If there’s anyone who understands the tremendous sacrifices and challenges that come with motherhood, it’s Karen Derrico.
As the star of the hit TLC series Doubling Down With the Derricos, each week the Las Vegas, Nev., native invites millions of viewers into her home as she juggles the demands of maintaining a loving marriage, meaningful friendships, and the pursuit of her own personal ambitions with raising fourteen—yes, you read that correctly—children. So with Mother’s Day on the horizon, Karen spoke with The Root to discuss the difficulties of raising her kids in the public eye, her proudest moment as a mother, and the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
In explaining what she loves the most about being a mother to Dayton, Dior, Denver, and the rest of her brood, her answer was simple: the love.
“What I love the most is the love,” she began. “The love that is reciprocated from my children back to me. It’s the journey with motherhood. You’ve got this hustle and bustle every day. You’ve got all these extracurricular activities. I’m homeschooling, I’m buying clothing, I’m shopping—it’s a lot. So when they say that simple ‘Thank you,’ I give them a hug and [they] don’t take for granted that they have a mother that loves them and is taking such good care of them. It’s an awesome and amazing feeling.”
To that end, with that “awesome and amazing feeling” being multiplied by an astronomical fourteen, Karen is acutely aware that prioritizing her own mental health and well-being is not only a challenge within this unconventional dynamic, but a necessity. So despite everything on her plate, she still makes it a point to take care of herself and is a strong advocate of going to therapy.
“I used to be very overwhelmed. And I was just telling my husband [Deon] about this, that I’m so glad that I went to therapy because I felt like I needed this,” she said. “I was losing my grip on things and it was like, ‘Forget about Karen, I’m now a mother.’ I felt like everything was about my children. And of course, my therapist at the time was like, ‘If you’re not together, your children aren’t together. Remember, they’re watching you. And if this is how you’re handling your household, this is all they’re going to know.’”
That invaluable lesson taught Karen the value of delegating responsibilities and being more vulnerable with her close friends and husband Deon.
“I just learned through that,” she said. “Having great friendships and having a good marriage. My husband and I are really great friends as well. So it just makes it so much easier.”
While Karen’s journey throughout the course of motherhood has had more than its fair share of wonderful moments, it’s also been wrought with tribulations and tragedy.
“[Motherhood] has taught me that I’m brave, I’m strong, I’m a fighter. My little baby, Carter, passed away in my arms and I thought I was going to pass away,” she revealed before detailing other challenges she’s faced as a mother. “When Dawson had to have two open-heart surgeries and a g-tube (gastrostomy tube) placed in her. No parent is prepared for this. There’s no manual that’s given to you to say, ‘When you carry your baby for nine months and they pass away, what do you do in that situation?’ I gave birth to triplets. Two of them are thriving and the third one passes away. So I have to fill out two birth certificates and a death certificate.”
She continued, “So I just learned through [all of this] that God has just made me be that one. ‘Karen, you can get through this and you’re going to be that role model for other mothers out there.’ […] It’s taught me that I’m so much stronger than I think that I am.”
Unfortunately, Karen has to devote at least some of that strength toward enduring the scrutiny that comes with raising your children in the public eye and coming to the realization that there’s no such thing as a perfect mother.
“I’m just living my life,” she began. “At times it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. Everyone’s looking at me. How am I going to react?’ And then after a while, you’re like, ‘Forget it. This is me. This is how I’m going to handle it.’ Everybody does parenting differently. [...] I had to let go of those things that were riding on me [as far as] what a perfect mother looks like. There’s no such thing as a perfect mother. There’s only a loving mother.”
Despite all of the experiences she’s accrued from raising so many children, Karen found it relatively easy to identify her proudest moment as a mother.
“My proudest moment is I sacrificed so much doing my pregnancies,” she said. “So after I’ve given birth and I’m holding my baby, you look at all the sacrifices that you make. In pregnancy and being a parent, you work a double shift. You’re almost losing your job to [leave early and] get to that basketball game. You promise your child [you’ll be there] and [to] see the look on their face, and they’re like, ‘You made it here! You did it!’ That’s so rewarding because it’s like my children know the sacrifices that my husband and I make for them. It’s so uplifting when they say, ‘Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Papi. I know this was a lot.’”
And because we here at The Root make it a point to treat Mother’s Day with the reverence and gratitude it deserves, inquiring minds want to know: what’s Karen’s favorite Mother’s Day memory, and in a perfect world, how would she celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday?
“My favorite Mother’s Day memory was when my children wrote a song for me,” she said. “They wrote it and had a dance routine set out for me, and as they were singing, the other ones who weren’t singing with them were showering me with gifts. They had this thing choreographed for me and I could’ve sworn they went to Debbie Allen’s studio.”
And as for that perfect Mother’s Day?
“I would celebrate Mother’s Day in Hawaii,” she said. “Facing the ocean with a nice virgin daiquiri on my side and having a massage. That would be my Mother’s Day.”
But she didn’t stop there, as she had some compassionate words for all of the other Moms out there.
“Make sure you have that mental Mother’s Day throughout the year, not just on that one day,” she said. “This season on Doubling Down With the Derricos I definitely stepped into seeking therapy. And as much as I was against it, it definitely benefited me and it helped me out with mental health being a lot right now. [...] You’re only one person. If you’re not good, your children won’t be good to you. You do not want to teach them that stress is something normal and it’s okay to be stressed out all the time.”
Doubling Down With the Derricos airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TLC.