Life After Lockup: Sarah Details History With Michael & Current Relationship
Life After Lockup star Sarah Simmons spoke with ScreenRant and explained her co-parenting frustrations with her estranged ex-husband, Michael Simmons.
Fans of Life After Lockup are well aware of the rocky relationship between former couple Michael and Sarah Simmons. The two started their journey on the show as a married couple. But, along the way, Sarah learned of her husband's adulterous ways. Since their split, the two have tried to work through their differences to co-parent their daughters. But Sarah feels Michael isn't present enough, and Michael feels misunderstood. In an exclusive interview with ScreenRant, Sarah opened up about their history together and explained her current frustrations with raising her daughters alone amid the pandemic.
ScreenRant: I'm a big fan of the show, and your storyline always keeps viewers entertained. Thank you for your transparency and for sharing your story.
Sarah Simmons: Yeah, I'm really excited to have the opportunity to do that. At first, maybe not so much? But now, yeah, absolutely love to be able to share my story.
ScreenRant: How difficult was it for you to open up on the show during your first season?
Sarah Simmons: It was one of the most nerve-wracking things I think I've ever done. If I was not having heart attack on the way to my first scene, I don't know what I was having. But I've always kind of been a person that, no matter how nervous they get, I flourish no matter what situation I'm in. And just being reminded of that, and I think just being myself and authentic, is actually what has assisted me in doing such a good job on the show. I march to my own beat, just being myself, not really caring about who was seeing or what they had to say about it. Even though, at first, I did care.
ScreenRant: That's what makes the Love After Lockup franchise such a hit, because of the transparency that we see from those of you on the show compared to other reality shows that are out there. I wanted to ask you, how have you and your daughters been handling the pandemic?
Sarah Simmons: Luckily, I have a sister, who has decided to really get into helping me ever since this pandemic happened. She decided to temporarily move in and help me with my kids, and that has been the most appreciative thing ever. Because obviously, it's very scary; you don't know what you're dealing with. As a single mom, I'm being told that it's okay to bring the kids to the store, and it's not okay to bring your kids out. With her help, I was able to get through it.
One of the biggest things I was worried about was their mental health. How I'd be able to portray what's going on, explain and have them understand, that's been tough. But honestly, in the quality time that we have been able to spend together because I'm not as busy because I lost my job, I've learned so much more about my kids. I've been able to actually enjoy my children, and that's been a good part of it, even though it's completely exhausting.
ScreenRant: When is the last time that your girls got to see their father?
Sarah Simmons: I'm not sure how I can touch on this subject, because there is the new season coming out. But I can say that, obviously from everything that people have seen, it is very inconsistent. It is far few and between, and it's not at all something that I feel like my kids can understand. Because on one hand, you have Mom who's here day in and day out, who does everything for you; who is there for you no matter what. And then you have a dad who comes and goes and doesn't always call. So, that's extremely difficult, I'm sure, for the kids. Especially my oldest, Aviahna.
But at the same time, I have to remember, it was just her and me for three years while he was locked up, and you're five years old. So, is this extremely different from what she's used to? Probably not. Even though it probably sucks. All I know is that I have to believe I'm enough. I have to believe that being able to allow her to express herself and ask questions and give appropriate time to talk to her about it is the best I can do.
ScreenRant: On Michael's part, what do you think that he could right now? Despite it being a pandemic, what could he do to make his relationship stronger with his daughters?
Sarah Simmons: I mean, he's a grown a** man. He doesn't have anything super serious; he can go anywhere, right? Except for his tour in New York. And as a grown a** man, I feel like you should have came here; you should have tried to set up here, and you should try to consistently be in their lives. And if you can't do that, I feel like you should consistently reach out to them. Whether it's on an everyday basis or at least once a week, I don't care how you measure it, I feel like you need to be consistent.
I'd like to think I understand a little bit, but I don't agree at all. And as a mother, when I look at my children, there are sometimes I look at them and I'm like, "I don't know how you cannot call them every day." I don't know how you can't be a part of their lives every day, Facetime there every day with the technology, or come here. Oh, my God, it would destroy me. So, I don't understand.
ScreenRant: I know there's not much you can share, but what is the current status of your relationship with Michael?
