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Exclusive: Melissa Joan Hart champions raising her boys as she thrives in working world

The Sabrina the Teenage Witch star counts her 20-year marriage as one of her best successes

melissa joan hart
Lily Waddell
Premium Content Editor
8 March 2023
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She may be living in a house of boys but Sabrina The Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart champions being the breadwinner of her own family. With her husband Mark Wilkerson happy to stay at home with their three boys Mason, 17, Braden, 14, and Tucker, 10, the 46-year-old actor shows her sons first hand what gender equality really means.

Despite being famous for her TV and directing career spanning three decades, Melissa counts her 20-year marriage as one of her biggest achievements. In our special International Women's Day coverage, the director reveals she is determined to bring up her boys to value equality and to understand that marriage is hard work, but it's worth the effort. And she's looking forward to offering advice to her sons when they start bringing girlfriends home!

Her husband Mark, also 46, made the emotional decision to become a stay at home dad, quitting his career in music when their second son Braden was born in 2008 "because he was upset about missing bath time". This means everything to Melissa who can take a job with the reassurance: "I can go and he’s got this." 

She tells HELLO!: "Without him behind me, I couldn't do what I do and entertain people because I would have to stay at home with the kids. I could not have asked for a better husband and a better partner in this world to raise these kids. He is a great husband but he's a fantastic dad and he just lives and breathes those boys. Everything he thinks about is for them. I'm lucky I have a husband who doesn't mind doing the cooking or doing the drop offs at school or going to the football games and he is so involved." 

Melissa Joan Hart looks thoughtful as she poses in red silk top

Melissa Joan Hart champions being the breadwinner of her own family

Copyright: John Russo

Their marriage has stood the test of time and the pressures of the showbiz world. After two decades, Melissa tells us she has learnt a lot about love. She reveals how her marriage to her husband has changed in this time and how they keep the magic of their romance alive.

"I've learned that the person you marry is not the same person you will be married to," she says. "Over the years I've changed, he's changed, the marriage has changed. It's a matter of changing together, remembering that first spark, remembering why you're together. Thinking about all the good things and letting go of the bad, which is really difficult. I can only say that because we work on it. We are constantly openly talking about our relationship and raising kids. There's a point in your life when you realize these kids are gonna be gone someday." 

But they have still got plenty of time ahead of them before their kids fly the nest. Conscious of the world we live in, Melissa has been guiding her sons when it comes to women’s equality, and is ready and willing to offer advice for her sons when they start navigating the dating scene. She tells us: "Once girls come into it, as they get older they’ll lean on me for some of my wisdom that I’ve gained over the years. Of course teenagers always think they know everything but they’ll come around wanting more mom advice later on... I’m praying!"

Melissa Joan Hart cuddles Mark Wilkerson © Photo: Getty Images

Melissa and Mark have been happily married for 20 years

She adds: “I'm a little bit nervous about the world that we're raising them in right now. If women want to be equal, do you have to hold the door for them? Yeah, it's polite. Give them your coat when they're cold. I am teaching them to have basic manners and be kind to everybody but being especially gentle to girls, especially when it comes to dating and understanding that hearts break differently for everybody.

"As far as raising them, they can see I am in the working world and I have a really good work ethic. I’m trying to teach them to stay busy, to be a part of your community. I’m trying to make them well rounded men." 

Motherhood changes life as you know it, even for celebrities. While Melissa balances the success of her acting and directing career, she speaks from the heart about the challenges she faces as a mom. "The thing with parenting that nobody really prepares you for is that you always feel like you are failing," she says. "It’s overwhelming. But there’s that love and that desire to protect and that feeling of, 'I will do anything; I will die for these people.'" 

Her own mom Paula has always been on hand for advice, from talking about her babies to her career, and her words stick in Melissa's mind. "My mom said, ‘You have your instincts and you need to trust them. You do what’s right for you and your baby.’ That was huge.” She adds: "My mom has been my biggest cheerleader. We work together, we play together, we love each other. She supported me my whole career." 

Melissa Joan Hart joins her family at a celebrity event© Photo: Getty Images

The happy couple raise their three sons together

Women around the world feel close to Melissa, having grown up with the star, watching her on TV in Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains It All. "I love that fans come up to me and say I helped them through a tough time - maybe they were in the hospital or they were going through some loss in their life or depression and they needed a little uplift." 

And while Melissa is an inspiration in her own right, she has a list of amazing women who she grew up admiting: Shirley Temple, Audrey Hepburn, Goldie Hawn, Penny Marshall and Jodie Foster. More recently, Sandra Bullock caught her attention. She says: "Sandra Bullock can do comedy, drama, action. She’s gorgeous. She’s probably the only leading lady that can get younger co-stars - she gets Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds. The guys always do, but but it's rare for women so it’s nice to see. It’s nice she can break that mould, stay relevant and fun. I love that." 

But while Melissa loves fangirling over Sandra Bullock, it's 91-year-old, Oscar-winning Rita Moreno she credits with having the biggest influence on her as an actress. They really hit it off when Melissa directed Rita in the Lifetime holiday movie Santa Bootcamp. Rita totally mesmerized Melissa.

Rita Moreno looks lovely in strapless burgundy dress© Photo: Getty Images

Rita Moreno totally mesmerized Melissa

She says: “Seeing her work ethic, her energy, the way she’s still able to use her body at 90 years old, and her mind. I was taking all the advice I never got from my grandmothers. I’m asking her all the questions: What do you eat? How do you sleep? What do you do to work out? Why do you keep working? How do you keep working? She amazed me." 

And having taken in all Rita's advice, what would Melissa’s own final words of wisdom be for women, on International Women's Day? For her it's simple: "We can all have each other’s backs and help each other reach the highest mountain."


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