A Chat with Melora Hardin

This celebrity mom knows when to stand her ground, how to foster her girls' talents, and the importance of humor.
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Melora Hardin might play zany Jan Levinson on the hit show The Office, but offscreen the dancer, singer, and actress is more earth mama than corporate shark. As the mother to Rory, 6, and Piper, 3, she firmly believes in introducing her daughters to creative pursuits as well as in setting a good example with her own actions. Here, she takes time from her busy schedule to chat about everything from breastfeeding in public to her adventures at Legoland.

No Place Like HomeI wanted to have a completely natural birth. Everybody feels really safe and comfortable somewhere, and for me it wasn't at the hospital. When I read about birth -- most animals go into a cave and get really private, in the dark and alone -- home birth just made sense to me.

Singing the Body ElectricI'm someone who enjoys the body changes and cycles of pregnancy. And I really enjoy how my body heals and can be strong again if I work at it and give it some time. I want to live a balanced life, and that means that you're going to be a little heavier if you've just had a baby and a little skinnier if you're on Broadway doing a show.

Live and Let LiveThere is a lot of pressure on women to have the right birth and lose the baby weight, and I'd say much of it comes from other women. I feel like I'm being risky by talking about my home birth because I might make other women somehow feel like I'm commenting on their birth experience. But this is just what worked for me.

Welcome to the WorldMy daughter Rory watched Piper being born. My midwife told me that kids who watch their siblings being born have an easier time adjusting because they see the hard work that it took to get the baby there, and that the baby came from somewhere -- we didn't just go to the store and pick her up! Rory woke up for the last 45 minutes of my labor and put all of her toys out, saying, "These are for the baby."

Staying ConnectedI breastfed until my kids were 2 1/2. I wanted to raise children who are really connected with me and the world around them, and for me that starts at birth and with feeding. We practice attachment parenting, which goes against the norm and involves having a family bed. I'm such a busy person that it's important to have that time to connect.

Mother Knows BreastDon't put breastfeeding up for discussion. People would come up to me and say, "Are you going to do that until she's 16?" And my standard response would be, "No, until she's 25." I'm not going to have that discussion with people about what they think is right. I was adamant about not having to feel like I had to cover up when I was out feeding my child. We see plenty of violence in this country, and if you can't deal with a woman feeding her child, then look the other way. Everyone deals with a little nipple now and then!

Dancing QueensWhen I was carrying Rory, I kept dancing until I was about 8 months pregnant, and she has that incredible gift of being able to interpret music through her body. So we got her into a dance class at about 18 months. And I think Piper is going to be a little tap dancer. She has that spunk. Dancing has always been such a positive force in my life that I'd really like the girls to have that as well.

It Takes Two...or ThreeI think that learning to delegate is really important -- learning how to have great caregivers who you instinctively feel are right and enriching for your child. And, of course, having an amazing partner, which I do. My husband is a fully equal team player and really enjoys fatherhood and being with our kids.

Taking a Time-OutWhen my littlest was a baby, I took my older daughter on a trip after I saw her having "what about me?" moments. It was just the two of us. We went to Legoland and had a day all about her -- pretty much whatever she wanted, she got. We went on whatever ride she wanted, we stayed in a hotel overnight and got room service, we got a little toy and watched a movie. She talked about the experience at preschool on share day, and it was so important to her. Now that Piper is getting older, I want to do the same with her.

Learning to Referee from the SidelinesI try to ignore the bad behavior and praise the good: Really, you can ignore about 90 percent of it and address about 10 percent. When they're screaming at each other, I try not to say anything until they come running to me. And then I say, "I have complete confidence that you guys can talk this over and work this out together, because I've seen you do it before." And then they do. They work it out in the most amazing way.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.

American Baby

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