Photo: ABC via Getty Images
As precocious Lily Tucker Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, sassy Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, 7, is always stealing the scene. Her mother, Amy Anderson, is familiar with the phenomenon. When the comedian, 42, took Aubrey to audition for Modern Family in 2011, the preschooler got the gig with zero experience, becoming a star at age 4 and giving Anderson a new role: Stage mom. After 13 years in Hollywood – appearing on Comedy Central, the Fox television show Raising Hope and creating the first Asian-American stand-up showcase, Chop-SHTICK – the single Minneapolis native put her dreams on hold to support her daughter. In an exclusive, Anderson opens up to Yahoo Parenting about the pressure of constantly re-defining her life, becoming a homeschool teacher, and how she worries (a lot) about what comes next.
This is not at all how I thought my life would look. For almost 18 years, I’ve worked on my acting career and then put everything on hold to help my daughter Aubrey, which has been hard. I’m not resentful but I do struggle with it. Part of me is OK with just trying to plan ahead and lay groundwork for future projects, instead of actively pursuing them, but the other part is just like, ‘What the hell am I doing?’
It was exciting in the beginning. Ten days after we decided that Aubrey was going to audition for Modern Family, she was signing a contract. It was such a whirlwind, that we just ran with it. She was so little, I had to be there — she couldn’t cut her own food or put on her shoes when she started the show. That year, I also did well as a comedian but balancing my job and hers almost killed me. By the end of the Modern Family season, I’d been traveling nonstop while also being a stage mom and a regular mom, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I’m going to die.’
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Although I had a live-in nanny and shared custody with Aubrey’s dad, it was still tough. I’d catch a red eye from LA to any given city, do a show, come home 24 hours later and head straight to the ABC lot on three hours of sleep to relieve Aubrey’s sitter. I’d spend eight hours on set, then go home and still have to do laundry, dinner, bath, and bedtime. I probably made more money than I ever had before, but it wasn’t worth it. So I decided to take myself off the road.
Photo: Joanna DeGeneres
Since then, our life since has become both crazy-difficult and wonderful. We started homeschooling last March. I must say, I went into it reluctantly, thinking, ‘Oh my god, my kid is going to be a freak.’ But it made sense — she was only attending her school three days a week during the last five weeks of production and she felt lost there. It was tough on the teachers too, so I thought, ‘Why am I putting everyone through this?’ Homeschooling has been more work for me of course, but it’s what’s best for our situation.
On stage together this year. Photo: Courtesy of Amy Anderson
The part I’ve struggled with the most has been all the time we’re required to be on set. Now that Aubrey is older and more independent, she has to work longer hours and I’m always with her, just sitting there. I’m trapped there legally. So her commitment to the series means mine has grown too.
I’ve become very close friends with other sane, nice, grounded stage parents as a result, which has been really helpful. Just like not all child stars end up in rehab, most parents aren’t the overbearing “stage moms” you hear stories about, living vicariously through their child. These friends understand what Aubrey does and their support has been really valuable for me as well. There are many positive things about Aubrey working right now: She’s on a hit show and will have a trust fund. As a mom — and as a single mom — that’s reassuring. To say, ‘Wow, I can pay for college.’ That is huge.
Photo: Courtesy of Amy Anderson
When I really think about the future though, that’s tough. I’ve started to think, What is next? What is life going to be like after this? Modern Family is in its sixth season now, so you have to look ahead. I go on auditions but I also have to assess whether or not I can really make this work with Aubrey’s work. Producers will ask me, ‘Can you really do it?’ And I honestly don’t know.
On the one hand, our situation has forced me to be pickier about the work I choose. It’s also made me constantly reinvent myself here at home. I’ve taken on more writing jobs, like my new blog.
It also helps that I’m an artist. I’m not afraid of change and I’m OK with not knowing exactly what things are going to be like day-to-day. And I’ve learned that no matter what, Aubrey and I can make things work. Life may not be what I thought it was, but we can always keep moving forward. We’re resilient and and we’re a good team. Her dad is in her life — I don’t want it to seem like he isn’t — but over these past few years, Aubrey and I have become really close. She’s my best buddy in the whole world. And getting to spend this time watching her do something she’s terrific at, has been extraordinary.
Every kid is good at something and for parents, there is no greater story than watching their kid work hard at a project and executing it with joy. I see that with her, and to be in it with her, that has been wonderful.
ABC’s Modern Family airs on Wednesday 9/8c.