ORIGINAL POST January 27, 2012 RE-POST July 10, 2012 11:55 am CelebrityParentsMagazine…
NOTE: After seeing what has transpired so far with DonCaro on the Real Housewives of New Jersey, it is interesting to take a look back at her conversation with “Celebrity Parents,” which took place months ago…
What was life like prior to the Real Housewives of New Jersey?
I was a housewife. I owned a real estate company. I chose real estate so I could work around my kids’ schedules. When my kids were in school, I was a maniac showing houses. Then at 3:00, I would pick up the kids. I was a working mom/stay at home mom. But as far as they knew, I didn’t work.
I do the same thing with my kids. When they’re in school, I am working, but then I pick them up from the bus.
That’s when you learn the most about them, when they’re coming off the bus. From who they’re walking with to the expression on their faces, they’re saying so much without telling you a word. I even picked them up every day from high school, too.
Now, how did The Real Housewives come to be?
The producers came to our salon, The Chateau. They were looking for affluent, over-the-top women. The women there did not mention me. [laughs] I came on board because of Jacqueline, who lives down the street. They were doing a test clip on her and she said they should go talk to me. Generally I’m in jeans, tee, cowboy boots, and no makeup. I told her I didn’t belong on the show. I don’t watch a lot of TV, I read a lot and watch the news; I’m a political junkie! I wasn’t familiar with the series, but I did know about reality TV, and it wasn’t for me. I didn’t think I fit in. Then the producers saw the kids, and they said, “You’re the balance, so it’ll be interesting.”
What was your family’s reaction?
I told them, “Look what came up.” We have always taught our kids that you have choices in life. You can’t discard something immediately because there might be something in it. We talked about it, and agreed to do it. Had the kids been younger, I might not have done it. It’s a cruel world, and I don’t think I could have exposed them to that. Jacqueline’s kids are babies so it can’t affect them. But if my kids were in middle school and high school, I might not have done it. It puts them in an unnecessary spotlight.
You just finished filming the 4th season. How did it go?
It has been a rollercoaster of heartache. A lot of heartache and a lot of tremendous experiences. That’s why I did this. Life is a chain of experiences that you grow from or not; it’s your choice. Are you going to make it positive or run rampant from it? It was a challenging season, though. We filmed over 6 months; some weeks were just 20 minutes and others were 70 hours.
Wow. Does that get intense?
It only gets intense when I’m somewhere I don’t want to be, surrounded by nonsense. I’m not ashamed of what goes on here in this house.
What personal satisfaction do you get from being on the show?
I love to hear that I’ve helped someone. My kids are my pride and joy; I love hearing good things about them. I’ve always known it, but it’s great to hear it from so many other people! I’ll put my kids up against anybody’s.
I’m slowly navigating through the waters of fame, but I love knowing that something about me has resonated in a way that’s empowering to other people. I get letters from all over the world, people writing that because of me they fought a bully off, or they’re staying in school, or they want to be a mom like me. I get handwritten letters. Handwritten. With a stamp. Who does that anymore? It’s really wonderful and inspiring for me that I’ve made this impact on people.
I’m a huge fan of all the Housewives, but I would say that the Real Housewives of New Jersey is the most about family. And of this cast, you are truly Mama Manzo. How do you feel about that title?
I think it’s crazy; I don’t get it. I don’t see what’s so special about me. There are millions of me out there. I just happen to be on television.
When I see you, I see a version of my mom. The Italian mom with the big blue eyes, the tremendous love for your kids, but at the same time you take no crap, and you push them to be the best they can be. I relate to that style of parenting because that’s what I grew up with.
And I think that’s not common now. The moment you’re carrying a child—that’s the moment your life changes. You can’t hit rewind when you’re raising a family. Is it that important to go out to dinner when your child needs you? These are things that scar. It’s the most important job you’ll ever have.
I think some people think you parent until your child turns 18, but as they get older you realize that they need you more.
They definitely need you more. Because they’re going out into the world and they don’t understand how it works. There are different planes in your life and you always need someone who accepts you for who you are to get through it. If one of the kids struggled and got a D on the test, and they tried their best, then party. Party. I don’t expect them to be the smartest, prettiest, or skinniest, but I do expect them to be the best of themselves. They will have a problem with me if they don’t give your best.
How does your parenting style differ from how you grew up?
