TV’s top mom Challen Cates, lights up the small screen on Nickelodeon’s No. 1 live-action musical-comedy Big Time Rush as Jennifer Knight, mother to the hockey-playing, reluctant boy band member Kendall, and his younger sister Katie.
Challen opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her two kids – son Colton, 8, and daughter Jasper, 5 – who are “into everything.” She goes on to talk about her Pinot Noir wine from Tantara Winery, set to be released this fall, and she shares her best tips for balancing work and motherhood.
CBS: How has being a mom prepared you for your role as Jennifer Knight in Big Time Rush? How does your TV family life resemble life at home?
CC: “I completely understand her point of view – it’s about doing what’s best for your kids and always coming from a place of love. Truly, the backbone of her character is love of family. So whatever crazy situation the writers put me in, I know she is doing it because she wants to make her kids happy. I can totally relate because I find myself doing the exact same thing in my real life – comedic pratfalls included!”
CBS: How does it feel to be part of the third longest running live-action series in Nickelodeon TV history? What sets the show apart from other things airing on TV these days?
CC: “I’m very proud of the success of the show and that the audience cares so much about the characters and relationships.
BTR is a very broad comedy but it also has a big heart. The music is another thing that sets the show apart from other things on the air right now. Scott Fellows did a great job of incorporating a lot of the music into each episode so that the audience has a relationship with the music as well as the characters.”
CBS: Being married to actor Aaron McPherson, are there stresses put on your relationship that other couples don’t face? What is your secret to building a solid marriage and family?
CC: “We make a conscious effort to do things together as a couple, and also as a family. We all love being together more than anything so that is always our goal — to spend time together creating special memories.
Aaron and I also understand the importance of keeping the romance alive, so we find one-on-one time to nurture our relationship. Gotta keep those home fires burning! Date nights and staycations are a must.”
CBS: What are your kids into these days? What are some of your favorite things to do with them? What’s it like for them to watch you be a mom on TV?
CC: “They are into everything! Colton is really loving baseball right now, and Jasper is into dance and musical theatre. Honestly, she wakes up singing and doesn’t stop until she falls asleep – it’s like her life is one big, beautiful musical. It’s so amazing to experience things through your kids eyes, so we try to explore as many parks, monuments, sports, activities, and arts as possible.
It’s completely normal for them to see me as a mom on TV. Jasper was 11 months when I started on BTR, so it’s really all she knows. She often tells people, ‘This is my mom, and she’s also a mom on TV.’ I love that Colton and Jasper also consider Kendall (Kendall Schmidt) and Ciara (Ciara Bravo) to be part of our extended family.”
CBS: Has motherhood changed you at all? What has surprised you about being a parent?
CC: “Motherhood has completely changed me! My life with children feels like a brand new, amazing, fulfilling adventure. So many things surprise me about parenthood, most of all, the fact that you never ever stop thinking about your kids. Even when they aren’t physically in my presence, they are on my mind. That, and the lack of sleep [laughs]. Whew, I’m tired, but I wouldn’t trade the exhaustion for anything.”
CBS: Summer is approaching. Tell us about some of your favorite vacation destinations. Do you have special plans to get away this summer?
CC: “We try to have one big summer getaway, but this summer Aaron is doing a play in L.A. so we will probably do several shorter journeys. Some of our favorite spots are Park City, Utah (to see the cousins), Ojai & Santa Ynez, California, Mexico (for the beach) and Virginia (when I’m homesick).”
CBS: Between helping with your family’s vineyard and acting, how do you find balance with work and family? What advice would you give other working moms?
CC: “After helping my parents with their winery (Tantara Winery), I decided to start my own, which I’m really excited about. I just bottled my first vintage of Challen Winery Pinot Noir with the help of my winemaker father, Bill Cates. I will be releasing the 2012 vintage this fall.
Finding balance and prioritizing is always a working moms biggest challenge. Family is my first priority, but I also need to feel productive and creative – being creative makes me happy and a happy mom is a better mom.
Some of the things that work for us are:
1. Going over the next day’s schedule: My husband and I go over our next day’s schedule together so that we can support each other and the kids.
2. Me Time: For me, it’s waking up a few minutes before everyone else to enjoy my coffee in peace, or going for a 20-minute run before dinner. Those little things clear my head and keep me calm.
3. Have a support group: I have a few mom friends I know I can lean on in a pinch – say, if I’m running late for afternoon pick up.
4. Don’t over schedule: I totally understand the feeling that you need to do everything, but sometimes it’s healthier to say ‘no’ to some things. Pick the things that you really need to do and that make the biggest impact – you will breathe easier.
5. Give yourself a break: I used to be so organized and tidy. I had to just give into the fact that my house is not going to be spotless and completely neat. And, really, who cares? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time having fun with your family?!”
CBS: Do you have any new projects coming up that you’d like to share with us?
CC: “Chasing The Devil is currently available On Demand, A Million Ways to Die in The West premieres May 30th, and I’m starting on a new web series called Namaste Bitches playing a control freak vegan. And Challen Pinot Noir will be available in September. Cheers to that!”