Hilary Duff on motherhood, loneliness and how it all goes by so fast
If you were young in the early aughts, you probably remember Hilary from her role as the title character of the iconic Disney series, Lizzie McGuire. Today Hilary is better known for starring in another hit series, TV Land's Younger, in which she plays ambitious young book editor Kelsey Peters.
In addition to Hilary's extensive acting and music career, in recent years she's become well known for being outspoken about the joys and challenges of modern motherhood. She's spoken publicly about her decision to have a home birth and to give up breastfeeding and has shared the admiration she holds for all the fellow moms to her 12.5 million Instagram followers.
In this episode, Hilary chats with Liz about being a mom in the spotlight, why she wants to be a part of the larger conversation around motherhood, and how she manages to be the best mom she can be to her 7-year old son Luca, as well as her 8-month-old daughter Banks.
Liz: Hilary Duff, welcome to the Motherly podcast.
Hilary Duff: I'm excited to be here. Thank you so much.
Liz: You're welcome. Thanks for joining us. So something I like to ask all other mothers is can you describe what your view of motherhood was before you became as mom yourself?
Hilary: Ooo. Wow. Let's see. I was pregnant with Luca when I was 23 and had him when I was 24. I guess I thought like you're a real adult once you had a baby. But that looked very different than how I looked. Like how I think of my parents when I was like ten or so, I feel like they looked so old even though they didn't. You know just like my perception was like oh you have all the answers and you know all the things. Everything you say goes because you are God. I think that very quickly when I became pregnant that shifted into like this is just me but I'm going to have to be that person to somebody. I guess I'm saying it in a very simple way but I very much felt like myself and a little fearful that I wasn't going to have all the answers. But I looked like maybe an older person's job to be a parent.
Liz: So what was it like to become a mother for the first time at 24? How did that shape your identity throughout your twenties and also being a young mom in the industry that you're working in?
Hilary: I'd say it was a little isolating in the beginning because I didn't have any friends that had babies yet. But I had been working for such a long time that it felt like a natural step for me and I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I always knew that was going to be my number one priority in life. So I felt ready on some fronts and a little scared on others, but I really only got scared once I was pregnant you know thinking like this is actually happening. What if this? What if that? I did feel like after I had him I lost a big chunk of my identity for like maybe the first year and a half but I don't think that was a negative thing. It was at times I was sad about it but you know it's full on. Like I don't remember setting him down for the first three months of life. I can't remember setting him down for the first three months of life and you know I was obsessively like googling things and I just took it really seriously that I didn't realize how all encompassing it would be. You know I knew it was the most important, biggest job in the world but you know it looks very different once you're just in the household with the baby by yourself all the time. Like you know it was shocking and it was also the happiest, most beautiful experience. So those two things butting up against each other is quite a strange mix sometimes.
Liz: That is totally what motherhood is like. It's isolating and beautiful. I think it's so interesting how you talk about how your identity changed, especially becoming a mom relatively young. But you sort of framed it as a positive. How do you think that identity changed you for the better?
Hilary: Oh because I think once you get over the hump of like one I'm not funny, two I can't hold an adult conversation right now, three like all I had was like timing going through my head of when should he went down for the nap and when I gave the last bottle, what I fed him yesterday for lunch compared to. You know it's like all of these very not simple but they are simple thoughts after a while right. Like scheduling and this and that. Like it's not interesting to anybody else except for you. Once you get over that and you do find yourself again you have the biggest thing under your belt that nobody can take away from you and you're so powerful and you're so confident. So I did spin it as a positive thing because sitting in it when it was happening maybe I was a little sad about it and I didn't feel like I had anyone to go through the experience with. But then I came out on the other side and I'm like I'm freaking super woman and I can do anything. I have confidence for days and you know all of that. There's so much good that comes along with it.
Liz: One of the things that happened to you is when you went out after having a child there was commentary about your body. Can you talk about what it's like to become a mom in the public eye and how you navigated that as a human being, getting criticism for what is a totally normal post-partum experience?
Hilary: I mean it's just unfair is what it is. I try not to complain about it too much because it's uninteresting to most people. But it's tough. I mean I remember the headline. It was like Hilary Duff debuts post baby body. I was literally walking into the pump station to get like added parts for my pump. You know those little white annoying tabs that like go inside the pump thing. I was like out of those.