Sarah Simmons: The best I can say is that, okay, you cheated on me. You didn't want to be with me; you didn't want to be married to me, Okay, I understand. I've moved on, I've gotten into a relationship, and I accept that. Obviously, I've gone into a relationship and, knowing myself, I wouldn't have done that if I wasn't completely in acceptance. I truly believe in energy, and nobody would have found me if I wasn't completely over Michael.
With that being said, I have then moved into the position of just focusing on him as the father of my kids and being the mother to his kids. My relationship with Michael is that, as the person I am, I will do everything and anything I possibly can to support a relationship between his kids and him. Once I feel like I have done that, and I have exhausted every effort, then I'll give up. And that's the best I can say.
ScreenRant: We definitely got to see that during this last season of Life After Lockup, particularly with the whole birthday party scene. It seemed as though he was uncomfortable with all the eyes that were on him, and with your youngest daughter crying. He just seemed uncomfortable, and he kind of put that off on you having your new significant other there. Is that something that you guys discussed afterwards?
Sarah Simmons: I think on the new season, there's definitely going to be some discussion afterwards. There's a lot of feelings I have in that moment that you will see in new season. However, the biggest thing I can say is that when we did have that last discussion before he left the party, he said that I made it all about my new boyfriend and filming and things like that. To me, my first response was that he was. I feel like, as an adult and as a parent, no matter how tough the situation is for you - no matter what you feel, or how many eyes are on you - you suck it up and you grow up until that party is over.
You left because of the boyfriend and the filming, so who's really making it about that? Not me. The only reason I wanted you to acknowledge my boyfriend was for you to eliminate some of the tension for everybody else. I wanted you to bite that bullet for the kids. I wanted you to bite the bullet and stay around for the kids no matter how uncomfortable you felt. And as a parent, no matter how you feel or what you're going through, you have to eliminate as much effect on your kids as possible. And he didn't do that. I felt like he got too much into his feelings, and he decided to give up. I feel like he took a coward's way out.
ScreenRant: I've been watching your story from day one, but can you walk us through how you met Michael? I know you live in New York and he lives in Michigan, so how did you guys meet?
Sarah Simmons: Because my mom died when I was so young, I grew up with this thought of, "I do not want to stay here for the rest of my life. I want to live my life because life is short." So when I was young, 17 or 18, I wrote a note to my dad and I said, "I'm gone." I packed up my car, drove my car down south to Atlanta, Georgia, and found myself a place to live and found myself job, and just kind of lived my life. Michael was living with his dad in Atlanta, and that's how I met Michael through a mutual friend. He was actually a boyfriend at the time, who was best friends with Michael.
Michael and I became best friends and eventually got romantic; fell in love. When he got arrested, he was extradited back to Michigan because he was currently on parole from Michigan. That's when I decided, because I was pregnant with Aviahna and having a child, that I had to go back to New York for support. That's how he ended up in Michigan and how I ended up back in New York.
ScreenRant: During that time, did you start to feel that it's going to be really be hard for this relationship to work?
Sarah Simmons: At the time, Michael and I were inseparable. I mean, we were literally best friends. And I was young, yes, but I was extremely love with this guy. We built our relationship off of friendship, and I thought that was really special. So, when we had a child, he had already proposed to me, we were engaged, and our relationship was serious. We'd lived together for a few years now, so his going to prison obviously was devastating. I'm having a child and have to raise her on my own, you're in prison for all these years. But there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to hold him down. I was going to hold him down, and I was doing what I had to do to create a better life for him when he got out and really help him succeed the best way I could.
So, everything that happened was especially a shock, and dealing with it while pregnant with my second daughter was just a kicker. It was just very emotional, because when you're pregnant with someone's child, there's almost this draw, this craving, this connection to this person. Your hormones and emotions are on 10 at the same time, so you're like, "Oh my, God." What are you gonna do? I've been a single mom to one kid. I waited three years to be relieved of that, and now I have to go and turn around and be a single mother to two? What am I going to do?
ScreenRant: Are you still legally married? Are you able to share that?
Sarah Simmons: I'm not able to share my current status with anything at this point. But in the last season, we did end off still legally married, yes.
