Kathy Ireland: I Was 40 Before I Learned 'No' Is a Complete Sentence

by Jeanne Wolf
Originally Published: 

Ireland, 52, talked to The Mid’s Jeanne Wolf about motherhood, success in business, and the advice she’d give her younger self.

Your oldest is now 20. How have you handled the empty nest?

Kids have to grow away from you to become their own people. There’s some bittersweet pain about that because you just want to keep them a baby forever and dependent on you, but it is so wonderful to experience their own personalities just coming through. As parents we can share our values with them, even instill values in them, but they’ve got to have their own. They’ve got to have convictions.

How has motherhood inspired you?

Of everything that I have had the privilege of doing, raising my three children with my husband has been the most difficult and rewarding challenge.

How do you find balance in life?

I don’t! Sometimes I don’t do it well at all. Balance is something that I’ve never had much of. I have found that life comes in seasons and every season in life we need to prioritize our time. My priorities are my faith and my family, and then my career. The minute those priorities are out of order, I’m a disaster. I’m just not effective at anything.

You’ve been so successful in business. What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

I’ve been accused of being a control freak. I’d like to think of it as being passionate, but I was 40 before I learned that “no” was a complete sentence. I mean, “no, thank you,” is better, but “no” works. I don’t have to be able to do everything.

What advice do you have for women who sometimes feel they’re facing an uphill battle to achieve their potential?

There will be people who, for whatever reason, are going to say, “You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough.” Don’t even give that a second thought. People like to put others in a box. I’m too odd shaped. I don’t fit in anybody’s box.

Oftentimes, women will give up. They think, “Well, this bad thing happened and so now my dreams are dashed.” It t doesn’t have to be. But a goal or a dream without a timetable and a strategy is forever going to be a dream or a hallucination. So you’ve got to have a plan in place.

Looking back, is there any advice you’d give yourself?

It’s much easier to give advice than it is to take it, and I’ve been so guilty of that. Maybe to slow down. I recognize that I don’t get enough sleep, but it’s OK. I’ll catch up one day. Modeling was full of great lessons. In many ways that was my college. I sort of majored in rejection. They laughed at me in everything! I got a valuable lesson out of that—not to take myself too seriously. I take the work very seriously, but not myself.

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