Joan River's Celebrity Advice on Motherhood

Written by Ashley Ball

Advice from a star on successfully raising your children.

Joan Rivers is not liking this "empty nest" business at all.

Joan River's on Having a Child:
On the decision to have Melissa:
"One day I was sitting in a soda fountain in Detroit, and a woman came in with a baby, and I said, I want one of those. "
"Nobody else ever, ever will care about you the way your mother cares about you."
Joan took Melissa everywhere but was careful not to impose her on others. 
Fervently, bluntly, she responds to my query: What was worst about Melissa moving away two years ago? "Everything."

Is there anything good? "No. I wish I could say to you, Yes! When we see each other, it's more meaningful. No. Bullshit."

"It's an irony that most mothers of grown children face. You work hard to build a strong relationship with your child, knowing all the while that if you do it right,  if you successfully raise an independent person, it means letting them go."

Joan Rivers has always known that eventually she'd need to release daughter Melissa. Thus, like any good strategist, she's focused on making her daughter want to come back. "I had a wonderful pediatrician who said, `Listen to her. If she tells you everything when she's 2, when she's 4, when she's 8, she'll tell you everything when the trouble starts at 14.' "

It is never too late to start talking and more important, listening to your children.
Flexibility counts. Rivers worked in nightclubs, sometimes until 2 a.m. Rather than be too tired to play with Melissa the next morning, they would play in the bath when she got home, then both sleep in.
You always remember the hard times: 7-year-old Melissa wanted to stay with her mother one week on the nightclub circuit. Amid tears, Joan denied her. "To this day I think, `What would have been so terrible if I had kept her out of school?' She could have stayed that week, no big deal."
"It's no big deal if your child wants to pierce herself. Let her pierce herself and not take drugs. ... If you don't let them do the little things, they'll do the big things."
So Joan chose to be pleased with the sharing, not shocked by the revelations. She endeavored to see each situation as both friend and mother.

Sometimes it worked as reverse psychology.

When Melissa was a teenager, "... I remembered that with my mother, I couldn't do this, I couldn't wear that. Missy is from the Boy George era, she had a girlfriend who dressed like George, she had the makeup; and when I was in England, I found the blue stuff for your hair and brought it home to her. The minute her mother brought it home, she wouldn't do it."

Sometimes Joan knew that her input would determine not if, but how.

When Melissa wanted birth control, she assented in spite of inner turmoil. ("She tells you, `I want to go see Dr. George,' and you go, `Oh my God.' Of course in a way you're thrilled, because she's confided in you ...") Joan gave her money to go away with the young man, because "it shouldn't be in the back of a Chevy."

And, sometimes, there needed to be repercussions for bad behavior.

Melissa's friends went through a "running away" phase. ("[They all] came to our house: 'I've run away from home, Mrs. Rosenberg.' Well come on in, Amy.' ") When, inevitably, Melissa ran away too, "I said to her, 'Really think about this, because you can't come back unless you're invited.' And when she called and said, 'I want to come home,' we said, 'You're not invited back yet.' We were tough when we had to be tough."

Related Items

Joan Rivers' and Melissa's current dynamic is neither exclusively "mother-daughter" nor "just friends." Like all good adult relationships, it's give-and take, an exchange of wisdom.

At work, Joan puts herself in the capable hands she's raised.

Further Advice from Joan Rivers
The only professional advice Joan has given Melissa was about "her lighting. I told her, `No matter what, always look good.'"
Joan wasn't completely laid back in planning Melissa's wedding. "Let me tell you, coming down the aisle, I wanted to say, `Come on! Faster! Faster!' "
What words come to Joan's mind when she hears the word "motherhood"? "Responsibility. Loyalty. Caring. Desperate."
"Call Your Mother!"
Related books: Don't Count the Candles, Joan Rivers 
"I trust her totally. She's now a co-producer of our show, and she's a real tough cookie. I ... worry about my lines [and nothing else]; I know we have one solid producer. Meanwhile, she's going nuts. She's performing, and watching the camera, and watching the time."

In turn, Melissa trusts Joan with organizing on a private level. She played and relished the role of "producer" for Melissa's December 1998 wedding.

"Melissa and John really put their input in ... [but there are] so many stupid details. Whether Mrs. Schwartz has sent in her card. Or whether the caterer is going to put six pieces of parsley on the plate. At one point you're glad to say, `I don't care!' They made the big decisions. And I did all the follow-up."

Because they've developed such a rhythm, it's hard for Joan to keep from missing Melissa's day-to-day presence. But she's doing better than she lets on.

"We're putting down our old dog today in California. [We're] devastated. I miss her today so much because of it. She said to me yesterday, `I wish you were here.' "

"It's the times you need each other that really get you. Never the good times. It's when there's a little problem that you go, `Oh God, why isn't she here right now? "

The sad story reveals healthy emotions: reciprocity, not dependence. Joan gives her daughter the power to help her, to advise her and to comfort her. She offers the same in return. Whether she knows it or not, she's already let Melissa go.

As we hang up (canine news awaits), she gives me a characteristically gravel-voiced exhortation: "Call your mother, Ashley."

Twitter: @SuccessTV

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