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Kelly Ripa: Balancing Work & Family

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairIf you’ve been watching TV or reading magazines lately, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of Kelly Ripa, the dynamo who costars with Regis Philbin on Live! With Regis and Kelly and plays Hayley on ABC’s All My Children. Ripa turns heads with her appealing looks, but it’s her infectious personality that makes people remember her and tune in for more.

Married to actor Mark Consuelos, Ripa is mother to 5-year-old Michael Joseph and 1-year-old Lola Grace and is expecting her third child. She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with iParenting’s Editor-in-Chief, Elisa Ast All, about the challenges of balancing it all with a sense of humor.

EA: You are so busy these days. How do you balance work and family?

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairKR: You know, I’m very, very lucky because I have jobs where I can bring my children to work with me. A lot of people don’t have that option. My family doesn’t really suffer because of my busy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I have to be up early, I have a hectic schedule, and I get home after my children are asleep, and I feel so guilty. I have guilt like everybody else, you know, about the working mother thing.

Because I was raised with my mother at home, as my husband was, so we have real issues of our own with that, but I have the ideal job for being a mom. Usually my day is done at 10 a.m. So I can spend the rest of the day with my kids, which is great, and still earn a living, you know what I mean? Eventually they have to go to college, and you know the way tuitions are going nowadays I could be working until I’m 217 years old, you know (laughs)? I’m very lucky and I’m very thankful to have this job where I get paid but I don’t work all that hard. I’m thankful for that, I really am.

EA: Tell me what a typical day is like.

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairKR: A typical day is: I wake up usually at 6:30. I go get Lola who is usually awake in her crib, playing. I get my kids’ clothes out. I always lay their clothes out for the babysitter. I usually leave before their breakfast. Lola usually comes to see me at work. It’s all within three blocks, my son’s school, my job and our apartment. Three blocks. It’s so ridiculous.

EA: I can see how that would really be helpful.

KR: It’s extremely convenient. My son’s in school now, so my husband usually takes him to school, and either my husband or myself will pick him up. And now the kids are taking “Italian for Toddlers.”

EA: How cute!

KR: They both go to Italian class, and it’s kind of funny because Lola doesn’t speak English yet, but we have her in Italian class. They both have music school that they go to in the city for kids, and then usually if I’m not working at All My Children, which I usually only do once a week, I’m done working at 10 o’clock in the morning. I usually go to the production meeting until around 11:30, and then I’m
done for the rest of my day. It’s really like the best possible life.

EA: So when you do All My Children, is that a longer day?

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairKR: That’s a really late day. That’s why the kids usually come with me to work because Michael will be done school at 2 o’clock, and then Michael and Lola will just come over to All My Children, and I can work there until 7 or 8 o’clock at night, you know?

EA: But there’s a room for them to hang out?

KR: Oh, yeah. It’s very funny because my dressing room is like a nursery. It doesn’t look like adults live there.

EA: How were your pregnancies with the two kids and how were your deliveries?

KR: They were completely different. My son, I felt fantastic. I had no food aversions, I had no nausea, I had no nothing, right? I gained 65
pounds, and I had an emergency C-section.

EA: Oh, wow!

KR: My daughter, everything made me sick, including the smell of my husband. Everything made me sick. I couldn’t smell anything, ever. Occasionally, we would have guests that would come out and their perfume would send me into the dry heaves, not because it was offensive, just because I had some sort of heightened sense of smell. I had a food aversion to everything; eating was really tricky. My husband would have to hide nutrients. You know, it’s like the milkshake was the only thing I could eat, so he would like blend up nutrients in the milkshake because, heaven forbid, it came in its natural form, oh gosh.

I couldn’t actually look at broccoli or see it, and you certainly couldn’t say the word “broccoli” to me, ’cause it would make me, you know, crazy (laughs). With Lola, I wound up gaining 40 pounds. She was another emergency C-section. We tried labor with both of my kids.

EA: Did your doctor tell you why it was an emergency C-section?

KR: My labors just never progressed. I would be in labor for 28 hours. And then they’re like, “This is dangerous now, we have to get the baby out,” which is fine. Here’s the thing. My son, I gained 25 more pounds of weight with him, and both of my children weighed the same.

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairEA: That’s so interesting. What did they weigh?

KR: [They weighed] 8 pounds, 8 ounces. Isn’t that remarkable? Now you would think that an additional 25 pounds would yield a … well I
remember when they took him out and weighed him, they’re like, “8 pounds, 8 ounces” and they’re like, “What a big baby!” and I remember thinking, then there’s got to be another one in there. I gained 65 pounds, it must be triplets, or I’m just obese for no reason. I was like, dig around in there until you find the other one, you know (laughs)? Really remarkable.

EA: (laughing) Oh, wow! That’s just amazing.

KR: Yeah, they were both big, but you would think that with the extra 25 pounds, something, something, you know.

EA: Right. I hear what you’re saying.

KR: I was like, what? You know, are you sure you didn’t … Are there scissors in there? Something left behind? You know, did something get left behind (laughs)? But who knows, you know, who knows who controls these things.

EA: Well, how did you lose the weight?

KR: I never tried to lose the weight. I had no pressure from anyone. My husband didn’t really make me feel like I was, I mean, looking back at
pictures, I know the truth, but he always made me feel like I was a waif, and my network never made me feel, you know they never pressured me in any way, and I just, I didn’t really try anything. I nursed both of my kids for 10 months.

I nursed them until they sort of weaned themselves. I would have nursed them until they were done, you know, they sort of moved on to solid foods and were kind of done with me. But my son was so big that there was a joke, we used to joke in the studio that he was like, “Mom, I think we need to see other
people.” That’s how I stopped nursing him because he was like, he wanted to see other people (laughs).

