Photo Credit: Anders Krusberg/Whatever, Martha!
To work or not to work? It's a question that many new moms have to answer. Unlike most moms, however, who choose to either continue working or stop working, Jennifer Koppelman Hutt decided to start working when she became a mom. "It was very surprising to me that I didn't feel completely whole by the wife, mother experience," Hutt told iVillage.
Hutt, along with Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis Stewart, stars on the TV show Whatever, Martha and hosts the Sirius radio show, Whatever! The busy mom spoke with iVillage about feeling like she sometimes fails as a mom, why she decided to start working and why her kids, Jacob, 11, and Raquel, 9, make fun of her.
How do you balance the TV show, your radio show and being a mom?
How am I doing it? I fail miserably at all of them. It's hard. We shot the second season of the TV show in June and that was tough because it was in between school and camp and ordinarily that isn't my first choice. I try to build my schedule around their schedules. I take my kids to school every morning. They don't bus. And then my husband, Keith, has them at night until I get home. I get home around 8, so it's hard that I'm not there during the week for dinner. But, I don't have any extras. I don't go out with my girlfriends. My husband and I typically don't go out a lot. We don't go out every Saturday night. We don't do things like that because I feel like working is my indulgence. I wouldn't feel okay if I was working and then going out playing. I don't know that it should be that way in life, that women have that sort of thing because guys can go out and they don't really worry about it, with the exception of my husband who happens to be home with my kids more than I am. So I balance it the best that I can. I always feel guilty. I always feel like I come up short, but I love my kids like crazy and they know it, so I guess that's doing something right. And they're really good kids.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by it?
Sure, I feel overwhelmed if my kids are sick and then I have to go to work. That's really hard. But I have broadcasting equipment inside of my house. If they have a cold, I'm not going to stay home. But if one of my kids is throwing up or has a fever, then I stay home. Although I feel overwhelmed, it's not something I would give up because I feel, for me, that part of being a fulfilled woman involves my working. I knew my whole life that I wanted to have kids. I knew my whole life I wanted to be a mom. I didn't know that once I got to be a mom and a wife and all that exciting stuff that girls dream about at a young age, that I'd want to then be working.
Was it a tough decision to decide to work?
I didn't work before I had kids. I went to law school and I was a licensed lawyer. I am a licensed lawyer. But I didn't work and then I decided to work, I guess four-and-a-half years ago, maybe a little more. And it was a whole decision process. My kids were pretty little, four and six, maybe. But what I can tell you is that they both knew that Mommy was going to work. It definitely was a family discussion and I couldn't have done it unless my husband was up for it. He was very encouraging and continues to be and I think that I'm really lucky that I have that kind of partner because otherwise I wouldn't be able to work.
Is there any particular instance you remember when you felt like you failed at balancing your career and motherhood?
It happens every time I hear the studies that the more families have dinner together the less likely the kids are going to turn to drugs and alcohol. I'm like, "Mother F***er." I mean, frankly, I'm just like, 'This is my job. The hours are non-negotiable. I'm working while they have dinner.' But at least it's the kind of job that they think is fun. I think they're proud of me and they think it's cool. So that's good. And then I put them to sleep every night. So I feel like I fail when I can't go to school to do projects, because I really don't have time to do that. I'm not that mom. But I don't have to be, because, as I said before, I'm always available to them. They'll text message me. I talk to them when they're home from school. I'm just not there and I don't do anything other than work and go home. So they know that they're my top priority and then my job and my husband.
Do you have any advice for working moms?
I think that moms who do work and moms who don't work -- should just band together, because no choice is the easy choice. If you stay at home it's tough because your whole life and your whole world revolves around your kids and your spouse. And if you work then you're pulled in a gazillion directions because your priority is of course your family and your kids. Because it's your love and it's your life, but also that fulfillment thing is really important and I think it is tough. And I think if we band together and help each other it'd be so much more beneficial, because nobody really has an easy ride with being a mom, whether you work or you don't. And I think mothers should be more gentle with themselves and we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. I am, like everybody else, but you do the best you can. And not every day is going to be a great, easy day. It's okay. It's okay to scream at your kids sometimes. Do you have kids?
I don't, but I know that sometimes I deserve to be screamed at by mom. But I also talk to her every day.
So did I. I lost my mother a year-and-three-months ago and I lived next door to my mom and my sister, which is another reason why I can work because we all live together. We used to talk four times a day. You're your mother's reason for living.
You mentioned that your kids go to camp. I went to camp, so I get it. Some parents don't understand why you'd send your kids away for two months.
I was that mom. Both of my kids wanted to go. My son went first and then my daughter went a year later. They both wanted to go and I feel like camp is a safe atmosphere for kids to grow and have some freedom. And I am an overbearing, overprotective, nutty, neurotic, Jewish mother and I notice every hair on the heads of my kids, any change on them. I look at them under a microscope. I'm a freak. And I think for my son to have seven weeks of freedom from my looking at him is a gift. And he wanted to go. I mean had my kids not wanted to go and wanted to stay in my room, in my bed, fine. But they wanted to go and I felt like how could I rob them of the chance for that little slice of independence.
Do your kids think you're cool?
Oh no! They don't think I'm cool. They think I've got a cool job. All they do is make fun of me. I listen to their music in the car and we all sing at the top of our lungs together and I shake my head a lot and I dance in the front seat. Who doesn't? They think it's the most ridiculous thing. They imitate me. They shake their heads. They're like, "Mommy, why do you do that?" No mommy is cool. I'm a mom.
They don't even think you're funny? I think you're absolutely hilarious on Whatever, Martha.
Thank you, but my daughter is a hip-hop dancer. She's this great hip-hop dancer. Now, she got her rhythm from me. It's known. It's discussed. It is known. We know it. And yet I have no street cred in my house. None. If I get up and start to dance they all cackle and fall on the floor. "Give it up old lady, it's over for you."
Want more of Jennifer? Check out our exclusive interview with the 'Whatever, Martha' co-hosts as they dish on Martha Stewart.