Phaedra Parks has spent the past few seasons on The Real Housewives of Atlanta in the throes of a tumultuous relationship with ex-husband Apollo Nida — who is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony bank fraud and identity theft in May 2014
After Nida left, Parks tells PEOPLE she had to regroup, refocus and work on herself and children — Ayden, 6, and Dylan, 3 — whom she describes as “funny, super-smart, sweet little boys.”
Both kids were born on-air – and have grown up on the show. The presence of the cameras has turned Ayden into a budding filmmaker. “He’s vey interested in the running of the cameras,” Parks joked. “He thinks he can produce the show!”
Season 9 will be the first Dylan was mic’ed for the show. “At first he was a little weary of it, but then he was like ‘Where’s my mic?’ Parks laughed. “He’s really evolved. At the end of last year, you saw him beginning to speak. Now, he speaks all the time – he won’t stop talking.”
The two children are “night and day” — though both, like their mom, have good senses of humor.
“They things they do are just hilarious,” Parks said. “Yesterday we were at home, and I asked Dylan, ‘What are you chewing on?’ and — this is gross – he said ‘My toenails.’ I was like, ‘Why are you chewing on your toenails?’ and he was like ‘I’m a carnivore — they’re meat.’ I’m like OH MY GOD – I thought that was so funny. I was like — ‘I’m glad you know what carnivore means, but toenails are not meat!’ ”
“It’s never a boring day with the two of them,” she added.
While the smiles keep coming with her children, Parks isn’t smiling about the state of the world, racially and politically.
“I’m the mother to two African-American boys, so the police brutality and Black Lives Matter movement is a lot to digest right now,” she said. “It makes you very afraid and very cognizant of how you’re raising them, what you’re exposing them to and what you’re teaching to them. You have to make them aware of the country we’re living in — the good things and the bad things about the United States. It can be a daunting challenge.”
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She’s faced that challenge — and the challenge of finding the right people in her life to help her raise her boys. “Hindsight is always 20/20, but it was very hard for awhile trying to figure it out,” she said. “Things have leveled out now. Boys are both in school, my parents are helping out, uncles are helping out, I have a night manager, a great governess — I have surrounded myself with people who encourage me and really support me.”
Parks speaks especially highly of her governess, Lisa — whom jokingly calls “her wife” on the show’s premiere episode.
“Wives do way more than husband do,” she explained. “I’m not attracted to women sexually, but I don’t know any woman who can’t run circles around a man in terms of organization and getting things done and not needing too much patting on the back.”
“I tell everyone — get yourself a wife,” she concludes. “Even if you have a husband, get yourself a husband-wife!”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta returns for a new season Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.