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Viewing Single Post From: "Working Mother" interview with Ali Sweeney
Ellie


[Note: I'm omitting the 'Biggest Loser' questions. The full interview can be found here.]

Actress Alison Sweeney discusses her role as mom to Ben, 4, and Megan, 1, her showís big season finale this month, her own struggles with weight and her winning outlook.

Can balancing a demanding career and children ever really be 50-50?
Itís hard to strike that 50-50 mark each day, but if I look at a whole week or month, I feel that overall I get to spend a lot of time with my children. And when Iím with them, I give them my full attention. When I go to work, I give work my full attention and commitment. Everyone has doubts occasionally, but itís important to know youíre doing the best you can. And if you regret a decision, make a different choice next time.

What do you do when you feel pulled in different directions?
Thatís a tough one, but thereís no question that my kids come first. Every time thereís a call from Benís preschool, I worry that itís an emergency. Even when I get normal calls from the preschool, thereís that instant that I wonder why theyíre calling and if everythingís okay. There was one time that my husband and I were on our way to a charity event when the school called and said that Ben got a nasty scrape on his forehead. We turned the car around and met our son and his babysitter in the emergency room. I had that sick feeling in my stomach until I was there with him, holding his hand, making him laugh. Ben, on the other hand, was completely calm, asking questions about all the equipment, how the bed moves.

Does Ben ever have a hard time when youíre leaving for work?
There was a period when he didnít want me to leave. At first, I made the mistake of sneaking out. But his pediatrician said I should say goodbye. He reassured me that children behave that way even if youíre a stay-at-home mom going to the grocery store. He told me to allow Ben to go through the separation and to see that I always come back. Now we have a routine where we blow kisses. He grabs one kiss and eats it and saves one in his pocket for later.

When did you start acting?
My mom let me do my first com≠mercial when I was 4. I loved the whole process, and it came naturally to me as a kid. So growing up, I did a ton of commercials. I started on Days of Our Lives when I was 16.

Whatís it been like to play Sami on Days for so long?
Itís been exciting from day one, 17 years ago. I love the part. Itís sad and hard to see how much things have changed for soaps. But I think if you can tell good stories cheaply, you can stay on the air.

Whatís your schedule like these days, taping two shows?
I tape Days of Our Lives three days a week and The Biggest Loser three to four days a week. Some days Iím doing both. This Monday, for example, I was at Days from 6 a.m. until noon. Then I was at The Biggest Loser from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Your husband, Dave Sanov, is a California Highway Patrol investigator. How did you meet?
Our parents worked together, so weíve known each other since we were little kids. I totally had a crush on him when we were young. Years later, we ran into each other at a party. I was 21 when he asked me out. We got married two years later. We have similar values and personal beliefs. But weíre also opposites. Iím a little more optimistic. Heís a realist. My general attitude is: Itíll be fine; itíll work out. It infuriates him.

How has your optimism helped you?
My first job on Days of Our Lives, when I was a junior in high school, was a busy time. The worst was exam week. I found out years later that my mom was so nervous for me, but I knew it would all work out. My parents told me to take it one day at a time. That week I was also doing the show, then coming home and studying for exams and learning lines. I didnít jump ahead of myself. I just said, This is what I need to do today.

What has been the best surprise of becoming a mom?
You canít comprehend until youíre a mom how much your kids take over your whole world. Every decision I make, Iím always thinking how it will affect my children. Iíve gotten to the point that if Iím in the car by myself and I see a fire engine, Iíll say, ďHey, Ben, look at that,Ē and start waving at the truck. Then I realize Iím driving alone. [She laughs.] And the firefighters are probably thinking something totally different from what I was intending.

What advice do you have for women who struggle with working-mom guilt?
I struggle with it, too. Thereís no easy answer, but if youíve made the choice to work, accept it and allow yourself to reevaluate from time to time. Itís the choice youíre making right nowóit doesnít have to be the choice youíre making for the rest of your life. Check in periodically with your heart and conscience. You also want to see how your kids are reacting to your choices. Be honest. Parents who dwell in guilt often end up being too lenient. And remember that being home all the time isnít all lollipops either. Kids can sense if youíre stifling some part of yourself. I teach my kids to deal with their feelings and find their voiceóbut the same thing applies for moms. I really believe that taking great care of yourself allows you to take better care of your kids.

What advice do you have for women who struggle because they canít measure up to the women on TV and in the movies?
Itís so hard. We all see celebrity moms get pregnant and then get their body back in six weeks after they give birth. You have to keep in mind that movie stars have a lot of experts and equipment at their disposal. If part of their job was getting back into shape, most other women could do it, too.

Did you take maternity leave?
With Ben I got four weeks off. It was awesome for a first-time mom. I took advantage of every minute. With Megan I was back to The Biggest Loser eight days after I gave birth and back to Days of Our Lives after two weeks. That was really hard. Both shows offered me more time. I was in a heavy story line at Days, though, and I didnít want to break the story. With Biggest Loser, it was only one month before the end of the season, and I didnít want to miss out on the finale. But I couldnít have done it without my husband and healthy kids. We all adjusted to things easily. It was a team effort.

How did you fit in your guest appearance on NBCís Mercy?
I was excited to spread my wings as an actor. But there was no time left during the week, so it had to be taped over a weekend. That meant seeing Ben off on Friday and not being back until Sunday. There were two nights I couldnít read him his bedtime story. I think itís way harder for me than for him.

What you do get a little downtime, what TV shows do you enjoy watching?
Survivor, Amazing Race and House.
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