Liz: For your breast pump?
Hilary: For my breast pump yeah.
Liz: You were getting.
Hilary: It was no debut. It was like I am so happy to see other humans right now and just leave the house for a moment. And literally the pump station. So it was a bummer for sure and I felt myself like trying to hide behind my bag. You know I just had a baby like twelve days before so I don't know what any other experience is like. I just know what mine is like. I do think that it was a little. I think at the time I was a little embarrassed and now I could just like rage on those people and just be like, "How dare you? What are you thinking treating a new mom like that?" You know? That was many years ago.
Liz: You have this platform that you're able to share about motherhood and postpartum recovery for example. What do you want to say to women who maybe aren't; don't have the paparazzi outside their door when they're leaving their house for the first time but they also feel so uncomfortable in their bodies and their life is totally transformed?
Hilary: Gosh. I guess I have all the same struggles that they have and all the same fears of; if we're just strictly talking about body. You know I had a love hate relationship with my pregnant body. There's days where I felt beautiful and couldn't believe the miracle that my body was you know creating and you're climbing a freaking mountain every day to create a human being. It's so beautiful and I would feel powerful and strong. There were other times where I'd turn around and look and be horrified you know by the back of my legs or my butt or whatever. You know the size of my boobs have gotten to. It's scary, foreign and then you know once you have the baby which is like the most happy moment of your life. You look down and you're like, "Oh no. Now I have the pressure to work on this." It's really tough and it kind of like pairs up with the loss of identity in the beginning where you're like oh my God all I'm doing is thinking about which boob I fed him on the last time. You know how many wet diapers he's had and I'm making notes all day. This is like crazy. Then none of your clothes fit or some pregnant women spit that baby out and they look like nothing's ever happened to them. I'm like wearing compression and have a muffin top. I guess just all in time. You know everything takes time. It took time to build the baby and that's a very obvious thing to say but really I try to remind myself that all of this stuff is a blip in time. You know it's really; I think about Banks she was colic that three months went by it was hard as hell. It was the hardest thing I've ever been through but it was a blip and now she's through it you know. My clothes are finally starting to fit and I'm cool with that. Like it just takes a moment. We have to stop looking to other people and look at ourselves for being incredible instead of always comparing, comparing.
Liz: You have such a huge fan base among millennials. I can say especially among millennial moms. You've posted on so many topics like choosing to stop breast feeding or your struggles of pumping or using a sleep coach or going back to work; all of these things that so many of us struggle with and yet you've decided that you're going to be honest about it and share what you go through. Why is it important to you to share about those struggles and challenges in motherhood with this audience that could easily criticize you for your choices? Why do you want to be so honest about that?
Hilary: You know what? I think that I want to be a part of the conversation not for like my platform and not for, I mean I hate this word but my fame or status, but like I want to be a part of the motherhood you know. I want to share my stories and I want to hear what people have to say and I want a part of that team you know. And so I think I selfishly do it to get people reaching out and talking to me you know because we're in the same struggle or whatever it is that we might be going through. So I like sharing. I like being candid. You know I love posting photos. I swear to God all I want to do is post photos of my kids. It's like all I can do to; just being a proud parent it's all I can do to okay maybe post one of yourself or your work or whatever other content I can scrounge up to post. But really like my whole entire life is my kids. I think I do it. I try to be candid. The other day I'd spent the day in the hospital with Banks or the night in the hospital with Banks and I had dried vomit in my hair for almost two days. I was like I'm too tired to shower. I cannot shower. I don't know. It's just this is what it is. It's messy and it's the best messiest thing ever.
Liz: I totally agree. So on that note your character on Younger is this young woman like you but she doesn't have kids. As an aside there's so many plot lines on the show about motherhood and our identity as women that make us just look super interesting show for moms to watch. I'm wondering, was it hard to put yourself in the mindset of someone your age who didn't have this immense responsibility of motherhood which is one you've had for so long?
Hilary: Yeah. It was. I think it's the most challenging part for me is to; Kelsey's a great friend but she's just you know a person who doesn't have kids which I'm not calling all people that don't have kids selfish but I just don't think they get it you know.
