Of all the roles that Jama Williamson has had over her career, the one that she’s relishing the most is Mom. The Parks and Recreation actress is looking forward to the future with her two daughters, 3 ½ year old Adeline and 3-month-old Roma and taking on roles that really matter. She spoke with us about being welcomed into the Mom Club, why she wants to be a working momma role model, and how she connected with her babies in the womb, thanks to BellyBuds.
Your girls are at such fun ages, which I’m sure is something you hear a lot. But I think that every age is the next best age.
Yes, I believe it now because I remember people used to say that and I just didn’t understand it. I’ve noticed that with Ady, my oldest one, that every age I thought, “Oh, this is my favorite. No, wait, seriously, this is my favorite!” So I realized that it just keeps getting better. It’s so fun and it’s so fun to start again. This new one, I feel like I’m appreciating the baby part so much more than I did the first time because I was so overwhelmed.
But oh my gosh, it’s so fun to be a part of the club. You just instantly connect with other parents. There’s so much to talk about; there’s such a connection. I didn’t even realize how not a part of the club I was for so long, because we started relatively late. Although with our group of friends, you know, actors are such freaks that most of them aren’t married yet much less have children. So we’re like the weirdos whenever we all get together, we have the kids. And it’s like, we’re crazy for having kids in our mid to late 30s!
So let’s talk about what you have going on now.
I’ve been lucky enough to be on Parks and Recreation. I got to work well into my pregnancy, which was very nice. I feel like the luckiest actor in the world because I got to be the love interest to two men who I think are the two funniest and most charming men on television, which are Aziz Ansari, and Nick Offerman. These two guys on Parks and Rec are just as lovely and charming as they’re talented. And it has just been so fun because I went on the show as Aziz’s green card wife and only after our impending divorce, did he realize that he was actually in love with his own wife. So he tried to pursue me for a while and I just wasn’t interested in him and I ended up dating his boss which added a nice tension on the show.
As of now, my character is back in Canada. I’m a surgeon from Canada, and I’ve gone back to Canada to take care of my sick parents. That was my exit when I was starting to be noticeably pregnant. I don’t know what my future holds on the show, so we’ll see what happens when they come back next season. I’m hoping I get an entree back from Canada.
The nice thing about the show is that it’s the warmest, coziest place to work. They say a show takes on the personalities of the person who’s in the lead and Amy Poehler is the just the sweetest, most authentic person and woman. And I know she’s a mom working mom as well, so we always have a lot to talk about. We were always talking about kids when we were in the makeup chair. Her energy trickled down to the whole show. Everyone is just like a big, happy, friendly family. It’s just such a nice place to work.
And now I’ve just been auditioning, I got back in the swing of it about a month ago, because I took a few months to recover from pregnancy and postpartum. It’s been really exciting, and ultimately very disappointing. I’ve gotten really close on a couple big things. They haven’t fallen in my court, which, at one time, I would say would be devastating. But I guess that’s the nice thing about being a mom, is that the most important thing in your world and your most important role is that of a mother. It’s actually so grounding.
I’m way less attached to outcomes now than I used to be, because my most important role is already filled. And then any disappointments I have, or even triumphs that I have in my career, is much less of an impact, because I come home to my family. And that just makes all of the other stuff fade in the background in such a good way.
Of course, we have to talk about your girls.
The baby’s name is Roma Hazel. The name came to me in a dream, just totally thrown in from my subconscious. I was really stressing out about not having a name and couldn’t really settle on one that just felt right. And it just popped in and I literally sat up at a bed and I thought, “Roma.” I’ve never even thought of that name. But in the dream, it felt so right, and it turned out my husband loved it. What are the odds of that? Because it’s the first two letters of both of our father’s first names, Robert and Max.
How is Ady being with her little baby sister?
She’s great. She’s so sweet with her. At first, I had to teacher not to be so rough with her love! [laughs] It was a very aggressive love at first and I think she just didn’t understand quite yet how delicate a baby is. She just loved on her, like would crawl on top of her and straddle her and shower her with kisses. First, I had to rein in the love, but, but it’s been so sweet. And she’s been so excited to have that role as a big sister. She’s like, “Can I teach her to walk? Can I teach her to tell knock knock jokes?” Yes, you can do all those things in time, so she’s, she’s excited to show her the ropes.
Now, how is it with a three-year-old and a three-month-old and going out on all these additions? How have you been swinging it?
I was terrified before it happened. When I first made it out of my house and did it, it was so great! As a working mom, you just have to like really be so focused and honed in on multitasking and prioritizing. I feel like I have such a great job because it takes me away from my girls and in bursts. I’m able to spend time away from them but the time that I spend away from them is so playful and gratifying to me, that I feel like when I come home, I’m such a better mom for it. I have access to more patience and more love because I get to go away and refuel for just a bit and do something that I really love to do.
I feel like it’s such a powerful lesson to say to your kids, that it’s a privilege to go to work and love what you do. I’m always really careful to say I get to go to work today, not I have to go to work today, because that’s such an important distinction. I want my girls to associate work with empowerment and not resignation. I feel like, strangely in some strange way, working makes motherhood easier.
I couldn’t agree more. It gives you that mental break and clarity, plus you get to connect to another side of yourself that is so important.
I think having kids slightly later where you’ve had an opportunity to establish some sense of your own career can be better. Sure, it can get a little topsy turvy once you have kids, and you have to figure out a new system of doing things. But I think if you have that, prior to having kids, and you’ve gotten into that groove a little bit as a working person, it makes it actually quite easier to teach, because you know what it looks like, you know what it feels like. One of those small little blessings of having kids a little bit later is that you have a chance to organize your career first.
So let’s talk about BellyBuds.
It’s been such an interesting ride, because it’s just so neat, watching this idea that Kurt had just burst forth with life and it’s so exciting. Its origin was when I was pregnant with Adeline, and I wanted to play music to my belly. I had heard about all this research that it helps enhance brain development. But I was so uninspired to hold headphones, or earbuds to my belly, because I couldn’t walk around, couldn’t do anything. So I was trying to find an alternative, and my husband thought that he could make it himself. And there you go, BellyBuds were born before Ady was.
He just really kept moving forward with it, and I feel like there was a bit of divine inspiration as well, because the process was daunting but every time the floor would appear, and things would help him along. He’s so industrious, like a modern-day Renaissance Man. He can do anything.
Did you use them for the second pregnancy?
I did! I used the first one for Ady but it was a prototype. It was the very first Belly Bud in existence, so she was the first BellyBuds baby. And then it was so fun this time around with Roma because I had an unlimited supply of adhesives because I played it all the time. I played Roma the same playlist over and over again and she totally responds to it now. When I click on it, she recognizes it and she’ll stop crying; she loves it.
What was on the playlist?
I did a little bit of everything because I didn’t want to direct her musical tastes today. I did a little sampling —I had a couple of classical songs, I had The Beatles, Willie Nelson, some country, and some New Age stuff that I had picked up from my yoga classes. Who am I to tell her that she must be Dave Matthews fan, which is probably what I would have played for her over and over again if it had been 15 years ago!
I did have my mom sing a little song that I downloaded and put on my playlist. My mom was going to be at the birth and babies really do respond to voices in utero. So, I just wanted that bond to exist before she was born. But one of the uses that has been so exciting for BellyBuds is for people to download voices and then use BellyBuds. This is great for military families where spouses can’t be there during the pregnancy and then the baby can play it to the womb. It’s such a sweet and powerful thing.