Monica Talks Choosing Her Kids Over Career – and Why She'd Never Join 'Real Housewives of Atlanta'

"Me being away from my children too long is non-negotiable," singer Monica tells PEOPLE

Photo: Cyndi Brown

Monica will be hitting the road with Xscape this winter, but even a national tour can’t keep her away from home for long.

As the 36-year-old singer explains, she always makes time for her kids. “Me being away from my children too long is non-negotiable,” she tells PEOPLE, while simultaneously watching her son’s basketball practice.

Adds the proud mom of three, “It’s not an option, and anytime I work, I make that clear up front.”

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Monica will “balance her time” spent performing and parenting her “talented” and “passionate” three, all of whom are already taking after their mom: 4-year-old Laiyah sings and dances, 9½-year-old Romelo is an aspiring rapper and actor (like Tupac Shakur) and Rocko, 12, produces his own music.

Sometimes “The Boy Is Mine” singer will fly home to Atlanta between shows; other times, her family will come to her. “I won’t not see my children — nothing is that important to me,” she says.

“So if it means that on Fridays when school lets out my mom flies [my kids] into where we are and they catch three shows and fly back, then that’s what we’ll do,” Monica adds.

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But when she is missing her talented children and husband, former NBA player Shannon Brown, Monica can spend time with the closest thing to family: the members of Xscape.

The “Angel of Mine” singer says she was in church choir at age 11 with LaTocha Scott and Tameka “Tiny” Harris. Harris, 42, is godmother to Monica’s daughter Laiyah.

“One thing about being from Atlanta is that we have a genuine support for each other and a genuine love for each other,” says Monica. “So when you have that type of history, it makes working together so much easier.”

It’s no secret Monica loves her Atlanta roots — and Andy Cohen once even suggested she sign on to the cast of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But Monica tells PEOPLE she would never join the reality TV series.

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For the working mom, it’s not about the series’ genre — it’s about being in control of its content, with her children in mind.

“I would only join a show that I could also be executive producer of because what my children see me do is important to me,” says Monica. “I would only be on a show where I could see everything before it airs and be a full participant in what it means.”

“And my goal, if I ever were to do a television show, would be to help girls like myself or people from the communities that are similar to the world that I’m from,” she explains.

The Great Xscape Tour kicks off Nov. 22 in Virginia and concludes Jan. 6 in Los Angeles.

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