Kelly Rowland on Leaving Sweet Notes in Her Son's Lunchbox and New Kids' Book: 'Always with You'

Kelly Rowland talks to PEOPLE about missing her two boys while she's away working and her new kids' book, Always with You, Always with Me, which she co-wrote with Jessica McKay

Kelly Rowland
Kelly Rowland with her family. Photo: Kelly Rowland/Instagram

When Kelly Rowland is away from her older son Titan, she'll leave a note in his lunchbox or at home, sometimes with a surprise. The sweet gesture influenced her new children's book, Always with You, Always with Me.

"It would let him know how many days I had left on the trip," Rowland, 41, tells PEOPLE about the notes she's left her son, "So it was like, 'I have five more days or I'll see you in a week and a half or three more days left, babe. Have the best day at school. I love you with all my heart.' "

On Tuesday, the Grammy Award-winning singer released her first kids' book, Always with You, Always with Me, which she co-wrote with Jessica McKay. The picture book, which is illustrated by Fanny Liem, follows a mom who has to travel to different construction sites for work, but stays connected to her son through a rhyme they share: "Always with you, / Always with me, / Mommy and child / Together we'll be." (She notes that the chorus was inspired by one of her favorite kids' books growing up, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.)

Rowland says it was "incredibly" important to her to feature Black characters because she didn't grow up with books that featured characters like her or her mom. "Seeing a Black woman on a construction site and creating this world that she makes for others to enjoy, is just incredibly powerful," the author says. "Because kids can think bigger and broader when it comes to occupation."

Kelly Rowland
Viking Books for Young Readers

Rowland hopes the book will bring parents and their little ones closer, especially if they can't always be together because of work.

"I think that sometimes kids feel like adults don't feel moments like that. They're like, 'Well, they're on their trips, so do they miss me?' " she says. Rowland explains that it's important that kids know their parents miss them too, which can be shown in multiple ways.

"Even though you say you miss them, it's the action behind it that I think that children really appreciate, whether it's a bracelet or something that you share between you that strengthens and fortifies the relationship," Rowland says. "And that's what makes it stronger and sweeter of a bond."

After staying at home with her family for the majority of the pandemic, Rowland says she had a hard time leaving her boys, sons Titan, 7, and Noah, 15 months, whom she shares with husband Tim Weatherspoon. She explains it's especially difficult when she has to go abroad for different gigs.

"I'm like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to miss my babies.' And I'm like, 'Well, do I take them with me?' And I'm like, 'No, I can't take them with me,' " says Rowland, whose older son is in first grade and needs "stability." "I miss my kids when I'm away. I immediately want to go back home."

Kelly Rowland
Jessica McKay and Kelly Rowland. Blair Caldwell

Rowland has shared her book with Titan and hopes that the refrain in the book will help him and Noah while she's away, as well as other kids.

"I wanted them to understand that and really have it in their psyche," Rowland says. "So, even when they're having those moments of anxiety or missing their parents when they're at school, they can recite it. [I hope] it gives them a sense of ease and comfort, especially when you do it together."

She adds, "That sense of feeling warm and seen and heard is necessary."

When Rowland is home with her boys, they have fun making a big pancake breakfast on Saturday mornings — as does the family in the book. She wants her sons to have that memory, just like she has of Saturday mornings with her mom.

"We sit and we watch the batter bubble and it's our thing," she says of making pancakes with Titan. "Sometimes, I'm left with the heavy lifting, but it's all good, he love[s] it. That's one of his favorite things about Saturday."

While Rowland is enjoying being a mom of two, she's open to having another baby in the future.

"Noah has grown so fast, it's made me so sad and it's made me kind of want another one," she says. "But I'm like, 'No, three kids, I just feel like they'll divide and conquer. It'll be over.' But I have friends who are like, 'You sound ridiculous. If you have a third, just think about those lashes that Noah has on a girl.' So, I would love another one, but right now, no."

RELATED VIDEO: Kelly Rowland Says She Hasn't Gotten a Full Night of Sleep Since December as New Mom of Two

She explains that after baby Noah arrived, Titan apologized for "acting out." The conversation was in part prompted by a children's book they read together about expressing your emotions.

"Titan and I ran into something after Noah was born, where he just felt like he was missing out on attention," Rowland recalls. "So, he started acting out and he told me that he felt guilt before and how it really affected him."

She continues, "Then he said, 'And I know that I disappointed you.' He was able to actually pinpoint his feelings in saying exactly how he felt."

Rowland hopes her book will help adults make similar connections with their kids.

"I love books and I love children's books. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be able to write one myself and just hope everybody enjoys it," the singer says. "I hope it encourages them the way so many books in my life have encouraged me."

Always with You, Always with Me is on sale now.

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