She’s married with children, one of whom is autistic, and ever-so-busy balancing the demands of motherhood and success. (“The Talk” is a hit!) Somehow, the devoted mother of four finds the time to work a full time job, fight to raise autism awareness, parent her kids, and maintain a long and happy marriage. We call it magic; she calls it life.
What’s her secret? You know we had to ask. We sat down with the “Art of Giving” honoree to discuss motherhood, marriage, work, and everything in between.
ESSENCE.COM: How long have you and Rodney been married? It feels like forever. What’s that like?
HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE: Yes, we’ve been married for almost seventeen years. It’s very happy. We’ve had our ups, our downs; we’ve had lots of things happen in our life we didn’t expect. We had these great twins and this great love story and then autism came and kicked us in the gut. Rodney retired from football, which was another transition. Some players retired to the golf course, but he retired right to the carpool lane – and proud of it.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you two do it? Make it work, that is.
HOLLY: One of the biggest things is that we’re really fortunate because Rodney and I are really good partners. When one is up and the other one is not, we support each other.
I think that as a couple, our priorities are different than some of the other celebrities in town. Are our kids happy? Do we have a house to live in? How’s our charity going? Those are the things we look at to gage success. We have a very different gauge of success, I believe. There was a little dry spell for me when I wasn’t on TV, but I was like, you know what, I’m raising this money for autism and we are embracing this mission and speaking on behalf of thousands and thousands of families that don’t have a voice. That feels successful to me. Some people get excited when they meet a big star. For me, meeting the philanthropic stars, like Marian Wright Edelman, are the ones that get me excited.
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ESSENCE.COM: What do you admire most about Rodney?
HOLLY: His pride in being a father. It’s a very sexy trait. When the twins were born and he would sleep with them and cuddle with them it was so special. Just watching him with his kids and discovering a new love. It really used to get me so teary-eyed. Now it’s watching him in the backyard with his son or watching him give my daughter some advice that she doesn’t want. Just him investing himself as a dad and taking pride in that makes me admire him as a man.
Now, I don’t want to make the picture look too rosy because we fight, we have our stuff. We have ups and downs and we have issues on all levels just like all families do, and all couples do. The reality is that I find the more you focus on what is really positive about your relationship the better. I remind myself to compliment him.
Every now and then I send him a random text like, “You look cute today” or “I love you.” When you’ve been married this long it can be hard, but you work at it. When you get mad there are so many little things you can say, but every now and then I send that sweet little text to show that I appreciate him and I’m thinking about him. The beauty is in the little details. It’s the little things in that you do in relationships. For my kids, I’ll leave these corny little notes – sometimes drawings – in their lunchboxes. I’ll write I love you, or draw a picture or something. They love it.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you and Rodney still have date night?
HOLLY: We do! We still try to drop by a hotel or something and have my mom come over. It doesn’t have to be anything really extravagant. People tweet me, and go, “You talk about your date nights, but I can’t go to The Peninsula.” I was like, you don’t need to go to The Peninsula, you can go to a Holiday Inn Express. All you need is each other.
I always say you can bring some pretty little pillows and rose petals and dress up the bed wherever you go. You can spend like twenty dollars and make it work. You go, get your stuff, and you prep that room for love. It doesn’t have to be some big, lavish spa weekend. You can create romance anywhere. All you really need is him, candles, and massage oil.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you and Rodney keep in touch when you’re on the go?
HOLLY: We use Twitter. We have Twitter wars. Especially around football season. I might be a bigger fan than him – I’m not sure how that happened, but it did. He’s more of a casual fan, but I’m like all over the news. I know it before him. I just love a good game. I do understand the passion of football and I love it.
On the weekends, we tweet back and forth and people are like, are y’all sitting right next to each other? On the weekends, we’ll do like #footrubbowl or #girlsnightoutbowl. We hash tag it and our followers get all invested. I cook on the weekends and I’ll tweet the pictures of my chili-lime chicken wings. I am no joke on Sundays. Rodney and I have really embraced that and I love it. That’s been a lot of fun and I love it. I get a lot of girls who say to me, “stop trying to make me like football because I just don’t like it.” That’s fine. I’m like, just have fun with him, look at it as a bonding experience.