Ask Hilary and Haylie Duff what it's like being sisters, and they'll paint a pretty idyllic picture for you.
They've always been incredibly supportive of one another, but the closeness that they share came in particularly handy when they became first-time moms.
"No one really understands what being a mom is like until they go through it themselves," Hilary, who has a 3-year-old son, explains to Yahoo Celebrity. "Even watching from the outside, Haylie was always very supportive… So it's been a really cool time for us to be really good to one another."
If only the online world, which often shames new parents into feeling inadequate for the choices they make in their child's infancy, was as encouraging.
That's why the Duff sisters have teamed up to take on the world of mommy judgment. While speaking to Yahoo about their Sister of Motherhood campaign, the duo also took time out to reflect on their relationship, as well as how they handle online bullies.
What are some of your fondest memories of growing up together?
Hilary: I think my earliest memory was when my parents were having a dinner party, and Haylie teaching me how to ride a tricycle. Was it bike or trike? I'm not sure, but that was my very first memory.
Haylie: I remember that! We went out to the cul de sac, and then we went back in and announced to the dinner party that you knew how to ride a bike... My fondest memories are of when we lived in San Antonio. We were only there a few years, but it just holds a special place in my heart. It really was a simpler time of life. We were just kids and lived far away from other people, so we played with each other a lot. It established our relationship and made it what it is.
Hilary: We didn't have anyone else to play with, so Haylie and I were super tight from the beginning. There were older kids that lived around us, but not too close, so [Haylie] always included me with her friends. By the time we moved to L.A. and made friends, we were always in the same circle. It made us tight.
When you'd dance and sing into your hairbrush — as I imagine most little girls do at some point — what was your favorite song to perform?
Haylie: Oh, for us it was a wooden spoon and on the kitchen counter. We were really into oldies, so any of the oldies but goodies — anything from the '50s. That was our big era. My mom always played a lot of music growing up, and she had an amazing vinyl collection. So from the time we were little, she'd always be putting records on. The '50s were definitely our genre.
Were you two competitive growing up? Like, did you ever fight over the same boy?
Hilary: No, we never fought over a boy. Haylie is two and a half years older than me, so we weren't into the same boys. But everything she did, I wanted to do. We kind of had our own thing. Even when we moved to L.A., sometimes we would go on the same auditions when a casting director didn't really know what age range they were looking for, so we'd help each other with lines.
What was your silliest disagreement as kids?
Hilary: Our mom was pretty adamant that there be no fighting. So if we ever got into a disagreement, Mom would put us outside, lock the doors, and be like, "Sort it out, and don't come back inside until you do."
Haylie: She did, yeah — that was when we got grounded. I remember one time we were still in our PJs.
How did your relationship as sisters teach you about how to relate to other women?
Hilary: Honestly, I don't know any other way. How we grew up with each other and how we made friends… My mom has always been really there to help guide us with how to treat one another. And my sister has always been there for advice on how to deal with other girls and issues that would come up with girlfriends.
With both of you being first-time moms, how do you support one another on this journey?
Hilary: It's tough to explain until it’s happening to you and your body, the things that affect you the most… it's hard to relate to. Obviously, Haylie is in a different stage — she just had he daughter Ryan in May, and my son Luca is 3. So we've had a lot of laughs – like, 'Oh my god, remember when you were telling me about this and now it's happened to me!?" Hilary's baby is so different than mine, so it's not so much that I've been giving her advice. It's about support and listening. Each woman's journey to motherhood is all theirs, so listening and being there is the best way to handle it.
Haylie: So many people have asked me, "What kind of advice has Hilary given you along the way?" And she really hasn't. She's just been there for me. She hasn't tried to push her way on me. There have been times where I've been really overwhelmed, and she'll just come over and hold the baby for an hour. Just physically being there has been the best thing she's done for me in this process. The first few weeks I was so tired and overwhelmed, so she would swaddle the baby and rock her to sleep, and help take the pressure off. I'm so grateful.
You both started acting at a young age. Would you be supportive of your kids getting into the entertainment business if they expressed interest?
Haylie: I don't know. My baby is still such a baby, and I'm so protective over her. The idea of putting her in a situation for people to criticize or be judgmental of her choices… I don't know if that's something I want for her. But she's also going to be who she’s going to be, and I'm going to love her for who that is, and if she wants to be an actress, I will have to support her every way I can. My fiancé Matt just laughed and said, "God help us all."
You've both been so visible online, and as we all know, the online world isn't that kind. How do you deal with online bullies?
Hilary: Obviously, I see what people say — it's hard to shelter yourself, but I also don't have time to sit online. This morning Luca got up at 6:30, and he's up right out of the gate, ready to rage. So I don't have time to keep up with that stuff. But there's been a lot that's really offensive, with the weight gain I went through while pregnant and losing weight afterward. The world is so obsessed with something like that. So I would just focus on doing what I could and inspiring more women to do what they could. I did gain a ton of pregnancy weight at the end, but it's not like I was eating McDonald's every day. It was crazy, I don't know what happened. My experience was that I just wanted to have a healthy baby, and my main focus wasn't to lose weight right away. I was more consumed with learning how to breastfeed, be there for him, and learning to be the best in my new chapter. The other stuff sorted itself out.
Haylie: I think the best thing to do is to just take everything with a grain of salt and not take someone else’s opinion as the truth. As far as being an entertainer, reading things about yourself is a trap. I had a girlfriend over the other day and she was concerned what people were going to say about her having her baby before getting married, and I was like, "Why do you care what people are saying? Do what makes you happy." The same goes with the mommy judgment. It's a Catch 22, because you want to go on blogs and feel normal and get good answers to things you're concerned about, but it's also where you feel the most judgment. Some blogs have a lot of judgment. But at the end of the day, it’s important to focus on raising happy, healthy children, and spreading positivity instead of judgment.
What's the most important thing people need to know about mom judgment?
Hilary: Haylie has been mentioning this a lot: Judgment really starts before the baby. How much weight you put on, how you choose to deliver, what you name your kid… it starts instantly. I think with the Sisterhood of Motherhood Campaign that we've partnered with Similac on, our goal is to drive people to the Facebook page and have them join the conversation to talk about how they feel judged and how to end mommy wars. We need to create unity, because the judgment is putting us on an island. Be more kind, check yourself, don’t make motherhood such a competition — make moms feel more supported. It's about inspiring conversation and getting women to understand what's going on.
Haylie: When we were first approached by Similac, it was interesting timing. A week or two before, Hilary had been on the cover of a magazine, and they'd taken something way out of context — judging a picture of her and her kid. It hurt her and she cried, and I hugged her and her amazing child. What they were writing was wrong. A week or two later, Similac approached us, and it felt so right to jump on the bandwagon. Just watching the "Real Parents, Real Judgment" video, where they point out, you know, that formula-fed babies go to college too… there's so much pressure that you put on yourself and so many people dealing with the same thing. And in being on this journey, it's important to think about how I can be responsible about the judgment I put on other mothers, and focus on yourself as you play a part in that cycle as well.
For more information about The Sisterhood of Motherhood, or to join the conversation, visit Facebook.com/Similac and share what you will do to stop the Mommy Wars with #SisterhoodUnite.