We have adored Melissa Rycroft ever since we first met her on season 13 of “The Bachelor,” which became infamous for its disastrous “After the Final Rose” finale. Rycroft walked away from that mess more adored by her fans than ever — and she’s been incredibly busy ever since then. In addition to performing on “Dancing with the Stars,” she co-hosted two seasons of the reality TV show “Red Neck Island” and worked as a contributor for “Good Morning America.” In May, Rycroft welcomed her third child, son Cayson, with her husband Tye Strickland, whom she married in 2009. And, she’s been busy consulting for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (Rycroft is a former member of the squad). Recently, she took time out from her busy schedule to chat with us about annoying parenting advice, getting past “The Bachelor,” and the surprising way she’s changed since having children.
MT: How has the transition been from two children to three?
MR: It’s been much easier than I thought it would be. Everybody says that the work grows exponentially with every baby you bring in. But, Cayson is the easiest baby I’ve had and for my third I’ll totally take it.
MT: Any tricks for managing three kids under the age of 6 that you can share?
MR: My goal is to keep things running in our house as they did before Cayson was born. While I was pregnant, I thought, ‘I don’t want my other two to have their lives disrupted.’ That means I have to do things like make lunches the night before to save time the next morning. I’m working on overload, but parents with older kids are always telling me that this time will fly by, so I know things will only be like this for a short time.
MT: Is it annoying when people talk to you about time flying by right now? It’s almost like a guilt trip for being exhausted…
MR: It used to be annoying but now I try to put it behind me. I know time flies by. At the same time, I don’t really want it to fly by. This is the only time in my life when it’s going to be like this. So there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘Stop telling me that it’s going to get better and it’s going to get easier.’ There’s a part of me that doesn’t really want it to yet.
MT: Together, the first letter of your kids’ names spells out ABC. What inspired their names?
MR: My husband randomly heard the name Ava on the way to work, and that’s how her name came about. Then, the day after I found out I was pregnant again, I had a really crazy dream that I was having a boy and his name was Beckett. I had never heard that name before! So I told Tye, ‘If this baby ends up being a boy I think somebody already told us what his name is supposed to be.’ Lo and behold, we had a boy and the name stuck. When I was pregnant with Cayson, we thought it would be cool if we could find a C name that we liked, so we could have their initials be ABC. And we did!
MT: You started working for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a week after Cayson was born. Was it difficult to go back to work so quickly?
MR: No—I think it really helped my sanity to go back to work. With Ava, I kind of lost myself for a little bit. This time around, I kept doing my normal routine and the kids’ normal routine and we incorporated Cayson into it. I go to work. I go work out. I put makeup on my face every once in a while. I wish I would have known how important it is not to lose yourself after having a baby the first time around.
MT: Speaking of work, we know you from ‘The Bachelor.’ How did the show change your life?
MR: Not only did it give me a crazy career but in some weird ways it gave me confidence. When I first started out with “The Bachelor” I was a little heartbroken 24-year-old working a 9 to 5 job and I just felt lost in the world. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be. I was really unhappy. Through the decisions that I made, I found myself evolving and growing up. It definitely helps to have the weird perspective of seeing yourself on TV. You learn what you like about yourself and what you need to change, too.
MT: If you entered the show feeling heartbroken and lost, how were you able to survive that devastating ‘After the Rose’ episode?
MR: I had three months at home before it aired, so I had time to recover from it. I was under contract, so there was nobody that I could talk to about it, not even my girlfriends or my parents. Seeing how I came out of that ordeal having to internalize all of it, from being happy to being in love to being engaged to being dumped to being heartbroken, and doing it all on my own, gave me confidence.
MT: What would you say to your kids if they wanted to be on a reality show?
MR: I would cringe, just like my parents did, but ultimately it’s their life so they could do it if they really wanted to.
MT: After all that you’ve been through, what relationship advice would you give your daughter?
MR: I want my daughter to be the girl that no guy can get because she doesn’t want any of them. I want her to be independent and confident. I was not confident. I took validation if somebody wanted to be with me. That’s why I couldn’t find love until I had confidence.
MT: Last Q before we let you go: What’s something about you that would surprise others?
MR: Since becoming a parent, I am afraid of everything. I don’t like swimming in oceans. I will never go skydiving. I’m terrified of planes. I told my husband, ‘Never book a hot air balloon ride. I’m not going.’ There are islands I’ll never visit because the planes to get there are the size of a pack of gum. I used to be the bravest person ever, and now I’m a big chicken!
Photos: Getty (top); Melissa Rycroft/Instagram (all others)