Living with passion on behalf of her kids and all moms
New York native and entrepreneur Denise Albert has been making waves in broadcasting and journalism for most of her life. Born into the Albert legacy, she is the daughter of Marv, niece of Al and Steve, and sister of Kenny Albert. (Her twin brother, Brian, is also an entrepreneur; her sister, Jackie, is a chef; and her mom, Benita, is her company’s attorney.)
Along with business partner Melissa Gerstein, the former TV producer and award-winning journalist cocreated The Moms, a multimedia lifestyle brand, delivering parental advice on TV, in print, at celebrity events, and on their website, The Moms. She and Gerstein host the podcast, also called The Moms, and have created Mamarazzi, live town-hall events that bring together celebrity moms with moms across the country to discuss all things motherhood.
Yet the most important venture for this powerhouse mama is parenting her sons, Jaron and Jaylan. She “hates the term single mom and prefers to call herself ‘happily divorced,’” which she has been for the past five years.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer last December, the independent working mom took the moniker #futurecancersurvivor. Her first response to the news was determining how her treatment would affect her work, her life, and, most important, her children, and refusing to let her diagnosis slow her down. She chronicles her journey on Instagram (DeniseAlbert), The Moms website, and Good Housekeeping, hoping her story helps other moms facing the same struggle.
Q: I read somewhere that you believe you are a better mom because you work hard and a better worker because you’re a mom.
A: I’m better at everything, probably more so now because I’m happy. I’m passionate. Because I now have to work harder in my career because it’s just me and I want a certain lifestyle for myself and my boys; and as a parent because, well, it’s just me and them!
Q: Do you coparent with your ex?
A: I laugh because we talk more now than we did when we were married. We coparent well for the most part. We don’t parent the same and are very different people. We don’t always agree on everything, but who does? We try to discuss, get on the same page, and do things together. I’m proud of how far we’ve come.
Q: When you shifted from being married to being a single parent, did you feel a shift in your community?
A: This is tough. I wrote a piece about how we thought that because we were amicable, our friends didn’t have to choose sides. But it just happened. He left with the friends who came with him, and I left with the friends who came with me—not many friends stayed with both of us. I think it’s hard for others to know what to do, especially when it goes through ups and downs and isn’t always as amicable as you’d hoped.
Now I have a boyfriend, but initially, many of my friends included me single, and I never felt uncomfortable being a third wheel. Being on my own has given me the confidence to show up on my own, whereas previously, I was used to having someone by my side.
Q: Was there a defining moment when you realized you were parenting solo?
A: Bedtime was always a reminder, as was the first time I took the kids on a plane by myself. There was a fire, and we had an emergency landing. I’m not a great flier to begin with but had to stay calm for them.
Also, when I was diagnosed with cancer. I couldn’t fathom being able to parent while going through treatment, and going through treatment was a difficult time. I was alone with them often. I didn’t want them to see how sick I was, but often it was so hard to get up and get them breakfast. As you know, I hate the words single mom, but during that year and a half, that term fit just fine!
Q: When were you diagnosed with cancer?
A: I found a lump and was diagnosed in December 2015. In January 2016, I had a lumpectomy. In February, I began aggressive chemotherapy for six months and continued with immunotherapy infusions for a year. In August and September, I had radiation five days a week for six weeks. Now I’m on medicine forever. I have a lot of follow-up appointments and am deciding about another surgery.
I feel mostly great but have some side effects. That’s life, right? Everyone has something. I generally believe in hard work as opposed to luck. But with cancer, I certainly am lucky.
Q: How has cancer changed you as a parent?
A: Little things don’t matter as much. I try to share this with my kids. Don’t sweat the small stuff. We don’t have time for that. Let’s worry about things that matter.
I have always loved life, but now more than ever. I have always loved including my kids in my work, my life, and travels—again, now more than ever. I want to show them the world—to learn and explore with them. Last year I took them to London to celebrate the end of chemo. Now I’m planning a trip to Iceland to celebrate the end of treatment. I find reasons to just celebrate!
Q: Are you still able to carry your usual workload?
A: I have an incredible partner, my #workwife, Melissa Gerstein. I worked throughout treatment but wasn’t always “me.” It was physically and emotionally exhausting. If I wasn’t able to show up at or travel to a Mamarazzi event, she showed up for both of us, and I worked from my couch. We continued to grow our business and create new opportunities.
Q: What advice do you have for single moms dealing with cancer?
A: Every cancer journey is different, so it’s difficult to give advice. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for others. It helped to try to continue to live my life when I felt OK. It helped to stay active and work out. Many times I went to a spin class and barely broke a sweat but felt good just being there and hearing the music. It helped to have my mom sleep over the first few times I had chemo. I always had friends or family with me while receiving treatment—that was important. I planned parties every step of the way. I needed things to look forward to.
Q: On another note, do you have a favorite parenting cheat?
A: Lunch is made the night before; homework is done before tech or TV; a dry-erase calendar is in the kitchen, color-coded with nights at my house and nights at their dad’s; and a Sunday-night e-mail goes to their dad, my mom, and the sitter with the plan for the week regarding extracurricular activities, who does pickup, etc. We don’t operate without it!
Q: Of what are you the most proud about yourself as an independent mom?
A: That I’m doing it! When I was married, it was so easy to have him do things I didn’t want to do. Now I truly do everything—from changing light bulbs to organizing my kids’ rooms. I pay the bills, plan the trips, do the shopping, plan the meals, do bedtime, get them up and ready in the mornings—everything!
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.