Bryce Dallas Howard -- star of The Help and the Seth Rogen co-produced dramedy 50/50 in September -- is basking in the A-list spotlight. The daughter of legendary producer/director Ron Howard (once known the world over as “Opie” and “Richie Cunningham”) got her start on Broadway and for years shined in quieter films such as Lady in the Water and Clint Eastwood’s reflective Hereafter.
Now she juggles motherhood, professional life, and body image much like any American woman does: “I take it day by day. And I’m always questioning if what I’m doing is right, being a working mom,” the busy actor says. “It used to be a community effort, raising children. Now much of it falls on one person, two people. It’s really challenging to do that. … I don’t think I’ve fully figured it out.”
Below, Howard’s life lessons for balancing work and family.
Expect the unexpected.
Howard admits to having a preconceived notion of what motherhood would bring. Instead she had a rough delivery, refused all pain medications after it, had difficulty breast feeding, didn't give herself enough time to rest and recuperate, and then stayed silent when she needed help -- a recipe for a health crisis. Now, she says: "I know I'll be the first one to ask my family or friends if I need a hand."
Say no to perfectionism.
"It wound up being a tremendous learning experience," says Howard of her bout with postpartum depression. "I hope to never go through something like that again, and hopefully I never will, but I know I won't handle it the way I did." The actress admits, "I didn't have the courage to face certain elements of myself, the ones that weren't a 'perfect mother.'" Now, with her second child on the way, she understands there's no such thing.
Don't forget YOU.
For Howard, acting is a passion. And going back to work was part of her return to health. "I stopped checking in with myself," she tells WebMD, referring to her own needs and wants. "I am so fortunate to have really great child care now," she adds, so she can take on the occasional juicy role.
The best beauty secrets? Sleep and sunscreen!
Sleep became a distant dream after her son Theo was born. But studies show that logging a healthy 7 to 8 hours each night not only benefits heart and brain function, it also helps your skin look revived and more youthful.
And speaking of skin, the actress takes great care of hers: "I use natural sunblocks, because regular sunblocks have so many chemicals in them," says Howard, who, as a real redhead with very fair skin, covers herself and Theo from head to toe. "I even wear clothing with SPF sun protection." Her SPF-savvy is wise: Studies confirm that sun damage is one of the fastest ways to age skin prematurely.
Be patient with your shape.
We've all heard the saying: Nine months up, nine months down. Howard gained 80 pounds during her pregnancy and then discovered she wasn't "one of those lucky women" who shed the extra girth within weeks of giving birth. "It took me so long to lose the baby weight," she tells WebMD. But with good eating habits and regular exercise she eventually did return to her pre-pregnancy 130 pounds. According the pregnancy experts at WebMD, as soon as your ob-gyn gives you the green light to get moving, "aerobic and strength training will help burn calories and keep you healthy along with a nutritional diet. Breastfeeding can also help burn calories after pregnancy."
Love your stomach -- it's worked hard for you!
“I will never wear a bikini again,” Howard says with a laugh. “I have the body of a 30-year-old, but the stomach of an 80-year-old. But I say that with a twinkle in the eye, because I feel really proud! My body expanded to that degree to carry a life. And you know, bikini or no bikini, I feel pretty good about it.”
Adapted from the cover story of WebMD the Magazine’s July/August 2011 issue. Read the entire story here.