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Mommy Mentor

Lifestyler Hannah Keeley Aims for Sloppy Success

She may be the author of two books and the past host of the PBS television series “Hannah, Help Me!” but those noteworthy accomplishments take a backseat to Hannah Keeley’s family.

The mother of seven made a definitive choice years ago to honor her role as matriarch of the Keeley clan regardless of where life took her.

Hannah, who was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Colonial Heights eleven years ago, loved homemaking and taking care of children when she was growing up. She also had a penchant for helping others. “I was always different,” she says. “At the age of nine, I started a paper called the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) Times. I thought I could do everything in the world.”

She met her husband, Blair, at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, when she was majoring in psychology, a curriculum choice that has proved beneficial for her and for families whose lives she influences. Hannah worked as a behavior therapist after the two married. A few years later, she was the mother of a growing brood.

“After I had a few kids, things were so much harder than I thought they would be,” says the 43-year-old. Her house had become cluttered and her family’s finances were on a downhill slide. The extra weight she had gained caused her self-confidence to plummet. The optimism that was characteristic of her childhood was fading.

She was doing laundry one day and had an epiphany after glancing in the mirror. “I was in my twenties and I looked like an old, tired, frumpy woman,” she says. “I broke down crying, sobbing, waiting for someone to rescue me.” She knew she couldn’t rely on herself to change. “I had to totally rely on God,” she says. “I knew I was created to do better. I decided I was going to let God do this through me. I dug my heels in and said I am not going to give less than my best.” Motivated by the moment, she started folding the laundry and clearing the clutter. She began taking responsibility for her home, her finances, and her health. “I showed diligence,” she says. “If you show diligence in what you are given, you will be given more.”

As her perspective began changing, she noticed that other mothers had what she had started calling the “zombie stare” – the look that she was able put behind her. “I was aware of moms that were accepting less than their best, not realizing what a good time of life this was,” she says.

That realization prompted Hannah to start publishing a newsletter – a kind of PMA for mothers – to help women create the same healthy family dynamics that she has at home. That venture started the combination lifestyle expert and attitude engineer on a new career path that would include writing a book, launching the website, and hosting a television show. “Through the book a lot of companies contacted me to be spokesperson,” she explains. “I brought out the show idea and they put sponsorship to it.”

Her show, “Hannah, Help Me!” which ran for two years, ending in 2010, took a different mom through a two-day life skills makeover each episode. After creating the concept, Hannah began searching for moms that felt overwhelmed and were ready to turn their lives around. “I got an immediate response,” she says.

Hannah made sure that each show’s taping only lasted two days and that most of the shows were taped in Richmond. “I tried to tape one day on the weekend,” she says. “I would only take one day off from the kids. It’s important that whatever you are doing [that you are not] isolated from your family.”

Her children, four girls and three boys, range in age from 5 to 19. Some of the older children help her with her work. “I enjoy having my own business,” she says. “It’s not something I go off and do. I do it right here.”

Even though she’s ventured into the world of entertainment, Hannah has never stopped being a therapist. “That has helped me raising a large family,” she says, noting that her older children will often say to her, Mom, don’t go therapy on me!

With seven children, Hannah finds that each day presents valuable lessons that she can share with other moms. Her hands-down favorite: Sloppy success beats perfect failure. “We want to be perfect but we shouldn’t go after perfection,” she says. “You want to go after being productive. Get it done. [You shouldn’t] care if it’s perfect. Just do it.”

She admits that her own home is far from perfect. “We are productive here and that’s what’s important,” she says. “When you have a large family there is no idle time, which I enjoy. It’s not for everyone, but it is for us.”

Her home also serves as her children’s school. “Homeschooling is amazing,” she says. “We get to spend so much time together. We get to know one another and grow together.”

Over the years, Hannah has learned to trim the fat when it comes to outside commitments. “You have to learn how to let it go,” she says, talking about getting involved in activities outside of the home that aren’t relevant to a mom’s needs.

She’s also learned how to lighten up. “We can take ourselves way too seriously,” she says.

When it comes to her career, Hannah plans to do more with her resource-filled website and her online coaching program “Better Mom Boot Camp.” You won’t see her charging into homes to solve parenting problems like Jo on “SuperNanny,” or recording her family’s every move like “Kate Plus 8,” but Hannah would like to do another television series when the time is right. “The most rewarding part of a television show is seeing the transformation in the moms,” she says. “Once they get it you can see it. They see significance in their role. They are empowered to make a difference. It’s very humbling.”

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.
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