Sherri Shepherd is one funny lady. In the midst of our conversation, The View host and mom to son, Jeffrey (age 5) compares herself to both Julia Child and Elin Nordegren; explains why, for a brief period, she never left her house; and dramatically declares that her future daughter-in-law will hate her. We don’t believe that last part – she’s too hysterical not to like – and from our chat with her, she sounds like a pretty great (albeit a wee overprotective) mom, too.
What’s your parenting philosophy?
I didn’t know I was supposed to have one! If I can raise my son to have a healthy attitude about himself and be a good kid, I’ll be happy. I want my daughter-in-law to say, “You’ve got a great mother!” I’m afraid my daughter-in-law is going to hate me!
You’re an outspoken advocate of no-guilt parenting. Why is that so important to you?
There’s no [parenting] manual. Every parent I’ve asked has a different way of raising their child. I’ve stopped asking my family [for advice] because apparently I’m doing everything wrong, especially according to the ones down south. I know that I love my son, I have the best of intentions, and that if God didn’t approve then Jeffrey wouldn’t have fallen out of my uterus. I’m trying to do the right thing, and I’m not going to fall into the guilt – especially living in New York. Trying to find Jeffrey a kindergarten and listening to parents say, “Oh my son speaks French,” I’m like, “My son has a ball and a stick,” and that’s good enough for him. For me, I’m just glad my little miracle baby is here.
How do you manage public tantrums?
Oh, we didn’t go out for a whole year! I kept him in the house like he was a polar bear! Everybody tells you to just walk away. He had a tantrum at the Apple store, so I walked away, but he thought, “Go ahead, I have enough lungs to last me another seven hours.” The store was crowded, so I looked back, and I didn’t see my son. I could hear him, and he kept crying because he knew he was getting attention. I was so mad that I didn’t know what to do! He didn’t have a nap, and I told myself, “Sherri, this isn’t happening again. We’re staying home.”
What shocked you the most about parenting?
I’m the type of person who doesn’t like my son to hurt. I don’t like him to cry. I love putting his socks on,; I love doing everything. But you’re supposed to challenge [your kids] and make them do [things] for themselves. I have a problem with that. He’s a momma’s boy, and I’m deathly afraid of my daughter-in-law looking around and saying, “I’m not picking up your underwear! I don’t care if your mother did it for you!” I’m going to be one of those mothers who calls him and says, “Baby, I know you’re forty, but I made dinner.”
What’s off-limits in your house?
In terms of boundaries, knocking before you come into a bedroom. Jeffrey looks at me, like, “Mama, there’s no one in there and you will have no one in there, so what’s the point of knocking?” but I’m trying to teach him boundaries and respect. I didn’t realize that when you have children, they feel entitled to being everywhere you are. My son doesn’t think anything of coming into the bathroom – my one last grasp at privacy!
What is your favorite meal to cook for him?
Rotisserie chicken. I just found this out, because someone made it, and he said, “Yum, Mommy, this chicken tastes good!” So I went out and bought a rotisserie, and now I’m rotisserie chicken-ing all the time! It shows you how far a woman will go to get a man’s compliment! I know women aren’t supposed to do that, but I am now Julia Child for my son.
If you could be any TV or movie parent, who would it be?
I’d like to be Carol Brady and Bernie Mac. I love the nurturing of Carol Brady, but I love Bernie Mac. That’s how I get when I’ve had it! Like when I tell him, “Boy, sit your butt down,” and he says, “Why, Mommy?” because he’s in that “Why, Mommy?” stage, and I say, “Because I said so.”
Are you already mentally preparing yourself for when he brings a girl home for the first time?
Oh, I got a knot in my stomach just by you asking that! I kiss Jeffrey on the lips, and I tell him, “Only Mommy and Daddy can kiss you on the lips.” And this morning, I go to kiss him, and he gives me his cheek. And I was like, “Who kisses you on the lips, then?” And he says, “Amy!” I’m thinking, “Who’s this b*tch?!” I was not happy. I don’t mean to call a little five-year-old girl a bitch, but I got angry! So if I’m this angry now, to think of him bringing home a girl, I don’t know if I can let my son go. I felt like Jeffrey cheated on me; I felt like Elin! I’ll give [the future girlfriend] the inquisition, but I want her to be close to me because I want to know everything that’s going on in their lives!
What’s your biggest parenting challenge?
Getting over the fear of if I’m doing it right. Jeffrey was born at five months, so his odds of survival were very low. And even with survival, they predicted he was going be severely retarded or have cerebral palsy – none of that has come to pass. He has learning disabilities, and sometimes I don’t want to put too much on him, but I have to challenge him because kids only go as far as you expect them to. I have to get over that Jeffrey’s not a tiny little baby who can fit in my hands with tubes coming out of him. The thinking, talking, running – it [goes against everything] the doctors said, and it’s okay if he falls off the swing. I just don’t want him to get hurt.
Does Jeffrey have a good sense of humor?
His dad and I are both stand-up comics, and he’s so funny. He can be in the middle of a temper tantrum, but if you have a camera and say, “Jeffrey, say cheese!” he will stop screaming, look at the camera, pose and go right back to screaming.
Does that make you proud or terrified?
Proud. My son is very sociable. He’ll say to people, “My name is Jeffrey. I’m going to be five, what are you going to get me?” I’m not as social as him; I get paid to be outgoing. I’m more introverted, and I love that he’s so fearless.
Is he protective of you?
He does not like it when a lot of people come up to me. Usually when I’m out, and a lot of people are around, I look to the ground because that’s his time, and he’s very protective of it. He doesn’t like a lot of people around me, hugging me – especially men! Jeffrey does not like any man to hug me or touch me. It’s like he can sense there’s another penis in the house.
What do you do for “me” time?
I love bubble baths. I have every kind of bubble bath in the world, and all kinds of candles. When Jeffrey is sleeping, I fill that tub full with bubbles and hope it doesn’t overflow into the apartment beneath me. And I’ll fill a wine glass with sparkling water, and just sit back with my book about pirates and virgins.