Alison Sweeney Quit Soap Stardom to Put Family First

Alison Sweeney, Days of Our Lives: Why She Left in PEOPLE Magazine
Alison Sweeney
Austin Hargrave

07/27/2014 AT 03:20 PM EDT

No one can question Alison Sweeney's work ethic.

For the past two decades, the actress, who plays fan favorite Sami Brady on NBC's Days of Our Lives, was up at 5 a.m., often clocking 12-hour days five days a week on the show's Burbank set.

And that was just her day job.

Sweeney is also the host of NBC's The Biggest Loser and the author of two novels about show business.

"I've always been willing to work hard," says Sweeney, 37, who is enjoying some rare peace at the home she shares in the Hollywood Hills with her husband, Dave Sanov, and their two kids.

"I love what I do, and I'm passionate about it," the actress reflects as she curls up on the couch to enjoy a glass of red wine.

"I'd want my epitaph to be 'Ali Sweeney: She worked hard.'"

But there comes a time when the grind gets to be too much.

In January Sweeney announced her retirement from Days in order to spend more time with her two children, Ben, 9, and Megan, 5.

On May 23 she shot her final scenes. Since then she's been enjoying a new life as an almost-stay-at-home mom.

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