Sarah Jessica Parker was at the dentist when she got a frightening call from her young son's babysitter.
"James Wilkie had eaten a food that contained peanuts," the "Sex and the City" actress and entrepreneur tells mom.me via email. "The babysitter described his symptoms—his mouth was swelling and he was coughing. Later, his breathing became labored and the babysitter saw that his throat was closing."
Those scary moments preceded a trip to the doctor, where James Wilkie, now 13, was treated with an epinephrine auto-injector and later diagnosed with allergies to peanuts and hazelnuts.
Parker wants parents to know about the risks of severe allergies and has partnered with Anaphylaxis101.com and its "Anaphylaxis: For Reel" campaign for young filmmakers to share their stories. Parker, who also has 7-year-old twin daughters Marion and Tabitha, talked to us about how that experience changed her habits, what kind of mom she is and what she wants to be remembered for most.
You also have twin daughters. How are you making them aware of their brother's allergies, and do you have to create separate eating environments for them?
When he was diagnosedas a young child, we changed our habits so he does not come in contact with his allergic triggers at home. We have made managing his severe allergies a part of our lives. With that said, we don’t ever want him or his sisters to feel like they are missing out. We still bake as a family and prepare meals together, but we do so by reading labels and making sure that we are vigilant about avoiding his allergic triggers. James Wilkie has mentioned there are certain foods he will never know what they taste like, but we all have an understanding that this is his reality.
I think the hardest part is just feeling that everyone has time alone with me. And I'm certain I fall short, all the time.
What kind of mom were you as a mom of one, and what kind of mom are you now as a mom of three?
I feel—probably like a lot of mothers who had time with their first born—that the kind of time with JW was just very different than the kind of time I have with three children. JW had a huge amount of our undivided attention. He went everywhere with us, was privy to all sorts of situations and conversations and it was just simpler. Also, we went from one child to three—overnight. It's a struggle for everyone to feel they are getting equal and balanced time from me. And vice versa, to be honest. I think the hardest part is feeling that everyone has time alone with me. And I'm certain I fall short, all the time. I don't know if this is unique to our home but there is just a huge amount of interrupting and needing to share all at the same time. I think that might change as the younger ones mature, but I suspect there will always be a struggle for the kind of time they need from me and that I want with them. And that is the biggest difference with more than one child.
In your career, you have literally worn so many hats (and shoes)! What qualities of leadership do you hope to pass along to your kids?
We talk about this a lot, frankly. I'd say the more important qualities I speak of are respect and the ability to listen. Which also should apply to our home life, especially with three children. I think listening is strangely such a difficult exercise, for all of us who have so much to share. But we are all better for what we learn from others, and it shows respect as well as plants seeds of empathy and understanding when you are willing to listen.
How do you teach your daughters (and son) about girl power?
It's not really an issue. This is a generation of children who don't assume that their gender dictates power. By the example others show of accomplishment, confidence and success in their lives, we learn and see.
Describe the moment you first felt successful.
When I didn't have to worry about groceries.
Of all your accomplishments, which one would you like to be remembered for most?
The respect and grace I hopefully show others.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and an entrepreneur to keep everything in balance?
Countless. I don't even want to think about the sacrifices. But I love being a working mother outside the home, and I think my children are proud of what I do, and see the joy and satisfaction that work brings me. I think we find balance in the way we love and spend time together as a family.
What advice would you give your younger self, as a mother and an entrepreneur?
The same I would give myself today when confronting obstacles, personal or professional: Don't sacrifice your integrity. Marry your dreams to action, and live with honor.