Friday, February 18, 2011 / 5:47 pm
Life As A Mom: Questions & Answers
Calling in from her Utah home on January 27th, Katherine joined a teleconference with a group of moms representing various blogs relating to parenting and children, to answer questions about her own experiences and challenges as a new mom.
The call was chaired by Bridget Nielsen a writer for ModernMom and also a blogger for the Huffington Post, who introduced all of the mothers' questions and managed the chat.
Bridget Nielsen: The first question comes from Marissa from Review Stew and her question is, "How did being a mother in real life help you in your role in Life As We Know It?"
Katherine Heigl: It was actually such a fascinating time in my life because I had just become a mother and I was more - hopefully, a little more prepared than Holly was, but there are things about motherhood that you just don't know until you're in it. You try to get everything ready and it all becomes about the nursery, the car seat, the proper stroller, the right food and all of this stuff and then suddenly you're sort of thrown into it and Naleigh came to us about two months sooner than we were expecting.
So we were really just kind of thrown right into the fire and when I watch the movie now I think it kind of hurt me because I was so distracted by being a new mom that there are moments in my performance where I feel like, "Ugh, I could have done that better" or that should have been more powerful or something, because my mind was always on my kid and I always wanted to be with her. That was just such a strange, weird time in my life because I was working on this movie I was so passionate about and so excited about, but I was longing to be at home with my kid getting to know her better.
But I think it helped - it certainly helps the frazzled-ness of Holly's character. I agree with that.
Bridget Nielsen: Amy from Progressive Pioneer, her question - which I love - is "Being in the public eye so much and feeling like people know so much about you, how do you maintain your real self, the self that's really you and not just what other people expect you to be?"
Katherine Heigl: Well, my problem is I actually have too much of me most of the time. I'm trying to actually learn the exact opposite of that. It sounds like one of those backwards compliments where I'm too forthright and too honest but I kind of am. I don't censor myself well, I just sort of tell everybody everything I'm thinking or feeling - who I am pretty much. What you get is me, I am very much just myself. The problem with that is I think sometimes my ideas or my opinions or my trying to work things out in my own mind - I tend to work it out verbally within interviews.
I think it can sometimes confuse people or maybe offend people. I almost need to learn how to be a little bit more private to keep a little bit more of myself under wraps, but I just have a hard time without my family. We've always just been really honest about all the joys, all of the pain, all of the rewards and all the failures and we have just kind of been that way. So, it's hard for me to not tell everybody everything about myself.
Bridget Nielsen: I think that's what makes you lovable. Good answer. The next question is from Jen at Jen's List. She asked, "Is your husband Mr. Mom when you're on the set?"
Katherine Heigl: He's one of the most amazing fathers I've ever run into. I didn't expect him not to be a great dad, but I also didn't expect him expect him to be such an excellent father. He is so wonderfully involved. Initially, of course, if I was leaving or needed him to kind of step in, "You have diapers, right? You have wipes, right? You know what time she goes down?" It took about a week before I realized this guy's got it way better under control than I do. He's just so great and so involved and he works as well as a musician and has a really exciting career that he's really passionate about.
I wish we could do that whole, when I'm working, you're not working, alternating thing but we're both sort of at a place in our careers where we want to keep the momentum going. You cant always step out of what you're into, just to be with me and Naleigh and vice-versa. I cant always control when films are going to come up, he might be on tour and I could have a big movie that I really want to do.
So it's a constant balancing act and I was recently talking to a friend about the idea that as women we can have it all. You know, they will say that to us "Oh, you can have it all. You can have a career. You can have a family. You can have a love life." You can, it's just it doesn't always feel the way you want it too and lots of times my husband and I don't get to spend a lot of time together as a family, like a traditional family does, and those are the compromises we made to have careers that are always sort of in flux and schedules that are crazy and all of those things. You're at work and you're longing to be with your family or with your family and you're going, "Gee, I wonder what it's like on set today?"
So, it's that perpetual balance. He tries really hard to at least come in for weekends when we're on location and tries to schedule tours and radio dates and stuff around little blocks of time that we can be together. It's hard. It's hard. I wish he could be Mr. Mom.