Liz: It's hard to understand.
Hilary: Yeah. It's hard to understand. But I think they just don't understand. But that's one of the best parts of getting to play Kelsey is to like forget about the pressures of the daily struggle and thoughts and worrying and all of that with kids. You know she doesn't have that yet and she does live a kind of selfish life and party a little bit too hard but she works hard. Yeah it was a little hard. Even shooting the pilot I mean Darren Star called me and was like, "I want you to come to New York and shoot this pilot for me." I'm like, "I haven't told anyone this yet but I'm about to get a divorce and I have a two year old so I can't. But thanks for the phone call." He's like, "No, no. We can make it work. We can make it work. Just come shoot the pilot and we'll figure it out." I was like, I was so grateful for someone to see me as not just a mom for a second you know and to think that I could play a part that wasn't a mom. Like it felt really good and it was almost like a little escape. You know what? I love and hate being a working mom. So.
Liz: Tell me about that. You just finished filming season six of Younger and that actually shots in New York but you're based in LA. Can you tell us about how you handle your working mom situation? How's that work?
Hilary: This year was actually the most challenging. Actually last year and this year was the most challenging because last year I was pregnant and flying home like almost every other weekend to see Luca. Landing from New York at like midnight, getting up at five thirty am pick up, working for 15 hours it was pretty insane. Then this year I had a newborn, a four month old and I was going back to work you know nursing and trying to juggle that. It's really hard. I don't think there's any other way to spin it except for that all moms are heroes. Working moms poses a whole other thing. It's really hard. I'm carrying my pump around with me. I'm in the hair/makeup trailer. I'm talking to men who are like, "Okay we have a break in the day you can go pump." I'm like it's not a feeding time. There's no milk. They don't get it. You know so I can sit there and like pull at my nipples for however long but nothing's going to come out right now you know. You know the only time I would get to hold my baby was at her in the middle of the night feed and I'm just like inhaling her, sniffing her, trying to one connect and two keep a milk supply going. So it was just. It was hard but I got through it and you know it makes you stronger. Every step of the way you learn something new and learn how to cope. My son is in school in LA and he has to be really strong too. So all of us just try to find the positive and know that the time we get together we make really special.
Liz: So speaking of your daughter you sort of famously chose to give birth to her at home and had a home birth and then shared the story and experience. Why did you make that choice and can you tell us what it was like?
Hilary: Yeah. I watched The Business of Being Born and it just affected me. It left me with the question of what does my? My body is made to do this and we've been doing this since the beginning of time. Can I do this? You know it was.
Liz: You had given birth in the hospital the first time?
Hilary: Yes. So I gave birth to Luca at Cedar Sinai with all the drugs. I was like if you have a dart gun and you can shoot me in the parking lot before I get in like go ahead and just take me out. Like I don't need to be here for this. You know I was really young so I was just like terrified of what was going to be like moving through my body. I actually wanted to have a scheduled c-section. My doctor was like, "No sorry. You cannot. You have to try." Which I was really appreciative for because I had a great birth. Then with Banks I was so much older and had kind of a different support system around me and I feel much more in tune with my body and I'm a lot healthier I think than I was then. I just wanted to try. I did a lot of research. I watched a lot of home birth videos. Then again, that was just me sharing wanting to be a part of the conversation because it's really interesting to me that our bodies can do this and when people ask me, "Oh my God wasn't it so painful, blah, blah, blah?" I'm like, "Yeah I think it sucked but then I can't tell you what it felt like." It's true those hormones make you forget; they really do come into play and work.
Hilary: It really is. It really is. It was just lovely. I would 100% do it again if I felt like my baby could do it that way again you know. I just had all the confidence in the world that Banks could be born at home. And she was like head down partying the whole entire pregnancy. So I was like this baby wants to come out this way you know.
Liz: How else do you think your perspective on motherhood has changed from when you became a mom for the first time in your early twenties to now in your thirties with baby number two? Do you have a different mindset about motherhood now that you're a mom of two?