ScreenRant: Will fans get to see an update of your status with Malcolm?
Sarah Simmons: I believe that this season will fulfill that. I believe that the season will fill in the status between Michael and I, between Malcolm and I, and where everything goes. I'm very excited for it.
ScreenRant: What was it like opening up to Malcolm about your situation with Michael?
Sarah Simmons: Obviously, it wasn't that tough. The whole world knows the situation, so it was like, "I might as well tell you too, if you don't already know." The only tough part about it is that I got extremely tired of defending my elf. I felt like, in the last episode, you saw Malcolm questioning where I stood with Michael and my feelings for him. You can see my face, and I was so aggravated because I feel like I should not have to spend every single day proving to Malcolm or anybody else that I say what I mean.
I'm over Michael; I've said it and I've shown it to you, and you still are questioning me. I got offended, extremely offended, and I get offended to this day if anyone asks me questions about it. Because you know what? I don't have to prove a goddamn thing to anybody but myself. I don't have to explain myself. I know how I feel, I know who I am. And if you can't see that, that's not my problem.
ScreenRant: When it comes to Michael's family, do you feel that they make an effort to have a relationship with your daughters?
Sarah Simmons: I feel like Michael's father - I know you don't see him on the show or anything like that, but his father and I are extremely close. We've always been close. He has always sent gifts for the kids on Christmas, birthdays, and all types of holidays. He's always reached out, and he Facetimes with the girls. Michael's sister, who you have seen on the show, does an excellent job. Michael's mother and I - obviously everyone knows there's some things going on there.
I personally feel like Michael's mom is a little too close to Michael, as far as behavior and thought process, so I'm a little wary about that. I don't feel as though that relationship on her end is great. I feel like she should do better because it's damn sure not my job. I'm doing my job. I'm the kids' mom that takes care of them. Everybody else that wants a relationship with those kids, it's your job.
ScreenRant: What has fan interaction been like when you're out living your life?
Sarah Simmons: It's been a lot. It's been really tough on the kids, especially Aviahna, because she doesn't understand why. All of a sudden she goes out and everyone knows who she is, and she looks at me like, "Mom, everyone knows us. Why?" I try to explain to her, like, "You're on TV." I just don't think she gets it, but hang in there, girl. I'll explain it to you when you're older.
Sometimes they'll jump out of cars and hug me, or think that they know me, and that's a little weird. Or being secretly videotaped, and then it goes viral, because I was out and about with somebody. It's crazy. But the funniest thing is that in the past, if Michael was ever around or he and I got caught at one place together, it's the biggest thing that's ever happened. I think he and I pulled up separately to a gas station once, and it was like this biggest thing ever. Everyone ran out of gas station like, "Oh, my God! Both of you?" I'm like, holy crap!
So, I try not to go places with my baby dad, because that's insane. I'm also a server, so in the restaurant, it's pretty crazy, I feel like it's more meet and greet every day than work. But I appreciate it. I respect it, and I try to welcome it as much as I can. But no matter how much it happens, I don't ever get used to it. It's crazy.
ScreenRant: How do you handle negative comments on social media?
Sarah Simmons: At first, I'd cry about. I was like, "Oh my God, I have to prove them wrong." Now, I look at it and laugh. I also think, "You know what? You do you, boo. You are entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to whatever perspective you want to take from what you've seen." And it's okay, because I know where I stand. I know what I'm doing, I know what my kids you're doing, and I know that the people that love me know. And that's all that matters. I value the people that I care about's opinion, not everybody else's.
ScreenRant: Your story is a bit different than some of the others we've seen on the show, in that you two actually had history before Michael went to jail. Would you ever consider dating someone else who's in prison?
Sarah Simmons: No, I think they're crazy. When I watch the show, I'm like, "Who in their right mind?!" And it's crazy, because on the same show, right? But I'm like, "Girl or man, I would never. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever." Why? First of all, I know a hell of a lot more of jail talk than anybody else. Jail talk is basically just bullsh*t they're feeding you, if you haven't already heard that. At the same time, was I getting jail talk? Probably. But I don't think so, because we had a relationship, we were engaged, and we had a kid. So how was I supposed to know?
