As CTV's etalk celebrates its 10th anniversary, etalk reporter Traci Melchor is as busy as ever; maintaining her hectic work schedule and raising her twin seven-year-olds, Phoenix and Phoebe. Somehow, she also finds time to take French lessons (to keep up with the kids) and stay actively involved with children's charities.
Tell me about your kids. What are they like?
They are amazing. Phoebe and Phoenix are in Grade 1 and are in French Immersion. Phoenix is loves Batman and Superman, and is very preppy. Phoebe is a girly girl. She’s very opinionated and outgoing. Phoenix takes a while to warm up, but Phoebe goes out guns blazing. They’ve changed everything in my life. I am seeing the world through two new sets of eyes!
Walk me through your morning routine.
One or two days a week, I do the early show, so I leave the house at 6:30 in the morning. I usually try to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 and I make myself a coffee or a smoothie, read a paper, go on the Internet, or listen to the radio. Then I start making lunches. Phoenix wakes up at 6:00 or 6:15 and Phoebe gets up at 6:30.
They have fruit every morning when they get up. They make their beds and get their clothes out, and then we’ll have breakfast. On the mornings I’m there, I will make them porridge, or sometimes just a smoothie. They like to help and really love to add new things. I sneak in healthy things like alfalfa powder and they don’t mind.
They have to be at the bus stop at 8 a.m., which is right down the street. We are usually running down the street at 7:57. They’re gone by 8:02, so I come back, have a quick shower and get changed. I get my makeup and hair done at work, so it’s easy for me.
My day is pretty much non-stop. In addition to my etalk duties, I do live hits on CP24 and we also have the news channel hits. Sometimes we’ll go offsite to do stories and interviews. If I do an early morning show, I usually get home in time to take them to their tae kwon do class and sit down and have a meal with them.
How do you handle it on those early shift mornings? Who’s with the kids?
My mom. She lives five minutes away. I had a nanny until summer vacation, but now that they’re in school full time, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. And I looooved my nanny. I used to call her my spouse. My mother is an incredible help. I couldn’t do any of this without her. She picks them up from the bus stop, helps them with their homework.
But I’m home in time to bathe them before bed. I really have figured out that the more you get done at night, the better for the morning. It makes things easier.
During the (Toronto International) Film Festival in September I am really busy. I basically don’t see my children for 10 to 12 days and they stay with my mom. It’s been like that since they were little. They both simultaneously love and hate the film festival because at some point I always bring them downtown and they get to have a photo taken at the etalk photo booth. They like being a part of the mayhem and the crowds.
I have to incorporate them into my life because it’s just me. When I am working long hours or travelling for work, I want them to have a sense of what I do so they don’t feel excluded. They have a little understanding of what my life is outside of home.
When I have been away for a few days and haven’t been doing the real hands-on parenting, we have to feel our way back to each other.
You met Phoenix and Phoebe’s father when you were living in Los Angeles. How often do the kids see their dad now?
It varies. In the summertime, he comes up more. I would say once a month to every two months. It depends on what he’s working on [he works in television]. If he’s working in New York he’ll come up a little more often because it’s closer. It’s not ideal, but he is in their life and they love their daddy. I encourage their relationship with their dad. And if they’re sad and missing him, I say, ‘Oh my gosh! Of course you have to cry about missing your dad. You love him. He misses you too.’
Do you feel pressure being the primary decision maker?
I guess because it’s been like this since they were little, I don’t have anything else to compare it to. There are times when you want to be able to bounce your ideas off another person, especially another parent. And sometimes you feel the weight of that decision, and sometimes you’re just tired. It’s always, always you.
On the other hand, I am a little bit of a control freak so I kind of like that. What I say goes! I don’t have to bounce it off anyone else. I love my kids. I love my job. I think for the most part, I am a happy person. If I was still with their dad, I wouldn’t be happy, so I think that empowers them. If I decide we are spending Sunday just hanging out in our pyjamas because it’s raining, watching movies and eating popcorn for lunch, there’s no one there to tell us we can’t.
What is your best parenting trick?
To get my kids to do what I want them to do, I make it seem like they’re making the decision. I find that if I give them options, and they choose one, it is still what I want. I say, “Do you want to wear the white button-down or the blue button-down?” Either way, Phoenix is wearing a button-down.
What is your parenting strength?
My strength is that I don’t have too much of an ego when it comes to being a mom. I like to hear other people’s experiences. I read a lot of parenting books and go to parenting websites. I don’t have one way of doing things. There’s no ‘my way or the highway.’
Have you ever brought a date home to meet the kids?
Nope. Never. Never. I have dated sporadically. Right now, for me to take one or two nights of the week away from my children, it just doesn’t make sense to me. And my job is so busy. I think a lot of single moms that do date are able to see their kids every morning and every night. But it’s not that way with me. It’s not time yet. I want a long-term relationship eventually, but right now, I don’t even know how I would fit it into my life.
So, it’s not that you aren’t ready to introduce a date to the kids, it’s that you aren’t ready for a relationship?
Yeah. Maybe I am using the kids as a little bit of an excuse.
However, you know those commercials that advertise dating – like
eHarmony? And on the long weekends they say something like, ‘Connect for
free, all weekend long.’ Phoebe saw that and said, “Mommy, you should
go on that.” I asked her why. She was colouring at the time and looked
up at me and said, “So you can get a boyfriend.” And then she looked
down and started colouring again. Maybe they are ready! Maybe it’s me
who is a scaredy cat!
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2012.