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Real Housewives of New Jersey Caroline Manzo

The head matriarch of the show, her tag line “You mess with my family, you mess with me,” says it all. This is a woman who puts family first – no question about it. She has three grown children – Albie, 24; Lauren, 22; and Christopher, 21 – who help her husband, Al, run their catering facility, The Brownstone.

How did you decide to appear on reality TV with your kids?

We teach our kids to take life and live it. Life is for living – take the good and take the bad. Who can say they’ve done something like this? One day I want to look back with my grandkids and say, “Look how crazy Grandma was!” I don’t know if I would have done it without my kids or the rest of my family. It becomes a sort of safety net.

Do you give Jacqueline and Teresa parenting advice since your children are grown and they have little ones?

It’s funny. People say, “Well, gee, I never give advice unless it’s asked because who wants to listen to unsolicited advice? Nobody.” If they ask me something, I tell them the truth, because if someone asks you for advice you owe them that. It’s more questions like “How do I get CJ to eat his vegetables?” or “How do I get CJ in bed at night?” With Ashley, [Jacqueline’s daughter, who’s 19], it’s “How can I make her more grounded?” I’m a lot older than Jacqueline and Theresa and my kids are older. Whatever recipe I’ve had, whatever success I’ve had, whatever theory Al and I had in raising them, it worked. I have three great kids, and I’m very proud of them. I’ve been there, done that, which is why they ask me. No other reason.

How do you get kids to eat their vegetables?

I usually disguise them. I make zucchini bread and carrot bread and muffins in the morning and they’re full of zucchini and ground carrots so I knew they were getting their supplements. It doesn’t have to be actual carrots on the table at dinner. As they get older, you introduce them little by little to other things.

What was your biggest parenting challenge?

I had three kids in exactly three years. I brought Christopher home on Albie’s 3rd birthday. I had three kids 3 and under at the exact same time, and my husband worked ridiculous hours, so I was on my own a lot. Trying not to lose my mind because it was just me and the kids.

How did you get through it?

It’s not forever. This too shall pass. You know, they’re young and you’re doing diapers all at one time, but guess what? One day you’re going to wake up and there’ll be no more diapers and one day you’re going to wake up and say, “Well, that stroller’s gone.” I wasn’t the only one that walked that road, and there will be millions after me. Just do it and get it done.

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