Kelly Ripa graces Good Housekeeping’s March cover and opens up about family life with husband Mark Consuelos and their three kids Michael, 14, Lola, 10, and Joaquin, 9. The 41-year-old talk show queen also shares her thoughts on having another baby.
On life with Mark, disciplining the kids: “[Mark is] kind of awesome. I think he makes me better. He makes everything in our lives better.” She adds that they do fight sometimes. “We argue about children, discipline, homework, good-cop/bad-cop. He says he’s the bad cop and I’m the good cop, but really they associate him with fun and after-school activities. They associate me with inoculations, X-rays, and stitches. He’s more apt to dole out discipline, but my punishments are real. I’ll take away my son’s iPod if he’s fresh. When we’re traveling, Mark will say, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to have the pilot turn this plane around.” I’ll whisper to him, “They know you can’t do that. The airline isn’t going to turn this plane around because you’re punishing the kids. You need to come up with something real.”
On having alone time with Mark: “After the kids go to bed, we have a couple of hours when it’s just us. We either talk about the day or watch one of our favorite TV shows. Otherwise, there’d be no time. We used to go away, just the two of us, for three days to celebrate our anniversary every year. I can’t remember the last time we did that. It just became too much to climb out from under the amount of homework that would pile up! Maybe when the kids are a little bit older, we’ll start again. We started having kids young, so when they leave the house, we’ll still be young enough to enjoy it. Of course, thinking about that makes me panic. I can’t even let myself go there.”
On having a fourth child: That’s the one constant discussion in our house. The kids are always asking, “When are you going to have another baby?” I don’t want to gild the lily. We’ve been so lucky. Our children are healthy and happy. My job is ideal for raising children, but now I have three kids with after-school activities and homework.
When I think about how our three got here — we didn’t actually think about it, we just did it. But now we’re grown-ups, and I think about a lot of things, not just How will I get to a soccer game outside in February with a baby? I’m 41, and they start giving you the “advanced maternal age” warning at 35, so it scares me. I think about adopting. There are so many children who need homes. Then again, I think about the best-case scenario — not just for us, but for my children. I want to make sure my preteen daughter isn’t raising a newborn because I’ve got to take Michael to a track meet. Of course, there are babysitters, but I would want to devote the same amount of time to a new addition to the family that we were able to devote to these three.”
On helping the kids with homework: “With our 14-year-old, we’re not involved anymore because he’s outclassed us. We can no longer help him. Our son’s schoolwork looks crazy to us. I feel terrible for him, because he should have parents who can help him. I look at him and have to say, “I’m sorry, I’m a talk show host; I just don’t know how to do that.” Joaquin, who’s in third grade, is the only one we can still help homework-wise with a level of assuredness. The kids know they’re smarter than we are at this point, but they still have to maintain their grades or else they’ll be punished. Mark and I still make sure we maintain that level of control.”
On punishing the kids if they don’t keep their grades up: “We don’t let them watch TV during the week anyway, but [if we need to punish them] we’ll take that away on the weekends. We have a computer in the kitchen, the common area, and it’s usually used for homework, but on the weekends they can FaceTime with their friends. We’ll take that away — which is like taking oxygen out of my daughter’s lungs. The fact that she doesn’t have a cell phone has ruined her life. She’ll be 11 in June, and according to her, she’s the only one of her friends who doesn’t have a cell phone yet. But I don’t believe that!”
On the key differences between raising boys and raising girls: “For one thing, parent-teacher conferences are night-and-day experiences. We sometimes say Lola’s parent-teacher conferences are what get us through the boys’. However, at home our boys are no work — they play nicely together, they’re peaceful, they never fight. Whereas the school describes our daughter, and I’m in shock: They say she’s an angel, the peacemaker. I’m thinking, You’ve got to be kidding me. I once watched her walk up and kick her brother in front of me, then turn around and say she hadn’t done it, with such conviction. Those are the differences. And for whatever reason, she smells better.”
On if she embarrasses Michael: “No, I respect [his wishes]. Well, OK, the only reason I’m telling you this is that he doesn’t read this magazine. This year he said, “I’m the only kid at school who gets dropped off and whose mother picks him up. I don’t want that anymore.” I said, “Fine.” Now, when the bus comes, I wait on the opposite corner, across the street, and I watch him walk home with his friends. He doesn’t know I’m there. He’s never seen me. I’m literally like a cat burglar following him home. In my opinion, when you take your eyes off them, sometimes they can get in a lot of trouble. He’s a very sweet kid, but I still hold on to that little ounce of keeping an eye on him. I do it my way, so he doesn’t have to know. He still has his freedom, but it’s a monitored freedom. I’m sure there will be a parenting expert reading this and saying I’m doing it wrong. I read that book How to Hug a Porcupine [by Julie Ross] — it’s my parenting bible. They say you have to trust your children and give them freedom. I say, OK, but this is New York City!”
On losing it in front of her kids:: “Not too long ago I came home late, I hadn’t eaten dinner, and a babysitter was there. She said, “They were great; they were absolute angels,” and she left. Then a riot broke out — they got out of bed; Lola and Joaquin were hitting each other and screaming. I was separating them, and then Lola wanted me to read her a story. I said, “No, I have to eat dinner, and you need to go to bed.” Then Joaquin said, “If you read her a story, you have to read me a story!” And Michael’s like, “Mom, can I order a movie on iTunes?” I just broke down crying in front of them, which I had never done before. They reacted in a way that was so peculiar. The two boys retreated to their rooms and shut their doors. My daughter was like, “Oh, Mom, do you want me to rub your head?” I was like, “No, I want you to go to bed. I need to eat dinner.” That’s the only time I’ve really lost it in front of them.”
On being a regular mom: “I’m like a regular full-time mom; I just happen to work for a couple of hours while the kids are at school. I take them to all their activities. Mark is usually the later one home from work, around 6:00 P.M. We definitely share in the household chores. I do have a cleaning lady who comes and helps me, because I can’t be married to somebody who’s as OCD-neat-freakish and germaphobic as Mark Conseulos and do it myself. I need a person in there with a hazmat suit to spray bleach all over the place.”
Read the full interview with Kelly in Good Housekeeping, on newsstands February 14.