Kelly Rutherford on Parenting in the Present Moment and her Challenging new Lifetime Role
Whether she likes it or not, actress and devoted mom Kelly Rutherford has become the poster child for women embroiled in bitter child custody battles with their exes. One would imagine Rutherford would be brusque, and yes, even a bit annoyed at having to once again dredge up the very public battle her ex-husband has been waging against her since they separated in 2009, while she was pregnant with their second child. Yet, chatting with Kelly about her latest Lifetime original movie, no question or topic was off-limits, and one thing became extraordinarily clear, this mom places the health and welfare of her kids above all else. Kelly Rutherford’s kids are her most precious commodities, and the fact that she was forced to declare bankruptcy as a result of her lengthy custody battle, has in no way dimmed the very real and palpable bond she has with her children.
Rutherford, who recently wrapped a six year stint as a regular on the highly successful series "Gossip Girl" is currently starring in the Lifetime Original Movie, A Sister’s Nightmare. The film centers on an intense sibling rivalry and dark family secrets. Rutherford plays a character that is a complete departure from the wealthy Manhattan socialite she embodied in "Gossip Girl". She says it gave her an opportunity to walk in the shoes of a complex, psychologically unbalanced character. Kelly was nice enough to take some time out of her day, while her kids chatted animatedly in the background, to talk about motherhood, her custody issues and playing a flawed mother in A Sister’s Nightmare.
Lifetime Moms: You have become an activist for mothers with custody issues- how do you feel about it?
Kelly: Coming out about what I was going through, I guess was a way to show that this is not just happening to moms in the middle of nowhere. You feel alone in this process and when someone comes out publicly about their personal life- you feel less alone. Of course it has also helped me when others reached out to me- and as this thing plays out I’ll be able to do more.
Lifetime Moms: In the film A Sister’s Nightmare- sibling rivalry is at the forefront, what kind of relationship do you have with your siblings?
Kelly: I have great relationship with my brother, but when we were younger, because we spent so much time together as siblings, we annoyed each other. I think it was always about learning how to communicate and create boundaries. My mother always told us to love each other and that even though we don't like what she or he is doing it shouldn't change the fact that you love them.
Lifetime Moms: What was it like playing Jane?
Kelly: Getting into character for her- it wasn't easy. Lily of "Gossip Girl" was a lot of fun- but this Lifetime TV mom character is the complete opposite. She is neurotic and dealing with family issues. My character Jane has residual sibling rivalry that wasn't handled and she has a lot more work to be done- but my fellow actresses made it easy. I was in a police uniform most of the time with a pony but it was liberating to play her. This lifetime TV movie is based on true events- and is a wonderful example of our ability to work on ourselves so we don’t deal with situations like the one portrayed in the film. In reading the script I was going along and then all of a sudden there was a huge twist I didn't see coming for my character. I think we can all relate to that on some level- it is a really well written script that has a surprise ending.
Lifetime Moms: What advice do you have for all those working moms trying to balance it all?
Kelly: It all goes by so fast- there is really no time for guilt. When you are with the kids, be totally present, and when you are working you really need to be present. We need to enjoy time at work so that when we are with our kids they are attended to and happy and that’s where we want to be. I had worked a lot and traveled a lot before I had my kids and don’t feel like I'm missing anything, they are my priority. I think it’s hard for anyone to raise children- and more to do with how much you’ve worked on yourself so that you can be present and patient with your kids. Do the healing on yourself so you can be a better parent.
Lifetime Moms: What is your advice to other women dealing with custody issues?
Kelly: It is not always easy – the biggest thing is to stay positive when talking about the other parent. I think you need to be honest but say it in a way that doesn’t have an edge. With my kids, if they see mom is okay emotionally- they are okay. It is important for me to stay strong and healthy and at the end of the day it passes. The priority is my kids and when they have questions I answer and I try to be as kind and respectful of them as I can. I tell them I don't always have all the answers but that they are loved. And of course I am all for telling my kids to pick up the phone or Skype with me if they need to talk to me when ever or where ever. Being a mother I learn every day, it has changed my whole life. In motherhood I've felt a love beyond any experience I've ever had before. When you have an audience all the time of little eyes looking at you, being a mother makes me want to be a better person and set an example for my children.
Catch Kelly in Lifetime's Orginal Movie, A Sister's Nightmare. World premiere Saturday, September 7th at 8.7c.