Profession: I’m an actress and stand up comedian. I currently have a new book out: ”What Would Susie Say. Bullshit Wisdom About Love, Life and Comedy” published by Simon & Schuster and can be seen on HBO on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Web Site(s): SusieEssman.com
Marital Status: Married
Residence: New York City and Upstate New York
Children: 4 children, ages 16, 18, 20, and 21
Q: Did you envision you would likely, or hopefully, become a mom one day? What led to your becoming a step mom later in life? How does the experience compare to what you might have anticipated?
A: I never wanted kids. I didn’t not want them, but I didn’t actively want them. Certainly not enough to become a single mother as a few friends had done. I hadn’t met anyone who I wanted to marry and begin a family with and wasn’t willing to pick some guy to marry just so he could be a donor. At the age of 48 I met my now husband and thought we’d have a fling. I guess I was wrong about that. What started as lust turned into love and I found myself a step mother of four.
Q: What do you love about your career? What is most challenging about it? How long are you doing it? Any new projects on the horizon?
A: My favorite part of my career is making people laugh. It’s also the most challenging part of my work. I’ve been doing it for 25 years and plan on continuing for the rest of my life. It never gets easier and is a continual challenge.
Q: What, if anything, have you experienced through motherhood that has also helped you in your work or personal life? Has it given your new comedic material?
A: Having teenagers has given me tons of new material. Comedy is my coping mechanism. When I first became involved with the kids I researched “the teenage brain” and found that their cerebral frontal cortex is not fully formed until they’re twenty-five. So basically I had to accept that I was dealing with four mentally impaired people for the next decade. Mentally impaired people with car keys. Oh the horror!!!!!!!!!!! If I don’t find a way to laugh at it I’ll tear my hair out.
Q: What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life? Do you do any work from home? If so, how do you find that? Have you worked more, less, or the same, since you became a step mom? Do you travel a lot, and do you take your family? What do your step children think of what you do? Is your husband in the entertainment field as well?
A: There is no such thing as a typical day. I feel like I’m running an empire. I have a fulltime career that involves lots of travel and I have to run two households and six lives. Three of my kids are girls so there is constant drama and luckily because they all have cell phones, they are in constant contact with me about every little event in their lives. Sometimes my family travels with me but usually the logistics are too difficult to manage. I think they like what I do. They get lots of perks and I like to think that I’ve empowered them to believe that they can do whatever they want in their lives. Especially my daughters. They see how hard I work and how rewarding my job is and understand the importance of doing something in life that you love. My husband is thankfully not in the entertainment field. He’s a regular guy who is the perfect balance to my crazy comedian friends.
Q: How do you think being a later in life mom has affected your experiences as a parent (share both good & not so good)? Has anything about being a mom surprised you? What lessons or life experience would you like to share (or not share) with your children? What influence, if any, has your own mom had in your life and in your parenting?
A: I think coming to parenthood late in life is a tremendous advantage. First of all, when I met my kids they were ages 10 to 15. I’ve had them for all the difficult teen years but I’ve been able to see them for who they really are without any preconceived notions from their childhoods. I’ve also lived a life that’s been full and varied and feel that I’m able to understand them in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to when I was younger. I understand the fluidity of life. Also, the fact that they’re not my biological offspring means that there is no narcissistic extension of myself that I have to grapple with so I can love them freely and without obligation or agenda or expectations. My own mother always seemed to want her children to give her a life. That’s a terrible burden on a child. I want my children to soar. I’m happy to be a spectator.
Q: Where do you or did you turn for support as a mom? Anyone in the entertainment community? How important do you think it is to connect with mom peers? Do you consider yourself a role model in any way for other later moms or aspiring later moms?
A: I don’t know that I’ve had any role models. I’ve had friends who have been great step parents and ones who’ve been horrible. I learned more from the horrible ones about what not to do. The number one lesson I’ve learned is not to compete with the kids. Number two is that they’re not my friends, they’re my children. You’ve got to be willing to be the bad guy. My job is to protect them and since they’re teens, I frequently have to protect them from themselves. You hope they’ll understand and thank you one day, but that’s not why you do it.
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?
A: It’s all in my book. Read chapter one!
Q: Do you think that becoming a step mom is easier or harder later in life?
A: Easier. Everything is easier later in life except losing weight and doing Pilates.
Q: When you became a mom, did your own mother or a mother figure share any particular sentiments or advice that really resonated? Or do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you and you’d like to pass on to other later moms?
A: Whenever I’d buy the kids something my mother would say, “You know, you can’t buy their love.” Boy was she wrong. You can. And it’s exponential, the more you buy them, the more they love you. They’re like Russian mail order brides. Besides, when I first met them, they were all athletic and I’m not at all, so the only thing I knew how to do with them was shop. Turns out I’m shallow and they were even shallower. It’s worked out beautifully.
Q: What do you want readers to most take away from your new book?
A: There’s an old Yiddish proverb that I heard from my grandmother, “you make plans and G_d laughs.” I never planned on having kids or getting married or having a house in the suburbs. It wasn’t in my head. But it happened and I’ve embraced it and its enriched my life in ways I’d never imagined. At the end of the day I think the most important thing we can do with our lives is to make a difference in big or small ways. I’ve made lots of people laugh and that’s been tremendously gratifying to me. Now in addition to that, I’ve made a difference in these children’s lives. I hope I’ve made them feel some sense of safety in a scary world. I talk about all these things in the book, about parenting and love and sex and marriage and death and sports and dogs and comedy and kindness and the weather. There are so many things that go into a life. I want to make people laugh but more than that I want to make them think and reflect on their own lives and their own relationships. In the end, I think that everybody does the best they can.