As any fan of the film Mean Girls knows, “on Wednesdays, we wear pink.” That sartorial law is just one of the many memorable aspects of actress Lacey Chabert’s career. Who could forget the role she played as Erica Kane’s daughter on “All My Children,” starting in 1992? Or her part as Claudia Salinger in the beloved television drama “Party of Five”?
When looking back on her diverse career, Chabert reflects on how important it has been to stay true to herself when choosing a project. “I always set new goals for my career — to do better, tell stories that are important and close to my heart, and to work with people that inspire me,” she tells Thrive. “I really don’t look back and consider anything a mistake, even though some things maybe felt like a misstep or not my favorite experience, because you learn. If you really can look into it, and take your ego out of it, you can learn from every experience.”
Chabert sat down with Thrive — wearing pink, no less — and shared about her holiday traditions, tips to reduce holiday stress, and keys to a thriving life.
Thrive Global: What is your morning routine? Do you have any secret time-savers?
Lacey Chabert: My morning routine is: my eyes pop open, I first think about my daughter and wonder if she’s awake yet. She sleeps late, which is really nice. Before my feet hit the ground every morning, I say, “Thank you God for this day. Please help me to find the joy in it and help me with whatever comes across my path.” And then I instantly run, brush my teeth, try and throw on some version of a workout outfit, which I may or may not work out in. I may just stay in the workout clothes all day and pretend I did. And then as soon as my daughter is up, I’m making breakfast and checking emails. And my husband tries to take some of the breakfast chores and [tend to] her waking up so that I can check emails and focus for a minute and get my day started on the business front.
TG: Speaking of workout clothing, are there little things you do to fit movement and exercise into your day? Any tips that help motivate you to work out?
LC: I’m going to be really honest. I typically am not excited to go work out. I think I, like most people, don’t actually like working out… until the workout is over. When it’s over, you have all the endorphins in your brain, and physically you just feel stronger and better. I just feel more focused, I feel more clear-headed, my anxiety is less. So even though I really dread getting to the gym or to the workout class, I drag myself there, I push myself to go and I feel so much better after. And I think when I start my day by putting on workout clothes, it feels like I’ve taken one step to getting to the workout.
TG: Are there any tips you’ve received that have made an impact on your well-being?
LC: I think the best advice I’ve ever been given about my overall health is to drink water. I spent much of my life dehydrated. I travel so much, I’m always on a plane, I work really long hours. I’m not always the best at finding enough sleep —and I have a three year old who I’m constantly running around after. Stress affects the way you feel and look. Hydration is a big deal. I feel so much better when I drink a lot of water.
TG: Have you made any attempts to improve your sleep? What’s worked?
LC: Well, sleep has always been a little bit of an issue for me. I’ve never been the best sleeper. Even when I was a kid, I remember thinking, “Oh, sleeping is so boring. I’d rather be doing something fun.” As an adult, I love sleeping. But now that I’m a mom, I don’t know if we as parents messed up in the sleep department, but I breastfed my daughter for 16 months. She basically used me as a pacifier. We didn’t sleep for the better part of two years. So I learned to survive on very little sleep.
When I’m working, making movies, I have 15- or 16-hour days sometimes. I think sleep is so vital and important, but somehow, by the grace of God, I got through those couple of years with very little sleep. But I’ve realized how important it is. I feel so much more level-headed, relaxed, and calm, and able to handle things during the day when I’ve had a good night’s sleep. So I’ve made it a much bigger priority. My whole household has a bedtime where we all just settle down.
TG: How do you handle your phone and devices before bed?
I’ve gotten a lot better at turning off all the devices. It used to be that if I woke up in the middle of the night and heard my phone ping, I’d look at it. And it was recently that I realized, “What am I doing? That’s totally interrupting my sleep.” Not to mention, if I look at it and it’s a stressful email or there’s a problem that I can’t handle in the moment, it’s only going to create anxiety for me and make it harder to get back to sleep. So I’ve made it a rule to no longer have my phone by my bed.
TG: You have incredibly busy days. How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
LC: I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to work as much as I have in my career and I’ve worked hard for it. There’ve been some long days and some times that were trying and stressful, but I love what I do so much that even when I do feel like I’m spread a bit too thin, I can say that my work really does feed my soul, in a way. But there is a fine line and I’ve had to learn to say no. I grew up just kind of always being agreeable and it’s part of who I am; it’s part of my personality and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. But there is value in saying no, and “No” is a complete sentence. Two different people in my life taught me that.
It’s a very valuable lesson. It’s for your benefit, and it’s also a benefit to the people around you to know what your limits are. The people that I love most in the world deserve the best parts of me.
TG: Do you ever experience mom guilt, and how do you cope?
LC: Mom guilt is a real thing. I miss her and I feel so guilty if I miss a first or a milestone. I know every mom feels that way. I heard all of this stuff before I became a parent and you realize the cliches are cliches because they occur so often and everyone deals with them. I don’t want to spend a minute away from her. I just adore her. She’s the love of my life, but I also want to work and I love my career. There are so many things in my career that I still dream and daydream about… and want to see them come to fruition. I love that I have the opportunity to show my daughter that she’s the most important person in my life, but that mommy is also happy to go to work.
