Actor, artist, author, philanthropist. Fashion, decor and jewelery designer. Mother of six, grandmother of four. Juggling multiple roles is nothing new for parents, but Jane Seymour, 63, is taking it to a whole new level. INBETWEEN caught up with her to talk parenting, blended families and the benefits of stepping into a closet and punching a pillow.
By Bonnie Schiedel
Seymour, a prolific and award-winning actor, is known for a variety of roles: from “Bond girl” Solitaire in Live and Let Die and a comic turn as the frisky mother-of-the-bride in Wedding Crashers to guest spots on How I Met Your Mother and Castle, and the title role in the long-running 90s Western hit Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The one she’s most proud of, however, wasn’t filmed on set. An involved, loving mother to her now-grown kids, she says it’s her pursuit as mom that serves as her biggest source of pride. Here’s how she did and continues to do it.
Tip #1: Embrace co-parenting
Though she’s the mother of Sean Flynn (36), Kate Simon (32), and twins Johnny and Kristopher Keach (18), and is technically a stepmother to Kalen Keach (36) and Jenni Flynn (33), Seymour makes it clear that she considers herself a mother of six. With the “s” word is not in her vocabulary, she points to her close relationships with the various blended family members as part of the reason she was able to navigate the potentially stormy waters of her four marriages and divorces. “The unique thing in our family is we’ve become very close friends with the other families,” she says. “Kalen’s mom and Jenni’s mom and I are very close, and we even get along with our mutual ex-husbands. We can all be in the same room at the same time. We all parented together. I think that was really important. For me, family is made up of people you love and who are important to you.”
The end of a marriage is, of course, incredibly difficult. “My kids have been through divorce and remarriage and it wasn’t easy. But I also think when people are unhappy, and there’s unhappiness in the house, that’s even worse. [Ex-husband] James [Keach] and I get along when it comes to dealing with the children. We never stopped being a couple where that’s involved.”
She says the reason for the smooth road is simple: she followed her own mom’s advice. “It’s about opening your heart, letting go and really trying to see the bigger picture, especially when children are concerned. I don’t want there to be animosity between the parents if I can help it.”
Tip #2: Give ‘em space, give ‘em limits
That bigger-picture perspective has proved helpful in guiding her children through the fraught teen and young adult years. “You can’t control the happiness or destiny of someone else,” she says emphatically. “What you can do is encourage them, be supportive and listen. A lot of growing up is about breaking away from your family. I’ve noticed that they break away and then they come back, and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Wow, how did you get so smart, Mom?’”
That said, she adds that boundaries are key. “I think all kids need them,” noting wryly that kids may not say they want them, but they are ultimately grateful later on. “For example, I made sure punishments were established ahead of time: if you don’t do this, you will lose this privilege, whether it’s losing a toy when they’re younger or losing the use of the car when they’re older.”
Tip #3: Home is a haven
Seymour made sure home was a welcoming, comfortable place. “I have strict rules, but I also enjoyed the fact that my kids could bring their friends home to a safe environment where they could all have fun.” That safe environment can provide a good framework for learning responsibility and owning up to mistakes, she says. “I realized with the older kids that once they go to college, you have no idea what they’re up to, so I’d rather they make mistakes before they go away. That way I’m close at hand if they do need help,” she says. “My whole thing with my kids is to be honest. No one expects perfection. If you mess up, then come clean and say ‘I’m really sorry, I made a bad choice and I’m going to do my best not to go there again.’”
|Seymour loves visits with her daughter, Katie Simon, and granddaughter, Willa.|
Tip #4: Be your best self (and hire a snakewrangler)
Sometimes good parenting means standing back and letting the messes happen. “It’s really hard to watch your kids make bad decisions, and to realize they have to learn from their bad decisions,” she says. “You can’t always protect them from everything, and, in fact, by trying to you’re not doing them any favours.” So what’s a parent to do? Somehow you have to stand back and accept that you cannot control someone else, but that you can control how you respond. “Two very good lines are, ‘I hear you,’ and ‘let me think about that and get back to you’!”
With a laugh, she adds, “And then go beat up the pillow in the closet. I’m not saying you have to be calm! But try not to lose it in front of them whenever you possibly can.” Behaving like a grownup works on all kinds of levels, too. “I think kids watch how you behave. If you are strong, if you are consistent, if you enjoy your work, if you’re an honest person, if you behave nicely to people… a lot of that just rubs off on them. I’m absolutely thrilled when people tell me that my kids are well mannered and they can sit down and have a conversation at the table. They’re not spoiled Hollywood brats, thank God.”
Another way to model good behaviour? Do your best not to share your hang-ups with your kids, says Seymour, citing her dislike of snakes as an example. “I found someone who was very responsible and knowledgeable about them, and they taught the kids rather than me, because I didn’t want to pass my fears on.”
Tip #5: Ask their advice
One of the simplest ways Seymour maintains connections is through family dinners. “I make a point of sitting down for dinner with my youngest kids every day, or if I’m away working then I’m on the phone with them, catching up,” says Seymour, whose busy work schedule currently includes filming a dance movie called High Strung in Romania, an in-production indie film called Jake Squared, and executive producing a documentary called I’ll Be Me, about Glen Campbell’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
She also enjoys asking her twin sons for advice about current projects. “I get their perspective. They love that.” As for the older kids, now parents themselves, connection means coming to visit with the babies (Seymour has four grandchildren, ages one through seven.) “I absolutely love and adore having the babies here,” she says.
She encourages her adult children to hang out with their own friends and their children, as well, and is more than ready to watch her grandkids when they do. “We have everything they could possibly need. I did the house up with all the bits and pieces; the pushchairs and the playpens and the toys.”
Tip #6: Ride the wave
Seymour reads her last parenting tip aloud from her latest book, The Wave: Inspiration for Navigation Life’s Changes & Challenges (West 26th Street Press), which also showcases her paintings (taking on multiple roles is clearly an art form for Seymour): “The cycle of life is so evident in the cyclical motion of the wave. It flows, it crests, it crashes, it lets go, it takes experience with it as it joins new water and connects with all its wisdom to become a new wave… all experience, both good and bad, is simply a part of the ‘cycle of life.’ It isn’t always a pleasant process, but if we’re open to it, the results can be more wonderful than we ever imagined.” She pauses. “That’s very pertinent for parenting, isn’t it?”