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First for Women (12/3/2007)



Busy Mom and actress Melissa (Sue) Anderson, 45, reveals her secrets for keeping up with the holiday hustle and bustle


Before having kids, I instinctively knew that I would be one of those people who couldn't balance a career and raise children well," says actress Melissa Anderson of her 12-year hiatus from Hollywood. That's why the former Little House on the Prairie star chose to lead a quiet life in Montreal, Canada, to raise her two children: Piper, now 16, and Griffin, 11. "I didn't want my kids to grow up around a parent who's being stopped and asked for autographs all the time," Melissa explains. "They've been able to grow up being the stars of the household." Now that Melissa's kids are older and more independent, she's returning to the spotlight. And that has meant reading scripts and auditioning for roles in the midst of an already-busy schedule filled with parenting, holiday shopping, decorating and cooking. Here, Melissa shares her secrets for getting it all done without feeling frazzled.

STRESS SOLUTION: Streamline your mornings with a multitasker

Melissa relies on mineral-powder makeup with sunblock to help her speed through her mornings. "It's super-quick and looks good," she says. "And I can add to it as the day goes on, if I need to, so I look more made-up."

STRESS SOLUTIONS: Get a breath of cold air

When hectic days leave Melissa feeling sluggish, she steps outside to breathe in the cool mountain air. "I like to take walks up the mountain near our home," she says. "It's a good workout since it's a steep hill, and it has a beautiful view of the city. It's very de-stressing."

STRESS SOLUTION: Enjoy mini celebrations

The weeks before Christmas are usually so jam-packed that slowing down to savor each moment can be tough. So Melissa keeps the time centered around family by dividing festivities into several small sessions. "One day the kids make cards-one in French and one in English. Then we all decorate the tree about a week and a half before Christmas," she says. "Finally, we open our presents on Christmas morning."

STRESS SOLUTION: Give gifts a personal touch

Rather than giving dozens of presents, Melissa chooses a few gifts that have lasting meaning. "My daughter loves raspberry cheesecake, so I found a beautiful ornament that looks like a piece of raspberry cheesecake;' she says. "And my son has a couple of nice Star Wars ornaments. Now they have some special things that they'll still have when celebrating with their own families."

STRESS SOLUTION: Do one task at a time to accomplish even more

You won't find Melissa rising with the sun to get through all her holiday errands. "I'm really not a morning person," admits the actress. Her solution: Tackle chores one at a time to optimize efficiency. "To make everything easy first thing, I take the kids to school, then come back and fix myself up," she says. "I can't get everything done at once. It's impossible!"

Main photo: Manon Boyer/Anna Goodson Management. Hair and makeup: SorayalSoraya Hair & Make-up. Stylist: Dominique Vien. Inset: Everett Collection. Text: Jennifer Joseph