Kristen Bell uses diaper-rash cream as lip balmand other things we learned in our exclusive interview
Kristen Bell always seem to have multiple projects on the go. In the past year alone, you could find her in Frozen 2 (in which she plays Princess Annaand if you didnt know that, are you even a parent?); TVs The Good Place (Eleanor Shellstrop, for forks sake!); the web series Momsplaining with Kristen Bell (in partnership with Ellen DeGeneres); and, most recently, in a boardroom, planning the launch of her new baby-care product line, Hello Bello.
Professional success aside, Bell is also seriously nailing the whole mom thing. On a Friday night, when youre home streaming Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bad Moms or one of her interviews on Ellen or Jimmy Kimmel, its possible shes at some swanky Hollywood event with her actor/podcaster husband, Dax Shepard. But shes just as likely to be at home, too, in her PJs, jotting notes in the margins of a parenting book or creating a dried-bean sensory activity for her daughters, Lincoln, 6, and Delta, 4.
Bell steadfastly refuses to let paparazzi snap pics of her kids, and she never reveals their faces to the 12.9 million followers on her Instagram account, but that didnt stop her from dishing to Todays Parent about the wild and crazy ride that is parenthood.
Read on for our exclusive interview with one of our favourite celeb moms ever.
You have two young kids and tons of acting projects on the go. Why did you start Hello Bello?
Because my brain never stops. And when I have an ideawhether its organizing my junk drawer or carving out a niche with a new companyits like an itch that I have to scratch.
Hello Bellos focus is on good-quality, Earth-friendly ingredients at accessible prices. Why did you choose this angle?
My husband and I both grew up in Michigan, and we were both on a pretty major budget growing up, like 99.9 percent of people who live on this globe. And when we moved to California, we never stopped being grateful that we could go to a fancy baby boutique and buy something with the best ingredients and not even look at the price. And it occurred to us that, with the platform weve been given, we could take an idea like this to someone who could execute it and do it right, and wed speak on behalf of it. So the goal was to create a premium baby-care product that had efficacy, that was healthy for the planet, but did not make parents choose between their baby and their budget. We like to say, Its your moms ingredients at your dads pricesbecause Dax is cheap and Im always the one reading labels. I mean, were both cheap, but Dax is so cheap.
Which Hello Bello products do you use at home?
We all use the wipes everywhere and anywhere, and the kids use just about everything except the diaper rash cream, but I use it as a lip balm.
Wait, you put a product made for bums on your mouth?
Theres just great stuff in it! Its moisturizing; its a balm. You can also use it as a foot moisturizer under your socks. Everyone should learn to read labels.
The Hello Bello diapers are getting tons of attention for their adorable prints. But I guess your kids are out of diapers at this point.
Theres a nighttime diaper situation. Theres a four-year-old late bloomer who likes a nighttime diaper for comfort.
Hey, no shame in that. My feeling about overnight potty training is that most of the time you can wait for it to solve itself.
Right? And also, no sixth grader is wearing diapers. This is going to rectify itselfI dont need to worry too much about it. But whats funny is, my first child potty trained herself at the mere suggestion of using the toilet, before she was even two years old. She was also the best baby, and my husband and I were like, Why is everyone complaining so much about parenting? This is, like, so easy. Either that ormaybe were just really good at this! Then we had the second one and we were like, Oh no. Its a mess. Its a mess.
The pressure on moms to lose weight after having a baby can be a lot, and it has to be worse for celebs, whose appearance is incessantly scrutinized. What was that like for you?
I was very concerned with the shape of my body when I found out I was pregnant. I was asking other moms how much weight they gained, when they lost it, whether breastfeeding really makes you shed the pounds. And I did end up gaining 47 pounds, which is a lot, although my doctor said it was OK. But after I had the baby, something clicked. I thought, I can spend the next couple of years worrying about the shape of my body or I can focus on this beautiful thing Ive created and look at the marks on my body as the scars of a superhero, as having done something as spectacular as birthing another human. That realization dissolved all the fears I had. I just decided worrying about it wasnt going to be my thing. I dont know that theres anything you can say to anyone that will get them to feel OK about it, though. It has to come from something internal. You have to decide whether you want your body to be the focus or you want your baby to be the focus. Theres no amount of advice that will make you stop focusing on it until you decide to stop.
Even with an easy baby, the newborn phase is hard and most couples end up fighting a lot in the first year. What did you and Dax argue most about?
We didnt. We read a book called Brain Rules for Baby and the pregnancy chapter talks about how something like 85 percent of marriages go downhill after having kids because of the stress. It gave us five indicators to look forisolation, lack of sleep, and a few othersand we handshake-agreed to be on the lookout for those things in each other. So when he was awake all night because I was [keeping him up by] breastfeeding, I would say, Im gonna sleep in the front room with the baby for the next couple of nights so you can catch up on sleep. When he noticed I hadnt left the house in four days because I was frazzled with a newborn, he would say, Im going to take over today; I want you to go out for lunch with your girlfriends. It was very much us fighting for each other in order to fight for our marriage. And that was because we did the research ahead of time, we didnt go into it blindly.