EA: (laughing) You are so funny! That’s hilarious.

KR: Thanks!

EA: So you would nurse basically in between whatever you were doing? At work, would you nurse them, or would you pump?

KR: I would pump, you know, if we were on an airplane or something like that. I’m all for public nursing, I mean, I really am, but with my
new job, it was much more high profile, and so I just felt like more people were staring, and it’s like, I just didn’t get the full relief in public. You know, I mean, I’m not anti-public nursing. I certainly am all for that, but I just felt more comfortable after Lola was born. But with both of my jobs, they were very good about, like, shutting down everything so I could go feed the babies.

EA: That’s awesome. It’s so great to hear about these family-friendly work environments.

KR: Oh, yeah. I have two great work environments. I’m so lucky.

EA: What was your biggest fear that you overcame about parenthood?

KR: Oh, my gosh, every fear. I don’t know that I’ll ever calm all of my fears. You know, you don’t want to screw it up. They’re your kids, do you know what I mean?

EA: Definitely.

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairKR: The last thing you want to do is ruin their lives in some way. I think the thing that keeps me awake at night is kidnapping. It keeps me awake at night, every night for the rest of my life. You know until my children, until I’m dead, I will always worry about that in some way. Because I think that’s any parent’s biggest nightmare.

EA: Yeah, it is.

KR: I’ve taught my son so much about kidnapping now, and you know I’ve read all the Gavin DeBecker books, you know, Protecting The Gift and all of that, and so now my son like turns it and uses it against me. If I try to make him leave a toy shop, he’ll be like, “This woman is not my mother! Somebody help!”

EA: He does not!

KR: Oh, yeah. He’s really smart. He’s way too smart for my own good (laughs).

EA: (laughing) Wow!

KR: He’s a really funny kid. But it’s like he’s figured it out. All of my tutelage on kidnapping and what strangers look like, you know I explained to him, “Strangers can look like Mommy,” you know, and all of that, and he’ll use it against me if I try to make him leave a toy store before he’s ready.

EA: Oh, my gosh, hilarious. But that is definitely a big fear. I can see a lot of parents identifying with you on that.

KR: Yes, I think it’s my No. 1 fear.

EA: So what is your advice for pregnant women and new moms?

KR: Get as much sleep as you can now, because after the baby comes, that’s it. Like, go out to dinner as much as you can and sleep as long as
you can on the weekends, because it’s over, that’s all over with. And then my advice for new moms: Don’t feel guilty, which is so ridiculous. I wish I could get that into my own head, but don’t feel guilty because you will screw it up a little bit. But the good news is your kids never hold that against you, you know?

I dropped my son when he was 20 months old. I didn’t drop him, we both, I was carrying him down the stairs and I fell. And he needed one stitch in his head. He needed a stitch. I don’t mind telling you that for the next year and a half, I would go down the stairs on my rear end, holding him, because the guilt overcame me in a way that you can’t imagine. I was ready for an institution (laughs). And he, of course, has no recollection of it, and I don’t care to bring it up, because he’s one of those kids that’ll be like, “Member when you threw me down the stairs?” You know (laughs). “Remember when you dropped me on my head? I want this toy. Remember when you dropped me?” You know? So I guess that’s my best advice.

EA: (laughing) Oh, yeah.

KR: Just do the best that you can, you know? Just do your best, but don’t be surprised if it’s just not enough (laughs).

EA: Right. How do you feel you’ve been changed by becoming a mother, and by your dynamic new career? Do you see yourself changing for the better?

Kelly Ripa-Balancing Work and Family with FlairKR: Oh, yeah. I think it’s human nature; you’re always changing, you’re always evolving. I think that my husband and I are much better parents with our daughter than we were with our son, you know. We are much more relaxed. We’re both much more stress-free, you know. We know what we’re doing, we realize that she’s not going to break, we’re patient. Michael would cry and it’d be like, “Oh my! He’s crying! He’s crying!” Like a crying baby to us was like, “We must stop the crying!” You know, and then you realize with your second child: Babies cry, that’s how they communicate, you know, trying to tell us something. She’s not going to explode. Like when Michael cried, it was like a countdown from 10 to when the bomb would explode, you know. That’s how we’d behave. And now
with Lola, she’s just a much more relaxed kid because she has much more relaxed parents. The calmer you are, the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed
they will be.

EA: That’s another good tip.

KR: Stay calm. They’re children, they’re not atomic weapons, you know? I mean, you tend to treat them that way, you know, you really do. I mean, I’ve lost it many times where I’m like, “Oh, my gosh! He’s crying! Hey!” You know, in the middle of the night, we would spring out of bed and he would just be like rolling over and we’d spring out of bed and wake him. Because we’d like, you know, we’d run into his room and make all kinds … throw on the
lights and raise all kind of panic. And now with my daughter, it’s like we hear her crying, she’ll cry for about a minute and a half and go back to sleep. Because she is just getting comfortable or maybe she had a little dream and she’s just making noise, you know?

EA: Exactly.

KR: You’re just so much better at it the second time around. There was a woman in our audience today, she had nine kids, and I was like, “Wow, she must be totally at ease. Like, I wonder if she even goes to the hospital to have them any more. Or is she just like, ‘I’ll be having my baby at McDonald’s.'” You know (laughs). Amazing, right?

EA: It is. We have three and its can be boggling at times.

KR: Yeah, three is what we want. Because I wanted four and my husband wants two, so we’re like OK, three. Three is a number we can agree on.