“My greatest accomplishment in life is going to be that I made three wonderful human beings and put everything I had into them.”
Emmy Award-winning Actress Jaime Pressly (My Name is Earl, I Love You Man) currently stars in the CBS series Mom and is real-life mom to three sons, Dezi (13) and twins Leo and Lenon (3) with her partner Hamzi Hijazi. Pressly recently chatted with Raise founder Jessica Butler about her non-traditional family, the challenges of single parenting, and the miscarriage she experienced before the birth of her twins.
On Her Non-Traditional Family
We are definitely not a traditional family, although it’s traditional for us. Hamzi and I are not married, but I call him my husband and he calls me his wife. I have full custody of Dezi, but he has a good relationship with his dad, and we share holidays as split days. On Thanksgiving, Dezi’s with me until three o’clock and then his dad picks him up. He’s with me every Christmas Eve and Christmas morning until his dad comes, and then he spends a couple of days with him.
There shouldn’t be any judgment for doing things outside the box. If people are judging, it’s because they’re stuck in the past, and living in the past doesn’t allow you to move forward. You have to grow and change.
On Mom Guilt and Why She Stopped Doing Film
I stopped doing films years ago. It came to a head during season three of Earl, when I was shooting I Love You Man at the same time. I didn’t sleep, I was a single mom to Dezi, and I couldn’t handle it. Multi-cam is the only schedule that works for me to be a mother. Personally, I can’t not be involved in my kids’ lives. I can’t just say, “I’ll be back in a month, and I’ll fly home every weekend to see you or I’m pulling you out of school because Mommy is going to do something she wants to do and shoot a film.” I have terrible mom guilt. It doesn’t matter what I do, it doesn’t go away.
I will never, ever, ever sit back later in life and say, “I wish that I would have spent less time with my kids and taken that job.”
But I’m somebody who needs to work. I need to be creative and productive because it makes me a better mother, and I need to work because I have to support my family. Hamzi is a stay at home dad at the moment. We made that decision after we found out we were having twins and I had to go back to work so soon after their birth. We have the help of a nanny too, and I realize we’re very blessed to be able to afford that. A lot of people don’t have any help at all.
On Being A Single Mom To Dezi And Her Struggle With Postpartum Depression
It’s very difficult to be a single parent. I’d come home from Earl at two in the morning, Dezi would be screaming and crying, and I would be up. You feel crazy because you haven’t slept. It’s lonely. You have this mom guilt because you feel like you’re not good enough. You can’t do enough. You can’t be in 20 places at once. You want to give your child everything they need and you want to be there for everything they do. I’ve thrown every birthday party, gone to every school event, but it’s difficult to always put on a happy face and to be excited when you’re so exhausted. I went through postpartum depression after Dezi, which turned into situational depression for four years. It was isolating. It wasn’t until I went to my first Mommy and Me class that I met my tribe. I’m still close to them, eleven years later.
Single moms out there who have to take care of two or three or four kids, they have halos around their heads. It’s a difficult, difficult job raising children.
On Life With Twins And Why She Finally Hired a Night Nurse
I was so scared that I was going to suffer from postpartum depression again when I had the twins. My doctor suggested a night nurse, and I didn’t even know what that was.
I worked up until a week before the twins were born, and Hamzi and I took care of them ourselves for the first five weeks. Dezi was 10 at the time, and I would be up all night with the babies, then get Dezi up in the morning, make his breakfast, pack his lunch, get him to school, come back home to the babies. I was going crazy. I finally said to Hamzi, I’m getting a night nurse. I don’t care if you like it or not. If you want to go sit in the room with her, that’s fine, but I need to sleep. I have to go back to work when the babies are two months old and I can’t go into postpartum depression and have to go to work and be funny. I’ve done it before and it was miserable. I need to be there for Dezi. I need to be there for school and homework.
We were so blessed to find our nurse Joanna, who was a godsend. After the first night of sleeping, Hamzi said, “I get it. If you want to keep her—”
“You don’t get to tell me whether I’m keeping her or not. I already told you I’m keeping her.”
It was the greatest thing I ever did for myself.
On Her Miscarriage Before The Twins
We had tried for years to have a baby, I got pregnant in the spring, before going on hiatus [from Mom]. I hadn’t told anybody on set. At three months, the baby’s heart stopped. I had a DNC two weeks before going back to work.
In the first episode back, they wanted me in this skimpy tight black dress, and I was heavier than normal. I pulled aside the showrunner, Gemma Baker, and said, “I was pregnant up until two weeks ago and I’m about 12 pounds heavier. Is there any way that we can just put me in a pushup bra and make it a boob gag instead?” Her reaction was everything to me. She was shocked but said, “Absolutely.” And then she asked “Is it ok if I hug you?” She made it a point to ask me if I was okay. It was so nice to have someone who made me feel comfortable and safe. That doesn’t always happen in Hollywood.
The next day, she came to me and said, “Here’s the thing: your story line that we had planned for the season is that Jill decides on the anniversary of her mother’s suicide that what will make her happy will be to have a child. She goes to a sperm bank and tries to get pregnant, and she does gets pregnant but then miscarries at two months.”
I was white in the face because I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. I get art imitating life, as it usually does, but this was crazy.
The show offered to rewrite the story, but I said, “No. One in four pregnancies ends this way for women at my age. I think it’s a story that should be told and quite frankly, think it would be therapeutic for me. So let’s just do it.” And we did.
Six months later, I found out I was pregnant with the twins. We didn’t do IVF, twins don’t run in our family, but we have natural fraternal twins – one with blue eyes, one with brown eyes. One that looks like mom, one that looks like dad. My doctor explained that my 40 year old eggs were dropping like crazy because my ovaries knew it was their last hurrah. That’s how we ended up with two!
On Aging and Life After Kids
I truly believe that the older I get, the better the roles will get. You’ve lived more life. There are more stories to tell. The writing gets better. Everything gets better. I like getting older. I wouldn’t get back to my 20s if you paid me millions of dollars. It was a lot of work.
I will never, ever, ever sit back later in life and say, “I wish that I would have spent less time with my kids and taken that job.” Anytime I start to feel bad about letting my career slide a little bit, I remind myself of that. My greatest accomplishment in life is going to be that I made three wonderful human beings and put everything I had into them. To know that they are kind men who have bettered the world, that will be my greatest accomplishment. No film could ever be that for me.
But I’ll be honest with you, when my kids are all grown up, if you don’t think for one second that I am going to go back to film… I’ll go anywhere. You want me to shoot a movie in Africa? Yes, I’ll go. I’m going to take those opportunities for me.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.