Bridget Nielsen: Well, that's great, though. I'm very happy for you. It's always great to have a great dad.
Katherine Heigl: Yes. Great dad.
Bridget Nielsen: So, the next question comes from Melissa. She is from Sippy Cup Mom. The mom blogs all have amazing names.
Katherine Heigl: All of these blogs I'm really excited about. I didn't even know they were there - I'm not very good with Google searching. So, I'm really excited now I have this list of blogs I can go to. It's so great to have advice. It is sometimes so hard to just find silly things out, you know?
Bridget Nielsen: Yes. It's great to have the resources as a mom.
Katherine Heigl: Yes. Totally.
Bridget Nielsen: So, her question is, "Have you or are you going to introduce any Korean customs and celebrations in honor of your new daughter?"
Katherine Heigl: Yes, it's funny because we've just recently been talking about this. She's a little over two now and we're kind of going, well, what's a good way to give her the option at least to explore her culture without making her feel like she has to if she doesn't want to. We're talking maybe like it would be kind of interesting having fun together in Korean language classes, as I'm not sure about my children being able to speak languages I can't, because what if they're saying horrible things to you and you don't know.
We also ran into a family here in Utah who are Korean and they were celebrating - I can't quite remember the name - but it was a custom to celebrate the first birthday of the child with this big sort of hoopla kind of Korean celebration. I thought, "Well, we didn't do that because we didn't know", so it might be interesting to try to incorporate some of that into her life. My sister is Korean so I think it would be fun for her as well, to maybe get to explore some of these things and make them a part of our traditions too.
Bridget Nielsen: That's great.
Katherine Heigl: Well, I'll say I don't know how - if we'll nail it or not.
Bridget Nielsen: The next question comes from Christy at Giveaway Train. "How do you cope with a sick child and being a working mom at the same time?"
Katherine Heigl: It's really hard and as I was saying earlier, I think I had this fantasy that I could juggle it all and do it and be fine. Sure, maybe I'll be a little bit more frazzled or stressed, but I can do this. The problem is when I'm working on a movie and I'm also trying so hard to be involved in every little detail of what's going on in Naleigh's day. I'm not doing either thing well. I'm not acting well and I'm not mothering well and I'm just totally stressed out like a spinning top. So I realized on the last project that I did, that I have to trust excellent nannies, whom I really love, to handle things, a husband who is an excellent partner and my mother, who I work with and is my business partner but is also often there and involved.
Thank God I have this group of people that I can sort of really heavily lean on when I'm working. And it's the worst, the worst having to leave a child who's sick and crying for you and go to work. That's the worst thing in the world. I always wish that I could just call in and say "I can't come in today, I have to take care of my daughter". But it just doesn't work that way when you're filming because time is money and as an actor you can't have a sick day. It's a pretty sweet gig, so I can't complain, but it is hard to do that. I've had moments where I have had to compromise my professionalism a little bit and say, "Look, I know you're waiting for me. I know I'm late but I can't. I have to hold her for 10 more minutes just so that I can be a mother for 10 minutes for my child who's not feeling well."
So, there are those days where I've learned that I'm not always going to be able to be exactly perfectly on time, because I sometimes have to deal with a crisis I wasn't prepared for or didn't know was going to happen.
Bridget Nielsen: Great. So, that kind of brings us to the next question which is from Mimi from Marvelous Mom Reviews. She asks, " Does being a parent change how you view the roles you take or the roles you've played in the past?"
Katherine Heigl: Oh, for sure. I think you have this idea of what being a mother or being a parent is going to be like and then you are one and it's so uniquely different to what you imagined. So, anytime I played a mom in the past I've not been one. I've been like, "Oh, I didn't nail that because I didn't know", you know? I think I've always been the kind of person that wants to play female roles and characters that I can admire, look up to or be inspired by, and now as a mother, I feel even more driven to do that.
I'm sure there will come a day that I'll play some despicable person just for the fun of stepping so far outside my own reality to do something totally different. But, I do think I want my daughter to ultimately, when she's old enough, be able to watch these movies and not be like, "Wow, mom, thanks for the nude shot."
