If you haven't been watching "Playing House" on USA Network, which wrapped up its second season Tuesday night, you need to do yourself a favor and watch it On Demand, like, tonight. The sitcom is about best friends Maggie (Lennon Parham) and Emma (Jessica St. Clair), who are raising Maggie's baby together after Maggie's divorce. It manages to be relatable even with that unusual premise, but even better, it's hilarious. The rapport and shorthand and inside jokes between St. Clair and Parham makes it obvious that they're great friends IRL; it'll remind you of your antics with your own best friends.
This season, Maggie and Emma have been closely watching baby Charlotte's development, and that's where our friends at Easter Seals came in. Through an innovative partnership, "Playing House" incorporated messages about milestones and screenings, which makes sense given that Easter Seals is the leading nonprofit provider of services for those with special needs, including autism and physical and developmental disabilities. Its campaign, Make the First Five Count, is an enormously helpful resource for all parents of children under 5, helping you determine whether your child is developmentally on track before kindergarten. (Did you know that every year, more than 1 million children start kindergarten with an undiagnosed developmental delay?) This partnership was especially relevant to St. Clair and Parham, given that they themselves each have a 2-year-old daughter. This week we got to hear about their lives as friends and colleagues and moms.
Parents: What are some incidents from the show that come from your own lives?
Jessica: Most of what we write is initially inspired by real-life incidents, either ours or someone in our writers' room. In episode 2, "Sleepless in Pinebrook" -- the scene where Bruce takes a bath with Charlotte and the inevitable happens [Editor's note: "The inevitable" stems from the fact that the baby isn't wearing a diaper] -- that actually happened to me. It was one of the most horrifying moments of my life, but also I was playing Russian roulette taking a bath with my baby.
Lennon: Something in Maggie's storyline that is very connected to my experience as a mother is this line: "If I'm going to be away from Charlotte, I want it to be for something I really care about..." We are fortunate enough to do what we love for work and we hope that our daughters will grow up seeing that when we are away from them working, it's for something we truly care about.
What's your biggest challenge as a working mom with an especially hectic schedule?
Lennon: Setting boundaries on the work, so that there is time for our families as well as time for ourselves.
Jessica: Lennon's husband worked at a school where they taught transcendental meditation and took time out of the school day to meditate. Seeing the change in the students' lives, we thought it would be useful to us as well. So Lennon and I learned meditation from a phenomenal teacher, Lynn Kaplan, through the David Lynch Foundation, and we try and meditate at least once a day.
How do you handle childcare? How was the transition going back to work after having a baby?
Lennon: We both went back to work when our daughters were about 10 weeks old. So, we both have amazing caregivers who are just the best. They love our daughters as if they were their own and we got so lucky finding them.
Jessica: The girls came to visit set almost everyday and became like little mascots for our crew. Every day, we'd find the girls being chauffeured in a camera cart or training the show dogs. It makes the set a wonderful place when there are children around.
Lennon: And today my daughter started pre-school! (Don't mind me crying in my CR-V.)
Jessica: --and my daughter will start next year!
Have you ever found yourself comparing your children--either to one another's, or anyone else's?
Jessica: Our daughters are carbon copies of us. I often say that my daughter will hatch a plan and Lennon's daughter will figure out the most efficient way to carry out the plan.
Lennon: I think it's impossible not to compare, but we learned pretty early on that our daughters are perfectly matched for us as parents.
What have you learned through the Easter Seals partnership about milestones, typical development, and screenings?
Lennon: Well, the Easter Seals partnership is exciting because it just reinforces what we already knew about how smart babies are!
Jessica: And how much they are aware of so early on.
Lennon: We were happy to be able to use some details from the [Make the] First Five [Count] program in our dialogue in the show. Awareness is key!
Lennon, what's one thing you admire most about how Jessica is raising her daughter? And Jessica, how would you answer the same question?
Lennon: Jess is the phenomenal protector of her daughter's joy. She is making sure that the bright light inside of her daughter--and it is beaming!--is allowed to shine brightly for all to see. And when her daughter walks in the room you can feel it! She is such a happy and loved child. I love to watch it.
Jessica: The thing I love most about Len as a parent is how playful she is and at the same time, she provides such a calm steady energy that makes her daughter (and me!) feel safe to go explore the world!
We'll often hear celebrities say that they don't want to raise their children in Hollywood. Given that you're from Georgia and New Jersey, what are your thoughts on bringing up kids in southern California?
Jessica: I love Los Angeles. My daughter loves the beach, we go almost every weekend.
Lennon: The girls running around together at the beach is the best. And we have access to hiking and cool children's museums, which is so wonderful.
Jessica: I think Los Angeles can be what you make it. We don't really partake of the whole "Hollywood" scene--
Lennon: -- yeah, we are just both trying to give our daughters the kind of awesome upbringing that we both had with the same set of values.
Jessica: They did both meet Kenny Loggins and the Property Brothers in the first years of their lives, but other than that, 100% normal childhood.
Catch "Playing House" On Demand on the USA Network.
Kara Corridan is the health director at Parents and mom of two daughters, ages 10 and 7. The first time she heard the theme song to "Playing House" she downloaded it off iTunes.