Annie Duke on Divorce: Don't Make Kids Pay for Parents' Mistakes

07/25/2009 at 06:00 PM ET
Ethan Miller/Getty

Celebrity Apprentice star Annie Duke is a single mom by label only. The 43-year-old is quick to point out to MomLogic that between her live-in boyfriend of four years Joe Reitman, an “extremely involved” ex-husband in Ben Duke and a nanny, she’s hardly going it alone.

“I have a relatively easy single parent life — we do support each other so much in our parenting and really do co-parent in every sense of the word,” she says of Ben. “When people ask me to speak about being a single mother, I often say I couldn’t even begin to speak upon those issues!” Emerging from their divorce unscathed is a source of pride for the one-time couple, who together are parents to Maud, 14, Leo, 11,  Lucy, 9, and Nell, 7. Annie adds,

“I wish that every divorced couple would remember this: You chose your partner, so take responsibility for that decision. Your kids did not choose their parents. Whatever wrongs your ex did to you (unless they were abusive) … don’t make your kids suffer from those mistakes.”

Annie singles out her tendency to be “overly focused” on the kids as the reason behind their split. “I think that’s what happens a lot to moms,” she muses. “Maybe I wasn’t as nurturing of the relationship.” When she found herself staying at work longer and longer to “avoid the problems at home,” Annie realized that action needed to be taken.  “I wouldn’t have gotten divorced if I didn’t think what was going on in the marriage was affecting my kids negatively,” she explains. “When I realized that it started to affect the way I parent, that’s when it was over.” The kids are “so much happier” as a result, Annie says.

Despite her foray into reality television and her successful career as a professional poker player, Annie says her public persona does not extend to Maud, Leo, Lucy and Nell. “I wouldn’t put my children on a reality show in the first place,” she insists. “If you look on my twitter feed and my website, you will see zero pictures of my children. On my blog, you will see very few mentions of my children. Yesterday, I deleted 1,000 friend requests on Facebook because there are pictures of my kids on there, and I will not accept you if I don’t know you.” While a Jon & Kate Plus 8-type show has often been pitched to Annie, she says she has always consistently declined. “With cameras on 24/7, you lose that private part of you,” she notes. “I don’t see how a family is supposed to survive that.”

“We were raising four kids and we lost our marriage. You have to really maintain focus or that gets lost. I wasn’t putting focus on having private time with my spouse. I think it’s already hard if you have eight children to NOT lose that connection … and then you put it on TV?…My recommendation would be not to put your children on camera, period.”

Click below to ready about how poker makes Annie a better parent.

Her skills as a poker player have come in handy on more than one occasion with the kids. “Most of the things you’re doing at a poker table involve looking for signs that your opponents are uncomfortable,” she points out. “You get good at doing that in a very quick timetable. So my kids have a very difficult time lying to me.” When they’re caught, the consequences are swift! “They get a much bigger punishment for lying than doing the thing itself,” she adds. There are other benefits from playing the game, however, like patience and acceptance.

“I can’t control the cards that I’m dealt, but I can control how I play the hand. That really helps you be a better mom. As mothers, we spend a lot of time focusing on things we can’t control about our children, so poker helps me do that less.”

Annie says she learned a long time ago that each of her four children are unique. “My job is to make them be polite and respectful within their personality type,” she says. To that end, Annie reveals that one of her daughters is “twice exceptional” — profoundly gifted with executive functioning issues, struggling with things like impulse control and an ability to organize information.  She had been doing well in school up until the sixth grade, Annie says, but that is when things started “falling apart.”

“Once she was diagnosed, the pieces of the puzzle started coming together. Her ADHD is mild enough that we don’t have to medicate. But we have to be careful not to escalate arguments with her. Her brain has to get back to thinking with her frontal lobe.”

Now enrolled in a school for twice exceptional kids, Annie’s daughter is thriving. “This is her right path. She’s getting straight A’s, and has become very socially successful,” Annie says. “It’s like a total transformation.”

“When you have a child that’s unhappy, it creates some anger and you end up butting heads all the time. I was spending a lot of time walking away from arguments so she could calm down. Now we are getting along better than ever.”

Source: MomLogic

— Missy

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Sarah M. on

I’m not a fan of Annie Duke and HATED her on Celebrity Apprentice, but I love her take on the things she mentioned. Yes, each child is unique. So they respond to the same things differently. She is keeping her children out of the public eye. Her take on divorce. Her take on the amount of time you put into the relationship with your spouse compared to you children. I still don’t like her, but full agree with what she’s saying!

giftbox on

I never heard of her before this post but her perspectives on parenting, marriage and partnerships is really quite smart and inspiring.

SY on

Sarah M. I completely agree with you…I HATED Annie Duke’s attitude during Celeb. Apprentice, but her philosophy about her children’s upbringing and her their father is really commendable. I also love the names she has for her kids!

giftbox on

I meant to say her perspectives ARE quite smart and inspiring.🙂

Nina on

Although i am not a fan of having a live in boyfriend, it is nice to hear how Annie Dukes makes it work. She seems to be a great mother. Good for her!

Anna on

I don’t know who this is but she is right about not putting photos of her children on twitter etc. Some celebes say they want privacy but in the mean time they are posting pics in twitter….

michelle on

I love Annie. But I have been following her & Howards’s poker careers for a while. I remember watching her play at the final table at the WSOP while 9 months pregnant.

I really like her Poker style, but this article makes me really respect her parenting style too. Good for her.

Caitie on

My mom had the exact same punishment for lying. If you lied, you got punished twice. Once for the thing you did wrong and once for lying. We learned quickly that it was better to just own up to what we did wrong in the first place!

CelebBabyLover on

Anna- I think when celebs say they want privacy, most of the time what they are saying is that THEY want to control when and how often pictures of their child come out. They don’t want the paps hounding them. I do agree somewhat, though. You can’t really have it both ways!

Anyway, I love Annie’s attitude about divorce and being friendly with her kids’ father. A lot of other celebs could-and should- take notes from her!

Ann on

She is not a “single mom”, she is a “divorced mom”

Tee on

I have never heard of her either, but I’m very impressed with this interview. I totally agree with her rules towards lying. I think she’s smart for turning down a reality show revolving around her family. I obviously enjoy seeing pictures of celebrities with their children. I wouldn’t be on this site otherwise, but I always appreciate celebrities that have boundaries when it comes to having their children in the spotlight. Above all else, I admire the fact that she recognizes that her children are individuals. So many parents with more than one child lump them all together. I think it’s wonderful that she treats them differently in accordance to their personalites and needs.

Sarah M. on

Ann – Another commentator defined ‘single mom’ very well, IMO, in regards to another post. She (sorry, can’t remember your name) said that you are a single parent if your children are in your care and you are the only one to get up with them in the middle of the night, if needed. You are the only one there to take care of them when they are with you. Regardless of the fact that the other parent is involved in their lives or not. If that is the case, then the child/ren have a ‘single mother’ and a ‘single father.’

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