The TV actress (Unforgettable, Without a Trace) shares how she gets her toddler involved in taking care of his new baby sister.

Poppy Montgomery

Don't ask Poppy Montgomery what the word rest means because you might not get an answer. This ultra-busy mom rarely has time to put her feet up and get some shut-eye -- she's working hard on juggling two children (Jackson, 5, with ex-boyfriend Adam Kaufman, and Violet, 3 months, with current boyfriend Shawn Sanford), a relationship, and the return of her hit CBS TV series Unforgettable on July 28 plus the release of the first season on DVD. As luck would have it, Parents managed to snag a few minutes with the popular actress and get the scoop on how she lets nothing break her stride.

How is motherhood the second time around?

Beautiful, blissful, magical, and completely overwhelming! Ha! I think there are things that are easier this time because I have been through it once before. Having said that, there are also brand-new nuances I am finding as well. All babies are different. No matter how much you think you know, there will always be something new and different to experience.

Have you been more at ease taking care of Violet than Jackson since you are no longer a first-time mom?

Yes and no. With Jackson, no matter how much I prepared, read, and listened to advice, everything was a first, which was both exciting and scary at times. After you go through parenting once, you have a higher level of confidence about it, but all babies are different. There are all kinds of additional variables, like a new city, sibling situations, and mixing families. While I am finding it easier to deal with many aspects of parenting, there are still a lot of firsts. Babies teach us so much about ourselves and life in general.

What have been the big differences between taking care of a boy (Jackson, 5) and tending to a baby girl (Violet, 3 months)?

The outfits! I get to dress Violet in clothes I would like to wear right now. Violet is very Zen, mellow, and she goes with the flow. She seems to be just taking it all in, no matter where we are. As Violet matures and starts to play with toys, I imagine our interaction will be different. I have watched my sister (Rosie, who has two daughters) play with her girls, and it's all tutus, baby dolls, and playing house. With Jackson, it's superheroes, trucks, and physical activity! Even as a baby, Jackson always wanted to move and play and be in the mix.

How did you prepare your son for becoming a big brother? Did you read any books, watch a movie, or act out a play?

We have always talked to and treated Jackson as an equal when we communicate with him. When it came to the pregnancy, we did not deviate from that approach. We included him in everything throughout the pregnancy. He even came to some of the ultrasounds to see his little sister while she was still in my belly. His dad and I talked with him a lot about being a big brother and what that meant for him. We answered all of his questions and made him feel like a big part of the pregnancy from the very beginning.

What responsibilities or special jobs do you give Jackson so he feels a part of the process?

When we came home from the hospital, we put Jackson in charge of hand sanitization. Jackson makes sure that everyone's hands are clean before they touch or hold Violet. He was amazing and became very strict with the hand sanitizer. In fact, my hands have never been so clean! We continue to give him new responsibilities along the way as well. Shawn recently appointed him "Official Bodyguard" of Violet. Jackson makes sure people do not get too close to the baby. Shawn even gave him a badge and everything! Jackson loves the jobs and the responsibilities, and he embraces them all.

I hear your boyfriend, Shawn, is the CEO of diaper duty. Is that true? Because some men won't touch that job with a 10-foot pole!

Yes! He's a dream daddy, and all I keep thinking is, How did I luck out and get to escape from diaper duty?

Take me through Violet's nighttime routine.

At nighttime, we like to sit and "talk" about her day, and then I tell her all about how my day went as well. She gives great advice and lately she has a lot to say! Violet is a very cuddly little girl. Because she loves to be held and snuggled, we will talk and rock and then have one more feeding before bed. One of my favorite things is to watch the long blinks of her tired eyes as she falls asleep in my arms. Then we put her in her crib and off to dreamland she goes.

Most women look forward to taking maternity leave and saying adios to work. Yet you went right back to the Unforgettable set three weeks after Violet's arrival. Why the quick return, and what were the benefits of going back so soon?

It is definitely not the easiest schedule, and I struggle with it a lot. I want to spend every moment with Violet, but I do not have a lot of control over the show's shooting schedule. The show has been fantastic in accommodating my life with a new baby, and for that I will always be thankful. My children and my work are the things that fuel my soul. Finding the balance between the two is the dilemma women face every day.

What has been the most difficult challenge in keeping everything balanced and organized?

Trying to schedule sleeping times! My work schedule is constantly in flux. One night I might work until 12 A.M., and another night I might be off by 7 P.M. It's very hard to get any sort of a routine going for myself, let alone the kids! Thankfully, I have a wonderful nanny, Lynne, who makes sure that Violet is on a good schedule, especially when I have to be away on set.

Do you rely on any special resources to help you overcome any obstacles?

Shawn and I work through a lot of the obstacles together. We have found a really great rhythm, we also have Lynne and a pediatrician, who are both fantastic. I have definitely read parenting books, but I tend to rely on family and friends who also have children.

What are your favorite products for your children?

I love my Orbit [baby stroller travel] system. It makes it so easy to travel from the car to the stroller and to the apartment! I also love the Uppababy products. And there is nothing better than seeing Shawn wrestle with the Baby Bj?rn while he is getting ready for our walks. I love Aden + Anais blankets, and we use Dr. Brown's baby bottles. For bathtime, I love Original Sprout products because they are organic and smell so yummy!

What activities bring everyone together despite the age difference?

Right now Violet is so little, so there aren't many family activities we can all do together. What I am really focused on is making sure I have quality time with both Jackson and Violet, and given the age difference, it is hard to do it all together. Jackson and I have been having mommy/son outings in NYC. We go to plays, the toy store, and Central Park. Violet and I have our quality time when I am at home. Lately, she's been talking more and more, so we have been playing and talking together a lot on the floor or in bed.

What books does Jackson like you to read?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, and Monsters Eat Whiny Children, by Bruce Eric Kaplan.

Do your kids have favorite toys? What stimulates their learning and development?

Violet does not have a favorite toy yet, but she does have a doll that Shawn and I bought at Yoya [in New York City]. Our nanny named her Jodie, and Violet "talks" to her all the time. Sometimes I think they disagree, and you can hear Violet yell at her, but they always make up and are very close!

I think all children should be exposed to a variety of things from an early age -- musical instruments, paint, Play-Doh, books, animals, dress-up, and even digging in the dirt. Everything can spark imagination and creativity and be learning tools for children. We want Violet to fully embrace her creativity and imagination. My mom has a farm in Australia, and when we visit, Jackson has a field day running around with the pigs and chickens and ponies! I can't wait for Violet to enjoy that as well!

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