June 10, 2014 at 10:22 AM ET
Rob Lowe may best be known for several decades of work on the big screen, but the actor says he’s most proud of his off-screen work as a dad.
"I just got early on that my boys were going to be my life's work,” he told Maria Shriver on TODAY Tuesday.
That meant being there for bedtime routines, birthday parties and everything in between for Matthew, now 20, and 18-year-old Johnowen.
"I loved coaching the teams. I loved going on the field trips,” he said. “I am the guy dressing up in, you know, the caveman outfit for the kids' birthday parties."
To do that, Lowe shifted away from movie roles and focused more on TV, including long-standing stints on “The West Wing” and “Parks and Recreation.”
“I made a conscious effort to focus on television so I could stay in Los Angeles, so I wasn't on a location all over the world doing movies,” he said. “It was going to be easier to have as close to a normal life as I could.”
Lowe, who reflects on his fatherhood journey in his newest book, “Love Life,” said providing a normal stable life was important to him, partly because of the way he spent his own childhood split between divorced parents. He lived mainly with his mother and rarely saw his father from the time he was a young boy.
"He was out of my life on a daily basis at you know, four, four and a half. So it was all of those things that weekend dads do and summers,” he said.
Lowe couldn't imagine being separated from his own children for such long stretches, saying, "there's nobody I would rather be with." But that doesn't mean he has always found parenting easy.
“For me, the battle is finding the balance between wanting to spend time with my boys and then having enough perspective to still be the disciplinarian and, like, not be in the best friend business,” he said.
"I don't always win that battle because I enjoy them so much, but you don't need your dad to be your best friend."
On the verge of becoming an empty nester as his younger son prepares to head to college, Lowe says he has no regrets about how he and his wife, Sheryl, raised their boys, and hopes their childhood will influence their own views of fatherhood in the future.
"I put in the time. I did it. I can't imagine what it would be like to have guilt around that and then have your kids have problems in adulthood. That would be devastating to me,” he said. “I mean, everybody's going to go through challenges but at least Sheryl and I know that we did truly the best we could."