Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe may be big Hollywood stars, but their busy schedules don’t keep the pair from prioritizing quality time — with their kids, Sophie, 17, and Nicholas, 15, and with one another. The two are sometimes lucky enough to even work together, including on their recent Lifetime movie Safe Space, which Nicole starred in and Boris directed.
Their latest collaboration is off-camera and involves something not as sexy and dramatic as Hollywood storylines, but important nonetheless — cleaning. The couple has partnered with P&G in support of the brand’s Bounty paper towels and Microban 24 cleaning products. ESSENCE talked to them about that, as well as how they bond as a couple after nearly two decades and two children together.
ESSENCE: What is your cleaning routine and how do your kids participate now that they’re older?
Nicole Ari Parker: Boris came to the marriage very organized and very clean and I came in very messy, but not dirty. I have a lot of stuff and Sophie got that trait. So now there are four adults in the house – almost. Nicholas is 15 but he’s 6’5″ and wears a 14 shoe. And Sophie is a full-on self-contained human adult who goes to college.
There’s a lot of cleaning that we have to do and we have to work together as a team. And so our cleaning game has really kicked up a notch in the last, I’d say five years. It’s really about the surfaces where those bacteria live. We’re not fanatical about the whole house. And so Bounty called with Microban 24 at the height of [us] trying to keep everyone safe, put down that extra layer of protection, and figure out a simple routine that the kids can be a part of. So, you just take the Bounty, you spray the Microban 24 on your surfaces, and you wipe it clean and then you spray it again and walk away.
With our son being an athlete, there are a lot of gym bags and shoes and water bottles at the door and sunglasses and Sophie’s things and my things. And so our front door and our common areas are really my focus, then we just pass that down to the kids, so they’re used to those routines as well. But since they were little, we were always the “make your bed,” “clear the table,” “hang up your coat,” kind of family.
What would you say cleaning or a clean home does for your mental health and well-being?
Boris Kodjoe: I think that’s a really good question. And now that you say that, I think it’s very important because I think clutter creates anxiety, at least for me. When there’s too much clutter, I get a little bit uncomfortable. So having a routine as we do have with Microban 24 and Bounty helps me personally keep mindfulness around the house. And that’s important when you have a busy life as we do.
What is a practice that you have to help you be present and live in the moment?
Boris: I like to go downstairs to the gym. I meditate, I do my breath work and I work out and I do that away from the phone. We’ve been so programmed to be addicted and dependent on devices that it’s scary when you look at your phone at the end of the day and you check-in. There’s a thing where you can check how much time you spend on the phone, and it’s like nine hours. So, to get away from the phone, to spend some time with yourself in your own space, for me, it’s super important. And we try to do that as a family as well.
Can you share one family tradition that you guys like to embrace in your household?
Boris: Definitely dinner. Every night we have dinner together—-no phones, no nothing. It’s just us cooking and then we’ll have dinner together. And we talk about everything. In the last three years with the various pandemics, it was important for us to connect and have that space and that time.
Nicole: Also, everyone’s processing what’s happening differently and I’d like to make sure my kids had an outlet and a way to process what’s going on from their point of view.
As a couple, what would you say is one thing that you guys like to do together to keep you connected?
Nicole: We do lots of traveling. I think that’s been our love language. We travel so well together. And he’s from Germany and Ghana, so when the kids came, we were a traveling family. We would go to see their grandma and their grandfather. It was really part of our lives.
I think also, we’re trying to slowly–you might be the first to know this–do what they all say about that morning breath work together. We haven’t perfected it. It sometimes ends with laughing. It doesn’t have to be long, but we’re slowly trying to breathe together.
Boris: My sister-in-law is a breath coach, Nicole Kodjoe. You can check her out on Instagram. She’s an amazing breath coach who’s taught us a lot about breathing and the healing properties of that.
Your kids are a lot older now. What do you like most about this stage?
Boris: Just to see them grow and explore the world on their own. It’s just a fantastic experience to be able to witness that and all the things that we try to teach them and taught them to sort of manifest in their characters.
Nicole: I think for me, keeping it real now, it has really allowed me as a parent to exhale. You know, age appropriateness determines what you can say and teach them and not scare them about the world or give them too much information in a phase that they’re not in yet, but now they’re saturated with so much information that I feel like I can use my whole being as their mother. Like, ‘This is the way this is,’ or ‘This is what you do in this situation.’ Or ‘Let’s talk about where you’re coming from and what you’re experiencing.’ I feel like I have two really great smart people in my house that I can actually parent and be there for them.
After almost two decades, what would you say your strength as a couple is? What makes you a dynamic duo?
Boris: I think that we are continuously evolving and getting to know each other even better. It’s trial by error. It’s putting effort in every single day, it’s work, but I found my person. So there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to share my life with her. So yeah, I think that that would be it. To continue to get to know each other better, more intimately, and deeper. And more joyfully as well.