When actress Julie Bowen is asked to compare her parenting style to that of her "Modern Family" character Claire Dunphy, she's quick to admit that her hyper-organized, ultra-competitive alter ego has the advantage. "Claire's better at being a mom, because she's been doing it a little longer. I mean, technically, I guess we're the same age, but she started having kids younger. Also, her only job is being a mom, which is, for the record, the hardest job on Earth," Bowen, who's mom to 5-year-old Oliver and 3-year-old twins John and Gustav, tells omg!. "I can't wait for the days when I get to go to the set and have somebody bringing me coffee. Fantastic! If I were a stay-at-home mom, which I'm not sure I could do because it's so hard — it is just too hard — I think I would be more like Claire than I am like me. I love a white board. I like a schedule. I really like giving everybody a color and drawing it on the board and assigning them their schedule and their tasks, but my life is just so busy that I don't really get to follow through on it. So I think in my fantasyland, I would be more like Claire. But in reality? I'm just sort of making sure I've swept up the glass, and I let the rest of it go." For instance, Bowen, who's been married to real estate investor Scott Phillips since 2004, admits that putting the boys to bed these days is a bit of a challenge. So, the other night, she decided to try the opposite approach and get her little guys up and moving. "And we had the loudest 45-minute dance party, and then they passed out. I can't do that every night — I'd kill myself — but that worked. It was kind of fantastic." She adds, "Having the twins and Oliver, three kids in two years, was probably the best parenting choice I never made, because it's forced me to be way, way more relaxed because I can't control them all. I would love to control them all, but I can't. So, you might as well enjoy it."
Despite their differences, Bowen, 42, says she has learned from Claire. The role has taught her that even the best parents feel overwhelmed sometimes. "I like the episodes where Claire has to have a glass of wine and collapse, and they all know it and no one really judges it," Bowen explains. "I didn't know — maybe lots of people in the world didn't realize — that there were other parents out there who were kind of just holding it together with tissue paper and twine some days of the week. Claire is doing a great job, but still there's times that she's like 'Mommy's gotta lie down now,' and I find that very comforting."
Claire also has given the former "Ed" actress the gift of finding out what it's like to have girls. Bowen has become close with the young women who play her TV daughters, Sarah Hyland, 21, and Ariel Winter, 14, and the three even spend time together when they're not working! "Barring some ... immaculate conception, I'm not having any more kids, so I'm not going to be raising any girls. And it's fun to get to raise girls as Claire, and it's fun to get these girls as my sort of fake daughters or nieces," Bowen says. "I love them. I was just out with them the other night."
Bowen's TV family and her real-life family sometimes collide, like when her schedule requires more than one day where she has to leave home when the boys are asleep and gets home to find them in the same state. (The tykes call the "Modern Family" set "Mommy's fake house.") But there was a time in her late 30s when Bowen's oldest son was an infant and she was pregnant with the twins that she was convinced she'd never land another acting job. Her stint on the TV drama "Boston Legal" had just ended, and she was looking at college course catalogs to choose a new career. Soon enough, "Modern Family" came along. "So I figured I was done, and it turns out part of my career was done because I will never again be seen as a person who doesn't have kids," Bowen said. "For some reason, it's like getting arrested, it's like having a mug shot. Once the world sees your mug shot, you're the person with a mug shot. It's always going to be there. I've had kids; it's not a bad thing that I've had kids, it's a great thing, but it becomes part of your story. It can enrich my life as an actor and my work, and it can also limit me at times when that's all people see. So look forward to my boob job and my black Mohawk coming to you soon!" she jokes.
In fact, motherhood is such a part of Bowen's life that she's teamed with Huggies to help moms and babies in need. The actress recently co-hosted the Huggies Hawaiian Luau Benefitting Baby2Baby, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that helps disadvantaged families, and which Bowen works with closely. The luau kicked off a campaign where for every pack of Huggies Hawaiian Diapers or Wipes purchased, the brand will diaper a U.S. baby in need for a day through its Every Little Bottom program. Limited-edition Huggies Hawaiian Diapers and Wipes, which feature tropical-inspired designs, are available through July. "You get so bored changing diapers, I would get excited to know a diaper is doing so much good," notes the Emmy-winning actress.
Sleep is something else that gets Bowen excited these days, and with Mother's Day coming up, she reveals that there's nothing she'd like more as a gift! She still has fond memories of the time two years ago when she fell asleep on the floor in the nursery — and her husband just let her snooze. "I don't know how he's ever going to top that," Bowen says. "Honestly, I'd take that nap on the floor again any day. That was the best gift I'd ever gotten."
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