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Women's Health

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Lauren Graham's Healthy Approach to Parenthood

The childless actress is once again playing a single mom in a hit TV show. How does she do it?

Growing Up Without a Parent continued...

Graham's character is dealing with a former spouse who's an absent dad. The actor can't help but bring her own experiences of being raised by a single (if truly attentive) father to her televised alter ego, which may explain why she's so very believable in the part. 

"When you're a single parent, you have to be mom and dad," says Graham. "So little stuff with my character, like her trying to find someone to toss a baseball with her son … I told the producers, 'No, she'd do it herself! She'd get out there and play catch because she has to. That's how it works.' And that found its way onto the show."

Mother-Daughter Drama

As a teenager being raised by a dad, of course, Graham didn't experience the mother-daughter drama Parenthood plays for maximum impact. "I'd go to my friends' houses and their mothers would be all over them: 'What about this? What about that?' they'd nag," she remembers. "But I had more freedom and independence, which worked well, I think, with my personality." 

So, why, exactly, is this feminine connection so often a fiery one? "Girls are socialized to be intensely relational and confiding … so the mother-daughter dynamic is both more passionate and at times more negative than is the father-son or mother-son relationship," explains Doherty. 

"For example, mom wants to know what's going on with her daughter's friends and feels betrayed if her questions are met with silence. But with sons, as one of my patients aptly put it: 'The deeper my son's voice gets, the less he has to say.' Generally, we accept a certain degree of withdrawal from boys, but with our daughters we take it personally -- that's what leads to fireworks.

Secrets for Single Parenthood Success

Figuring out how to raise either a girl or boy alone  is a challenge for anyone. Doherty offers these tips for avoiding solo parents' top mistakes. 

Be the leader. You're exhausted after a long day at work. The kids are antsy for attention. It's so much easier to cave and let them eat pizza in front of the TV while you retire to your room and recoup, or to trade sarcastic quips when they resist your authority -- but you mustn't. "Don't give up that position, or things will quickly degenerate," Doherty says. 

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