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Jodie Sweetin has two ground rules for raising tween daughters: it's OK "to not be OK" and self-care is nothing fancy. "My girls and I talked very openly about mental health," the Fuller House star tells Yahoo Life. "And there's nothing wrong with that."
The 39-year-old actress is the mother of two children, Beatrix, 12, and Zoie, 10, both of whom had remote school while the working mom shot her latest film, Will You Be My Quarantine?, about a single mom dating virtually amid a pandemic. Although Sweetin can act with her eyes shut, she flailed in the role of teacher.
"Despite having gotten an undergraduate bachelor's degree that was supposed to be for elementary education, I am in fact, not a great teacher to my own children," says Sweetin. "I'm a really horrible teacher for my own kids. It just doesn't go well — there's no patience on either side."
At the beginning of the pandemic, she says, "me and the kids, we were a mess. The parenting was a mess. The distance learning was a mess…it was not pretty, it was not fun. But I did my best." The trio filled time with crafting, skateboarding, walks and gardening, Sweetin's new passion, and adopted a rescue pup. One of Sweetin's favorite quarantine memories is costumed family dinners. "I dressed up as [Vogue editor] Anna Wintour," she recalled.
But the routine soon wore thin. "I definitely struggled with depression," she says. "I didn't want to get out of bed. I had nothing to do. What was the point? And I know the kids did too, and I know we're still battling some of that." And Sweetin, who calls the pandemic "a really big year of questioning as a parent" gives her children permission to show their emotions.
"Approaching conversations about mental health and self-care with kids right now is so important," she says. "I was very open with my kids about saying that I struggle with depression and anxiety — I have for a long time — and this past year really just brought everything up … but my kids see me go to therapy, they see me trying to engage in healthy behaviors, they see me take moments of self-care."
Sweetin has support from her live-in boyfriend, whom she calls "an enormous help" and her best friend Celia Behar. The two women, who are single moms, host the podcast Never Thought I'd Say This, as comic relief for single parents.
"This pandemic has affected women in much more severe ways than men, as far as leaving their jobs, staying at home, losing work — it's fallen predominantly on moms and single moms, particularly [those without] a village and resources," says Sweetin. In what's been called the "shecession" of 2020, more women than men lost their jobs last year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers's Women in Work Index, while women continue to spend at least seven more hours per week on childcare than men.
"I think single moms in particular need to hear that it's OK to not have it together," says Sweetin. "It's OK to just do your best. And if your best was eating cereal for dinner and watching cartoons for the day…then, that's what it looks like. We all need to give ourselves some grace during this time and realize [that] it's not going to be perfect."
Sweetin wants that obvious on Instagram, her platform for bare-faced selfies, calls to social justice and the occasional Full House throwback photo. "Things that aren't pretty and are just real-life," she says.
Her childhood as a working actor — at age 5, she was hired to play middle child Stephanie Tanner on Full House, then played a grown-up version of her character on the Netflix spinoff Fuller House — has raised her parenting standards, to a fault. With job responsibility at a young age, Sweetin frequently catches herself expecting too much from her girls. "I sometimes find that I have to be a little more forgiving of them just being kids," she explains, adding, "I have had to find that middle ground of realizing that my kids aren't working actors."
"Parenting is hard on a good day [and] near impossible during a worldwide pandemic," she says. "Just do your best, tell your kids that you love them and start again tomorrow."
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