But I am a beautiful girl, and I am a great woman. If I have to resort to find somebody in prison, I might give up entirely.
ScreenRant: Oh, my goodness. But it sounds like you are a fan of the show that you are on. Are there any other couples that stand out to you, whose storyline you were into on the show?
Sarah Simmons: l would say Brittany and Marcelino, mainly because Brittany. She's my favorite, because she was the one that was in prison. And when she came out - because I can see firsthand somebody who was in prison and how sh*tty they turned out, AKA my baby dad - you look at Brittany, and you see what an amazing job she's doing. She is doing things that you would never have initially expected: getting custody of her son, having children, having a beautiful household, and being in a healthy relationship.
To some degree, every relationship has issues. But that is such a thing that she should be proud of. And I told her that. I said, "Girl, you should be so proud of yourself for coming out of prison and doing what you've done." You don't have to be perfect; you've just got to do it.
ScreenRant: There's been a number of couples that didn't make it. Were there any that broke up after the show that you weren't surprised by, or that you had an inkling about before?
Sarah Simmons: The ones that I'm surprised by are the ones that have actually made it. I mean, I couldn't make it, so I'm surprised y'all are making it. Honestly, because it's like, "Wow, you guys didn't even know each other? You guys don't even know each other."
The thing I really wish I would know is, yes, you talked while you were in prison and had visits and stuff like that - but are you sure? Because you're in prison, so how do you know what's out there? There's tons of fishes. Have you checked all the fish? Like, do you really know? So, I'm more or less surprised by the ones that have made it, to be honest.
ScreenRant: Do you think that Love After Lockup and Life After Lockup help to humanize people that have served time in prison or are still in prison? Do you think it helps build sympathy for people who might have stereotypes?
Sarah Simmons: Yes and no. I think that it helps normalize the fact that there's lots of people who go to prison and come out, and it's normal to be in a relationship too and want that companionship, and reach out to people while you're in that position. And I think that a lot of people have the wrong idea about everybody who goes to prison.
For instance, when I would be working and people would ask me my situation, I'd say that my husband was in prison. And their first question was, "Are you scared of him?" I'd be like, "No, or I wouldn't be married to the guy." Why would I have to be scared of my husband? That's when I realized that people really don't understand all the different aspects of why someone goes to prison.
Everyone's their own person, and everyone responds to prison differently. Everyone responds to rehabilitation and coming back out differently. You just never know, but it's so normal for somebody to go to prison and come back out and want normalcy, whatever that is. I think that's what it really helps, that it's more common than people thought.
ScreenRant: Do you have any advice for someone that is currently dating an inmate?
Sarah Simmons: Yeah, don't give your all to a person that's locked up. Seriously, do not. Do not, do not. Because they [have] different needs than people on the outside. People who are locked up don't understand the hardships of us that are on the outside. They think that we have it made because we're free. We're not in prison; we're perfect. But they don't understand that we struggle to out here, with you in there. We have to handle different difficulties, and we're missing out on certain things too.
I feel like when they get out, they want freedom and they want low expectations, and they want to take their time. But for us, who have waited on you, are we being supported? Are we being catered to? Because we've been waiting, and so we want to hurry up. I feel like there's a huge lack of compromise with people who are coming out being in relationships with people who are waiting for them. And I feel like, in that sense, you're already facing failure. Because you guys are too opposite ends of the spectrum: you want to hurry up and you want to slow down. I feel like the people that are coming out feel like they're more entitled to what they want and to be catered to, and that's not fair. I feel like people need to realize that more.
ScreenRant: You could you could start an advice column. My last question is: what can fans expect from your storyline on this upcoming season of Life After Lockup?
Sarah Simmons: I know Michael and I have been through a lot of things. We've been through, on his end, a lot of different relationships to say the least, and co-parenting and things like that. I guess for this season, it's kind of like my turn to experience what it's like to be with somebody else, and how you handle that in a situation with a baby dad and children, and how that unfolds. I think that's very important, because there's lots of chapters in our story. And this one is pretty significant when it comes to introducing somebody else in my life while Michael is still attached.
Next: Life After Lockup: Sarah Calls Michael Out For Not Being In Girls ‘Lives Everyday’