Alyssa Milano is so much more than just another Hollywood actor and producer. She’s a fearless activist, a bold spokesperson, an author and a mother of two. This year, she’s also a panelist at #BlogHer Health 2019 in Los Angeles, where she’ll speak about the value of using social media platforms — even if you don’t have a combined 5.49 million Instagram and Twitter followers — to promote critical humanitarian issues, from fighting to end gun violence to eradicating sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
Though Milano has worked tirelessly for decades to promote social justice endeavors, she credits her two children, Elizabella Dylan and Milo Thomas, for her reinvigorated drive to create a safer, more inclusive future for all children. “If I were to put my activism under one umbrella, it would be to make the world a better place for future generations,” she once told InStyle.
Of course, Milano’s life isn’t entirely consumed by advocacy; she also makes plenty of time to adventure with her kiddos. From fighting the good fight to playing with her kids in the Southern California sunshine, here are some of Milano’s best parenting moments thus far.
1. Her devotion to destigmatizing mental illness
Milano has long been open about living with an anxiety disorder, and at #BlogHer Health 2019, she explained why it’s vital that mothers (and all people, really!) start talking more about their mental health.
“I think it’s very important that we have these discussions and, especially, erase the stigma of mental illness,” Milano said. “Often, I find that we’re so conditioned to believe that once you become a mom that everything is rosy, it’s easy. We’re supposed to be on the white sheets, and it’s supposed to be so romantic to have these perfect little pink babies, but it’s not. It’s hard. It’s hard work. I think the more we talk about that, the better for everyone. When you have a baby, it’s not the white sheets and the field of daisies, that you don’t think it’s just you.”
The actress also encouraged women not to get caught up in the more marketable aspects of parenting we often see splashed all over social media.
“We monetized that imagery so much to the extent that everything is about making money with babies,” she added. “It really takes away from the fact that [having a child] is a life-changing, emotional thing that happens, and we should be talking about that and not feel stigma around any of that.”
2. Her belief in building communities of women
Raising children is hard work and, while the saying “it takes a village” may seem overplayed, it’s not untrue — not even for celebrities.
“We’ve gotten so far away from the village mentality,” Milano said at #BlogHer Health 2019. “There was a time where we’d see women breastfeed in the village and go, ‘Oh, my nipples are going to bleed when I breastfeed.’ We’re so far removed from that because we don’t see any other women breastfeed that we actually need to bring in a consultant to teach us how to breastfeed, even though it’s supposed to be the most beautiful, natural thing in the world. We just don’t see it often enough to know what to do.”
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The New York Times reported Sunday that the United States had tried to water down a resolution, opposed by the formula industry, calling on governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” and to restrict the promotion of other food products that experts believe are less healthy. The U.S. even threatened Ecuador, which introduced the resolution, with trade restrictions and the loss of military aid if it didn’t withdraw.
#BlogHer Health 2019 wasn’t the first time Milano has spoken about the beauty of breastfeeding, as well as touting its many health benefits. The mother of two has often used her platform to encourage women to breastfeed in public, haters be damned.
“I can’t believe this is still an issue,” she told People in August 2018. “When people tell a nursing mom to go in the bathroom to feed heir baby, it’s like telling someone to go in the bathroom to eat their sandwich. Would you eat your lunch in the bathroom? or under a blanket?”
Women supporting women to call out sexism and do what makes them happiest and healthiest? More of that, please!
3. Her heartfelt #MeToo message for her daughter
In 2017, Milano resurfaced the #MeToo movement, initially founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006. Due to her vast social media following, Milano was able to rally thousands of women to share the hashtag #MeToo as an indicator they had experienced sexual harassment or assault at some point. Since then, Milano has also devoted countless hours to advocating on behalf of all people impacted by sexual abuse, from Hollywood celebrities to everyday survivors of domestic violence. Her voice has been critical in exposing abusers and demanding justice for survivors.
Though she’d shared the hashtag dozens of times, Milano waited until October 2018 to release a video addressed to her 4-year-old daughter detailing why she has chosen to come forward with details of her sexual assault. “I will fight so you don’t have to,” Milano captioned the post.
One year ago I recorded this for my daughter, explaining why I shared my story of sexual assault. I never expected to release it publicly. Now, I feel it’s too important not to share. #MeToo
I love you so. I will fight so you don’t have to.
Love, mama pic.twitter.com/TYk5XXFksY
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2018
“Women everywhere are sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault, and they’re saying phrases like, ‘Me too’ and ‘Time’s up.’ I don’t expect you to understand this right now, obviously, because you’re a baby,” Milano said through tears. “But when you get older and watch this video, I wanted you to know that one night when I was lying in bed with you, I looked down at you and your sweet, beautiful face, and I got really scared. I got scared for you, and I sent out a tweet asking women to stand in solidarity, and a lot of people replied. So in a way, I wanted to make this video for you, because all of this is for you because you gave Mama the strength.”
She continued to list her hopes for her daughter, which included knowing her worth, valuing herself and her talents and living in a world where she’d “never have to say, ‘me too.'”
4. Her advocacy work
Milano’s work expands far beyond the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Additionally, she donates her time, energy and money to dozens of causes and organizations that span from environmental activism to providing children with clean drinking water. Currently, Milano sits on the ERA Coalition’s advisory council, is the founder of the anti-gun violence organization NoRA and is in her 16th year as a UNICEF national ambassador.
