Photo Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Pillsbury
Melissa Joan Hart has officially grown up. Best known for playing a teenager on the '90s sitcoms Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hart has returned to television on ABC Family's Melissa & Joey, and this time she's not only playing an adult, but one who's also raising two kids.
The irony? In Sabrina and Clarissa, Hart played a teen who acted like an adult. Now she's playing an aunt who's taking care of her niece and nephew and, well, acts like a teen herself. And that's why fellow former teen star Joey Lawrence is also on the show -- to act as her character's responsible manny.
In her offscreen life, Hart, 34, has the mom role down pat. She and her musician husband of seven years, Mark Wilkerson, have two sons – Mason, 4, and Brady, 2. In an exclusive interview with iVillage, Hart confesses how she's traumatized her kids (it involves Disneyland) and says what she learned from doing Dancing with the Stars.
Growing up, did you ever have a crush on Joey?
No, because every time I ran into him, he was with a girl. Like a really hot girl that I was kinda like, "Well, he's got her." I don't think I ever had a crush on him. Plus, I didn't see him often enough to be like, "We should date."
Joey's also a dad. Who's the stricter parent?
I think he is. I think it's pretty consistent to the show. I think he's actually a little bit more disciplined with his kids. He has very straight ideas on what he wants for them. I wasn't raised in a sort of traditional way, but I think I was raised really well, but it's hard to duplicate. I feel like I'm more trying to figure it out as the moment comes and he's a little bit more, he knows what he wants for his kids.
When you were away from your kids during Dancing with the Stars, Mason wrote in a journal for you and you left sticky notes around the house for him and Brady. Is all that still happening?
The journal has kind of changed to me writing in a journal of all the things they say and everything they do that amazes me. They sit next to my bed and at night I write in their little journal about what they're doing this week or what's changed in their lives or what they've said that's funny. Mason named all of his sea animals in the bathtub last week so I grabbed the book and wrote down all the names, like Melty the Sea Otter. And I'm actually late on one; I have to write one down that he said the other day. He told me that he loved me to inside the volcanoes of Mars and back, and then the next day he said he loved me to the rings of Saturn and back.
Last August you moved to Connecticut, but you're filming Melissa & Joey in California, which you called a "killer commute" on Twitter. How are you managing the balance with your family?
I left them yesterday and I'm kind of still a little lost. I'm not really sure right now how this is going to go. And because of the nature of the business, it's like next week this could all end, but it could go on for years, so you never know which way to plan. So right now we're kind of taking it week by week.
Now that they're on the east coast, are your kids excited for the change of seasons?
My son Mason will not wear a coat. It's zero degrees out and snow's up to his waist and he won't wear a coat. Last year his school was like, "You have to send him with a hat and mittens and boots." It's so funny because we always forgot something. They'd be like, "Um, he didn't have a hat today. He didn't have boots today. He didn't have his snow pants today."
How are you feeling about Brady starting preschool this year?
I'm really relieved that I'm going to be home for that first week when it starts -- I have that week off -- because I'd be devastated otherwise. I'm really worried about him. He's not like Mason. Mason's very independent. If there's kids or toys, he's like, "See you later." But Brady is different. He needs an adult that he can lean on and whine to. He's a little more needy and that worries me with going to school. But I think he's starting to get over it so I'm really interested to see if it's going to be as bad as I predict or if it's going to be a lot easier. It really could go either way. And look, if my baby needs me, I'm going home. The show can wait.
Is Brady experiencing the terrible twos right now?
He is. He's just got this mischief in his face. It's crazy how he can look so adorable and yet be so mischievous at the same time. He and Mason just wrestle all the time and of course he usually ends up getting hurt. But he is a tough guy. Mark keeps saying he's going to be a football player. He goes at things with his head, head first and dives in. Or he does this long jump thing where he jumps with his feet in front of him and lands on his butt. He is afraid of nothing. Mason's at that age now where he's afraid of everything. We kind of convinced him at Disneyland to go on Thunder Mountain by just telling him, "It's just like a train ride." And he got a little horrified. When it ended he had this smile on his face and then it turned to tears and he's going, "I don't want to do that again." I feel like we traumatized him a little bit.
You're doing the My Sweet Sunday Moment campaign with Pillsbury to help families reconnect on Sundays -- what's your favorite thing to do as a family?
In my life, everything is so all over the place that we try to have some consistency and breakfast is usually the way we do it. At dinnertime everyone is tired and a mess and you can't get the kids to eat. But breakfast time everyone is hungry and mellow from waking up so it seems like breakfast is our best way as a family to spend time together. My husband's a big cook.
How do you and Mark stay connected, especially with all of your traveling?
We actually found time on my last hiatus, four weeks ago -- which was right before our anniversary -- to go away to Rhode Island for like three nights, which is the first time we've gone away on a vacation together since we had the babies. We spent three days doing whatever we wanted. Eating a lot, sleeping a lot, watching movies, just kind of hanging out in a beachside cottage. We find our moments. Usually it's at night after the kids go to bed.
What did you learn about yourself from Dancing with the Stars?
I think I learned that I'm not as competitive as I wish I was or thought I was. It didn't mean as much to me as I thought it would. But I was pretty upset when I got booted off because of the way it happened and the week that it happened and who it was up against. I was a little disappointed. But I also knew I wasn't doing my best. I knew I could do better. And it's one of those things you don't get a chance to ever prove yourself again. But at the same time I was glad it was over. I was ready to go home.
If you're a parent, are you stricter than you thought you'd be? Chime in below!