Hilary: Hmm. I guess I have a confidence that she's going to be okay. You know I worry less at night while she's sleeping. I feel like with Luca I would just stare at the monitor all night long. I just feel so grateful to have the experience again. But I don't. I guess I feel like less judged. I don't really care what people have to say now. I'm trying to think. I sterilize bottles for a lot shorter amount of time. She deals with a lot more dog hair than Luca dealt with. You know she kind of just has to be a roll dog and I love that. I think it's going to give her a great personality and she has do come along with a lot of her brother's things and sometimes we miss naps. You know I really like that. I think I'm just a little more lax all together and a little more carefree on people's commentary.
Liz: What has it been like to see Luca become a big brother?
Hilary: I was terrified. This is a different; you know I have a different partner now. He and Luca have such a beautiful relationship but I think he was like this is our three pack. You know this doesn't need to change. Why would we change a good thing? He actually cried when I told him I was having a baby and that made me feel terrible obviously 'cause he was six and he knew exactly what was going on. I'm like I can't undo this. I can't undo this for you and I want to so bad right now. I feel horrible. But I think the bigger part of me knew this is going to be a great thing for him. He's such a compassionate, sensitive, loving, fun spirited child that I'm like she's just gotta be here and everything's going to be okay. When I was in labor he was home. He didn't want to be in the room which I was totally fine with and actually preferred. So he was downstairs playing with Legos and when I had her he came up. He's like, "Uh. That's my sister!" He reached out to touch her head and she was all gooey and gross and he didn't care. I'm like watching my kid who's usually all skived out by textures and gross things. I'm like everything's going to be okay. He's like, "I'll be right back." He ran out of the room to cough. He came back and he's like, "I knew I couldn't cough near her." I'm like oh my God everything's going to turn out okay. He's going to love her. Honestly he can't keep his hands off of her. He's like constantly cradling her head and wants to hold her and walk holding her. And cheers her on at every moment and laughs at her and wants to put her to bed with me. He's really a top notch big brother.
Liz: I love that. I'm happy to hear that. I'm on the verge of having another and making my daughter a big sister as well. You've shared a lot of posts over the years that are really inspiring for women. A lot of your fan base is now at the point of life where they're about to become moms for the first time. I'm wondering. Do you have any words of advice for fans who look up to you and are becoming mamas?
Hilary: Oh my gosh. I'm going to go back to just talking about how everything is such a short blip in time. Everyone says it goes by so fast and to enjoy the moment and to like sleep when the baby sleeps and all of the cliché things. They're all true. Listen to them. I'd say check in with your partner when you can. Make time. Everything that seems like it's impossible to get through goes by so fast and you know have the confidence that you know what's best for your baby. You know, advice is definitely welcomed but be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Don't stress about the way that you look. I feel like all mothers have this glow and you feel like s-h-I-t when you look in the mirror. Really it's from; it's all of your insecurities you know coming out because you feel so different right away. But I feel like all mommas, everybody looks to you like how are you doing it. You know like I look at a new mom in amazement no matter if they have one baby, two babies, three babies, four babies you know. It's all like you're doing the most incredible work and be kind to yourself and enjoy it. It goes by so fast. Banks is crawling all over. She just like pulled herself up on furniture and I just like this is happening too fast. It's crazy.
Liz: At Motherly we talk about how motherhood brings out our superpowers right. So these hidden powers that a lot of times we didn't even know were there. But we discovered them after becoming moms. So I'm wondering what do you think your superpowers are?
Hilary: I feel like that's a better question for like the partner. But you know I have to tell you Matt is so supportive of me. Every day he's like, "You are super woman. I don't know how you did it." I think it's because your brain is making categories and then like putting them in levels of importance even though it's all important. It's like packing the snack and the water bottle and making sure the homework is in the thing. You know going over the words for the test in the car while you're also going over the song that they have to perform in a month. And like you know you've packed the diaper bag and you have the baby. It's just like the constant juggle of everything. Then on top of it trying to make it fun and enjoy the process. I think that is something that's amazing. It's like trying to find the way to enjoy the moments but also get everything done that has to be done.
Liz: That's perfectly good. I love it. Thank you so much, Hilary Duff, for joining us today on the Motherly podcast.
Hilary: Yes. Thank you. It was so much fun.
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