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Hunter McGrady first joined the SI Swimsuit family in 2017 when she participated in a bodypaint feature in Anguilla as part of the brand’s model search program. She’s returned to the fold four times since then, and most recently posed for the 2022 SI Swimsuit Issue in Belize. At the time, McGrady stepped in front of the camera at just six-months postpartum, having given birth to her son, Hudson, in June 2021.
Today, she and her husband, Brian Keys, are the proud parents of two. They welcomed a baby girl named Ava last March. The 30-year-old model, designer, mother and podcast cohost sure knows a thing or two about prioritizing her self-care while also juggling family life and numerous career aspirations.
We sat down with McGrady to learn just how she prioritizes her own well-being as a busy mom of two, and how fellow mothers can learn to take charge of their own mental health.
McGrady says that while moms often carry the mental load of the household, from doctor’s appointments to meal times and everything in between, it’s vital to take time for yourself. For her, self-care means waking up early to spend some time prioritizing herself before the rest of her family is up for the day.
“I started implementing this a couple months ago, because my daughter is now 9 months old and she’s kind of out of that newborn stage, but I really wanted time in the morning for me,” she explains. “So that meant getting up a half an hour earlier so that way I am able to drink my coffee in peace and quiet.”
McGrady tries to use this morning “me” time intentionally, so instead of reaching for her phone first thing, she’ll read a book (she loves The Pivot Year by Brianna Wiest), listen to jazz music or enjoy a podcast.
Outside of her morning routine, McGrady’s favorite way to focus on herself is by getting a massage or scrapbooking. And whether she has a few spare hours to spend in the spa after work or merely 45 minutes of self-care time before bed, she makes sure to spend that time doing something valuable that she believes will benefit her well-being.
Put your mask on first
McGrady says that while these small habits may not seem like anything too extreme, they go a long way in helping prioritize self-care as a mom. In fact, she says carving out time for herself has actually made her a better mother.
“I’ve always really prioritized my mental health. I have two little kids—I have a two-and-a-half-year-old and a 9-month-old, almost 10-month-old—and it’s busy, it’s crazy, but I think making myself a priority has almost made me a better mom in so many ways,” McGrady says. “I feel like I can give more of me because I’ve given to myself first.”
She likens it to being on an airplane when you’re told to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others in the case of an emergency.
“It’s kind of along the same lines of, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’ You have to make sure your cup is filled so then you can pour and give and be the best mom you can be,” McGrady explains. “When I first had my son, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m just gonna give every bit of me, this is what it’s about, this is how I’m supposed to do it.’ And then I kind of got halted in my tracks really quick, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I feel lost and I feel disconnected from myself.’ And that’s when I kind of took in that ‘put my mask on first’ [mentality] and then make sure I can help everybody else.”
So, if you’re not an avid reader and the spa doesn’t speak to you, how should you go about prioritizing self-care regularly? McGrady says it’s important to see what does work for you.
“As a mom, I think you really have to kind of date yourself in a way,” she notes. “You have to figure out what makes you swoon again as a mom. Your priorities change, your time changes, the things you might have used to do changes. Honestly, this goes for anybody, whether you’re a mom or not ... I feel like we’re constantly having to date ourselves and find things that really fill us up and feel exciting and give us those butterflies and that hope and I think that that’s really important.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Having a supportive partner has also been key to McGrady’s ability to prioritize herself. Whether it’s encouraging her to take time for herself of pushing her to say “yes” to a job, she says her husband always pushes her to pursue the things she loves.
“I think the biggest thing when it comes to partners and supporting moms is letting [your significant other] take over. Just letting go of those reins a little bit is so important,” McGrady shares. “For the husbands out there, do things without asking like the dishes, make the bed, put the kids to bed. Plan a self-care day for your wife, book her a nail appointment, book her a massage.”
At the end of the day, “being a superwoman is asking for help,” McGrady says. “It’s not doing it all on your own.”