Shawn Johnson Shares the Hardest Part of Parenting 3 Kids Under 5

Shawn Johnson East Gets Tattoo Tribute For All 3 Kids!

As someone who spent years voluntarily throwing her body around a four-inch beam four feet in the air, Shawn Johnson East has a pretty firm grip on what's tough. 

But even she struggles with the balancing act that is parenting three kids under the age of 5. "I'd say the hardest part is catering to their attention need," the Olympic gymnast confessed in an exclusive interview with E! News. "And I don't mean that in a dramatic way. I truly want to be able to spend quality time with all three kids. And having three kids, you have to sacrifice time with each of them for the other."

While she and husband of nearly eight years Andrew East, 32, try their best to give one-on-one attention to daughter Drew, 4, and sons Jett, 2, and Bear, 3 months, "It's sometimes sad because I know Drew wants it, but I'm giving it to Jett, or Jett wants it, but I'm giving it to Bear." 

Eventually, she continued, "I know it will average itself out. But we're still figuring out those logistics."

photosShawn Johnson Through the Years

Among their other incredibly relatable challenges: navigating tantrums. 

"My daughter's acting out is just sad, like pouting sadness," explained Shawn, 32. So she finds herself walking the metaphorical balance beam of acknowledging Drew's feelings without reinforcing them. The key, she said, "is understanding that they're acting out is them needing something from you, like more attention, more one-on-one time. So we're trying to figure it out."


But they've already stuck the landing so to speak when it comes to helping their little unit bond. 

Shawn Johnson Shares the Hardest Part of Parenting 3 Kids Under 5

"They absolutely adore him," the athlete said of their little cub. "And being an only child, myself, I didn't fully understand siblings until I married into a family where my husband is one of five and seeing that bond."

Even then, though, she didn't fully grasp it "because you see it as an adult and not as a kid," she continued. "But seeing the bond that my kids have already is so special and something different than I'll ever experience. It's just really powerful. So it's worth it."

That includes the early tough months of Bear's life. Because while the first two weeks felt "like a really easy transition," noted Shawn, everything flipped after that. 

"It got challenging because this little guy had some colic that we really had to figure out," she said of Bear. What followed was weeks of working through latching issues ("He had a tongue tie"), eliminating all dairy from her diet and enduring countless sleepless nights. 

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"We figured it out," she said, "but it took six, eight weeks to do that. So that kind of made it feel more overwhelming. And now we're kind of getting into the groove of it though."

Part of that rhythm involves letting themselves off the hook at times.

"We no longer cook hour-long meals," Shawn said, explaining her motivation for partnering with MorningStar Farms to celebrate the April return of their vegan riblets. (Fans can enter to win a chance to try them first, during a lunch with the Olympian, by signing up for their "First Dibs" sweepstakes before March 29.)  "It's like, what can I make in five- to 10-minutes that my kids will eat in five minutes and we'll be done."


And if she can get Drew to eat something other than her beloved so-called butter noodles (confessed Shawn, "It's a protein noodle with olive oil and garlic salt"), all the better. Months into that three-kid life, "I feel like we're finally coming up for air," said Shawn. "We're getting there."

And, dare we say, their family of five takes the gold when it comes to Insta-worthy images. Keep reading to check out the East squad's sweetest pics. 

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