her in!

WHAT FULFILLS YOU AND YOUR PASSION FOR THE SHOE INDUSTRY? My goal has always been to create a comfortable but stylish shoe that can take you from day to night. I created Diana E Kelly to develop types of shoes like this and to use this business to do philanthropy work as well!

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MONTANA TAPLINGER, born and raised in Sarasota, and mom to 19-month-old daughter Annabelle, is co-owner of the contemporary art and jewelry gallery 530 Burns Gallery in historic Burns Court. While running her business she still finds time to serve as the current President of the Designing Daughters of Sarasota, and is active on various other committees including Girls Inc., St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and the Asolo Theatre.

WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT BECOMING A FIRST TIME PARENT? The overwhelming love you have that you can’t even comprehend until you have a child. It’s the kind of love that continues to build and has no end, and your heart continues to expand.

WHAT IS ONE RECOMMENDATION YOU HAVE FOR SOON-TO-BE PARENTS? It can be very easy to get caught up in the negative opinions or thoughts from people on marriage, pregnancy, and child rearing. Of course, there are challenges, but you can’t let that affect all the wonderful and beautiful things that come out of life.

HOW HAS BRINGING YOUR DAUGHTER INTO THIS WORLD MADE YOUR MARRIAGE DIFFERENT? It has made me vulnerable and that deepens the emotional connection, builds intimacy, and has allowed me to let my guard down to really strengthen the relationship and create a stronger bond. We also value our commitment to one another more and make it a priority to save time each night, even if it means coming to bed a half an hour early to have quality time with one other.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE WORK AND FAMILY BALANCE? It’s interesting now in retrospect, how I used to think I was busy with my career. Now I have so much more on my plate, but it’s amazing how you can take on whatever comes. Sometimes as hard as it is, you have to stay committed and even force yourself to do it and follow through, and it’s that much more rewarding because you are doing it for your family. It really is all about prioritizing and making sure to pay attention to what is most important, and stopping to play on the floor with your daughter and appreciating those moments as a family. The joke in my household is that my husband might have to wait for clean underwear until I get around to the laundry.

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A SOON-TO-BE MOM IF SHE WAS SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU RIGHT NOW? To make sure to remind them what a positive and miraculous experience it is to be growing a child inside of you and all the beautiful things they will experience. And it is so important to keep it in perspective to value and respect womanhood, and that it is okay not to be perfect. Don’t let not having a clean house or being able to dress up everyday affect your self-esteem. Making sure to have time to decompress for yourself is mandatory, even if it’s just a hot shower or a quick run.

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FONDREN WATTS, a Sarasota native, returned home to start her family and build her career. The new mother to Charlotte Ivy, born March of last year, has another big new venture ahead as Fondren, alongside business partner, Nicole Mei, will open the doors to Sarasota’s very own couture bridal boutique, Blush Bridal Couture – bringing designers such as Reem Acra, Inbal Dror, Naeem Khan, and Ines Di Santo to the Southwest Florida market.

WHAT WERE YOU MOST GRATEFUL FOR WHEN MOVING BACK TO SARASOTA? To be surrounded by childhood friends again and reconnect. It is so important to have your community, friends, and family around for loving support and help. So much goes into raising a child and you value that connection even more as parents.

WERE THERE ANY IMMEDIATE CHANGES YOU NOTICED SHORTLY AFTER BRINGING YOUR DAUGHTER INTO THIS WORLD? I went inward and at first I thought it was selfish. But I realize now that I just wanted to enjoy those first intimate moments with those closest to me.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT SO FAR? I walked around flattered that everyone was looking my way and admiring my daughter, only to realize she had a “major accident” running down my new shirt.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN WITH RAISING A CHILD IN TODAY’S WORLD? The topic of bullying comes to mind. It is so prevalent in today’s culture and has its challenges even with young girls now being the target. This is why I am involved with organizations such as Girl’s Inc., to help facilitate raising girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

HOW DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND MAKE TIME FOR ONE ANOTHER? Every night after we put Charlotte to bed, Danny and I try to connect and devote time for one another to talk about our days and make time to have date night. Even if it is grilling or cooking in, we make a point to turn off electronics.

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BRIDGET ZIEGLER, a native of Chicago, moved to Sarasota to be near her family, who relocated here when she went off to college. Mother to one-year-old daughter Reagan Resse, this busy mom is a licensed commercial insurance agent at Al Purmort Insurance focusing on small-and-medium-sized business consulting, while still staying very active in Sarasota’s non-profit organizations and even serving on the Sarasota County School Board.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU CAME TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT MOTHERHOOD? I realized there was a common unspoken bond between mothers that I appreciated. And when you are coming out of a world that revolves around self, and someone who knows what you are going through reaches out, it helps you better embrace the changes happening. It’s like a rite of passage, and it’s not about instant gratification anymore, and parenthood will challenge your core values and show you what it is all really about.

WHAT KIND OF ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE NEW MOMS? How important it is to really make sure to be in the moment and enjoy reading, taking a walk in the park, and playing on the floor. One of my favorite things is seeing the world through my daughter Reagan’s eyes. Those are times you will never get back. Cleaning the house can wait.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN SHARE TO FUTURE MOTHERS ABOUT PREGNANCY? I really enjoyed the changes my body was going through and being pregnant, except for the occasional hot flashes. But I feel more women need to be patient with their bodies and what they are going through, and appreciate the time it takes to get back to where you were. It is amazing what the body is capable of doing to accommodate the needs of what is growing inside of you and how much of it is instinctual.

AS A MEMBER OF THE SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, WHAT DRIVES YOU THE MOST? Bringing a voice to the parents and holding them accountable for what is going on in every step of their children’s lives. Being involved and engaged in our children’s education, and having strong family values and work ethic as my parents did. Parents are truly their children’s first teachers and set the stage for who they will become.

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH ABOUT REAGAN? She is a dancer and she does it everywhere! It’s amazing how their personalities shine from the very beginning!

WHAT HAS HAVING A CHILD SHOWN YOU ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND CHRISTIAN? That he has a far larger heart than he had ever known. The love between them is beyond words and simply beautiful.