Chatting with Actress, Author and Mom Valerie Bertinelli
I had the recent opportunity to interview Golden Globe award-winning actress and bestselling author, Valerie, 56, and I jumped on it, as I’m a long time fan of her work, whether from ONE DAY AT A TIME (which she starred in when she was 14 and ran for 9 years), TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL or HOT IN CLEVELAND. She has helped develop, produce and star in many highly rated TV movies and mini-series, and has guest-starred in Boston Legal in a role David E. Kelly wrote especially for her. She has also served as a correspondent for ‘The Rachael Ray Show” and inspired millions through her weight loss endeavors and work with Jenny Craig, even being recognized by People Magazine for her ‘bikini bod” at age 48. In August 2012, Valerie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She has always loved to cook and is currently starring in her own show on Food Network entitled VALERIE’S HOME COOKING. On the show, Valerie gives her family’s favorite recipes a modern twist. And she shares her creations with loved ones as well as special friends invited to her dinner table. She has also hosted specials including KIDS BAKING CHAMPIONSHIP, with Duff Goldman.
I found her as appealing and relatable as she comes across on television, and totally open, funny, warm and candid, thoughtfully sharing her experiences as a mom, divorcee, woman over 50, and a versatile, enduring actress and personality who continually and successfully reinvents herself. She, like many of us, raising a family, are trying to be the best mothers we can, yet continue to strive to identify and follow our passions in life.
VALERIE: Wolfie is 25. How did that happen?! My youngest stepson is 17, and my stepdaughters are 20 and 23. And, my oldest stepson is 25. They’re all adults in my family now.
ROBIN: My son is 13, so I’m curious, do you have any preferred phases of parenting?
VALERIE: When Wolfie was little, he’d look up at me with those I can do no wrong eyes and say I love you mamma and kiss me….I miss that big time, but I’ll have it with grandchildren one day. But, now, to have him text or call me when he’s feeling blue about something or has a problem or wants to pass something by me, that’s a whole other wonderful part of being a mother. He respects my opinion, even though he would never say that out loud, but he’ll call and ask me what I think of certain things or how would I handle a situation….or sometimes he calls to vent, and I’m happy to be that shoulder too.
VALERIE: It felt very very different because they have a mother, and I would never ever want to take her place because that’s its own special bond, as I feel with my son. But, I can be a really great friend to them. I’ve never been comfortable giving them timeouts. I’d say I think we’re gonna have to talk about this when your dad gets home. I tried to be calm and just be a soft place to fall if they ever wanted to talk about anything. And, I’ve developed special friendships with all four of these kids. I love them dearly.
ROBIN: What have you learned from being a mom?
VALERIE: Patience. More compassion. I never even realized how big your heart could expand. I love my animals, but there’s something about a mother’s love for a child that is unexplainable. I don’t know how to put it. Love is very powerful, especially when it’s unconditional. I unconditionally love my son. He could do no wrong in my eyes. If he did wrong, I’d be disappointed, and I’ve told him things like that before, but I’d support him no matter what.
ROBIN: Have you tried to teach Wolfie and your stepkids any particular lessons?
VALERIE: My first lesson in life is just be kind, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Whenever I hear Wolfie complaining about something, I try to teach him to look at both sides and to put yourself in the other persons place, and he’s like I just wanna vent. So, I say, Ok, vent away….
ROBIN: Can you share any memories or experiences that you tried to create with Wolfie over the years?
VALERIE: I find that the memories I didn’t realize we were creating are the things he remembers the most. We went up to Park City — I used to own a home when I was doing TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, and we spent a lot of Christmas’s and doing family stuff there, and I didn’t know I was building memories with him there. When we went to pick out our Christmas tree this year, we hadn’t been to Park City in over 10 years, and he said, Mom, this is the place where there was a snowstorm and a can with fire in it, and here we are picking out a tree now, isn’t this fun?! He remembers it like it was yesterday, and I recall how worried I was because it was so cold, but it was one of the most joyful Christmas’ he had.
You make memories just by being with your children and spending as much time as you can. I have a lot of guilt because I worked long hours, so to know that he has fond memories and doesn’t remember me not being around when I couldn’t be there, that makes me happy. He’s also kind and knows how sensitive I am, so he’s not gonna remind me that I didn’t attend every performance of something he did.
ROBIN: How does Wolfie feel about your career success? Has it been inspiring for him?
VALERIE: Maybe it has without my knowing it. He is very proud of me and always congratulates me. We just got picked up for a third season of VALERIE’S HOME COOKING, and he was very very happy for me. We actually have a little Instagram competition going right now because he started Instagram with way more followers than me, and now my followers have surpassed his, and he’s so pissed. This is the day ‘n age we live in.
