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Melissa Joan Hart: My life is so different from my TV show.

Most well-known for her roles on Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Melissa Joan Hart recently returned to primetime TV on Melissa & Joey (with fellow child-actor, Joey Lawrence) as a former wild-child attempting to raise her niece and nephew. Here, she shares with Babble what she’s discovered from raising her own little boys, Mason, 4 and Brady, 2 with hubby, Mark Wilkerson, how acting and parenting are similar, and why she actually has to unlearn what her family taught her to get into character.

Your twitter bio contrasts being a mommy to playing a character. Can you share the inspiration behind that little bit?

It would be great as a mom to have a script written for you so you could have all the answers!

What is your parenting philosophy?

Being consistent is the most important thing, whether it’s potty training or breastfeeding, nap schedules or discipline. It’s the best way to hit home with your kids what it is you really want them to pick up.

Have your sons shown any inclination toward acting yet?

They’re both big hams and love to act out their favorite Disney movies. They’re also both interested in music, so it’s hard to say now, but it seems like they’re creative like mommy and daddy.

How does your family influence your acting on your new show Melissa & Joey?

It’s a completely different set of parenting problems. In real life, my kids are four and two years old, but in the show, my “kids” are teens. [But] my family has taught me a lot: that family comes first and you have to have your priorities straight. I’m close with my mom and I had many, many siblings. Also, I’m now closer with my father – we used to be more distant – and I have a husband who taught me not to be concerned about making everybody happy. Family has determined everything for me.

But on the show, my character is more self-centered. She’s a fish out of water trying to raise teenagers and occasionally makes bad decisions, so I have to go against what I learned at home. My character doesn’t have children, a husband, or a mother who’s in her life, so I have to take what I know and do the opposite.

How does your career affect your family life?

Acting pulls me away a lot. It’s an everyday battle to figure what takes priority and how I can squeeze everything in. But my top priority is that every day I want to play with my boys. Whether I fit in gym time, get my nails done or work, I make sure I spend time with my boys.

I try to plan as far ahead as I can, and I’m lucky to have a great nanny, husband, and flexible work schedule. But we break it down and take it month by month, week by week, day by day – especially because of the nature of our work. We figure out which state we’re going to be in for the month, then we figure out who’s going to watch them, who’s going to be with them, and when we’re going to have a date night. We also alternate. My husband takes off when I’m working and vice versa.

What’s your favorite way to bond with your family?

Finding quiet time and savoring the small moments. We enjoy a family breakfast almost every day to start our day, especially on Sundays.

Do you have any tips for busy moms trying to stay in shape?

It’s an everyday struggle. I try to do at least 3 workouts a week and mix it up. I have to go early because I lose steam by the afternoon. I am also careful about what I eat – lots of protein shakes – and I avoid starches and sweets:most of the time.

What’s the number one lesson you want your sons to learn?

Respect for themselves and others. It’s so important because respect has to do with everything in your life. It goes for your family, your elders, when you’re out in public, when you’re in school. Respect is the one thing that covers all the bases.

Beginning September 23, you can help Melissa Joan Hart send one lucky family on a dream seven-day vacation to sunny California through Pillsbury’s My Sweet Sunday Moment contest. Visit Pillsbury.com/SweetSunday to vote for the family with the most original, creative and inspirational story and see if you’re an instant winner of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls or cash prizes.

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