Katharine McPhee Foster On Mental Health Awareness for New Moms: 'Outreach is Really Important'

New mom Katharine McPhee Foster, who teamed up with Zumba to bring awareness to mental health issues, talks new motherhood and the motto she lives by.

Portrait of actress Katharine McPhee on a designed background
Photo: Getty Images

After giving birth to her first child in February, Katharine McPhee Foster says she expected many of the challenges of being a new mom. One that's taking a bit longer to get used to is how many items a parent has to pack to bring their kid anywhere.

"I really like to travel light, and it's kind of impossible when you have a kid. No matter how light you want to travel, you just end up with a car full of stuff that you could hardly fit in the backseat," she says. "I expected that, but me being a person who is just determined to travel light, I've been slightly disappointed that I just can't really ever travel light again."

Overall, McPhee Foster says Rennie, whom she shares with husband David Foster, has been "a great, easy, baby," and adds while she's been overwhelmed at times, postpartum has thankfully been a joy for her. But she knows that's not the case for many new parents and has family and friends who struggle with mental health post-pregnancy.

That's one reason McPhee Foster has teamed up with Zumba; she hopes to bring attention to the importance of mental health, recently co-hosting a class ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10. It's much more than just a "fun dance class," she says. "It's so much about community and inclusivity. You go to a class for an hour, however long the class is, and you're not thinking about anything else, but the movements, you're not thinking about your emails or your phone and you're just enjoying the company and community around you, and I think that is such an important key to mental health."

On top of the power of community, exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression—all of which are common during the postpartum stage as new moms adapt to parenthood.

Katharine McPhee
Zumba hosts #StepIntoHappy event with actress and singer Katharine McPhee Foster in celebration of World Health Day. Michael Simon/Startraksphoto

The American Idol alum also understands the difficulties firsthand. She's been open about her own struggles with an eating disorder and said pregnancy was triggering for her. That's not unusual: research has found that body changes during pregnancy can lead to an eating disorder relapse.

Communication is key to getting through it, says McPhee Foster. "Getting thoughts out of your head and sharing them and bouncing them off, whether it be friends, counselors, support groups—those kinds of things are really crucial to kind of clearing some of the cloudiness in the brain," she says. "Outreach is really, really important."

So is finding the time for the self-care, which McPhee Foster knows can be nearly impossible for any new parent, including herself. "That's probably one thing that has fallen to the wayside. I haven't really taken that much time for myself," she says. Thankfully, she can lean on her husband and mom to take care of Rennie whenever she can't bring him along—especially when she's off to work out. "I bow down to these moms who just literally raise their kids with no help, maybe not even a partner, and they just take the kids wherever they go," the Smash actor says.

Another big thing getting McPhee Foster through any challenges of motherhood and beyond is her motto: gratefulness. "I've read something that said that the people who are happiest in life, or more joyful in life, are the ones who are the most grateful," she says. "Because if you look at your life from a grateful lens, there's no ability for negativity to really creep in."

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