VALERIE: Oh God yes. No matter how much you try to keep the divorce friendly and how much you try to protect your children….always always love your child more than you hate or are angry at your ex. Luckily, I never hated Ed, but I’ve seen divorces happen where the exes are kinda brutal. No matter what, it’s still difficult. Wolfie felt it blindsided him. He thought mommy and daddy were perfect, and we were gonna stay together forever. I guess we were pretty good at hiding what was really going on and tried to protect him. Maybe that was the wrong thing? I don’t know.
ROBIN: How is Wolfie with your stepkids? Are your families somewhat melded?
VALERIE: Wolfie lives four miles from me. On vacation, most of the stepkids were there, and we had a great time. He’s closer to the son than the others, as is often the case in families, but they definitely do all get along, which is nice.
ROBIN: When you were growing up, is there anything your parents shared that you’ve incorporated into your parenting?
VALERIE: My dad used to say, always be kind to people, you want people to like you. I am definitely always kind to people, but I’ve also realized that you cannot make everybody like you, and you just have to get on with your life. And, if they don’t like you, it’s nothing about you. It says more about them if they have any kind of attitude. I don’t hold that against people. It took me a long time to learn that not everyone is gonna like you, no matter how hard you try. And, I don’t like everybody even though I want to.
ROBIN: You have had an enduring and varied career, and this is your first cooking foray. Can you share what led to your new tv show? Do you view yourself as someone who reinvents, and how has that felt?
VALERIE: It’s still so new because the show has only been on since August. Just like in acting where I always felt like I was kind-of barely let into a club that I wasn’t sure I belonged to, I still feel that way about the food world, since I’m not trained. I get so much enjoyment out of it, and it’s been such a part of my life from a very young age, watching my nonni (grandma) make gnocchi and her bread…and watching my mom cook three meals a day. I feel like food is in me and part of my blood. It’s what my passion is. I think it’s what my passion it. I’m still trying to look for that passion, but, I do get a lot of enjoyment out of this. And, I found out recently that my great grandmother was an actual chef in San Remo, where she met her husband.
ROBIN: Do you have any thoughts for moms seeking their passion/next phase of life?
VALERIE: I’m becoming an empty nester, and it’s very odd. Relationships change with children. Our oldest stepson had a baby. I’m not really a grandma, but I am a grandma. Again, I don’t want to infringe on someone else’s territory. Life is weird. You deal with what you’re handed. You make the choice to make it a positive influence in your life and go out and do things that make you happy. The happier you are, the happier your kids will be. What do they say, happy wife, happy life.
ROBIN: How are you about practicing self-care? Did you make it through hormonal changes, and how was that for you?
VALERIE: I think I’m through it. I finished about two years ago. I never took any hormones. I figured 100 years ago they didn’t do it, so power through. Everything seems to be fine so far. You know what I started doing? Please don’t laugh. You know the adult coloring craze? I’ve started coloring, and I love it! Art used to be my favorite class in school. I got A’s in it, and my mom is an amazing artist. And, my brother reminded me that I was as well. All the sketches and paintings I used to do. So, I just started with a coloring book, and shading it, and I find that I totally zone out. My brain settles down. My anxiety eases, and I don’t worry about things, as I’m just trying to decide what is the next color I’m going to use and how to shade this particular piece in the coloring book. I wish I could travel with it, but I like a lot of pencils. I also love to knit, and can’t travel with that either. But, the next best thing is to travel with my crossword puzzles.
ROBIN: Do you have a spiritual practice?
VALERIE: Coloring has become meditative. But, I also have all these Apps that try to remind me to meditate. I’ve done it maybe six times the whole year, but I always feel good when I do. I thank God every morning when I open my eyes, and I say a prayer for the day to follow. That’s about as spiritual as I get. Religion and churches — I grew up on them — but I look at what religion has done to the world today, and I’d rather keep my connection with God personal.
VALERIE: I’m always wanting my jeans to be a little bit looser, but who isn’t?! I used my Fitbit and try to hit 10,000 steps/day. It really is about eating the right food and putting it into your body and knowing when to stop eating at night. I have to always keep an eye on my emotional eating and my unconscious eating. That’s where the coloring and knitting comes in…I can’t eat while I’m doing it. And, it really chills my brain down and my emotions, which is what I usually go to food for.
ROBIN: Do you think it’s harder parenting later in life?
VALERIE: I had Wolfie when I was 30, and I think there’s pros and cons to both. We all like who we are the older we get, so we can really impart some great wisdom to our children as we age. But, our bodies might find it harder to keep up with the little ones. I’m really looking forward to having grandchildren.