Dr. Jenn Berman, lead therapist and host of VH1’s Couple’s Therapy, has had a remarkable career over the last 20, plus, years. The licensed psychotherapist has counseled some of the biggest names in Hollywood; she’s appeared as a psychological expert on hundreds of TV and radio programs; she’s a regular on The Today Show, The Early Show and CNN; She hosts a daily call-in advice show on Sirius XM; she’s a best-selling author, and award-winning columnist, plus, she has an eco-friendly clothing line for adults, children and infants called Retail Therapy, and, on top of all of that, the amazing Dr. Jenn is mommy to 7-year-old twin girls. We’re grateful that we had the priviledge of speaking with this multifaceted mother of two.
So, what inspired you to go into counseling? I was a journalism major in college, and for a final project in my class we had to do a story on an issue and I chose date rape on college campuses. As I was doing the story I began to realize what a huge problem this was, and I come from a real activist background and felt like I had to do something. So, I did my last semester in Los Angeles, and I volunteered as a rape and battery hotline counselor, and as soon as I started doing that I realized I had found my calling, and I went and got licensed.
And how did your practice reach celebrities? I got into therapy to be a therapist and that just happened. My office is in Beverly Hills and I just attracted that clientele, however I have celebrity and non-celebrity clients. I grew up with an entertainment industry background so I have a really deep understanding of the way the industry works and the psychology behind it, so word just spread from celeb to celeb.
You’re a mom to 7-year-old twin daughters, Mendez and Quincy. How was that transition back to work when you first had them? It was very challenging, but my first year as a mom was particularly difficult. Both of my daughters were born with severe reflux and severe colic, and they were very ill for the first nine months. I had Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurses at my house. And, because my kids were so sick at the beginning, I was excited to get back to work because you feel very helpless when you have new babies, especially two babies and two sick babies, whereas at work you’re confident and know what you’re doing and you feel a sense of self-efficacy, and as a new mom it takes a long time to develop that sense.
How did you get in quality time with the kids? First of all, I transitioned back. I started going into the office one night a week. I changed my hours dramatically. I used to go in late and work until eight at night, or ten at night but that changed after I had kids. And, I started doing phone sessions pretty soon after I gave birth because I wanted to be home near my kids and work around their sleep schedule, but I also had worked 20 years to develop a private practice and I didn’t want to lose everything I’d work so hard to gain. I felt very conflicted. It was a very tough first year.
And, your book, Rockin’ Babies, spawned out of this challenging situation. Tell us about it. My mom came over every single night to help feed them, which was a very lengthy process because of the reflux. One night we started joking and saying ‘these babies are like rock stars’ and we started doing all these play on words and entendres, and I started writing them down, and I said, ‘I think we should write a book.’ So, my mom and I did Rockin’ Babies together and I got it sold. It’s a fun and sophisticated book that parents can appreciate and kids really like too. (Dr. Jenn’s mother is Grammy Award winning songwriter Cynthia Weil)
When you wrote your next book, SuperBaby, what was your work schedule like? Well, typically I find that nighttime is a really creative time for me. So, when I was writing SuperBaby I would put the kids to bed then start working. For four months I was up until 4am working, and my kids had just started pre-school so I had to get up at 7am. I was averaging three hours of sleep per night.
And, did mommy-guilt ever come into play? I think as a working mother you always feel some mommy-guilt. I think I probably have more mommy-guilt now than I did when they were babies. I have a more demanding schedule. I’m always doing my best to balance it and sometimes I do a great job and sometimes not so much. I’m always trying.
What do you think is the most effective discipline method? I love the Positive Discipline series. It’s a really great way for parents to develop a mutually respectful relationship with their kids. I don’t believe in spanking; I don’t believe in hitting; I don’t believe in violence.
What’s some practical advice you can give moms struggling to find balance? On Oprah Radio I get a lot of calls about this issue. I think it’s something that all moms struggle with, and particularly working moms. The mistake made is that moms don’t take care of themselves and their marriage, and for so many people it’s all about the kids. A lot of times I find myself giving instructions to moms, and I know it sounds cliché, but you need a date night with your husband, because you need face-to-face time. It’s too easy to go into mommy and daddy mode. It’s important to refuel the emotional gap tank, and part of how you do that is by taking care of yourself and taking care of your relationship.
And, what about moms who feel like they’re doing the bulk of the workload in the house? Come up with a system that is more equal. A lot of moms think that if they don’t do it it’s not going to be done right, and we have to let go of the notion of having things done our way. Father’s need to bond with their kids, and feel confident as dads. And, we don’t feel confident without experience.
You’re a mom who happens to co-parent. What advice could you offer to mothers trying to do that cohesively with an ex? I’m very fortunate that my ex-husband and I are on really great terms. He’s a wonderful man and a spectacular father. We made a commitment when we got divorced to put our kids first. Once a week we sit down with a therapist who is a specialist in children and divorce, and we do co-parenting sessions together and we agree that she is always our tie-breaker. We work hard to keep his house and my house as consistent as possible. Our kids eat at the same time; they go to bed at the same time; they have the same wash-up ritual. We try to do that the best we can, and at the same time there are some things that are different. If you try to treat your ex with respect it’s more likely you’ll get respect. Kids are part you and part that other person. So, if you criticize that person it’s like you’re criticizing your kid. It’s important to do your best to honor and respect the relationship with your ex.
That’s good advice. What suggestions do you have for moms who need relief? I believe that every family should have three reliable babysitters; and you need to do whatever you can to have that, whether you’re getting them finger-printed, interviewing them, whatever it is, you should have three people you can count on, especially if you’re a single parent. Also, kids must have a consistent bedtime that’s not too late. You can hire a babysitter during that time, and let the kids know you’re going out. Or, find another couple or single parent who has a similar parenting style and alternate, and work something out with them, so you can all get a break.
Because you’re a therapist people assume you have all the answers and that it’s easier for you to parent. Is that an accurate statement? I think that I know what to do and read all of the books, but I’m also human. I have moments where I lose my cool, or where I get frustrated, but I do my best with the resources that I have. I’ve gotten to talk to some of the best therapists in the field but at the same time, I’m only human.
What are some of your favorite mommy-time moments? Favorite thing… I have a really great bathtub, and I have a TV and DVD player in my bathroom. I have this delicious-smelling bath stuff, and I love to watch Sex and the City reruns.
What’s next for you? I have exciting TV projects on the horizon that I can’t talk about right now. I’m excited about Couples Therapy and optimistic about Season 5 coming back.
To purchase any of Dr. Jenn’s products CLICK HERE: