Melissa Rycroft is flying high after two weeks of soaring scores on Dancing With the Stars' all-stars season, but there's one thing weighing heavily on her mind: being away from her family. Rycroft opened up to Hollywood.com in the week after her highly praised jive about her "breakdown" in the rehearsal studio and the challenges of being away from her husband, Tye Strickland, and infant daughter Ava.
"Last week I had my first breakdown," Rycroft tells Hollywood.com. "Tye and Ava had come in Friday through Tuesday and then they left and were going to come back the following Friday. And Ava didn't adjust well when she was here. The time change threw her off, it was a different home, she was going with me to the studio and back. And then when she got back to Dallas she was off. Talking to Tye just broke me to where I was like, 'What are we doing and how do we fix this? Because if she's not okay, then I'm not okay. So we either need a formula where you guys are out here all the time or we are starting to go back to Dallas, me and Tony [Dovolani].' And I think it was a 30 minute breakdown in practice."
With her family at the forefront of her mind, Rycroft is resolved to find a balance between her crazy DWTS schedule and being a mom. "But we are fixing the situation," Rycroft says. "If Tony and I make it after this week then we'll start going back and forth to Dallas to make things easier on [Ava]."
Rycroft says she asked fellow DWTS contestant Emmitt Smith, who already commutes between Dallas and L.A. so he can spend more time with his family, for advice. "I decided after talking with Emmitt about it, because Emmitt does it for his kids, he's got five of them, and he said, 'I wouldn't trade it for anything. I get to sleep in my bed every night and see my kids every night and then hop on a plane and get some sleep for a few hours when I head to L.A.' And I went, you know what, I can do that. It'll give me peace of mind," says Rycroft.
"It's hard trying to keep a balance," Rycroft sums up. "This is really the first big thing I've done work-wise since having Ava. And so it's finding that balance and juggle and trying not to feel selfish for wanting to do things. We'll get there. Every working mom does it. We'll get there."
In the meantime, Rycroft is keeping her eye on the prize. And, selfless as always, she wants a win for her partner, Tony Dovolani, just as badly as she wants it for herself. "I know how badly he wants this, I know it's been 14 seasons and he's only made it to the finals I think two or three times, so I want that for him," she says. "But then I also want it for me, just to kind of prove you can still do it. So many things have changed in my life in the past three years but you can still do this."
So who does Rycroft think stands between herself and Dovolani and the trophy? "Oh my God, all of them!"
"It's no secret that Sabrina [Bryan] and Louis [van Amstel] have come out and just rocked it. Technically, they are going to be a very tough couple to beat. And then you've got Shawn [Johnson] and Derek [Hough] who, you can't beat the cute appeal that they have. Emmitt and Cheryl [Burke] have the personality and pizzazz and Gilles [Marini] has the sexiness," says Rycroft. "So you look at all of them going, 'Jeez, they're all going to be so hard to beat because they all have such different things that I don't necessarily have.' But I also know that I have things that they don't necessarily have, so it's really going to be interesting."
Rycroft hopes that Monday night's samba will have what it takes to put her and Dovolani in the lead. "I like samba much more than I like jive," she explains. "I think samba is a great dance for Tony and me, because we can go out and show the fun personality. It's a fun dance, it's the party dance, and we got a 30 back in Season 8 on our samba. So I'm really excited about getting to do it this week."
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[Photo Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC]