Amanda Kloots: As a Single Mom, 'The Guilt Is Constant'

'The Talk' co-host discusses single parenting, balancing work and play, and how her new picture book is keeping the memory of her late husband alive for her son.

Amanda Kloots from The Talk

Amanda Kloots | The Talk | CBS Photo Archive

It's a little past 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and Amanda Kloots is making me cry. Only partly on purpose. She's taken a pause from her packed schedule—as a fitness guru and coach, Broadway actress, bestselling author of the memoir Live Your Life, and co-host of The Talkto chat with Parents about her debut picture book, Tell Me Your Dreams. The book is an homage to her late husband, Nick Cordero, a fellow actor whom she met on the production of Bullets Over Broadway, and their son Elvis, now 3. The whole world followed the couple's journey as Nick fought COVID-19 for more than three months before succumbing to complications from the virus in 2020 when little Elvis was only a year old.

The picture book, she says, started as a simple story, a way to keep Nick in her son's life, since he lost his father so young. But as my own tears demonstrate, it's bound to touch a nerve with parents and kids everywhere who are grieving a loss. Kloots says it's had a healing impact on her own life, and she hopes it will help others remember that they can still connect with lost loved ones, too.

Here, she talks with Parents about multi-tasking, life as a single mom, and why she doesn't care if you judge her for co-sleeping with her baby.

I just read the picture book, and it made me cry. I think you're hitting an emotion that a lot of people are feeling right now, three years in a lot. Parents and kids are dealing with a lot.

I think so, too. When you are a parent, you're so influenced by your children, because you're just trying to do what's right. You're trying to make everything okay. And to make them feel safe and keep them inspired. But I truly believe children's books are for adults, too, because we're the ones who read them. And eventually, our children read them too, but we're the ones that are reading them first and foremost. So yeah, it's kind of a love letter to adults—to remind them to keep dreaming, and that you can do anything and be anyone and see anyone in those dreams. To be inspired every single day. It doesn't it doesn't have to stop.

Okay, well, you'll forgive me if I weep during our chat. Because the grief we're all carrying, it's so present in this book. I mean, in this book, the inspiration is very clear. Tell me a little bit about how it came to be.

It was such an organic process. Our nighttime routine, it ebbs and flows, and it constantly changes. My son Elvis and I were in a bit of a great span, where I would put him in his rocking chair, and we would sing songs and say our prayers. And then all of a sudden, one night I was like, "Do you want me to tell you your dreams?" Then I just started creating like this fantastical dream for him. And he was obsessed with trash trucks at the time. So every night, there was a trash truck moment. Usually, it's just like the book, where the trash truck appears in his room and his dad does driving. And it takes them away. 

I'm constantly always looking for ways to incorporate Nick and his life. But it felt like I didn't even plan on it. But Nick's driving the trash truck. And so it became 'Dad drives the trash truck and you get to go on this amazing adventure with dad.' I'm not around. I have nothing to do with it. So I just you know, every night just started orchestrating these dreams for him that just were wild and crazy. He started spinning it and filling in the blanks. Like, you start driving down the street and it becomes an airplane and the airplane lands on the beach. I mean, like I really should have given him credit for as an author. And I was talking to Harper about all these book ideas but then I told them one day about our bedtime routine, and it was so obvious. Because it's fantastical and fun, yes, but then...

Amanda Kloots Picture Book

Amanda Kloots | HarperCollins

People can relate to it. A lot of us are grieving too. 

Yes, that's it. It can be a parent, it can be a sibling, it can be a grandparent, it can be a friend. Anyone that you want to see in your dreams. It's funny, since Nick passed, I've only had three dreams of him. And, and they're all they've all been when I'm on vacation. And I think that's because I am finally relaxed. And I've remembered all three of them. And they're so beautiful. You know, like when you have a great dream, and you wake up and you remember it. It's like it's the best thing ever.

But for for Elvis, it's almost like you're letting him create memories with Nick. Because he was so little when he died.

He says he remembers. Which is adorable, because I'll say, "What do you remember about Dad?" And he'll say the things that I've told him. But yeah, you're right. He gets to create these dreams with his dad every night. And right now he's going through a little bit of a phase where he's scared of the dark and doesn't want to sleep alone. And I say, "You know when you go to sleep, you're not alone, because then you get to dream and you get to dream of dad, and you get to go on amazing adventures with dad." And you can see that it registers. He's like, "oh, yeah, I get to do that." Then he feels that safety that that comes with that too. That's very important.

