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Actress, businesswoman, mom and animal lover Nikki Reed has one daughter, but counting her pets is a little trickier. Pausing during her call with Yahoo Life to tally up her two cats, four dogs, cow, horse and multiple chickens, Reed settles on 14, but adds, "I feel guilty saying this, but I know I'm missing somebody in there."
Needless to say, it's something of a full house on the farm she shares with husband Ian Somerhalder and their 4-year-old Bodhi Soleil. Following lead roles in films including Thirteen and the Twilight franchise, Reed now devotes much of her time to her daughter and socially conscious projects like her sustainable Bayou With Love jewelry line.
There's also her new partnership with the essential oils-based pest control company Wondercide; proceeds from the purchase of her go-to rosemary flea and tick spray will be donated to Dog Is My CoPilot, which transports at-risk animals out of overcrowded shelters and into adoption centers.
"We spend a lot of time talking about what goes in our bodies and on our bodies in terms of organic food and skincare and things like that, but there isn't a lot of conversation surrounding what is around our bodies," says Reed. "What can I put on my pet that can also go on my body, that is not going to be toxic to me, to [my animals], to my daughter?"
Ahead, Reed opens up about modeling eco-friendly behavior for Bodhi, being a present parent and protecting her daughter's online privacy.
What are some of the ways in which you've introduced the mindset of caring for the environment to your daughter?
It's just a part of our everyday life. She sees that Mommy makes the extra effort... For example, I'm in a place right now where they don't pick up your recycling. So most people would just combine trash and recycling and say, "I don't care." But my daughter knows that every other day Mommy's gonna load up the recycling into the back of the car and we're going to drive it to the recycling center because there's no way I'm not going to do that stuff...
I buy water in bulk, in glass, so that's always a conversation; she knows that we don't drink out of plastic. She knows that when we go anywhere in the car or travel or do anything, I keep all of our reusable silverware in the center console of the car. If we ever pick up take-out food, she knows that Mommy's going to bring my own Tupperware to pick it up. There's just things that are a part of our everyday life that has to do with overall consciousness, I would say. And then of course we do a lot of talking about animals and making sure that we use our body in a way that's kind and thoughtful and gentle. It's just kind of a part of every aspect of the day, to be honest.
You and Ian have both been careful to not show very much of your daughter on social media. Why is that so important to you, having yourself started in this business at a young age?
This is a topic I'm really passionate about... the bottom line is that child trafficking is on the rise and social media does not account for the fact that there are very few laws put in place to protect children from pedophiles. I believe that privacy is the greatest form of currency as we enter an age where there's very little of it. [Being] somebody who had my childhood out there at a very young age, from a film that I wrote, I understand probably better than anybody what it means to put something into the world that you cannot take back, be that information, imagery, storytelling, whatever it is. And so, because of that, I have very, very conscious boundaries in the space of social media and what I feel comfortable sharing, because once you put something into the world, you can't take it back. And I don't believe that I should have the authority to put my child's face [online] and [breach] her ability to remain private; I don't believe that I'm the one that should break that for her. I think she should make that decision on her own when she's older and she can understand the ramifications of that. It's just an absolute hands-down, no-fly zone for me.
What have you learned about yourself from being a mother?
I've learned a lot about intuition for sure. I've always had really solid intuition, but I've learned now, since becoming a mom, that I don't question it at all; I don't even give it one second of overthinking. If I know something in my gut, I know it and I go with it... You just know in your gut what the right move is for your child, you know?
I think that something really special happens when you become a parent, where you kind of learn to think outside of yourself and your own needs. And I know that that sounds really kind of obvious and basic, but the truth is when you have a life that you feel is more important than yours, like your child, your whole sole purpose and job is to make sure that you can take care of and raise this little person into being the best person that they can possibly be. It's humbling, and it also offers a perspective that, honestly, not much else can. It offers the type of perspective that allows you to step outside of your own body.
You and your husband have both been running your own businesses on top of being parents. Have you found any tips on finding some sort of work-life balance? What works for you?
I struggle with that myself. I talk a lot about balance probably because I'm also striving for that balance. We are a very ambitious household. For many years my husband had four or five companies plus his foundation that he was trying to operate all at once, and he was on an airplane every three days for years and years and years — probably the greater part of a decade. And there are physical consequences from that, health consequences from that.
In my world, [it was the] same thing, to a different degree or scale. I was trying to do too much at once. I realized that when you work in areas where you feel passion [such as philanthropy and activism], it's really difficult to say no, because it's stuff that you love to do and you want to do... and if you have businesses that are driven by that activism as well, it's difficult to set personal and professional boundaries in your work-home life. You love what you do, and you can inevitably become consumed by it, so it's just really important to take that into account.
For me, becoming a parent was one of the things [where] I realized, OK, there's nothing more important than this little human feeling like she has a present mom. And so I learned to slow down in some ways. Yes, I'm still operating my company and I'm involved in every aspect of the business, from operations to the creative, to web copy, to design photography, all of it. So I'm very involved in my company, and that is totally consuming at times. And then I also sit on the board of a couple of other companies as the strategic marketing adviser and I have a couple of other jobs too. So there's a lot happening in my world, but ... the greatest gift is that I've learned that it's OK to say no to people around me, but also to myself. That little drive inside myself that's like, "You can do it, you can do it." And then I'm like, "No, you know what? You can't and that's OK."
What sort of mom are you?
I'm a very hands-on parent. I work full-time, but I also don't have any professional childcare — not that there's anything wrong with that at all; I think it's wonderful if that's what suits your family. But I really want to be as present as possible with my daughter. I like being there for every bath time and every meal time, so I kind of work around that. I set my alarm and I work really early, from 5 in the morning until 8:30, when she's up, and then I take a break for her breakfast, and then I go back to work in the in-between times. She has been in preschool and stuff like that, so those are my moments of break and work. And then I work late into the evenings.
I definitely would say I'm a really present parent, but like all parents, I'm kind of learning along the way. This is my first child, so there's lots of learning curves and things. But I'll tell you, it's the absolute greatest joy of my life. When people tell you it only gets better and you're like, what does that even mean, because I love this so much. And they're like, "Oh, just wait 'til 2" and then "wait 'til 3" and "wait 'til 4," and you're like, 'Huh?"... It does actually just keep getting better and I don't know how to explain it. Like, I'm having so much fun with her right now. At 4 she's fully able to level with me and have conversations with me that I can't believe she's even having. [We're] starting to see who she is and her personality and how sensitive and tender and caring and nurturing [she is] — probably because of growing up with so many animals too. But just all the little things where you feel like you're getting to know this little human who is growing and developing; you get to know each version of themselves as it unfolds. And it's almost like these little magical surprises — like little nuggets of surprises — and they happen so often. Sometimes it's every day or every other day [when] you're like, "Wow, who are you?" It's so special and what an honor to be able to witness this.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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