by Lauren Schnell Davison
Many assume that becoming an actor is all about fame and fortune, but there are some celebrities who see it a little differently. A small number of public figures take advantage of their status in the limelight as an opportunity to set a positive example, inspire and empower. Actor, author and People Magazine blogger, Elisabeth Rohm, has done just that. Perhaps best known for her role as District Attorney Serena Southerlyn on Law and Order, Elisabeth gives much of her time advocating for causes such as Healthy Child, Healthy World and the Red Cross, among many others. I had the opportunity to chat with Elisabeth about some of her insights and the action she has taken to not only contribute to the overall betterment of society but also to help make parenting and motherhood more conscious.
How do you balance your work as an actor with being a mom?
I live my life either at an insane pace where I’m working my butt off and I‘m not as available or I am totally available. I beat to two totally different rhythms. Both the movie I just finished and The Client List [television drama series airing on the Lifetime network] are filmed in LA and so as my daughter, Easton, gets a bit older I am also making choices that make me available as a parent. That is not to say that if a great opportunity came up I wouldn’t go after my own dreams. But when I am not working I am totally present with her. I always joke, and say that when Mommy goes to work I feel like I am a painting that has been loaned out from a museum for a week or two to do my work and then I return.
As a successful actor living in Los Angeles, how would you react if your daughter came home and told you she wanted to start acting and step into the limelight? Would you be supportive of that?
That is a tough one. I am not from a family of entertainers. It gets me a little nervous to think of Easton pursuing something like that. I think children should be as innocent as possible … you spend enough of your life worrying about things and it would be nice for children to have 14 years of play. I want her to be successful, and personally, I’m a big fan of sports as it gives children discipline and a sense of responsibility. I think having a passion as a kid can be wonderful. I think the arts are challenging; [it is] either feast or famine: one minute you are working, the next you are not. I think it would have to come from her, is the answer.
Tell us about your work with Healthy Child, Healthy World. In what ways has the organization influenced you and your family to lead a nontoxic lifestyle?
I was raised by the quintessential hippie chick. I grew up eating Tiger Bars instead of Twinkies and my mother used lemon and vinegar to clean instead of chemicals. My mother was living a sustainable life probably before anyone was. So it was really great for me to meet an organization that was focused on the same mission and just further educated me on how to do it. My mother was a natural and I guess I am too by osmosis. There are people that are really into it and others that try their best to be into it.
I feel that Healthy World Healthy Child stepped into the shoes my mother wore in my life -- of being conscious and caring towards others and the planet -- by leading a nontoxic life and promoting others to do so. There are so many things we are putting into our bodies that we don’t even know we are putting in and the education they provide people and the fight that they tirelessly pursue is to benefit all of us. It is something I believe in and am devoted to in my own household and want to educate others to make good choices for themselves and their families.
Children are innocent and why should they have all these toxins and all these chemicals in their body just because they are being washed by Johnson and Johnson or their mom is giving them soup from a can that has chemicals in it? Or the nanny or mother is innocently cleaning the counters with 409 and the child is breathing in all these chemicals that are going to stay in their bodies when there is no need for it. There are such great alternative products and choices out there that are so much gentler to our systems.
Tell us about your relationship to American Red Cross.
When I was in college my mother’s house burned down and she didn’t have the money to replace her roof and the Red Cross was there to help her rebuild it. So she said to me that if I volunteer and get involved with an organization that it should be the Red Cross. My mother was such an inspiration to me and I feel so grateful to the Red Cross. I love them and the work they have done. I have traveled with them internationally and have been working with them for almost a decade. I have dug people out of forest fires and helped on rescue teams in New York to people’s homes after fires. I’ve visited wounded warriors in DC and I’ve done incredible things with them. Their reach is so massive -- [they have] such a powerful international community.
The Red Cross is based 99.9% on volunteerism and they are the only volunteer organization that after an earthquake, fire or tsunami that shows up, or after 9-11 says to all the people standing there, “we are here for you,” and [they have] such an incredible mission. I love them very, very much -- I am totally a part of the Red Cross.
At Bamboo we honor a woman's informed choice in how she decides not only to give birth but how she decides to conceive. I have read that you did IVF with your daughter. Would you mind sharing a little about your experience with that whole process (also upon learning of that diagnosis) as well as with your pregnancy/birth?
I had a very unnatural pregnancy and birth because I was in a medical crisis. I was in Cambodia with the Red Cross when I decided to start a family. When I got back to LA and started the process, we discovered that I had extremely high FSH levels and that I needed to perhaps get some assistance with fertility treatments. So we decided to go that route and luckily I got pregnant on the first try. My pregnancy was very delicate because of that. I was unable to exercise for the first three months and then I had a great pregnancy -- it was easy once I got pregnant but little things like not being able to exercise and afterwards, towards the end, I was on bed rest.
It was a delicate pregnancy, as it cost a fortune and I had to be careful with it. It was an emotional pregnancy because it was one that I fought for. So I really have an understanding and compassion out there for any woman that is fighting for the right to have a child.
How has being a mother affected your acting and other creative pursuits?
I think when becoming a parent you start to ask yourself questions, like “What should I do with my time now that I am a mother? Because I have this human being that deserves and needs my time.” So then you have to try and achieve balance so that you can have your own individuality but also totally live up to your child’s needs and expectations. So then you don’t want to waste any time at all ... and you begin to think that your time is precious, which you never thought before. And you ask yourself big questions like; “Do I like my job?” “Do I like this friend?” “ Is this person worth my time? Because really I would rather be home with my baby.” I ask myself, Do I really love acting? Is that what I want to do with my time? And yes, I do love acting but it is not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is; [it’s] just a job but it has great perks and it also has its hills and valleys. So I decided that I love it enough that I still want to pursue my own dreams, but not at the expense of [Easton’s] needs. In others words, I had to get very clear that I was never going to make her feel neglected or second place. But after that, if I know my daughter feels loved and nurtured and she knows I miss her when I am not with her and she knows she can come with me when I go to work and doesn’t have to wonder -- if I can try to pull it off in a way that includes her -- then I can have interests, I can have a career, I can have friends. I don’t want anyone in my life to feel second place, including myself.
Lauren Schnell Davison is the founder and president of OrganicGreenMommy.com and Nutrition Works at YogaWorks, NYC. She is a board certified holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, writer and life coach. Lauren resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two girls. www.laurenschnell.com