Child star Melissa Gilbert came to fame in 1974 when she played Laura Ingalls on NBC's "Little House on the Prairie." Now the actress and mother of seven can add children's book author to her list of accomplishments.
Recently, Gilbert stopped by a Mamarazzi event in Manhattan hosted by Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein of The MOMs, a lifestyle brand that's featured on TV, online and in print, to talk about her new children's book, "Daisy and Josephine" (Simon & Schuster; $17.99). I was able to catch up with her about her latest projects, her children and more. Here's what she had to say:
Q. You have a large extended family. How old are your children?
I have a big "yours, mine, ours" family. I have six boys and one girl, ranging in age from 18 to 32. None of my children refer to themselves as half sister or brother. Rumor has it there are a couple of them who are going to try to make me a grandma this year. I think the whole reason for having children is to get grandchildren.
Q. What inspired you to write "Daisy and Josephine"?
A few years ago I had a deal to write about my dog. We always had fun dressing her up here and there, so I knew I was going to write a book about her. The girl [in the book] is me as a little girl. I wanted to write a story for families who aren't typical families -- one mommy, one daddy, a foster family. I thought about my father and how I used to go on the road with him before starting school. The story is really about having the courage to take just one brief moment of bravery to say "hello" and you can make a friend for life.
Q. In the book, Daisy's favorite person is her father. Who was your role model growing up?
I only had my father until I was 11. I always wanted to be like him. After he passed away, I had Michael Landon. I even felt a little bit of Michael Landon as a father figure while I was writing the book.
Q. Did your role as Laura Ingalls on "Little House" help prepare you for motherhood?
I think to a certain extent. What I got from the show is what everyone else got: Family, faith, community, love -- are the things we all strive for, even if your family is a close circle of friends. It's important to be a loving, kind and generous (in spirit) type of person. I carried that with me from the show and more so in all the other encounters I've had in my life.
Q. You've been an actress since childhood. How did you learn how to balance work and life -- and when you became a mom, balancing work and family?
As a kid, it was just a given. I learned my lines as I did my homework. It didn't seem unusual, it just was. Learning to juggle a career and motherhood was hard -- it was a no-win situation. I felt horribly guilty when I was working and when I was home, I felt guilty that I wasn't earning. I just found a way to make it work.
Q. What's your favorite way to spend down time as a family?
We like to play Cards Against Humanity. We laugh our butts off. When the kids were little we played Candy Land -- and it will be Candy Land again with my grandchildren!