|Courtesy Working Mother|
For many couples the biggest surprise of parenthood is the strain a new baby puts on their previously rock solid relationship.
Kelly Rutherford lived it — and learned from it — following the birth of Hermés Gustaf Daniel, 3.
“I saw red flags, but I was in love,” she tells Working Mother of ex-husband Daniel Giersch.
“We tried therapy. I stayed in the marriage as long as I could so that I could look at my son and say that I tried everything.”
Noting that new moms “often need their husband’s support more than they get it,” Rutherford, 41, says that if she does harbor any hard feelings she won’t make them known to her son.
“I want Hermés to know that he’s loved in both homes. I tell him every day, ‘Papa loves you.’”
It was Hermés and his sister Helena Grace, 9 months, who motivated the Gossip Girl star to end the marriage, however.
“I realized staying would have been unhealthy for the children,” she explains, clarifying that she is “certainly not advocating divorce.”
While it is “extraordinary to share your life with someone,” Rutherford notes that at the same time, “you need communication and respect.” She adds,
“If you’re not getting that, if you’re not getting support, if your partner isn’t honoring you, then you need to think about the fact that you’re setting that example for your kids.”
Click below to learn Rutherford’s greatest wish for Helena.
Since coming to that realization, the actress has experienced some lows, including an adverse custody ruling last year.
As a result Hermés currently splits his time 50-50 between his parents, while Helena is in a “step up” plan — spending most of her hours with mom now, with more time with dad as she grows older.
“A male judge who was retiring after spending his entire career in family law didn’t agree with me that it was important for Hermés to be able to bond with his baby sister,” Rutherford laments.
“I hope that as more women become judges — and as more divorced women become judges — the family courts will change.”
There have been high points as well, however, including a new-found self-confidence in her skills as a mom.
“I’m realizing what I’m capable of doing emotionally and physically — at 41 years old! It’s great. It gives my life as a mother a whole different meaning. I have more gratitude.”
Not surprisingly, Rutherford says that her greatest wish for Helena would be “that she’s loved — and powerful as an individual. That she understands her power and how to use it.”
Greeting each morning with a family breakfast, Rutherford says that she will often take Hermés to school or to a play date. Both mother and son “love to dance to music,” she reveals, and Hermés also enjoys spending time with Helena.
Their day winds down with dinner and a bath, followed by a cartoon. “We cuddle a lot — that’s what gets us through all of this,” Rutherford says.
Playing a divorced mom on Gossip Girl has proven cathartic as well.
“It’s inspiring to play a character who doesn’t always have the right reaction,” she explains. “I think the best thing we can do for our kids is to work on ourselves.”
Adding that “if we’re healthy and happy and feel fulfilled, we’re better moms,” Rutherford says she strives to ensure that Hermés and Helena always “know that they’re loved.”
“When I’m with them, I’m fully present. I’ve noticed that when I get a phone call, suddenly things get louder in the house. So I call back later. Our kids want our attention — and they deserve it.”
As for those struggling with mom guilt, Rutherford suggests introspection. “Figure out how you can help remedy the situation,” she explains.
“Maybe it means making sure your baby is well cared for. You need to figure out what kind of mom you want to be and then find a way to be that mom. My mom worked, but it felt like she was always there for us.”
When she leaves for the set, the actress admits there are occasionally “tough moments” when Hermés will hold her leg and plead with her to stay.
Instead of rushing out the door, Rutherford says she will stop and the two talk things over. “I tell him, ‘I need you, too,’” she reveals.
“When he acts out, I don’t meet his upset with more upset. I give him a hug and say, ‘What can I do?’ and I help him find the words to express what he’s feeling.”