The TBS series Are We There Yet? recently launched in syndication on Sept. 17, which means viewers can now catch the show five days a week. Essence Atkins, who plays mother Suzanne Kingston-Persons on the show, is a new mom herself. So she can appreciate the challenges her character deals with as a working mom trying to "do it all." We had an opportunity to talk to Atkins about motherhood, "me time" and her relationships with the kids on the show.
Like many moms, Atkins is striving to find a balance between motherhood and her career. She says that the key is not to be so hard on yourself all the time.
"I'm a type-A person, and I think a lot of career women are," Atkins explains. "We have great expectations for our careers and for our children. And anytime anything falls short, we have a tendency to blame ourselves if we think we can do things at a greater capacity. We need to give ourselves permission to go with the ebbs and flows of life as there are always going to be mitigating circumstances. Not everything has to be perfect. We just have to do our best -- sometimes that bar is higher than others."
Though she plays a mom of two teens on Are We There Yet?, Atkins is actually a new mom in "real life." Her son, Varro Blair Mendez, was born on Christmas morning 2011. Atkins had an emergency C-section after 40 hours of labor.
Atkins talks about the importance of "me time" as well as making time for your partner after you've had a baby.
"If you're pulling from a vacuum -- from something that’s void -- that doesn't do anything for anyone. You must recharge yourself and your relationship so you can be of great value to your children. In the beginning, right after your baby is born, it can be a high stress time to a relationship. A lot of times your relationship can take a backseat. However, it's critical for your happiness to give time to the relationship as you give time to your child.
"I'm also still trying to attack my novels -- that's one thing, I haven't had time to read as much since my son was born. I make a choice -- I can attack a good book or spend time and cuddle up with my husband. And I always choose to cuddle up. I confess (laughing) sometimes I just want to go and read my book!"
As we all know, exercise isn't just good for the body, it's also beneficial to your emotional and mental health. For Atkins, she tries to start each day with a good workout.
"The mornings are times when I like to just stretch, meditate and then go for my cardio," she explains. "It's great time for me to think about my day and plan a strategy for the task that is at hand. I run. Running isn't really about the exercise for me, it's more about the release -- although it, of course, has the added benefit of being a calorie burner! When I run or jump rope -- another thing I like to do in the morning -- the consistency helps me get in a place where I can get my mind focused."
We asked Atkins if playing a mother on TV helped her prepare for motherhood.
"We have been close friends with the Stewart family for a while [Coy Stewart plays her son Kevin on the show], and they just have wonderful children. When I found out I was pregnant with a son, I sent Coy a message. I told him, 'Thank you for being the first person to teach me how to love a boy. You taught me how to love a son.'"
"Coy has a little brother and we'd play NERF wars and things like that on set. It was just great fun to be around them -- young people who are so talented, hungry and ambitious, and also so intelligent and thoughtful. To have the experience of them look at me and think of me in that way (as a mom) -- it was a boost to my confidence. You know there’s a moment of 'Oh my gosh, we’re pregnant!' and then the 'Can we do this? Do I have the capacity?' and they made me feel like I had the capacity."
It sounds like Atkins has a terrific family -- on and off screen.
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