The sexy reality star gets heavy about divorce, rumors, and explaining death to her kids.
Denise Richards and her daughters
Credit: Pacific Coast News

Life in the Spotlight

Can you imagine dropping your kids off at school knowing that all the other moms are reading about you in Us Weekly? Denise Richards' new reality show, Denise Richards: It's Complicated shows how the actress's life has been anything but simple since she filed for divorce from actor Charlie Sheen in 2005. The two share custody of daughters Sam, 4, and Lola, 3. Richards, 37, has also come under scrutiny for dating former friend Heather Locklear's ex-husband Richie Sambora (they've now broken up). But in a long talk with, she says that all she really wants these days is to be the best mother she can be. You got some bad press before your show aired for allowing your kids to be on the show. Were you bracing yourself for a negative reaction?DR: The grief I get is the grief I have been getting for three years, which is from my ex-husband. No one even brought up children being on reality shows until him and I have been singled out now because of him. It has nothing to do with Charlie trying to protect the girls. They were just shot in OK! magazine for his wedding and Sami had a role on Two and a Half Men when she was 8 months old. This has to do with battling me. If he had just kept his mouth shut and watched one episode (laughs)...but whatever, he is who he is and I have been dealing with it for a long time. Was part of the point of doing the show to get your side out there?DR: I always thought the bad press would blow over and it hasn't. So it's a chance for people to see who I am and it's also a chance for me to work at home with my kids. I will never get these years back with my girls. I think every woman has the right to work, and being a single mom with bills like everyone else, I have to work.

The Ugly Divorce You and Charlie obviously have a bad relationship. That said, do you have to make a conscious choice not to talk about him in front of the kids?DR: I never say a bad word about him in front of the girls because all it will do is hurt my kids. Do you have to see each other when the kids go back and forth? DR: No, he doesn't pick them up and he has never been to my house. We have a nanny that does it. I don't have a full-time staff. I have one nanny, even though he said I have all these people. And, by the way, I never wanted his sperm if you are afraid to ask that. It's ridiculous. He's said worse. They are still very young, but do you think your daughters are aware of what's going on some level? DR: I am sure they are aware of some things. They'd have to be. Do they talk about it? DR: They verbalize some things. They're sponges. I think any parent going through a divorce no matter what has to be positive about the other parent. There are certain things that I don't agree with that he does. I don't tell them that, I just say that things are different at Daddy's house.

Talking About The Tough Stuff Do your kids see a counselor? DR: They are starting to. They have had a lot of loss in a short time. We lost my mom, who was their second mother. So to be born into a divorced family and then to lose their grandmother... This is all they know but, still, being as young as they are, I can imagine they are very confused. How did you explain her death to the children? DR: My mother actually had gotten the girls a book and I gave it to them after she passed away and she wrote them a little letter where she said that she was in heaven and she is always going to be their angel and watch over them and it. The book is called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. I don't understand death so it's very hard for me to explain it, but I just tell them that their nana is always with them and she's their angel and she will always be watching over them. It's a tough thing for kids to process. DR: I let them see my mom at the hospital and they visited with her at the hospital three weeks before she passed away and they weren't frightened. They were happy to see my mom and play with her and massaged her hands with lotion. And then I told them that she had died. So they understand as much as a 3- and a 4-year-old can understand. But they miss her so much.

The Vaccine Debate So let's talk about the vaccine issue. Your ex-husband doesn't believe in them. You want your girls to get them, correct? DR: I believe in vaccines. I know there's a lot of controversy about it, but for me personally I believe my kids need some, not all. I think there's maybe a healthier way to do it than to give 5 shots at once. But I definitely believe in them. So because it's unresolved with Charlie you can't do it? DR: No, I can't right now.

Life as a Mom What kind of parent are you? Are you strict? DR: Yes, I think I am. I let them be creative. I'm not very uptight about being messy with them and I let them have fun and play and make messes as long as we clean it up. But I also like structure with the girls. They get up pretty much the same time every day. They have breakfast at the same time every day. We have dinner every night together and they go to bed at the same time every night. Are you more conscious now about not choosing to do projects you might not want your kids to see? DR: Well I have done Playboy and my mom was very supportive of it. She said if I had a body like yours I'd do it too. I also think it's important for me to teach the girls that there's nothing to be ashamed about the naked body. These are decisions that I will have to explain to them when they get older--why I did Wild Things and why I did Playboy.

The Future When you read some of this stuff in the tabloids does it ever feel like it's happening to someone else? DR: Yes, all the time. I have to just block stuff out. 90% of it's not true. I just have to move through it. Is it tough to explain to the kids that mom is dating? DR: I don't talk to them about it because they are too young. I don't bring anyone over to my house. My ex-boyfriend [Sambora] they knew before we started dating and they were close to him. Now they miss him. So I realized that I have to be careful with that. I don't want my girls to get attached to someone who isn't going to be around. What happens when your girls come home and say they want to date an actor? DR: I won't be able to stop them, I guess. Everyone says, why do you date actors? I don't look at what someone does for a living, I look at the person. I just happen to date other actors because that's the job I'm in. As an adult you meet people through friends and work and that's why most actors end up with other actors. I will definitely support my daughters with whatever they want to do, though. Right now they both want to be veterinarians. Do you think you'd like to have another child? DR: I have my hands full with two. If I ever got remarried and I was still young enough, I would definitely like that. I have always wanted a big family. But being a single mom to two...I'm fine (laughs).

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