Not an original Jersey girl, the former cosmetologist hails from Las Vegas and is married to Caroline and Dina’s brother. A stay-at-home mom, she cares for sons Christopher J. (C.J.), 7, and Nicholas Francis, 1, whom she had after several years of trying to get pregnant again. She also has a grown daughter, Ashley, 19, from a previous marriage, who has moved out of the house (but still likes to drop in to do her laundry and aggravate her mom).
How do you balance motherhood with the rest of your life?
Luckily my job is working with my children. On the show, my baby is either with me or nearby in the next room, so it’s not like I have to leave him to go to work. You have to remember: Your kids are your priorities. We center everything around them, but I still try and have “me” time and date nights.
What are your favorite activities to do with your kids?
They like to be outside. They always want to go on the trampoline or play baseball. C.J.’s very into video games and gets mad at me when I play since I’m not any good. We also paint and my son loves to cook. With the baby we’re working with flash cards and he’s really into anything on Nick Jr. He loves Dora, The Backyardigans, and Yo Gabba Gabba – anything with song.
Do you have a nanny?
No, I would never. It would break my heart like, “That’s my son.” I’d get jealous if he was attaching to someone else. I do have a babysitter that I use when I need it. It’s my nephew’s girlfriend, and she’s going to school to be a nurse, so I totally trust her. I just couldn’t do a permanent childcare person in my house.
Do you have any reservations about raising your children on TV?
Yes: but right now the baby is young, and the show will be long forgotten by the time he’s older – I hope. The other one is just finishing school, so she wasn’t in the critical years like junior high or high school where I think it’d be harder for them. We discussed it as a family first and weighed the positive and negative. We always say it’s good to see yourself as others see you. You realize, “Oh wow, that was ugly that I said that” or “Look at the way I was acting.” It makes you check yourself.
Your oldest, Ashley, has moved out. Any advice for parents going through this now?
That’s a hard question because there’s not a lot you can do once they’re of legal age. You can try and control them, but if they’re strong-willed, you have to trust. Sometimes kids have to learn the hard way; sometimes they know enough. You just have to trust that they’ll do the right thing, and if they need you, they’ll call you, and you can give advice. They might not always take it, though – I know I didn’t.
What lessons and values do you feel like you try and instill in your kids?
Never say anything behind somebody’s back that you wouldn’t or haven’t already said to their face. If you’re not prepared to own it, don’t say it. Be honest and don’t lie to me.