Gossip Girl star Kelly Rutherford is returning to the small screen in the Lifetime TV movie, A Sister’s Nightmare, premiering Saturday, September 7 at 8 p.m. Centering on dark family secrets and intense sibling rivalry, Kelly reunites with Gossip costar Matthew Settle in the TV thriller.
Kelly opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her two children – son Hermés, 6, and 4-year-old daughter Helena – and her ongoing custody battle. Admitting “it’s not always easy,” Kelly gives her best tips and advice for parents who are struggling with custody and access issues.
On if she would hide a dark family secret from her kids:
KR: “Oh gosh. I think in hindsight, no, but not all of us can be healthy enough to do that in the moment. Things happen in life like these movies, and a lot of them are based on true events. I think these movies are wonderful examples of our ability to be able to work on ourselves, so that we don’t have to deal with situations like this.
Would I personally tell my kids about the situation? Yes. However, not everyone does. I probably would, but you don’t know the circumstances in which things happened. I think this woman didn’t have the confidence or the emotional ability to tell her kids.”
On what she has learned about herself through motherhood:
KR: “I am still learning about myself through motherhood. I learn every day because motherhood has changed my whole life. I learned what it was like to love and care about someone beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. Motherhood makes me want to be a better person and a better example for my children. In other words, I always knew that I wanted to be a good person, but not necessary in the way that I feel when I have little eyes looking up at me and when I have an audience looking at me all the time [laughs]. It’s a different type of pressure.”
On how parents can keep their kids confident amidst a custody battle and divorce:
KR: “It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. I think the biggest thing is to stay positive when you talk about the other parent. I also think you have to be honest, because you don’t want to lie. You want to talk to your children in a way that doesn’t have an edge to it, because that’s what they really pick up on. They will notice if mom is okay emotionally. As long as I am okay, they are okay. If I lose it, to whom do my kids have to look to for their strength? It’s important for me to stay strong and healthy.
You just have to remind yourself that you will get through it, because it goes on for a while. At the end of the day, it passes. The priority is the kids and when they have questions, I make sure to sit down and answer them. I try to be as kind and as respectful of them as possible, and I also let them know that I don’t always know either. I let them know that I’m still figuring out the situation but the one thing I do know is that their father and I love them. I let them know that we’re working it out and to enjoy each moment, whether they’re with their dad or whether they’re with me. You have to make them feel connected.”
On family time over the summer:
KR: “We went to the Hamptons for a few weekends. My son is really into DJing and wants to be a DJ, so we got him a DJ board. Alexandra Richards was DJing one night, so we went to this event at the beach, roasted marshmallows, and he got to watch her DJ. It was so much fun for him. He also had a DJ lesson with a top DJ named Steve Porter.
My daughter also had ballet classes and French classes, and they both had piano all summer. We just tried to have fun and do what they wanted to do, and we got away a little bit here and there. They loved being in the city.”
On the differences between raising a son and raising a daughter:
KR: “I don’t know if there are any differences in the way you approach raising them. They are so different that you have to adjust, at least in my case. I don’t think about raising them differently, it’s more that I have to adapt to the differences that actually exist in having a son and a daughter.
In some ways, my son is way more sensitive than my daughter and my daughter is tougher than my son. In other ways, my son is into certain things that are so ‘boyish’ and my daughter is into things that are ‘girlish.’ You can’t make any predictions. She loves pink and purple, and I might say, ‘What about this blue?’ To this she will say, ‘No, it has to be pink.’ In the beginning when they are babies, there is not much of a difference. However, when they get bigger, there are those differences that you have to take note of.”
On being an activist for mothers dealing with child custody issues:
KR: “A lot of it was just coming out with what I was going through. I wanted to say, ‘You’re not alone and this isn’t just happening to moms in the middle of nowhere with nothing.’ This is happening all across the board and to people you wouldn’t think it would happen to. I think we all sort of feel alone in the process and when people come out publicly about their personal life, it helps other people because they realize they are not alone. When other people reached out to me and talked about what they were going through, it certainly helped me. Obviously, as this thing plays out, I’ll be able to do more and more.”
