The Ultimate Girlfriend

Vicki Iovine believes in being the capital G kind of Girlfriend: a woman who strives for greatness but in the end, recognizes that we’re only human. And she is just as honest with her Girlfriends, too—whether they want to hear it or not.

And apparently they do. For the past 17 years, Iovine has devoted herself to penning the wildly popular Girlfriends’ Guide series, covering everything from baby bumps to baby gear, in witty advice-laden favorites like The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy and The Girlfriends’ Guide to Getting Your Groove Back.

A mother of four—Jade, Jamie, Jessica and Jeremy—now ages 17 to 23, it was pregnancy and then childbirth that originally inspired Iovine to write. And it’s her just-go-with-it wisdom that has proven to have universal and lasting appeal for moms at every stage of their adventure.

Tell me about your kids.
They are grown-ups now. But they will always be my babies. And of course because I am with my last one at home, and she’s graduating this year, I am really being sentimental and doing much more than they ask of me. I’m even going to a rave…The Identity Festival, with electronic music DJs. And my son, Jamie, is one of them. My oldest daughter, Jessica, is a media student at USC. She’s a senior and very gifted in the arts, particularly in photography. My youngest daughter, Jade, is Co-Student Body President. She is interested in politics. My other son, Jeremy, is a sophomore at NYU, at the Stern School of Business. I am proud!

You have an entire family full of rock stars!
It’s colorful, like a circus act. When you have four kids that close in age, they all have to find a very distinct and different way to express themselves because it is too much competition. It’s fun to watch—now I just wander around and witness what they are doing.

Let’s get to the books. What led you to start the series?
What happened first was pregnancy. It took me three years to get pregnant and I wanted to so badly. I used to make bargains with God and say, “I’ll never complain. I don’t care if you give me morning sickness every day.” And then I got pregnant. I was nauseous and tired and fat and complaining constantly… And I finally reached out to other pregnant women, even if I knew that a Girlfriend of a Girlfriend was pregnant. And I found out that everything that I was going through were things experienced by a million other pregnant women—but no one talked about it. Because we all learned about pregnancy more through books than we did from our mothers and our aunts.

So you wouldn’t say your series is a substitute for going to the doctors.
Oh gosh no. If anything, it is a remedy for what doctors tell you and don’t tell you. It gives you a little more breathing space and a little more permission to just go with it. You don’t have to control a pregnancy. The pregnancy has already got you by the tail so you should just follow it.

Tell me about your Girlfriends.
I come from a long line of them. In fact, in my office I have a picture of my mother-in-law and all her Girlfriends—the most recent friend in the bunch, she has known for 45 years. And then my mother was always surrounded by Girlfriends because my Dad was an L.A. Police Officer and they had a club for the wives of the LAPD. That was her sanity. So I was always raised with Girlfriends, thinking they’re there, they understand.

What is the best advice that a Girlfriend has given you about motherhood?
Live your life as if your children don’t hear a thing you say, but watch everything you do.

The worst?
That you only put on zero to three pounds in your first trimester! I couldn’t enjoy a good pregnancy until I was at least 35 to 40 pounds overweight. I mean, if you can’t go for it then…when you can you? White bread, tuna sandwich—oh my gosh, it was great!

Do you have any tips to share with women going back to work after their maternity leave?
There is one great worry—that you are going to miss something. And let me tell you, that is true. But the good news is, [the moments] tend to repeat themselves. You may not see the first step, but you’ll see the second or third.

Why do you feel it’s so important for a mother to maintain her sense of self?
I think that sometimes when we are new mothers, we often think “this is all that was specified for me. I have achieved what I have to achieve.” What is most interesting is that we will probably all live to be 85 or 90 and we’ll have only spent 20 of those years parenting. Some of us do our most productive work after this time.

What’s one stage of motherhood that you would do all over again?
I liked delivery—does that make me sound crazy? It was Christmas morning to me. I loved being part of a process, not to say I wasn’t scared. But I loved that I was going to meet this person. And it was sort of an athletic challenge—so fraught with anticipation.

What would you tell a pregnant woman who is feeling not-so-confident in her new skin?
First of all, I think that society is already telling her something different than what they told me. I remember when I was working as a lawyer and as a television producer, I would have to put a Band-Aid on my popped out belly button and then put control top pantyhose on top of that. Now women wear bikinis and have their Butterball turkey popped out. But I think we do get a little down about it. So then I have to tell people—look at what you are achieving. You are growing an entire human being from scratch! That’s better than making homemade macaroni and cheese.

You’ve had such an involved career. Can you speak to work-life balance at all?
Babysitters, nannies and housekeepers. And anybody who tells you that it is different is pathological! Or just martyrs.

My mother has always told me that.
Absolutely! If I am on an airplane and [see] a poor mother who has two kids and one of them is a baby who won’t stop crying—I will always offer to help. That’s the village!

What’s been your most surprising discovery about parenting your children?
That I can trust their choices. My expectations came down to: as long as you are alive, not bleeding and not threatening suicide, we can probably deal with the rest even if you make a mistake. And most times they didn’t. And if they did, they remedied it themselves. I stopped saying, “You’ve got to get into a good college.” I’m going for the bigger: stay alive, stay healthy and stay happy. The rest are just incidentals.

What do you have in the works right now?
A television series on The Girlfriends’ Guide To Getting Divorced—just hired our writer yesterday. I was divorced three years ago from the father of my kids, very amicably I must say—he and I are very close. I even have a boyfriend!