Maggie Gyllenhaal on Parenting: "I Thought I'd Be a Perfect Mom"

Maggie Gyllenhaal shares what's surprised her about being a mom -- and why her kids make her laugh out loud.

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal may play a superhero’s leading lady -- but in real life, she’s a superhero mom of two daughters, 7-year-old Ramona and 13-month-old Gloria. Her latest battle is to help keep kids safe by teaming up with Johnson & Johnson in honor of the 125th Anniversary of the First-Aid Kit: This summer, when you purchase three or more J&J first-aid products at major retailers, the company will make a donation to Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization which works to prevent childhood injuries.

We sat down with Gyllenhaal to talk about how she gets out the door with two girls, why she thought she'd be the perfect mom and why her kids make her literally laugh out loud:

What’s the hardest part about getting out the door with your two girls?
At this point, it’s probably getting everything ready for the baby. When I take just my older daughter out, it feels so easy. She’s really a kid now -- you don’t need to bring a change of clothes for her. The likelihood that she’s going to need a change is pretty much as likely as I’m going to need a change of clothes. But with the baby, you need snacks, diapers, a water bottle, a regular bottle in case maybe she’s going to take a nap and a blanket. Keeping the diaper bag full of all the things that I know I’m going to need helps. That makes my life so much easier. 

What is the biggest difference between being a mom of one and a mom of two?
I’m more relaxed. One thing I really learned with Ramona that’s helped me with Gloria is that there will be pain in her life. There will be disappointment. With Ramona, I never ever let her cry -- I picked her right up. I have let Gloria cry now and then. Of course you have to be really conscious of what they can manage because they’re so little, but they can manage a little disappointment.

I had this fantasy when I was 28 when Ramona was born that I was going to be this perfect, amazing mother. And I’m not -- and I don’t think there’s any such thing. I think mothering is designed to humble you and show you how little you know. I also think it’s designed to teach you about love and learning about love is incredibly painful. The prize is amazing -- the love itself -- but gaining love can be really hard.

What has surprised you as a mother?
The fact that discipline and clear boundaries is actually something that I think children want was a surprise to me, and how much it calms them down to say: “No, you can never do that. And I’m not going to sometimes let you do it because that’s more confusing. You can never do that. And then when you’re this age, you can.”

My parents were really easygoing and would take us everywhere and we’d just like fall asleep in restaurants and I find that that really feels discombobulating for my kids. I think they want to be in their beds at night and everybody is happier. But at the same time, we’re traveling all the time and moving them around and so I have to be really careful about having a routine they can rely on.

What’s the most fun thing about being a mom?
Ramona is now at an age that I remember being. It’s fun to see, and it brings me back to that time to do some of the things that interest her or excite her. This is kind of a cheesy thing to say, but it’s true: Grown-ups don’t really make me laugh out loud that much. Now and then. But kids, way more often you find yourself really laughing with them. 

Lindsay Tigar is iVillage's associate parenting editor. Follow her Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. Read her blog here.

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