Teresa Giudice never thought she’d be raising four children solo, but she’s doing her best.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star opened up to PEOPLE’s Celeb Parents Get Real about life with her daughters — Audriana, 8, Milania, 11, Gabriella, 13, and Gia, 16 — while her husband Joe Giudice serves his 41-month prison sentence for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud that began in March 2016.
“The greatest challenge for me to overcome as a parent, that I talk about in [my book] Standing Strong, is being a single mom. I never thought I would be a single mom with four daughters for around three years,” she explains. “It is difficult because I’m wearing a lot of different hats — I have to be Mom, Dad, the provider for my daughters, taking care of the house, doing everything by myself.”
Continues Giudice, 45, “What’s the most challenging to me is I do have four daughters, and giving them all the time, the one-on-one attention that they need, that’s really important to me. I want them to know that they are loved, and I tell them that I love them all the time.”
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“I wish that I was never away from them for 11 and a half months,” she says. “I guess it was part of my journey, and maybe that was a way of helping them grow. I always try to look at the positive for everything because I know it wasn’t my choice, and if it was my choice, I would have never left my daughters.”
“Every family has their thing, and unfortunately we all go through ups and downs in life,” Giudice adds. “It makes us who we are, and it’s part of our journey. We’ve just got to learn from it, and just better ourselves and be happy and move on.”
With her daughters getting older, the reality star is coming to terms with the thought of them flying the coop — a choice she didn’t really have.
Giudice reveals to PEOPLE that her own parents were super strict, not allowing her to have sleepovers, go away to college or move out until she got married.
“I want my daughters to go away to college,” she explains. “I think it’s good for them to be their own person before they move on and get married, so if they want to move out and live on their own before that, I think I’m fine with that.”
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Of course, there are times when the TV personality occasionally needs to channel her own mom and dad.
“I lay down the law when I need to, but other than that, they’re pretty amazing,” Giudice praises her daughters. “They know what to do.”