Bridget Nielsen: Well, that's good. Just stick with that! So, the next question comes from Lisa at Mama Report, "What's the best parenting advice you've ever received?"
Katherine Heigl: Oh, man. That's tough. I'm trying to think what is the best advice. Probably the one thing that really saved me in the beginning was that Naleigh was almost 10 months old when she came to us, so we didn't have the sleepless nights or any of those things. She has always been a dream sleeper. She had a couple of days of jetlag, but generally speaking that kid has slept 12 hours a night since we got her, so that's awesome.
The one thing that I found really overwhelming at first was how to decide when something is wrong. What is it that's wrong? How do you know it's wrong? My first nanny said, "Look. If she's fed, if she's warm, if she's dry and she has been given gas medication because she's maybe a little gassy and she's still crying - then you have to just let her cry because she's fine. Sometimes they just cry." I thought, okay. That I can handle, because the panic is I've done everything and she's still crying, what could be wrong? It has really saved me because often babies cry because that's them developing physically.
Obviously you have to make sure that nothing really is wrong, but once you've done that, you have to trust that the child just needs that time to cry. I mean, if that just goes on for like an hour, I think you probably have to step in and figure something else out. But Naleigh would always sort of just - you'd do everything, make sure she was fed, make sure she was warm and dry and everything was all right - cry for like 10 or 15 minutes, we would just walk away and let her cry and she would stop.
It was the best advice because I was able to just relax and not constantly feel like I was doing something wrong or I wasn't doing enough right. That's a hard thing when you think about being a mother, you just constantly worry that you're not doing it quite right.
Bridget Nielsen: Yes. That's really good advice. Thanks. The next question comes from Maria at Maria's Space. She asks, "Have you any continued traditions for your own family that you're going to translate into Naleigh's life?"
Katherine Heigl: Oh, we love our traditions. We're big on Christmas, Thanksgiving and family and we actually started praying with Naleigh - just like little night-time prayers. I used to when I was little, say my little night-time prayers and she loves to pray so much, we've decided she's probably going to be a nun or something! She prays all the time. She wants to pray all the time. Now, we're like, "OK, God's busy. He's got other people he needs to listen to." But we try to kind of give her all of those options to see what tradition she responds best to and what she'd like to incorporate into her own life. So, yeah, I love traditions.
Bridget Nielsen: I do too. That's great. So, then Lisa from It Keeps Getting Better asks, "How do you and your husband have date nights without Naleigh? Your own time."
Katherine Heigl: It's actually not that bad. We are really, really fortunate that we have such a lovely nanny helping us. But her hours are specific, it gets to six o'clock and she leaves and we're like, "Crap, we're going to go out for dinner. Who's going to hang out with Naleigh?" So, we don't, we don't go out for dinner as much as we used to, When Naleigh goes to bed at eight then our night begins.
So, then we either make our dinner and watch a movie together, if we want to have like that kind of downtime together or - generally, it's watching movies together, that's our date night. We're really lucky that we get to do it. His birthday is coming up, it's on Sunday and I'm trying to figure it out. I have to either like find a babysitter or beg the nanny to stay a little late so that we can go out for dinner. I love going out for dinner.
Bridget Nielsen: So then, the next question comes from Karen at Not Just Baby Talk and I love this one. "When my baby is fussy, all I have to do is sing Justin Bieber's 'Baby' and it always turns the little frown upside down. So, what mommy tricks do you have up your sleeve to get Naleigh in a good mood?"
Katherine Heigl: It's actually pretty similar. We don't sing Justin Bieber but we make up a lot of ridiculous silly songs that incorporate Naleigh's name. So we try to sing her those songs to kind of cheer her up. Josh has always just been big on like tickling her and turning her upside-down and kissing under her chin. That's the best way to make Naleigh laugh - if you turn her upside down and start kissing her under her chin. You've never heard a child's laugh that's more infectious. She's hysterical, she loves it. So it is that or to sing one of these ridiculous songs that we'd made up for her.