Instead of saying, “Oh, I have to go to work” and having her say, “I don’t want you to go to work mommy,” I change the conversation. I say, “I have a really fun job and I get the chance to go do my job today. I’m going to miss you so much, but I’ll be back tonight and one day I hope that you have a job that you love too. And it’s really fun to go to work.” I don’t want her to think work is a negative thing.
TG: Both you and your husband work a lot. How do you share the responsibilities so one of you isn’t taking it all on?
LC: When you’re raising a human and it’s not something that you’ve done together before, it’s really trial and error. And we’ve learned things that work for us and things that don’t. We’ve learned to communicate so much better and realize we have to talk everything out. He knows when I come home from a long day and I have to prepare 10 pages of dialogue for the next day, the first thing I want to do when I come home to be with Julia. And so he’ll have dinner already prepared or he will have ordered something. And that’s just a small thing that takes a little bit of the responsibility off me, where I can just get on the floor and play with her and talk about her day. And then we do bath time, and get her to bed together, and then I can spend time with my husband and then hunker down and learn what I have to do for the next day.
A big thing we do at night, before we go to bed, is ask each other: “What’s your day like tomorrow? During which hours do you need help if we don’t have a babysitter to help us out?” We’ve learned to be a lot more patient with each other.
TG: You’re no stranger to Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. How do you personally feel about Christmas?
LC: I actually genuinely love Christmas and I feel like people expect me to say that, but it’s true. When I was little, it was my favorite time of the year. Writing to Santa, waiting for Santa to come, drinking hot chocolate and watching our favorite movies — it’s just a special feeling and it only happens for a small time of year. So I get excited about it every year. And now that I make Christmas movies pretty much from the summer on, I feel like I get to celebrate Christmas six months out of the year and I’m not complaining about it.
The big thing I realized now that I am a parent: the thing I love the most about Christmas is the nostalgia of it. I feel like I’m getting to relive my childhood through my daughter in passing on the traditions that my parents taught us growing up. When we were little, on Christmas Eve all of the siblings would sleep in one room because we were so excited about Santa coming. And my parents always said, “Now listen, Santa might not come until like 6:00 or 7:00 AM, so do not come knock on the door to get us to go see the presents until it’s at least 6:00 or 7:00.” Then at 3:00 or 4:00 AM, one of us would wake up and be like, “Let’s do it. Go knock on Mom and Dad’s door.”
It was just a magical feeling walking around the corner and seeing the beautifully lit up tree and a pile of presents from Santa. And we ate the same thing every year and, and drank hot chocolate, and everyone stayed in their pajamas — these are things that we still do now. And now my daughter and my siblings’ kids are getting to enjoy those traditions together.
TG: Holidays don’t come without stress. What causes you stress and how do you work to combat that?
LC: The most stressful part of the holidays for me is traveling. The airports are so busy, and I’m packing up a toddler now and battling the airport. I actually love all the cooking during the holidays but I do not like making a grocery store run for all the ingredients. That is very stressful to me. The lines are always so long.
But I feel like this is the one time of year I actually take a deep breath, disconnect from the stuff that sometimes does stress me out, and just spend time with family. I don’t put makeup on. I don’t do my hair. You won’t catch me in any sort of outfit — pajamas all the time. I love watching the same movies every year and I love that people come up to me now and say, “Hey, one of your Christmas movies has become a part of our family’s tradition.” That means so much to me. I can’t believe I’m in a movie that someone wants to watch every year.
TG: It’s almost a new decade. What are some of the resolutions you’re going to make this year?
LC: Some of the resolutions I’d like to make this year are to not be distracted, to not be looking at my phone so much, to decide to do less things at one time. I consider myself a very good multitasker. And you know what? It’s a skill that really serves me well in a lot of areas. But I think that I end up creating stress for myself when I’m trying to do too much and my brain is too crowded. So I am resolving to do less things at the same time.
At the end of the day, at the end of this life, there’s nothing more important than the joy and the love you’ve shared. So my resolution this year is to dig even deeper and find the joy in every situation and in every relationship.
TG: Any fitness resolutions?
LC: This is where I always get a little too excited. I say to myself , “I’m going to work out every single day.” I’m not going to work out every single day. I know I’m not going to. I will find some sort of movement every single day, whether it’s keeping free weights by the couch doing a couple of sets while I’m watching a show with my daughter, or taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or going around the block a few extra times with her on her little bike. Those are all ways to be a little more physical during the day and maybe work up a sweat.
I am very committed to my fitness and health. I feel so much better when I’m working out. I love feeling strong, but I think it’s unrealistic that with my schedule and life to say that I’m going to get up at 5:00 A.M. and exercise every day. I think sleep’s actually more valuable than that most days.
TG: You’ve shared that one of your superpowers is to stay in contact with friends. What are some of the tricks you have to stay in touch?
LC: Well, life gets busy and it can be hard to stay in touch. But about once a month, if someone’s been on my mind or my heart and we haven’t spoken in a while, I just send a simple text. It doesn’t have to be a novel. It doesn’t have to be, “I’m sorry I haven’t reached out in months.” It can be, “I’m just thinking about you.” I know how much it means to me when I get those texts from friends. The people that really know you, and know your heart, and are really meant to be in your life… I think you pick up like nothing has happened.