Tiffani Thiessen is beloved by a generation for playing Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell and Valerie Malone in Beverly Hills 90210, but today the onetime teen actor is all grown up and the mom of two children of her own. She and actor husband Brady Smith welcomed son Holt in July, joining 5-year-old big sister Harper. Despite being in the throes of those early infant days — which Thiessen says are short on sleep and filled with nonstop nursing — she made time to host an Ulta Beauty event for breast-cancer survivors on Wednesday, helping them enjoy a day of pampering. It’s a cause that hits close to home for the actress and Cooking Channel host, whose mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Thiessen talks with Yahoo Parenting about how her life and marriage have changed since welcoming baby No. 2, getting her daughter involved in the kitchen, and whether she’d let Harper follow in her footsteps to become a child actor-model.
Holt is only 3 months old, so you’re still in the thick of those early baby days. How is it going? How are you adjusting?
It’s going well — two definitely multiplies parenthood to another level. You thought you were tired the first time! I’m nursing 24/7 these days, but that’s just the way it is for the first six months to a year. I recently went back to work on my cooking show, so it’s been a lot. But you know, you wonder when you get pregnant with a second, How can I love my second child as much as I love my first? How is that even possible? But you do. You can. He’s a doll and delicious. I just want to eat him.
Tiffani Thiessen with her newborn son, Holt Fisher Smith. (Photo: Instagram/BradySmithHere)
How is life different with two kids? Do you have a different approach to parenting, knowing more the second time around?
I don’t know that it’s a different parenting approach, but each child is different. Holt is already different than Harper. But I think the biggest challenge in having two is just the split time. Now you need to divide that mommy time between two — because kids need attention 24/7. I feel bad for my husband because now he is pushed even further down the list! But he’s amazing, and we’re in it together. Right now I’m trying to make sure my daughter gets what she needs, so she’s spending a lot of time with Daddy, which is really special. But I know she needs her mommy time too. And Holt, well, he obviously needs Mom around always. So it’s hard. You get that guilt working you every now and then, but you breathe through it. Luckily, Harper is in love with her little brother, which is beautiful. We haven’t had to deal with a lot of the jealousy stuff, which I think might be a function of a bigger age difference between them than a lot of parents have. She’s in kindergarten, so she’s really into school and into being a big sister.
Harper was recently featured in photos debuting Gymboree’s new Olivia for Gymboree clothing line. You started as a model before you moved into acting as a teen. Would you let your daughter shift into acting while she’s still a kid, knowing what you do from your own experience?
My husband and I have talked about it. Right now we think her life should be about school and having no stress. Kids already have enough stress and peer pressure, and I want to limit that for her until she’s old enough to handle it. So we don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.
Tiffani Thiessen with her husband, Brady Smith, and their daughter, Harper Renn Smith. (Photo: Instagram/BradySmithHere)
You mentioned you just started filming the second season of your Cooking Channel show, Dinner at Tiffani’s. Obviously food and cooking are really important to you. Do you get your kids involved in that? How do you introduce them to cooking, and get them engaged in the kitchen at a young age, in a safe and fun way?
Harper is very interested in cooking. She takes a class at school on Fridays and is always very proud of her creations. It’s cute. She loves to bake with me and help me stir — and she likes to go to town with the salt- and peppershakers.
When it comes to eating, she was more of an adventurous eater when she was younger. Now she’s all about independence and is more set in her ways and doesn’t always want to try new things. But we encourage her to be adventurous and reward her when she is. It’s always lead by example with us — if she sees Mom and Dad eating it, she’s more likely to eat it too. Luckily she’s a good fruit and veggie eater, so we have that down.
Tiffani Thiessen’s daughter, Harper, takes a nap on Mommy’s chest. (Photo: Instagram/BradySmithHere)
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you’re spending the day supporting breast cancer awareness, prevention, and research. Why is this issue so important to you?
It hits close to home for me. My mother-in-law was diagnosed a little over a year ago and a dear friend of mine was diagnosed two months ago. This is a woman’s issue, and being a mom of two and having a lot of women in my life, it’s important to me. Breast cancer survivors are superwomen, and we want to make sure they are getting the love and support they need and also that we are raising awareness that you need to get checked and make yourself a priority so you stay healthy.
Do you talk to Harper about this already, with women in her life going through treatment? I imagine it’s a hard conversation to have with a 5-year-old.
Absolutely. That friend who was recently diagnosed, she just started chemo, so she hasn’t had to deal with the side effects like hair loss yet. I know that is something my daughter will ask about: Why doesn’t she have hair? That’s something my husband and I have discussed. How do we approach that conversation lightly? We will say that she is OK and she’s fighting a good fight. It’s touchy, and hard to know how kids will react, but we’ll approach it lightly.
Yahoo Parenting recently kicked off a big initiative to end parent shaming called #NoShameParenting. There’s so much judgment out there. What’s your advice for moms who are trying to do their best and not let shaming get to them?
I totally get it. It’s hard enough to not judge yourself. The last thing you want is other women judging you. We should all be in it together. It really does take a village to raise a child, and I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to have that support. We just need to remember that we are all trying to survive and trying to raise good kids with good morals who are happy and healthy.
(Top photo: AP Images)