Bridget Nielsen: That's good. I like that. I'm going to incorporate that one. Kenna from Our Crazy Little Life asks, "How would you define being a successful mother?"
Katherine Heigl: You know what? Has anybody seen that movie Easy A? Have you seen that movie? It's with Emma Stone. It's hilarious. I mean it's slightly risqué material obviously, but I love the parents in that movie so much. I watched the movie twice just to get to see those things again because I thought, "Wouldn't that just be the best way to parent?" You've got a great kid who does well in school, who's smart and witty and funny and you can trust her enough that whatever weird thing is going on in her life right now it's not going down a crazy spiral path towards destruction and you keep humor. They were so funny and irreverent and have a fantastic sense of humor and banter with their kid. I really love that and I think Josh and I are very irreverent and we love to joke and obviously we love funny.
So, I thought if we could get away with that... I mean, it might be a little more movie world than reality, but I'd love to. I don't think that you can treat your kid like a grownup before they are grown up. I do think you have to check boundaries and house rules and that I think is difficult. I know how hard it is for a 16-year-old girl to trust that, you, her parents know better. Right?
I had that relationship with my mom and when my mother said to me, "Look, you've got to trust me. This isn't the right decision." I did trust her, even though I didn't agree, but I trusted that she meant well and that she was trying to protect me. That's what I hope to be able to provide for Naleigh - even if she doesn't agree with me, I hope I have given her all the reasons in the world to trust me, to know that I'm on her side and that I want to protect her, and that I want to help her to stay on the path that leads to all the options and choices in the world for success.
Bridget Nielsen: Right. That's great. I mean, that's all you can ask for. So again, from Marissa at Review Stew, she was asking, "What has been your, top favorite moment so far with your daughter?"
Katherine Heigl: Oh man, there's a lot actually. I know every mom says this, so I feel kind of like an idiot, but at least we're all mothers here so I'm not alone. But she's so funny, and she's so interesting and she's so sort of quirky and has a very eccentric sense of humor. The other night - I try not to let her play with my glasses because I'm a little OCD about smudgy glasses, but she grabbed them and I didn't realize it and then I turned around and she had them on upside down and I was like, "Oh, that's super cute, I mean that's adorable".
Then she started singing. Naleigh loves to sing. I guess maybe because of her father, I don't know what it is. They told us when she came to us - this wonderful man from Korea brought her to us and he wanted to talk a little bit about her and what her foster mother had said. Her foster mother said she thinks she's going to be an opera singer though she only knows one note. But she always would just kind of belt out this one note and then the other night she started doing her weird opera singing, just kind of going "aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh" and walking around with the glasses on and I was like - she looks like a little emo indie rocker, you know? I had to videotape it and send it to her father. I was like, "Look at what your kid's becoming. You're a country music artist and your kid's going to be like an emo singer-songwriter." I love it. It's fantastic.
But you've got lots of little quirky, weird moments. Her best friend in the whole world is our dog, Oscar. Oscar is a rescue dog from Ixtapa, Mexico and he is about, I'd say, 60 pounds. This dog, he is so fantastic with her. She will take his collar and she calls him "Osky" and they walk all over the house together and she talks to him and she makes him go into her play scenario with her and sit down so she can brush him and serve him tea and he puts up with all of this. Anytime you turn around, you'll see Naleigh trying to get Oscar to play with her and him either looking at me like, "Please get me out of here" or "You owe me big." But it's ...
Bridget Nielsen: I love that.
Katherine Heigl: ... really just an adorable little like quirky thing about her, that her best friend is a dog.
Bridget Nielsen: Amy from Progressive Pioneer asks, "How would you feel about your daughter getting into modeling or acting", but I guess you could add in singing?
Katherine Heigl: No. I would rather she be a musician than a model or an actor, to be totally honest. I don't know why, because I had a fantastic experience as a child model and a child actor. We've all heard the horror stories about it, but I had a really great experience and I'm super grateful that I had it in my life at that age, so I don't why I'm so reticent for her to have it.
