Meet Later Mom: Monica Piper, Actress, Comedian and Writer

monica-piper-headshot-3AGE: Buying firming creams at Saks
RESIDENCE: Santa Monica, CA

Stand up comedian and writer on Roseanne, Mad About You and Emmy Award-winning head-writer and producer of Rugrats.  Author and star of “Not That Jewish,” currently running Off Broadway.

What was your road to parenthood like? After a failed marriage in my 20’s, I spent almost all of my 30’s with a man I truly believed was the love of my life.  It kills me because I believe it really could have worked if only he’d been… an entirely different person.  Although finding great success in my career as a stand up, it had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t SOME day have that husband, be raising those kids.  But finding myself without a man, and 41 in LOS ANGELES, it became a chilling possibility.  I decided I would have my baby, then find our man.

(Monica in "Not That Jewish.")

(Monica in “Not That Jewish.”)

What led to your decision to adopt? A year of fertility treatments and rendezvous with six-foot, green-eyed, musical and athletic sperm sample 142 were deemed “unsuccessful.”  I disagree.  Because it led a good friend to ask, “Do you want to be pregnant or be a mother?”  That led me to adoption.

How does being a single mom influence your work? Well, first, it gave me great material for my act.  “I was fixed up with a guy who didn’t have kids.  ‘You’re my first single mother.  How does it work?’  ‘ Well, I list every chore, divide them in half… and do them all.”

For the first few years, I took Jake with me on the road.  It was great. We were never apart.  I was nurturer and breadwinner.  A stay-at-hotel Mom!  And I had all the time in the world to teach him to be a great guy.  “All women are goddesses, yes they are.  The very BEST women have a little extra fat right here on their thighs, yes they do.  What’s a man’s favorite word?  Commitment, yes it is.”

But when he got older and it was time for pre-school, I knew I had to find a way to make money being funny that would work for both of us.  My agent got me a meeting with Klasky-Csupo, a great animation studio.  Next thing I knew, I was a writer on RUGRATS, the #1 kid show in the country AND my son’s favorite.  It was perfect.  I was living with a three-year-old and getting paid well to think like one.  And to his friends, I was a rock star!

What is your motivation to stage such a personal one woman show? As a stand up, you try to get a laugh every 10 seconds, and talking about serious subjects with the honesty they deserve, is often not possible.  My one-woman show, while very funny, is also very moving.  I’m not afraid to talk about my mother’s Alzheimer’s, the loss of my father, my son’s unselfish birth mother, or my bout with breast cancer.  I know, hilarious, right?  My show also allows me to really spread my wings as an actress.  I don’t worry about going a minute or two without a laugh, because I know the audience is engaged in the storytelling.  I also know that they’re going to be laughing again immediately.

My other motivation was to honor my hilariously funny parents and son and to share something that is true and familiar to so many single parents, working moms and cancer survivors.  One, that they are not alone, and two, never forget to find a way to laugh at the dark stuff.

What advice would you offer to multi-tasking overwhelmed moms? Tension Tamer Tea.   My other advice is to FIND the FUNNY in the situations that cause you the most stress.  I read an article that said typical symptoms of stress are eating too much, talking too much, impulse buying and driving too fast.  I thought, really?  This is my idea of a GREAT day!

Find anything POSITIVE you can.  When my son was a teenager, I told myself:  “Well, he’s funny and kind to animals – traits not associated with serial killers.  Okay, I’m good.”

monicachildDo you think it’s tough for women to balance parenting, a personal life and professional pursuits?  And, if so, how do you achieve balance?  Who do you turn to for support? Tension Tamer Tea.   Of course, it’s tough, but you can’t let it overwhelm you.  Once again, FIND the FUNNY.  Take a quick humor break.  Listening to Richard Pryor works for me.  Milton Berle said, “Laughter is a vacation.” Think about it.  While you’re laughing, it’s impossible to feel anxious, angry or sad.

For so many years I turned to my father for a joke, or encouragement or advice on how to raise a good man.  He’s gone ten years and I still want to pick up that phone.  Now, I turn to the funny and smart people in my life who truly know me.  Poor things.

What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over? There’s a comic named Uncle Dirty who had a great optimistic joke about parenthood late in life.  “By the time he’s old enough to hate me, I’ll be dead.”

For me, the positive has always been getting to be a mother.  The challenge is having the energy.  Another challenge is having to endure my son’s eye rolls at my less than lightning speed computer skills.

monicachild2Has anything about being a mother surprised you? What do you love the most about it, and what is the most challenging? On his very first night home, I held this ball of energy and splendor.  I never fathomed I could love that hard, that powerfully, that fast.  I love having a family.  The most challenging was having a teenager in it.  We’ve been saying it wrong, you know.  It’s not teenager.  It’s teenAGER!!

What do you most want to teach your son?   What have you learned from him thus far?  To always help a friend.  To strongly and actively believe in equal rights for minorities, women, and the LGBT community.  And to NEVER eat the last piece of chocolate if he thinks someone else (me) is expecting it.

What I’ve learned:  Gratitude.

(Monica as a baby with her mother.)

(Monica as a baby with her mother.)

Have your parents offered any particular parenting advice that has really resonated with you?  My father often reminded me of three things:  “Always think of the other person, kid.”  “Never judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes. “  “It’s not what you say.  It’s what you do.”

Do you have any particular memories from your own childhood that inspire you to make memories with your son?  I remember laughing a lot.  My father could make me laugh ten times a day.  I also remember watching him tell a funny story at parties and everyone howling. And watching my mother watch my father.  She’d laugh EVERY single time, no matter how often she’d heard it before. Now Jake watches me.  And I watch him.  He’s funny.  When he was sixteen I came home from a storytelling event in which a single mother told a poignant tale about packing her only child’s bags for college.  I told him how moved I was and how I had to prepare for when it was my turn.  He put his arm around me and said, “Aw, don’t worry, Mom. I’m not getting into college.”

What words of wisdom would you like to share for someone contemplating motherhood over age 35?  Tension Tamer Tea.