As a new mom, Shay Mitchell has been candid about her struggles and triumphs. Now, the actor is speaking exclusively to Motherly about parenting in a pandemic, her journey through prenatal depression, traveling with children and so much more.
Her honesty and advice might help you get through the toughest of times, mama.
You're doing a partnership with Pampers for their #SwaddlersSkinIsAlwaysIn campaign and have probably taken so much information from it. How do you as a mom—especially as a first-time mom—balance out all the information with your instincts as a parent?
Mitchell: I do take a lot of recommendations from my pediatrician. I think going to someone you really trust, and I have a very close relationship with mine, is always a great resource to have. I have a really awesome circle of friends, family, doctors included, and we all kind of share tips and tricks and advice. Especially at the beginning, getting my list together of all the things I needed, I definitely had a lot of people's opinions, but then it obviously comes down to you trying it yourself and figuring out what works best for you.
You've been sharing a lot about how you're investing in your own health right now. How do you manage taking care of yourself alongside taking care of a child?
Mitchell: I think time to yourself is incredibly important. I think it makes you a better mom, a better partner, a better all-around version of yourself. So for me, if it means having to get up a little earlier, or if it means setting a schedule with my partner or with whoever is helping us [with Atlas], then I do that. I say 'hey, I need half an hour, 45 minutes to myself to get in a quick workout [or] go for a walk', whatever it is I'm needing that day. It makes the world of a difference. You don't want to be overly tired or feel like you have zero time for yourself. It's incredibly important.
You've been really open about dealing with prenatal depression. That's something not a lot of people are talking about—what advice would you give somebody who is in the middle of that right now?
Mitchell: I would say don't be afraid to talk about it. It's something I didn't know was a thing: I heard so much about postpartum depression but I never knew about [depression during pregnancy]. For myself, [I felt] 'is this normal? I should be feeling very happy right now but for some reason, I can't get out of this funk'. Then I started talking about it and heard so many more stories from women who had gone through the same thing. I think sharing your story and speaking to other women can really help. You feel less alone.
Was there anything else you did in order to cope while you were going through it?
Mitchell: Honestly, just talking about it. Keeping it inside wouldn't have made it any better. It was just really being vocal about it—and being honest with myself that it was okay to feel this way and I couldn't control it.
You've also been really open about things like your miscarriage, but you're also private about certain parts of your life. How do you draw those boundaries as a mom in the public eye?
Mitchell: I use social media as a way for me to share things that I'm okay to talk about, so if I put something out there, I'm okay to talk about it. And if I don't put it out there, obviously it's not okay to talk about [for me]. Things like my miscarriage and prepartum depression are important to be spoken about, but I think it's a fine line. That's my relationship with social media. I can honestly say at this stage of my life I have a healthy relationship with it. I go on and I produce content when I feel like it and when I don't, I don't. I don't feel any pressure. If I miss a YouTube posting or I don't post on Instagram for a week or two weeks or a month, I don't feel that pressure. I just don't. What's more important than 'likes' and all that is my mental health. I want to be as healthy as possible in all aspects. What you put out there is what you feel comfortable talking about, at least for me.
You're navigating new motherhood during such a strange time in the world. With the pandemic throwing everyone for a loop in so many ways, how have you handled pandemic parenting?
Mitchell: At the beginning of the pandemic when everything was locked down, Atlas was not walking. She was a little bit easier, not getting into anything, I'd put her in one place and she'd stay there. Fortunately, I feel very grateful that I had a child who was young enough in the beginning. Now she's full-on running and climbing the walls. How did I deal with it? Continuing to talk to my friends and family. Facetime saved us all. I think constant communication with my family, even though I wasn't able to see them, was the best thing I could do. It helped out quite a bit. Clearly, I love to talk, that seems to be my solution for everything. We created a little bubble of people we trusted and were comfortable with, and they had kids, luckily. [We're] just trying to do our best. There's no book on how to do it perfectly. I don't think any of us could have expected what's been happening in the last year to have taken place. We just do the best we can as parents, and that's what we're going to have to do for the rest of their lives.
Obviously, our ability to travel has been so affected, but we know that's a huge part of your life. Have you picked up any tips or tricks that other parents can apply when traveling with their kids?
Mitchell: I think, and this is kind of hard in certain situations, but try not to put so much pressure on yourself or your child. Just go in knowing people are going to be understanding. And if they're not, well, too bad. I think at the end of the day, you want to be as prepared as possible, but not putting so much pressure on yourself. Traveling can be a little stressful. Have everything ready, have your diaper bag stocked and just be like 'what happens, happens.'
Would you say that's kind of your motto about motherhood in general?
Mitchell: It is. It really is. When people meet Atlas they say 'she's so chill, you guys don't seem stressed out at all.' And it's like, 'but why?' That energy, she will feel. I feel it when people are stressed out, and I don't want to put that out there on her. That's super important for [me and my partner] Matte, just keeping an even keel. Because truly, what is really worth stressing about that much? If she cries, she cries. If we're at a restaurant, I'm sorry. It is what is. They're kids. You can't expect them to act like little adults all the time. If you forget something, they have a big accident, puke on your shirt—oh well. It's all a part of it. I think eventually there will be a time when we look back and laugh at all these stories.