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Julie Bowen: Modern Mother, Modern Family

The actor’s tricks and tips for balancing TV's No. 1 comedy and family -- including three kids under age 3.
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

On the spectrum of mommy sainthood, Julie Bowen is much like her character Claire Dunphy on ABC's hit TV show Modern Family: She lands somewhere on the higher end of the scale but falls far short of perfection -- and that's OK with her.

This proud working mom of three boys -- all under age 3 -- remains a self-admitted control freak, however: "I function on the belief that if I were not around, the wheels would slowly fall off the bus, and no one would ever be dressed or fed," she jokes.

Still, after she and husband Scott Phillips, a software engineer, welcomed twins John and Gus, now 22 months, when their firstborn Oliver was just hitting the "terrible twos" -- within weeks of her landing the role on what has become the No. 1 comedy on television -- the in-demand actress knew something had to give.  

"I breastfed for a year with my oldest," Bowen, 40, tells WebMD. "We did the Mommy & Me classes -- we did everything. But once the twins came along, I slid a lot farther down that scale."

She cites the new bar-setting trend of making your own baby food: "Organic in a jar is better than anything I'm going to come up with," she riffs. "There's a whole secret underground movement of people who feel like they're being bullied by these messages of ''You must grow your own food and purée it!' If you can do that and it brings you pleasure, do it. But if it doesn't work for you ... there are so many options out there that are healthy, why beat yourself up because you can't can your own peas?"

Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy

Bowen's views on TV-watching sound just as liberated: "I've heard all the evidence about television for kids, but every now and then Yo Gabba Gabba! is your best friend when you need to get the dishes done or just chill out for a minute."

Sounds like a line her alter ego Claire might deliver deadpan into the camera, a staple of Modern Family's confessional, break-the-fourth-wall style. The show -- which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series last fall and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in January -- has become a certifiable fan favorite. The series hilariously depicts a dysfunctional clan of three interconnected couples who marry themes of gay partnership, foreign adoption, May-December romance, culture clashes, religious differences, warring spouses, and uppity teenagers. In other words: real life.

Bowen as Claire is a mom who believes she knows best -- but much to her chagrin (and the audience's delight) very often doesn't. Women especially respond to Bowen's character because she makes so many laugh-inducing mistakes. They love her because she mirrors just about every well-meaning if fallible mother out there.

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