I had a very strict upbringing. There was always an open door policy, though. We said that we always had the strays! [laughs] Always tons of people in the house, but super strict. Don’t you dare go to sleep with a spoon in the sink. When dad came home, you had to be quiet. Don’t raise your voice, and if we were in a restaurant, we behaved properly. And being from a big family, you learned how to problem solve and share. I wouldn’t change it for the world. We were a very structured chaos. The older took care of the younger. Saturday was pot roast and potatoes, and you’d better be home for it. Sunday was gravy, and everyone helped. The boys took out the garbage, and the girls did the dishes. It was a group effort, and that’s how it is here, too.
There’s a public perception of me being a pit bull, but I’m really not. I’m so laid back, so easy-going. I’m not a mother having my kids holding onto my apron strings. I do expect a call at night from them to know they’re alive. That’s all I ask. Albert and I raised them that they can be put in the White house or in Yankee Stadium in the last row drinking beer, and they’ll carry themselves properly. All I want is this: Tell me how your day is, call me if you need me. I’m with my kids often. Lauren and I are close; in fact, we’re almost inseparable. You don’t always see that on the show. And I always have one meal a day with my kids, or all three. Every single day. There’s not one day that goes by where I don’t have a meal without one of my kids.
I like how your kids get along well with each other and are protective of each other.
Make no mistake, they fight like anyone else. The point is they have to solve the problem. I don’t want them to get into a pattern of fighting and not resolving the issue. You don’t have to like who someone is dating. My whole thing has always been: Make my kid happy. I don’t care if you cook, or if you’re Italian. Or if you’re red, green or purple. If my kid is smiling and happy, that makes me happy. Beyond that, mind your business.
What have you learned from being on the show?
I’ve learned that I’m a lot tougher than I thought. I’m strong, but I’m not tough. I don’t like conflict at all; I shy away from it, until I can’t. I march to my drum and make no apologies for it. The same is true for how Albert and I raised these kids. We want them to be their own person. I’m not PC; I’m not going to tell you what you think you want to hear. I’ll tell you what I feel. Watching me go through this has taught them so much about character and resilience.
A lot of times on reality TV people will say that they weren’t edited properly, that they didn’t say what appeared on an episode. You don’t play that card.
There was one scene where I was talking to Lauren about her weight. That’s the one thing that I can say wasn’t edited right. I never said to Lauren, “I’m not going to say you’re pretty if you need to lose weight.” What I did say to her was, “I’m not going to sit here and yes you to death. You don’t look great; you need to lose weight for yourself and your health. I’m not going to wash over it and say you’re great.” I have a husband who was almost 300 pounds and had lap band surgery. You learn the effects of morbid obesity; hypertension, stroke, cancer, diabetes. I’m not going to say you’re great, when you need to lose 30 pounds. I don’t want to ever hear a doctor say that you have diabetes that’s irreversible because of a weight issue. At one point, Lauren was having heart palpitations, panic attacks, and her blood pressure was at stroke level. I want to make sure that all of my kids are healthy.
What plans do you have for the future?
I don’t get this whole celebrity thing. I’m not a celebrity; I’m a television personality. My mind works business. I’m uncomfortable with the fame aspect. I’m happy with a sweater on and no heels, sitting here with you shooting the breeze. I know it’s fifteen minutes. And that’s fine. My life is good; look around, there’s nothing I need. The biggest joy I have is seeing my kids happy and follow their passions. Right now, I have this moment in time where my face is worth something, for what it’s worth. [laughs] Whatever I can do to help them, I will do. Lauren is opening a store called Cafface, and there are boxes everywhere in my house. It’s okay, though, because she’s working towards something. It’s a good mess. I’m proud of her; it’s going to be a really fun vibe. My boys are doing great with BLK Water. They’re traveling all over the country and working very hard. So in my off-time, I dedicate my time to them. So if it’s Lauren trying out new makeup and saying, “Let me see what this looks like on an over-50 face,” I let her do it. I help the boys do in-store appearances, sign autographs and bottles. That’s what I do. That’s what you do for your kids.
So when the fifteen minutes are gone, you’re still Caroline.
I’ll be intact. The house will be intact. This family will be intact. I could be on the red carpet every night, but I’d rather be home with my family. And if it all goes away tomorrow, I’ll put my stilettos away and there will still be macaroni here on Sunday.