Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.
Haylie Duff knows a thing or two about sister acts, finding fame alongside little sis Hilary Duff as teen stars. The singer and actress is now a mom to two girls of her own, Ryan, who turns 6 next week, and Lulu, 2.
Motherhood now has the author of the Real Girl's Kitchen cookbook poring over recipes that will satisfy pint-sized picky eaters, so it's fitting that she's teamed up with Mrs. T's to create Cordon Bleu Baked Pierogies, a fuss-free dish that's received her own family's stamp of approval. Ahead of Mother's Day, Duff's also helping the food brand celebrate nominated moms with their Mrs. T's All-Star Moms campaign.
Here, Duff opens up about her own Mother's Day plans, shrugging off unsolicited parenting advice and dealing with mom guilt.
Are your kids picky eaters?
[I have] the pickiest eaters in the world. And Lulu, my little one, really is quite an adventurous eater, but because she wants to do everything her older sister does, and Ryan has entered the phase of "I only eat this, this and that." So now I have two of them eating like that because Lulu wants to do everything that Ryan does. This recipe that I created for Mrs. T's was based off of my husband's [Matt Rosenberg] love of cordon bleu, and also because my kids will eat this. There are very few ingredients, it's visible, they can see exactly what's in the dish, so it makes it a great recipe for families. When you've got a picky eater, sometimes if you can't tell exactly what it is, kids are like "no no no no no no." But this is definitely a hit in our family.
How do you describe your parenting style?
I think I'm a bit — I don't even want to say it [laughs] — like borderline helicopter mom. I think as my kids are getting older, I see other kids that are walking to the school bus themselves, or riding a bike home from school. And I'm like, I can't believe these little babies are doing this. Maybe I'm a little bit, at this point, an overprotective mom. But then I'm also, I think, a really fun mom and I love to be silly with them. My mom was a really fun mom growing up too, and some of my best memories are like, [standing] up on our kitchen counters with wooden spoons singing songs. I want my kids to have all those fun memories too.
You and Hilary are famously close sisters. Has having that relationship impacted how you raise two daughters?
I think it's been so great to come from being a sister to then raising sisters. Hilary will see that; she just had [daughter] Mae, so she now has sisters in her house too. It's such a special bond, sisters. And when I first had Ryan, all I hoped for was that I would have another girl so that I could have sisters the way that I grew up. And there's so much that comes along with that. There's the "we love each other more than anything in the world," and then on other days they're annoyed with each other and bickering all day. It's just really such a special relationship, and I hope they get to grow up and be close the way that we have been and that they continue to be each other's best friends.
Mom shaming happens to us all, but when you have a public profile, you might be more susceptible to it. How do you tune out those unsolicited comments, whether it's well-intentioned or outright trolling?
I don't think that people always realize how judgmental something can come off. When I talk to my girlfriends about stuff like this, it's always somebody's way of being pushed onto another mom is normally because all of us are just trying to be the best mom that we can. And so sometimes people can sort of morph that into being a little bit judgmental because they have such conviction in their own choices as a mom, because they're trying to be the best mom that they can. So I think it's kind of taking everything in stride and not feeling like you have to listen to what other people tell you. You have to look inside and just say, "I know what's best for my child."
And then when you want the advice, go and look for it. One thing that I'll tell you — it happened to me quite a few years ago now at this point — but I posted a picture of my daughter and her seatbelt wasn't totally put on right. And I got all these messages, like, "How could you drive around with your child with her seatbelt like that?" She was buckled in, but it was just too low. And instead of letting it hurt my feelings, I was like, Oh my gosh, I'm so happy they told me this, now I can go adjust her car seat to be the way it's supposed to be. So sometimes it can be a good thing too.
Those car seat and baby carrier photos are a minefield.
Now I fully put a picture on top of [the photo]. I'm just not going down this road anymore. It's too scary for the car seat people.
You've spoken about mom guilt before on social media. How do you let go of that when you are working and you need to focus?
I don't always do it well, is the truth. I try to remind myself that me going to work for a couple of hours is not the end of the world and that life is certainly going to continue on in my house, and that my kids are definitely cared for and looked after. It is something that the modern mom does struggle with and probably will continue to, just because your heart is always with your kids, you know? I don't always handle it well, but I also really believe in the power of moms being at their best. I just went and finished a Lifetime movie and I hadn't been to work really this past year outside of the home; I've done jobs at home but nothing that took me away from my family. And it really surprised me how much I felt like I caught back to myself a little bit by going back to work, and just because I was missing that or needing that doesn't discount my love for my family or anything like that.
Do you have any boundaries that you set to protect your work-life balance?
I think because my job is sort of unconventional — it's not a traditional 9 to 5 — the ability to set a certain boundary or just say, "From this time to this time, I don't look at my phone" is kind of difficult for me because my job sort of changes all the time. That being said, we make dinner at the table a big priority, like a no-phone dinner at the table. I try to put my phone down as much as I can. I think that's the one thing that really pulls you from your family, is our reliance on all of our phones and our tablets. As soon as those are out of the picture, all of a sudden you're really present with your family.
Do you have any non-negotiables or firm rules as a mom?
Not really, and I don't mean to say that like we have a free-for-all over here... My kids are certainly on a schedule, and as they've gotten older and older, we just try to be flexible to what the day is. I do allow my kids to have screen time. I do allow them to have sugar, but I've tried to teach them that balance is important, and I try to apply that to my own life when it comes to weight or exercising or whatever. I think restricting something can be kind of a slippery slope, so I think it's better to teach the balance of it.
How are you celebrating Mother's Day? Or is it a surprise?
I don't really know how I'm celebrating Mother's Day. I guess that would really be a question for Matt and the girls. I certainly am going to be nominating some moms for Mrs. T's campaign, and probably be dropping off some meals to some moms in my neighborhood and trying to do thoughtful things for the moms that work so hard every day. My mom will certainly get a little treat from me, as will my sister. I think sometimes we think that people know how much we appreciate them, but it's a really nice time to show them how much we appreciate them.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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