She’s also vocal about LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, protecting migrant families and undocumented people living in the U.S., prison reform, mental health and education for all. While it may seem like she’s juggling almost too much, Milano told SheKnows in March 2017 that activism is central to who she is and offered tips on how others can help.
“Stay engaged, active and empower others to do the same,” Milano said. “It’s up to us to change what we don’t like and fight for what we know is right. Don’t just sit back and watch. Be an active participant in your community and country. Every small gesture makes up the big gestures. Resist, rinse, repeat.”
5. Her lessons on empathy & compassion
Milano often uses her platform to rail against systemic injustice and intolerance, from criticizing the criminal justice system to calling out the president when he tweets petty insults. Underlying every tweet or call to action is a desire to spread kindness and create a world her kids would be proud to inhabit. But Milano doesn’t expect to change hearts and minds on her own. Instead, she has said that real change starts at home and that much of the responsibility to create a brighter future begins with parents. Her household is no exception.
“I’m raising [my kids] to know that there is no other option [than to contribute to society],” she told Parents magazine. “To be a productive member of society, you have to help and give back. I tell them that we’re very blessed and there are people in this world who are not, so we need to share our blessings with those people. It’s not a choice… We can’t just wake up and expect a teenager to care. We have to instill these values at a young age.”
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Excited to share this news with you. I can’t wait for you to meet #HOPE! Huge love to @monkeyes_ for his brilliant, inspiring character design. Thank you @scholasticinc for the opportunity to inspire a new generation of activists. My heart is full of gratitude and appreciation.
To help parents kick-start conversations, Milano announced that she’s publishing a book series entitled Hope about a young girl who sets out to positively reshape her community.
“Thank you @scholasticinc for the opportunity to inspire a new generation of activists,” Milano wrote alongside the news on Instagram. “My heart is full of gratitude and appreciation.
6. Her totally relatable parenting tactics
When she’s not out changing the world, Milano is a down-to-earth mom with real-life mom experiences — not all of which are glamorous. In an interview for People’s “Celeb Parents Get Real,” Milano revealed that she once had to cup her hands and catch her 7-year-old son’s vomit on a long flight.
“Within five minutes of taking off, all of a sudden I was like, ‘He’s gonna throw up!’ And I put my hands down, and I proceeded to catch the vomit in my hands like this,” she said. “Thank God nobody came after me with a black light because it would’ve been not a pretty picture.”
Gross? For sure. A refreshing story to hear from a celebrity? Absolutely.
What’s even more delightful, however, is her willingness to talk openly about mom guilt and societal expectations.
“[Mom guilt also stems from] how the media portrays motherhood,” she said on Good Morning America. “I think that image we have of the mommy on the white sheet with the beautiful, clean baby — it doesn’t really exist that way. So we reflect upon on our own failures, or that moment as being a failure, when it’s just the reality. Parenthood is terrifying for a father or a mother.”
7. Her body-positive attitude
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It took me almost half my life to feel comfortable with my body. But I can honestly say, finding fulfillment in the idea that it is an absolute perfect machine has helped. Having babies gave me that gift. Seeing how the body can give life and then sustain it made me personally realize it’s beauty is in its ability to change. I’m not sure if what you see when you look at this picture is the same as what I see. It’s all so subjective. But I see a woman who understands that totally loving myself means totally accepting myself. Some days I do that really well. And other days I don’t. On the days I don’t— I work a little harder to remember there is a perfect system at work here. And if I still don’t see it even if I squint—if there’s ever any doubt of that truth— I go outside and look up at the stars as a reminder of all that is possible.
Milano may be a supermom, but she’s still human. She has been refreshingly open about her struggles with society’s post-baby body expectations and self-acceptance. Last fall, she shared an uplifting Instagram post that celebrated her progress and encouraged other women to do the same.
“It took me almost half my life to feel comfortable with my body,” she wrote. “But I can honestly say, finding fulfillment in the idea that it is an absolute perfect machine has helped. Having babies gave me that gift. Seeing how the body can give life and then sustain it made me personally realize its beauty is in its ability to change.”
Her message is so vital for women and children of all ages as a reminder that our worth isn’t dependent on our physical appearances or the number on a scale and that beauty comes in all sizes.
8. Her willingness to have uncomfortable conversations
Let’s face it; having the sex talk with kids can be awkward at any age. Between contraception, human anatomy and the ever-feared STIs, where do you even begin? While many of us may question when’s the right time to have the talk, Milano is prepared to rip off the bandage and start the conversation with her kids now.
“I’m ready! I’d do it now if they asked,” she told Us Weekly.
She added that one of the main reasons she and her husband, Dave Bugliari, are so open with their kids is that they want them to grow up feeling independent and confident.
“For me, it’s raising kids that are socially aware and conscious but still have childhoods and aren’t completely terrified from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep like their mother,” she said.
9. Her dedication to celebrating the big & small
At the end of the day, Milano’s brightest moments seem to be those spent with her kids, whether they’re lounging outside, rocking out at a concert or helping her zip up one of her dresses. Sometimes, the sweetest things are the simplest.