Maggie Gyllenhaal on Motherhood: “We’re Just Living, & Doing the Best We Can”

The Mother Lode

Maggie Gyllenhaal is not a regular mom. She’s a PowerMom.

The Academy Award nominated actress is teaming up with Loacker for their PowerMom conference, where she’ll share her experience juggling motherhood, marriage to fellow-actor Peter Sarsgaard and a burgeoning career as one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood. A mom of two — 12 year old Ramona, and 7-year-old Gloria — Gyllenhaal has mastered the balance between the everyday demands of motherhood and the slew of nuanced, critically-acclaimed roles she’s come to be known for.

As she wraps up filming for the final season of The Deuce, Gyllenhaal corresponded with SheKnows ahead of Mother’s Day to talk parenting hacks, mom-shaming and how she handles tough discussions with her kids.

SheKnows: Maggie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’re so very excited to feature your voice on SheKnows. Can you tell me what’s the best Mother’s Day gift you’ve given and what’s the best one you’ve received?

Maggie Gyllenhaal: “Painted noodle necklace, and painted noodle necklace.”

What’s a favorite parenting hack you can share with our readers?

“You don’t have to invite the whole class to bday parties, and I’m looking forward to discussing more of my experience during the Loacker’s PowerMom Facebook Live. To be honored by a community of working mothers through Loacker’s PowerMom is both flattering and inspiring.”

maggie gyllenhaal headshot
Gareth Cattermole.

What advice would you give to a brand new mom?

“Being a mother is amazing, of course. But it is also brutal and painful. Make some space for the whole spectrum of feelings that are about to push in. Not just the fantasy ones.” 

How do you talk to your girls about serious issues like racism, sexism, bigotry, etc. that they might see in the news?

“I am honest with them about what’s going on in the world. I try to understand what they’re thinking instead of feeding them my own thoughts/feelings. I also try to be very aware of how young they are and what they can handle. For example, I don’t talk to my first grader about school shootings, but we do talk about how dangerous guns can be. I think it can feel like a scary time to be alive, politically, because so much is out on the table for everyone to see: the bigotry, violence, corruption. But there is also an opportunity for big change, in a way that I’ve never felt before. And I think children are going to be a big part of creating that change.”

How has motherhood changed you? Was it an immediate shift or gradual?

“How has it not changed me??”

Countless studies show working moms regularly take on a “second shift” of household labor and child care in addition to their day jobs. Do you feel that’s true for you? If so, what does a “second shift” look like for you?

“I am always mothering, always thinking about my kids: Who needs a dentist appointment? Got to change the violin lesson for Friday, I forgot to rsvp to that bday party, and on and on forever. There is no second shift. It’s all the time.”

A lot of our readers struggle with mom-shaming, or judgment about their choices as parents. As a public figure, do you feel that judgment?

“Hmmm. I guess I’ve run into that (e.g. a mom once telling me, when I was doing a play, with an awful cold that it had been soooooooo long since she’d seen me at pick up). But most of the moms I know are pretty honest about how hard all this is. I don’t think any of us have fantasies about being a ‘great mom’ or ‘the best parent.’ We’re just living, and doing the best we can.”

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