I'm not nearly as selfless as my own mother who had to basically be on every set with me and take me to every audition and take me to every go-see when I was modeling. I would have to give up my career so that Naleigh could, which I would rather not. But then I also kind of feel what if it truly was a passion and that it was something that she just sort of responded to in a way that I could truly see makes her happy? Of course, I would encourage her. I worry though. When a child of an acting parent becomes an actor, it's so much harder for them to convince people that it's their own thing and not simply something they're doing because their parents did it, you know? I really just want Naleigh to find whatever thing in her life that is her sort of path and her passion and if it's acting, then I would support it when she is 18. But I wouldn't want her doing it until then.
Bridget Nielsen: Yes, that's great. That's great. So, we're rounding up a little bit. We have just about two more questions, and one of the last questions would be from Melissa at Sippy Cup Mom. "What's your favorite way to decompress after working and chasing after a toddler?"
Katherine Heigl: Usually it involves a glass of wine and I'm really, really big on Apple TV, and I watch - it's really kind of sad, actually, this is going to make me sound super pathetic, but I watch almost everything on television, because you can with Apple TV. You can rent an entire season of something that you didn't have time to watch the year before, so suddenly all of it starts building up and you've got hours and hours of endless television to watch.
So, basically, when I put Naleigh to bed, I rush to get my dinner and my glass of wine and get in front of the TV and just lose myself in someone else's story. I love stories and I don't why but lately I haven't been reading as many books. It's probably because I've been too much of a couch potato watching TV. So, that's my way to unwind - involve myself in another's story. My all-time favorite thing to do.
Bridget Nielsen: I love it. So, the last question is Maria from Maria's Space. "What would be the top life lesson you hope to teach Naleigh?"
Katherine Heigl: Sense of humor. Just to have a sense of humor about yourself and your mistakes and your relationship. When I was young I took stuff really seriously. I took myself really seriously and I just made life so much harder - with the pressure to be somebody I thought I was supposed to be. Because I took everything so seriously it was just so overwhelming and when I grew up a little bit and started to have more of a sense of humor about myself and could make fun of myself a little more, laugh at myself a little more and laugh with other people about the stuff in life that happens to everybody, the more chill I became. The more relaxed, the less defensive, the less uptight.
I think my husband and I will really work hard to encourage her to have a sense of humor. If I could just give her that, even if she isn't the biggest stand-up comedian in the universe, if she can just laugh and learn the value of a good laugh that would make me happy.
Bridget Nielsen: I love that. I love that. Now, I'm actually just dying to know myself because of the Apple TV comment. OK, what's your favorite show? Like I want to know. I'm sure the other mothers want to know.
Katherine Heigl: This is going to take a while. My favorite show right now, because I just did a marathon of three seasons of it is "Sons of Anarchy." It's kind of dark and it's really like edgy and inappropriate for children, but I love these people so much.
Bridget Nielsen: After bedtime.
Katherine Heigl: Yes. You've got to check it out. It's so good and the characters are so fascinating. Katey Sagal plays the most fascinating mother, just a strong, fierce woman who will literally do anything to protect her children. I love her. And then, I love watching "Glee", I love "Gossip Girl", I love "Pretty Little Liars", I love "Hilltop." That's really fun.
"Life Unexpected" was a show that I loved so much. It was super interesting to me because it was about a family who gave at 16, a child up for adoption and then she came back into their lives when she was 16. She hadn't been adopted and had just been bumping around the foster care system. I thought the perspective - from the other side - was so interesting and I loved it, but I think it's cancelled and that broke my heart.
"Brothers and Sisters", I love "Cougar Town." What others - there are probably a dozen more that I can think of right now.
Bridget Nielsen: I'm into it.
Katherine Heigl: Yes. It runs the gamut - from the light and frivolous to the dark and depressing.
Bridget Nielsen: Perfect. Well, I just want to say thank you so much and all of the mothers say your thanks to Katherine because this has been wonderful. And I know that now everyone - all of their listeners and all of their readers - will be able to share all these tips with other moms too.
Katherine Heigl: I hope some of it is helpful. Probably not, but thank you guys very much for letting me talk forever.
Bridget Nielsen: Oh yes. We loved it. Thank you.
Katherine Heigl: Thank you so much.