It is hard to believe that Melissa Joan Hart is all grown up, but the star of "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" and "Clarissa Explains It All" is married and the mother of two little warlocks of her own: Mason, 3, and Braydon, 17 months, with husband Mark Wilkerson, the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Course of Nature.
Unlike a lot of celebrity moms, Hart took her time -- more than a year -- losing her baby weight. The actress gained 55 pounds, which put her at 170 pounds -- and she is a petite 5-feet 2-inches. Now she weighs 113 pounds and she showed off her bikini body on the June 8 cover of People magazine. She will be reaching new levels of fitness now -- as it has just been announced she will join the next installment of "Dancing with the Stars!"
Despite eliminating sugar from her diet to reclaim her bikini body, Hart and her mother, Paula, went ahead with their plans to open a dessertery, appropriately named SweetHarts
. The Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based store sells frozen yogurt, gelato, candy and an assortment of baked goods.
Now the 33-year-old actress and mother talks to justmommies.com about how she does it all: wife, mother, actress and business entrepreneur.
Justmommies: You grew up the oldest in a large family -- one brother and six sisters. Did that teach you anything you use to raise your own kids?
Melissa Joan Hart: The thing is, sometimes with my kids, I act like the big sister as opposed to the mom. I am a little inappropriate with them sometimes. I have to be careful because I am the mom now, so the discipline has to come from me. That is the hard part instead of, "Mom, take care of this. He hit me." Now, I am in charge. I definitely learned from my mom how to be a good mom. From taking care of my siblings, I knew how to change a diaper and how to strap a kid in a car seat, but I didn't know when they switched from formula to food, or when you switch to food, how to get them off the pacifier. Things like that. I definitely have had to learn along the way. When you have your own, there is so much more attention required. It is not like having a sibling. But I was baby savvy, so that was good.
Justmommies: You wrote a diary for Kimberly-Clark's Pull-Ups brand diapers on potty training Mason, so what advice do you have for other moms on the subject?
Melissa Joan Hart: First, you have to know if your baby is potty ready. Signs are if they wake up dry, they are uncomfortable with a mess in their pants and if they show an interest in using the potty. My 16-month-old is already showing an interest in the potty, but I don't want to push him at all. I want to wait until he is really ready. With Mason, we started a little early and it made it more difficult. If he was ready, it would have been so much easier.
Justmommies: Isn't the second faster sometimes because they see what the older one is doing?
Melissa Joan Hart: Right. Braydon wants to sit on the potty because he sees his big brother sitting on the potty. That is definitely a thing. Yes, I think Braydon will be faster, but Mason had a hard time. He took two steps forward and one step back when it came to potty training, so it was difficult, but I would say you have to have patience and they have to be ready. Those are the two things.
Justmommies: Speaking of diaries, you kept a food journal as part of your weight-loss program. How hard was it to get off the baby weight, following the birth of Braydon?
Melissa Joan Hart: It was a lot of effort.
Justmommies: Did the offer for the People magazine bikini cover come first, or the weight loss?
Melissa Joan Hart: I had already started losing weight and they wanted to do a "Body after Baby" story, so after some discussion, they decided to do it as a cover. That meant I had to kick it into high gear.
Justmommies: What kind of diet did you follow?
Melissa Joan Hart: I cut out sugar. I started doing that sometime last year. Then, when I was done with breast feeding, I cut out dairy. Starches come and go for me. When I really want to step it up, I cut out starches. Then I started drinking more water, I made sure I got my rest, and fine tuned it: Getting rid of Ketchup and using salsa instead and making sure I didn't eat fruit after 4 p.m. I also ate a lot of fish for dinner and protein shakes for breakfast.
Justmommies: What is your workout like?
Melissa Joan Hart: I have always had a trainer. I go to his gym and I train with him like two days a week usually. We do 60-minutes of interval training, mixing weights and resistance bands. I also go to his classes a couple of nights a week. I have had him for years now, and I have a nutritionist as well, I just started to apply all the lessons they taught me over the years.
Justmommies: How hands-on is Mark as a dad?
Melissa Joan Hart: He is 70 percent. He is the one who cooks. He is the one who wakes up in the morning. He is there for every bath. He puts one of them to bed every night, if not both. I couldn't ask for a better father for my children. I really couldn't.
Justmommies: Was that something you thought about before you fell in love?
Melissa Joan Hart: I knew he was really good with his nephew, but I never thought about it. I always thought it was the job of the mom to take care of the kids. You have to do it all and the dad is there for fun. I didn't know that a father could be this wonderful.
Justmommies: Do you use a nanny?
Melissa Joan Hart: Actually, we hired a nanny when we had Braydon.
Justmommies: How does that work for you?
Melissa Joan Hart: She is their playmate. Right now she has Mason at the zoo. She is here a few hours every day, depending on when we need her, mostly in the morning, so Mark and I can hit the gym. That is our No. 1 thing that we like to do at the same time. Usually she is here when we go to the gym, she helps us give them lunch, and sometimes she will take one of them to play, or put one down for a nap. It just depends when we need her. Sometimes we go away, we will go to New York for work, and she comes with us and she is there 24 hours a day. Her job changes every single day.
We are really lucky, because the way that our careers are breaks down to a lot of time on the job and a lot of time at home. Either we get a ton of time at home, where we are here 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, or we are gone for a while and we get our work done. We get good time at both ends. When we spend time with our kids, we really get good time.
Justmommies: Do you want more than two?
Melissa Joan Hart: Probably not. We have our hands full right now. I definitely want one or two more, but I don't know how we would handle it right now. I don't know how people do it. I don't know how my mom did it.
Justmommies: You had your kids at the opening of SweetHarts, your dessertery. Do you worry about them becoming public figures?
Melissa Joan Hart: No, not really.
Justmommies: What is the toughest part of being a working mother and wife?
Melissa Joan Hart: The schedule. Trying to find time for everything and trying to make sure your children are more important than your job. Playing with them is more important than answering e-mail. That is hard to remember sometimes. That is the hard part for me: Am I going to sit and rock my child, or am I going to go read a book to him, or am I going to go outside and play on the swings, as opposed to I have to get this done, or I have to get that done. That is my biggest struggle.
Justmommies: Do you have any tips for multi-tasking?
Melissa Joan Hart: I really like to return phone calls while pushing them on the swing. That is one of my favorites, or getting them to help me return my e-mails. They love to pound on computers. I get them a computer keyboard next to me and I return e-mails, while they play on the computer.
Justmommies: You began your career when you were just four years old. Would you let your kids work?
Melissa Joan Hart: Yes, but I would say education comes first no matter what they do. If they are really interested, I will let them do it. I think Mason is an actor, but I think he is going to be an artist because he is like his dad and has a really good ear for music. He loves music in every form, from every instrument to singing, but he also likes to act and play out things with his dolls. I think he is going to be involved in the arts in some way, but he has to have an education too.
Justmommies: You recently blogged about your mom's surgery and asked for prayers from people who go to your MySpace page, so, it seems faith is an important part of your life. How do you pass that along to your children?
Melissa Joan Hart: We pray every night with the kids and at every meal. We let Mason lead us in prayer, which is really very cute. He always thanks God for dinosaurs. We go to church every Sunday, and Mason goes to Sunday school while my husband and I are in the actual service. He is learning and coloring. He thinks he is having fun, but at the same time he is learning about Jesus, religion and prayer. Braydon, too, will start that in a couple of months. Mason also goes to a Christian pre-school, which I think is wonderful and helpful. They say a prayer before snack every day and do chapel once a week. I think it is nice. It puts him around a group that has the same beliefs as his family. It makes us nice for us to make new friends within that community.