Im also really lucky that Dax is a firm believer, perhaps because of his sobriety, that you have to earn what youre involved in. So, I remember him saying to me, If I go to work for 10 hours a day and then I come home, I cant tell you how to parent her. I have to be involved. I have to get up and change the diapers. If I want to have a say in what medicine she takes or her sleep schedule, then I better be involved. And he was.
The fact that hes an engaged dad must help with the guilt that comes from being away from your kids for work.
I trust my husband so much, hes very hands-on, so I have that safety net. But I still struggle with guilt. Its there; I have it. But what Ive realized is this: Parents have to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings. I miss them right now; thats a fact. And when Im with them, Im sometimes thinking about work. And thats OK. All of its OK. We all, as human beings, need to get more comfortable with uncomfortable feelings. Running from them does nobody any good.
Its kind of like how, when our kids are crying, we try to get them to stop. But why do we do that when crying is a natural expression of emotion? Why do we try to stop it?
Because our kids are projections of ourselves and none of us have been taught how to appropriately handle discomfort. Experts say thats a lot of the reason addiction existsbad things come from when you cannot handle uncomfortable feelings. I just finished a book called The Gift of Failure, which talks a lot about how important it is for kids to feel uncomfortable feelings.
The author gives a specific example: Lets say were children and were in the sandbox together and I throw sand in your face. If my parents swoop me up and your parents swoop you up and the adults try to fix it separately, my parents have denied me the ability to see you cry, to get embarrassed, to feel shame. Those are necessary emotions for character development. So Im probably going to throw sand at you again next time because I never saw how you reacted. If I see you crying, Im thinking, Uh-oh, my friend is crying; that creates a funny feeling in my body. I dont like that feeling. Maybe next time I wont throw sand. Kids can feel thisthey can feel it at one year old. That blew my mind when I read it. And, so, lately Ive been telling my girls, Its OK to feel embarrassed. Ill just sit with you.
Parenting is exhausting and you have so many different jobs. What do you do thats just for you? Im avoiding the word self-care because it can be so loaded.
I dont think weve done a deep-enough dive on the topic of self-care. For me, a manicure or a bubble bath is not self-care. Its bigger than the hour youll take for yourself that week. Self-care, to me, is asking for help. That comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Its having a quick video chat with my girlfriends. Its calling my sister, or my best friend, Jess (my girls call him Naughty Uncle Jess because hes a fun piece of work), and saying, Im going to wring someones neck. I need you to come over here and defuse some of this energy. Hell come over, put on some music and have a dance party with them and I can just breathe.
What about another mom buzzword: the mom-cation? Its cringey and gendered, but is the idea of a total break from your mom and wife duties intriguing?
I actually took my first girls trip ever a couple of weeks ago, to Europe. Ive never taken one before because every minute I wasnt working, I wanted to be with my kids. I was hesitant but my husband encouraged me. The first couple of days were miserable because I missed my familyIm pit-of-my-stomach uncomfortable when Im away from my tribe, truly. But by day three, I felt good. I felt what it was like to be just a woman in the world again, which is pretty invigorating. And by day six, when I came home, I was the 2.0 version of myself.
How long did the new, invigorated version of you last?
Oh, its still here. Its never going away. I bought a hat and a pair of glasses and Im pretty much Parisian now, so everyones just going to have to handle that.
Whats an amazing family trip you guys have taken recently?
A couple of times per year, we take Thursday and Friday off, we rent a big Airbnb about an hour away from our house, and we stay there with four other families. It involves nothing more than that. We pack puzzles for the kids, and a bunch of food, and its incredibly relaxing. The kids run around together and the adults can just talk. I find so much happiness in community living. At the end of every single one of those trips, we go, Why on earth dont we live in the same house? Why dont we just buy a commune? Its so much easier and so much fun.
How to build a villageThey say it takes a village. And yet moms are more isolated than ever, so they turn to social media for support and advice. Where do you go when you have a parenting challenge?
I rely a lot on friends, face to face, but my primary source of information is books. I read a lot of parenting booksfrom the ones written by moms just winging it to the ones by neuroscientistsand I take a little bit from all of them. But I think the most important thing to remind moms is to follow your gut. You dont actually need advice!
How do you and Dax spend family time with your girls? What might we find you doing on a random Saturday afternoon?
We do a lot of family bike rides on the Los Angeles River bicycle path. At home, Im very into making sensory crafts for them. Like, we just pulled this out a couple of days agoyou fill a big bin with by-the-pound dried beans, then hide little trinkets in it and have a sort of digging adventure. And then after they find all the toys, theyll spend hours playing with the beansscooping them in cups, dumping them out. We also do a lot of cardboard box crafts and puzzles. And we build a lot of forts.