You've managed a lot becoming a widow and a single parent—and a new parent, at that—in the thick of the pandemic. 

If you ask me on a bad day, I am about to be in tears and say, "I can't do this. I never planned on doing this alone. This is really hard." And if you ask me on an easy day, I'll say it's the best thing in the entire world and that I love being a mom. I think that's the ups and downs of parenting, though. Listen, single parenting is so hard. It really, really is hard. Especially when you're working as much as I am and you're not only trying to balance that, but then also the guilt of working so much and not being around with your kid as much and then going out to dinner or even just leaving the house again. The guilt is constant. There's a lot of guilt and that's hard. 

But then it's also hard just managing it all. To be making the lunch with them pulling your pants and crying because they want water instead of milk or strawberries instead of raspberries. Mornings at my house, by the time I get out the door, I'm almost in a panic attack. It's really, really hard. I've never been afraid to ask for help. I have a ton of help, because I'm constantly needing it. But I also love my work. Because it makes me a better mom. And it does make me a better parent. I have to fill my own cup too. It's a daily battle. It's not easy. I'm not going to tell you it is.

We've talked a lot at Parents about creating a village. Who's in your village?

There are times where like, I'm going to text somebody and I'm like, Oh my gosh, am I gonna text them again to ask for help? I have some great friends that I met when I moved here to L.A., and they are like family to me. They live down the street ironically. And they're amazing. Basically helped me raise Elvis. And then I have a wonderful friend who I've known since New York that now lives here. And she is like a second mother to Elvis. Especially lately. She's just been like my ride or die, my right arm. I am lucky enough to have a sibling that lives in San Francisco. If I ever need anything, my brother Todd will come to the rescue. I have a wonderful manny I hired a man to be Elvis's full-time nanny. I am very feminine and very kissy and lovey and huggy. And I just wanted him to have that balance in his life, because I knew that he wasn't going to have it. So I thought, you know, let's get a man in here. Elvis and him are like best friends. Those are like my top village villagers. 

And my family—my sisters and my mom and my dad. My mom and dad have really helped me out a ton. They'll come here for months at a time to help me. They came here when I did Dancing with the Stars and lived for three months when I filmed my Christmas movie. They came here and lived here for a month and just took over being Elvis' you know, guardians. And they've been wonderful. 

Whether you're a single parent or co-parenting with somebody, you need a village behind you. People that also you know are going to build your kid up in different ways and give them different outlooks and, and life and cultures. And I just believe it's so important. So I feel very, very lucky. And when they're not here, I am desperate. But sometimes, I will say, that causes me to take a step back and think, "Okay, you know what? I actually don't really need to go do that. So I'm not going to do that." Because, in the end, it's going to be me and Elvis. And then we have like this amazing day together. You know, sometimes when your village crumbles, that's okay. Sometimes you need those moments to be like, Well, I'm just gonna prioritize this instead of that and, and make the time even if I don't think I have it. 

You've accomplished a lot in the last three years. I'm sure Nick would be proud.

I hope so. I feel like he definitely lives through me. And through all this. A picture book, screenwriting, and the fitness app. I've been really loving the writing and creating. I love creating concepts and then seeing them come to life. So it's been really fun.

It seems like a great outlet for you. But how are you balancing everything?

I'm a very good multitasker. I'm gonna say that, loud and proud. I can literally book up my day back to back to back to back. And I get it done and I don't waste time. If I want to waste time, I have to slot it in. I will literally put it on the calendar. There's nothing that thrills me more than when I have a day where everything's back to back to back and it's like boom boom boom boom. Like film fitness videos, then record the audiobook, then do these interviews, then have a pitch meeting. Check it off the list and I love it.

And now you're co-hosting The Talk!

Oh, it's the best. Five days a week, in the morning, but I know exactly where I'll be from nine on, and then when it's done, it's done. And it's so much fun. We have a blast. 

How do you decompress? Especially with Elvis?

Sunday is always kind of like our relaxation time, family time. I called it family days since he was a baby. We go to the beach. I love going to the beach. And I do treat myself. I love a massage. I love a nap. I'm a great napper. And I do get to bed early because obviously, Elvis is sleeping with me at the moment. So we go to bed early. I know co-sleeping is controversial, but my take on this is very different and every child is different. And you really do have to do what's right for you, your child, and your family. That's the bottom line. Right now, he wants to sleep with me. I'm not sleeping with anybody else. So come on and snuggle up. I need somebody to snuggle with, too.

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