Kristina Kuzmic - whose videos of life as a single mother have been watched more than 400 million times online - is raising her sons to be caring men
Truth Bomb Mom vlogger blows up a few myths about parenthood
“I’m raising somebody’s future husband, parent, employee, neighbour, friend,” says the viral parenting vlogger Kristina Kuzmic, who is known as the "Truth Bomb Mom".
“The saying that ‘boys will be boys’ always bothered me but, once I had sons, I thought it was the greatest insult to men,” says Ms Kuzmic, a 38-year-old Croatian-born American, who has three children, sons Luka, 14, and Ari, three, as well as daughter Matea, 12.
“It’s as if they just can’t help it and I would like to think my boys were raised to not be incompetent and derogatory, with a conscience to think about how their words affect other people,” she says.
“Both my older boy and girl have done their own laundry since they were 10; there is no way my son is going to expect some woman to do his laundry.”
Ms Kuzmic - who has turned her life as a single mother into videos which have been watched more than 400 million times online - will be speaking about raising boys to be good men at Naseba Global WIL Economic Forum in Dubai on 25 October.
A satirical video that the vlogger has posted on YouTube about breastfeeding has had 4.5 million views, while one called “I’m not your friend, kid” - in which she says all three children are angry “because I parented them” and that her “No1 job, as their parent, is to love them” - has had one million.
“The one common theme of parenting is guilt. A baby pops out and the guilt goes in; all those feelings are universal. Even though culture, laws, the way people live their lives is different around the world, even if parenting styles are different, it is all of us desperately trying to do our best.”
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Ms Kuzmic was making some money from her YouTube channel and writing magazine columns, but things really turned around when she was approached by women’s lifestyle site Little Things almost a year ago to take on a salaried role creating a video a week as the Truth Bomb Mom.
Sponsorship deals followed with brands including Cheerios cereal, Sears clothing and ABC TV. Ms Kuzmic also takes on speaking engagements and is writing a book, although she declines to put a figure on her earnings.
Born in Croatia, she moved with her family to the US aged 14 during the 1990s war. After divorcing her first husband, Ms Kuzmic says she felt “broken” and “lost all hope” as she struggled with life as a waitressing single mother with two children under the age of four.
Searching for a way out of her depression, she tried to volunteer but was turned down by soup kitchens, hospitals and shelters because she couldn’t afford a babysitter as she could not commit the hours neccessary.
So Ms Kuzmic decided to use her talents as a cook to invite the poor, lonely and homeless of Los Angeles to her own home for dinner once a week. “The first Wednesday I fed over 30 people and it was life-changing,” she says.
That inspired her to shoot some cookery videos and post them to YouTube. Then in 2011 she entered a competition on the Oprah Winfrey Network, beating 20,000 contenders to launch a show of her own, Ambush Cook.
But it was cancelled after just one season and Ms Kuzmic now says she wasn’t “the right fit” and felt “fake”, presented as an expert cook when she was self-taught.
“I’m the girl holding someone else’s hand,” she says. “I’ve walked through hell and will hold your hand through yours. I wanted to be for others what I needed at my lowest, someone to make me feel normal and make fun of the chaos of motherhood.”
After marrying for a second time, to the restaurant manager Philip Crocco (“a great example of a man for my children”), and having son Ari with him, Ms Kuzmic decided to build her own parenting site and taught herself to film and edit videos. “When I had my own cooking show, I had 3,000 Facebook fans; now I have 1.5 million. The bottom line is to be authentic. Everybody out there is craving someone they can relate to.”
Life is “non-stop inspiration” and she keeps around 1,000 notes on her smartphone about her everyday struggles with a teen, tween and toddler for future fodder. “Humour, for me, has been a great way to deal with the stresses and worries,” she says. “It’s been said a thousand times that laughter is a medicine but I really feel it changes something inside you when you laugh.”
When it comes to the parenting guru’s top tips, she advises mothers and fathers to “embrace the chaos”. “We kill ourselves trying to make sure everything is perfect - the kids, the house - but everything is flawed,” she says. “When I started my business, I called it Flawed Inc: there is freedom in accepting we are flawed.”
She also says parents are the “leaders of the pack” and set the tone at home - she “blasts music” in the mornings to “put everyone in a fun, happy mood”. But, she admits, she still struggles with “all these things I say” - “I don’t have a single one 100 per cent, completely down.”
The goal, she says, is to be “a little bit better every new day”.
”If you can, you win a medal.”