Life

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi Makes Parenting Through A Pandemic Sound Easy — Almost

“They’re always around,” Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi jokes of her children, Lorenzo (8), Giovanna (5), and Angelo (1). In a pandemic-free scenario, the two older kids spend a bulk of their time playing sports, while her youngest would be tied to her hip regardless. Yes, Polizzi fully intended to spend more time with her family in 2020, having announced last December that Snooki would not return to Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, but isolating with them for months on end while COVID ravages the U.S. was not exactly what she had in mind. Even still, Polizzi sounds admirably calm when reflecting on quarantining, social distancing, and returning to normalcy.

“I knew it was going to be fully hands on,” she tells Romper over the phone, of being home with her children 24/7. But that was already par for the course for Polizzi and her husband Jonni LaValle. "Me and my husband swore that we were going to take care of our kids," she says. "If we needed a babysitter like normal, we would get that but we never envisioned ourselves to have nannies." Without organized activities keeping the children busy, Polizzi makes sure the family spends as much time outdoors swimming or playing as possible. Usually that means, “I try not to be a hermit and stay inside the entire time."

Sounds easy enough once you realize she outfitted her Morris County, New Jersey backyard like a talk-of-the-town kid’s birthday party. “I ended up buying a huge blow up for like a thousand dollars. It’s a bounce house that has a slide, it has a basketball hoop, and we literally used it once. I'm like, great.”

[Bribing the kids] just works the best.
No shame in her bribery game: "[Bribing the kids] just works the best. I’m like, Lorenzo, if you take out the garbage, then you get something on Amazon. It works for me, and the kids are happy when they get rewarded." Or "they'll forget about it 10 minutes later."

But no matter how ideal her custom-built home sounds for quarantine life, the pandemic has forced so many families, especially those with young children who aren't anywhere close to self-sufficiency, into the same boat. Sure, there have been scrapbook-worthy moments along the way, but there's also the relentless — sometimes paralyzing — fear and uncertainty that the worst might happen to those we love, layered on top of the exhaustion endless hours of parenting brings. And when enlisting a babysitter or grandparent for help is not even an option, we've all had to try to find ways to keep ourselves from completely unravelling.

“Wine is helping,” Polizzi says, plus pockets of alone time in 10 minute intervals. Going for a walk, taking a shower, or allowing her kids extra screen time so (she could sneak some in herself), are opportune moments in the day to catch her breath. Without mini moments of reprieve, “you’ll start yelling at your kids for no reason… I know that happens to me,” she admits, and encourages moms to take those breadcrumbs of solitude when they can.

Wine is helping.

Meanwhile, work is also keeping this mom busy. Someone’s got to keep those 976,000 YouTube subscribers and 19.7 million social media followers happy. Snooki, not only as a person, but a brand, is practically synonymous with the Jersey Shore franchise, and no cast mate has diversified their portfolio as widely and successfully as Polizzi (add multiple spin-off shows, an Etsy shop, a brick-and-mortar store, and podcast to the ever-growing list of money-making projects). Her latest venture, a collaboration with baby brand Your Babiie, is available at Buy Buy Baby now. Within it, you'll find strollers ($120-$350), high chairs ($110), and travel accessories ($60-$80) that are anything but minimal.

“I like animal prints and pops of color,” and that's exactly what the line offers: a bassinet in purple and grey camouflage, a leopard print stroller with rose gold hardware. The marbled-patterned highchair (available in pink or black) fits children ages 1-10 and adjusts to a wide range of heights to accommodate different surface levels from kitchen counters to coffee tables — convenient if you want to take your child from dining table to kitchen island and a savior if you’re petite like Polizzi and want to make transitioning Baby in and out of his seat easier.

As social distancing measures relax in the state of New Jersey, where gyms (a main component of the GTL lifestyle) just got the green-light to reopen at 25% capacity, and residents are hopeful that indoor dining will soon follow, Polizzi has also felt comfortable enough to venture out. She regularly visits The Snooki Shop in Madison, New Jersey (which is allowed to have customers) to make sure day-to-day operations are running smoothly, and she has been socializing responsibly. “We started going to parties if they’re outside and there’s not too many people,” she says. Her parents, who were banned from visiting the house during the first few months of lock-down and missed too many of Angelo’s milestones — his first steps! — now get to visit for Sunday dinner along with other close family members. She saw Jersey Shore castmates Jenni “Jwoww” Farley and Deena Cortese at Farley’s daughter’s birthday party.

“It’s baby steps,” she says of returning back to pre-pandemic life. Until that happens — if it ever does — in the world according to Snooki, it's the intimate moments we have with our children that level our sanity. It's soaking in your eldest's affection as you brace for the day when they'll no longer want to fall asleep on you, dusting off your old school cheer moves to tumble with your mini-me, waking up at 5 a.m. to give your 1-year-old "a little butt rub to get him back to sleep" even though you're not a morning person. And if you have to bribe your kids to get them to do what you want once in a while just to make it to the end of the day, so be it.