There's a saying that your emotional growth stops at the year you become famous ? that?s if you become a celebrity when you're 11, you never mature past the age of 11. My fame came when I was in my forties. I was grown up, so I think I was able to take the fame in stride. It was an odd coincidence that my career took off the same decade as having babies. I often wished it had been different, that I had my big career bump in my thirties and my babies in my forties or vice versa. I had been doing the acting thing for so long that when it took off with Malcolm, it was hard because my kids would want me home with them. Every time Brad and I went to the Emmy Awards, the kids would weep! As an actor, I was thrilled to be nominated for something and there were the kids, weeping! You're torn.
When I was on Malcolm, I'd often work 14 hours on the set. I would go days without seeing my children. I'd see the kids at night and they'd say, "Mommy, will we see you at breakfast?" "No, honey, I've got to work at 5:30." "Will we see you at bedtime?" "No, it's going to be a late night tomorrow night." We had a lot of good people helping us and the kids were okay, but you pay a price for that. I like to be with my children - not just quality time, but quantity time. I like to be there in the morning when they?re waking up. I like to practice piano with them. I like to be there at supper. I need them as much as they need me. Working is not as important to me as being a mother is.
Taking on the role of Judge Kessler on Raising the Bar was much more of a practical decision than anything else.
My kids were born and growing up all during those seven years on Malcolm and that was a time-consuming enterprise. I took a couple of years off and didn?t work much and this came along. I told the producers [of Raising the Bar] my concerns: I wanted to be a full-time mom and work on a limited basis. And Judge Kessler was a character that I could do that with. I work about twenty days a year and I get to have my life the rest of the time. It's a magnificent hobby.
I am thrilled to be back at work. Nothing feels better than doing a television show, having it be picked up and getting to film another season. That kind of stability in an actor?s life is very, very welcome. I'm also happy to go and be with grown ups every now and then. For two days an episode I get to go and have stimulating conversation with the people on Raising the Bar, who are funny and educated. People need that. Your brain would turn to mush if you were working on science fair projects all the time.
I'm lucky enough to make a living this way, to make choices as to how I want to spend my time. It's important for women to be self-sufficient. To be able to make decisions about how you want to live and what you want to spend money on without having to ask someone else's permission. That's important to me.
There's a wonderful quote from Marian Wright Edelman, who runs the Children's Defense Fund: "Service is the rent we pay to be living." The higher your intellectual or financial gifts, the higher your rent. In 2002, I started a foundation, "Clothes Off Our Backs," which raises money for children's charities by selling celebrity clothing and memorabilia through online auctions. We've raised over $4 million dollars all from, what I like to think of is, the embarrassment of riches. I always thought that, making it in Hollywood, I had a really high rent to pay. I have the greatest luxury of all, which is healthy children. That's not the case for so many mothers and children in the world.
As for my daughters, I hope they learn from my experiences and the work that I've done. I hope they find some kind of employment that they love doing - something that feeds their creativity and their sense of order and their sense of productivity. I want them to always be aware of people less advantaged than they are. And I hope they know that the most important products you can have in your life are your children
- As told to Katie Rogers