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.
Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy continued...
The Baltimore-bred actress first earned household-name status as the primary love interest on the series Ed from 2000 to 2004. Bowen made additional star turns on Weeds and Lost, as well as in Adam Sandler's 1996 film, Happy Gilmore. Along the way, she's had to acquire some serious juggling skills to satisfy the demands of a skyrocketing career and burgeoning home life.
Still, Bowen's balancing act is not so different from that of other working moms -- she's simply traded the office cubicle for a studio set. Consider breastfeeding twin newborns while trying to memorize lines to perform before a live audience: "I pumped a lot. I pumped in my car. I pumped at work ... I pumped in a hotel room and sent it back to Los Angeles on dry ice. Not because I'm some kind of saint, but because it was easy for me. Again, if it's not easy, or if it's painful ... quit. I really resent the militants who insist things must be one way or another. Do what works for you, and cut yourself some slack with the comparisons."
Julie Bowen: The Perfect Mother?
With this mantra, Bowen's earned another big fan, Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of Mother-hood Without Guilt: Being the Best Mother You Can Be and Feeling Great About It.
"The pressures of modern-day motherhood can feel overwhelming," Rosenberg says. "Women buckle under it. They simply can't be in three places at once -- yet they try to be. With so many women working full-time jobs while attempting full-time motherhood, there are many false expectations. And this combination of factors pushes toward ever higher, often unattainable standards of what it means to be a good mother."
Are women under too much pressure today? "Yes," Bowen says. "There is too much pressure. I feel awful! An actress whom I adore -- who helped me audition -- told me: ''You've ruined it for all of us. You were hired for Modern Family when you were eight months pregnant with twins, and now that's the expectation -- that we can all do that. Nobody's getting a break.' How awful, that in any way, shape, or form I've made it harder for any new mom. Because I'm just as swamped as the rest of us."
Swamped is right. In the world of network TV, actors often log brutal hours. While Bowen is luckier than most, her schedule can be erratic.
"The model for Modern Family is to do it quickly and inexpensively," she explains. "We try to shoot 10-hour days where most shows shoot 12 or 14, so that happens to dovetail nicely if you have a family ... [but] there are weeks when it's in balance, and there are weeks when it isn't. Put it this way: There's a lot of kid time, and there's a lot of work time. It works."
"It works" means fewer Mommy & Me classes these days and an ability to stop sweating the minutiae of her children's lives -- a healthy relaxation, according to Rosenberg.
"With her first child," the therapist explains, "a mother is often vigilant about every detail: counting every step on the stairs, pointing out every flower. By the time her third one arrives, it's ''Hurry up!' Believe it or not, the latter may actually be better for children. Then they don't feel like the world revolves around them -- and that's a good thing."