Good food and family dinners are key elements in Sarah Brown's plan to empower her daughter Jordan, so that when the 10-year-old is ready to leave for college, she will not only be able to take care of herself, but do it in a healthy manner.
"We have a family meal every day," the "General Hospital" star (Claudia Zacchara), tells justmommies.com. "I love to cook. That is a huge part of my life. I feel that cooking inspires family. My dad was a great cook and we bonded over cooking. It has always been lovely for me to think, 'I am going to teach Jordan to cook.'"
Cooking has become even more important for Brown since she developed Celiac Disease. She was diagnosed two years ago and, as a result, is now gluten free. (Note: When people with Celiac Disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds in such a way that their bodies are unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment.)
When Brown first learned of her condition, which is genetic, she was too discouraged to cook, but these days, she is back in the swing of things, especially for the holidays.
"I don't eat any barley, wheat or rye, because it is our kryptonite," she explains. But that isn't going to keep her from celebrating the holidays. She continues, "We have Thanksgiving substitutes. Polenta is like a god to me and potatoes and corn. My life is about those. My whole family will come over -- my brother, his daughters, my dad and my mom and all of their good friends. We love to have a lot of food and friends and people around us for the holidays."
And while Brown may joke that her life is about potatoes and corn, it is actually about much more than that. It is about being the best mother she can be in her effort to give her daughter tools for a good life. One of the ways that she does that is by being there for Jordan.
"Before she was five years old, I wouldn't take any work where I would have to travel," says Brown, who shares custody with her ex, award-winning composer/musician Shuki Levy. "The first five years are the most important, so I had to stay local. I took months off completely just to be a mom and do Mommy and Me. I just didn't feel that I wanted to be the kind of mom who wasn't there."
Brown says that her willingness to give up acting jobs wasn't the most surprising thing about becoming a mom. Rather, learning she had patience, something she says doesn't come naturally to her, was.
"I am not a slow and steady kind of personality," she admits. "I am a little ADD and a lot dyslexic and everything is visual for me. I just move really fast and my head moves very quickly. Not always to my advantage, but that is just the way I think. But when I had my daughter, I had to stop all that and breathe. I realize from raising her that I have a lot of patience. I am a really good mom. I tell myself every day: 'You can do it.'"
These days Brown does the juggling -- her career with motherhood -- with the help of her own mother, who is back in school, working on a Masters in English. When Jordan is in school, so is her grandmother. When Jordan is home and Brown is at work, grandma steps in as the care giver.
Despite her own close relationship with her mother, or possibly because of it, Brown says that she makes sure to always be a mom; she doesn't try to be Jordan's best friend. In doing so, she also tries to be a good role model -- a person who is steady, strong and not afraid.
"To watch her mind unfold over the next 10 years is going to be the greatest joy of my life," Brown tells justmommies.com. "I can't wait. Now that her mind is formed and she has been in a great school, she is putting things together. It is astonishing and extraordinary to watch. I just love watching the human being that is emerging. I really do believe in parents helping children achieve independence in a loving way."