On what she thinks about the controversy over gay parents raising children:
KR: “I think it’s hard for anyone to raise children. You can’t really say that whether someone is gay or straight will make him or her a great parent or not. Let’s face it, there are probably gay parents who are great and gay parents who are not great. Likewise, there are probably straight parents who are great parents and straight parents who aren’t great parents. I don’t think it has much to do with whether you’re gay or straight — it’s more about how you’ve worked on yourself so that you can really be present for your children.
The more generous we become, and sometimes that happens with age, the more we can be present and patient with our children and not put our stuff on them. What we need to do for the next generation is do the healing on ourselves so that we can be better parents. In my opinion, being a gay or straight parent doesn’t really matter.”
On her relationship with her sibling and children:
KR: “I have a great relationship with my brother. When we were younger, of course we annoyed each other just like my kids do at times. I think it was the amount of time we spent together and whether we wanted attention. It’s also learning how to communicate with each other when we’re younger and creating boundaries, which takes a little while. My mother also taught us to love each other. Even though there were times where we didn’t like each other or what the other person did, we would still love each other. That really helps, and I say the same thing to my kids. I tell them, ‘You may not like what he or she is doing right now, and that’s understandable, but it doesn’t change the fact that you love your sibling.’”
On ways to handle working mom guilt:
KR “It all goes by so fast that we don’t really have time for guilt. A lot of it is being where you are — when you’re with your kids, you need to be totally present. Likewise, when you’re working, you need to be totally present unless there is something you need to attend to for your children, which would become the priority.
I think we need to enjoy the time we’re at work and set everything up so our children are attended to and happy. And when we’re with our kids, that’s where we want to be and don’t need to be somewhere else. In my case, the benefit was waiting until later to have kids, because I had worked a lot, traveled a lot, and done a lot. I never feel like I’m ever missing anything when I am with my kids; I feel like they are my priority.”
On how she doesn’t let her social media and ‘tech life’ affect her family life:
KR: “No, it’s actually a role reversal. I have to try to get my kids to give me my phone back [laughs]! I have the opposite situation; I can’t get my kids off the games on my phone. I’m the one who has to say, ‘Hey, remember me? Hello! Let’s spend some quality time together!’ They are only four and six years old, and it’s actually me who has to say, ‘Hey, don’t you feel a little guilty you aren’t spending time with your mom?’” [laughs]
On how she got into character for A Sister’s Nightmare:
KR: “It wasn’t easy, as it was a strange role for me. I kind of walked into the role of Lily van der Woodsen and it was a lot of fun because she was a very different kind of mother that what we’ve seen on television. I think that the mother in A Sister’s Nightmare is much more neurotic, as she is dealing with different issues. She’s not just dealing with who to love and this and that; she’s dealing with family issues and her upbringing. There was a lot more work that needed to be done with this character. My co-stars Natasha and Peyton were incredible and made it very believable for me and made it work.“
On the hardest part of making the film:
KR: “I think that the type of mother I played was very different than the other mothers I played. She makes very different choices than I would or the other characters that I played would. In that way, it was exciting and challenging at the same time. I think that was the big thing. Also, playing a police officer was really fun.”
On what attracted her to the role:
KR: “I think it was just doing something very different than what I had done before. I played the same character in Gossip Girl for almost six years, and it was nice to do something that was a big contrast to that character. I liked getting out there and doing something different and new.”
On whether she has plans to return to primetime TV:
KR: “Yes, I am actually doing a new show on CBS called Reckless. I am doing just a few episodes right now, but we’ll see what happens. I love primetime, and it’s a great show that I’m excited to be a part of.”
On which bonding activities she likes doing with her kids:
KR: “Everything! We do many activities together. Right now we have all these fun workbooks that prep my kids for the new school year. They are books you can pick up at local bookstores that help kids review the last school year’s topics so they can go into the new year feeling more confident and like they’re rehearsed and know what to expect. I’ve been working with them on that a lot.
We do so many fun things, such as go to the park or go swimming. Today we had a swim lesson, and sometimes Hermés wants to go with me separately to the market if he just wants ‘mom time.’ I think that as a parent, you realize that every day is a new day that brings different things. You just have to be in the moment a lot. We love doing everything from going to ballet class together, reading together, doing workbooks together, or watching a move together. We all have this ritual where we pick a movie to watch in the evening, have a little snack, and curl up before bed. You just do what you can and do whatever works in your own life.”