Whats the sleep situation in your house? Do your girls sleep through the night?
The older one sleeps perfectly. The little one wakes up a lot. Shes never been a good sleeper. She will be at the side of my bed, like Children of the Corn, staring at me at 3 a.m., and Ill wake up suddenly and shell tell me some nonsense, like she has a hangnail. In the beginning, it made me very frustrated, but Ive surrendered to it. I said to myself, This is something shes going through; it doesnt help anyone if Im angry about it. So I get up, I tuck her back into bed, I stay with her for three minutes, and then I go back to bed.
But one thing we recently discovered is giving them kids melatonin at night. I kind of cant believe itits such a game changer. It makes everything so much easier. So I immediately called Hello Bello and was like, We need a kids melatonin! And were doing it.
Melatonin helps bedtime, but what about mornings? Are they early risers?
One thing weve made clear to them is that Dax and I will wake up at 7 a.m. Before then, youre on your own. This morning, for instance, they got up about 5 a.m. and I could hear them moving things. I went into their room at 7 a.m. and theyd moved all the furniturethe dresser, the chair, everythingand had redesigned the space. I dont know how they did it and Im sure there are scratches all over the wood floor. But one of the best moments of motherhood was the day I walked into their bedroom early in the morning and the older one was lying with the little one on the bottom bunk. Apparently the little one had gotten scared. I heard her say, Dont go get Mama and Dada. Ill lie with you. Shed never done that beforeand, so far, hasnt done it sincebut she was just so kind and it almost made my heart explode.
Is it unusual for them to be sweet to each other? Do they fight a lot?
They fight almost 100 percent of the time, and it was a big surprise to me. I definitely thought my children would get along better than they do. But what Ive been able to recognize is that when siblings fight, its usually because they dont have the tools to work it out yet. And theyre also trying to discover their id, their ego and their self-awareness, and that takes a lot of time and mistakes.
Do you get involved in their arguments?
If they have a bad fight, Ill break it up. And I step in when the big one hits the little one. I take her aside and say, We are nice girls. We do not hit people or things that are smaller than us. We protect things that are smaller than us. Theres a theory that telling kids theyre smart can backfire, but I dont think telling them theyre kind and nice can backfire. I hope thats the label they show the world. Its something I say to them a lot: Heres how nice girls act. We are nice girls. Its like our code in our house. Just now that theyre four and six, Ive started letting them work out their own fights, although I listen in because one is bigger than the other and I wouldnt be responsible if I didnt. But I also dont want the little one thinking Ill come to her aid all the time. I want her to learn how to stand up for herself.
Do you make them say sorry?
No, because sorry isnt active. If you hit somebody and all you have to do is say sorry, then youll learn that all you have to do is say sorry and then youre out of it. Our preschool taught us to instead have them say, What do you need? So well say, Ask her what she needs. And the answer could be: I need space, I need a hug, I need a teacher, I need an ice pack. Its usually an ice pack, to be honest. Someone once told me that kids brains are most open right before they go to bed, so usually before bed we talk about the fight. The conversation always pleasantly surprises me. Like, I did that because she was annoying me and I couldnt control my body but I know that I shouldnt react that way. Ill try harder next time. It makes me very happy.
Do you let your kids quit activities or force them to finish?
I used to let them quit everything. They started soccer and quit, they started ballet and quit. Recently they joined a 12-week theatre group program. They said they wanted to.
But it was brutaland I mean brutal. Every week they were screaming in the car, I hate going here! But I said to them, Were going through with this play, because neither of you knows what its like to be on a team, and that is a skill that you need. I like to give my kids context, so I said, Im not just forcing you to go to this theatre rehearsal; Im telling you that you need a skill set that you dont yet have, and its called being on a team, and were going to do this. So you can either make this miserable or you can bear with me and do 12 weeks of it. They made it miserable. But then something clicked at week 10 and they decided they loved it. They had a great time at their performance and they want to do it again.
With the baby and toddler years behind you, what are you loving about parenting older kids?
Their developing opinions. Babies are cute and wonderful but I just love the endless, endless opinions. Theyre hilarious and just so interesting. I also love seeing their aesthetic developing, when they pick their own outfits or they tell me they dont like a certain fabric or a colour, or I see the way they draw. I see that as someone who is shaping themselves.
Whats the very best part about being a mom?
You never get tired of looking at their faces. Its like having the Mona Lisa in front of you forever. Its like having the worlds most beautiful picture following you around. Its endlessly entertaining and pleasing to look at.
But, actually, you know whats even better? The opportunity to focus on someone else and care so much about their development. Its so peaceful for your own ego. Thats also why
I have a bunch of senior dogs. They require so much work, but being of service is a very peaceful feeling, and when youre focusing on nurturing something else, its harder to let your ego get out of control. Being a parent makes it easier to be happy.
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