Within five minutes of talking with writer, actor, mom and Lunch Dictator extraordinaire Jenny Mollen, you definitely want to be pals. Or at least I definitely do. And that’s not just because I kicked off our convo by totally outing Mollen’s husband, actor Jason Biggs, for Googling me in advance of our interview a few weeks ago (Mollen did think this was hilarious, though). But you also want to be pals with her because she’s so damn relatable, honest, easy to talk to and down-to-earth — all qualities that are pretty damn hard to find out there in Celebland. But Mollen’s got them in spades. What else has she got? A mean flair for lunch-packing, fluency in German, a toddler who unwittingly says “fuck,” and an airplane parenting hack that would put fear into the heart of the boldest kid traveler. Oh, and she’s partnered up with Gold Bond for a life-changing (and, the arson-conscious among us might argue, risky) vow: to sleep naked for her skin’s sake.
We caught up with Mollen regarding all of the above, plus, you know, mom terror, Jason Biggs’ awful shorts, that time Mollen maybe hired a hooker, and of course coronavirus. And, I’ll venture to say, Mollen and I were definitely pals by the end. Definitely/maybe.
SheKnows: So I recently interviewed your husband, and he was delightful but also totally psyched me out by googling me in advance of our interview. So he just picks up the phone like, “Amelia! How is Silas doing today? Four is such a great age.” And I was pretty flabbergasted.
Jenny Mollen: Oh my god, that is amazing! He is amazing. Of course now he’s like basically living in L.A. [instead of here in New York] so I’m slightly resentful but I’m doing the single parenting thing here… It’s pretty gnarly; he’s out there living in the sun, wearing shorts to work. But he’s done this weekend so he’ll be back Saturday. If coronavirus doesn’t get him.
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Signed up for the @goldbond_ultimate Sleep Naked Challenge, which means I’m ditching my jammies in return for smoother skin and better sleep. Really hoping the kids stay in their own beds for the next couple of weeks…! Are you ready to join me and @goldbond_ultimate on this naked journey?? Let me know using #goldbond #sleepnakedchallenge #ad
SK: Oh jeez let’s hope he’s okay — if only so you can get a break! What are you working on right now?
JM: I’m working on a novel, so I usually spend my day writing and I look like a disaster and my hair isn’t brushed and I’m hermiting. You know, doing preemptive coronavirus silo-ing.
SK: Aren’t we all. So can you tell me about this Sleep Naked Challenge you’re doing with Gold Bond? And, more specifically, how on earth are you pulling it off with two small kids?
JM: I dunno if your kid is this way, but specifically my eldest, he’s just like a nudist. He’s always been a nudist. My dad was like, “At what age did Sid start liking clothes?” and I’m like, IDK it hasn’t happened yet. We’re parenting this new generation where, I don’t want to stifle his creativity, I don’t want there to be stigma around showing bodies, so I’ve just been rolling with it — and he’s naked a lot. So before Gold Bond even came to me about the partnership, there was so much talk about sleeping naked in my house. My son was like, “You don’t understand. Sleeping naked is amazing.” It’s like he was selling me on it! So I figured, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — and I’m fully converted.
I’m from Arizona, from the desert, and my skin is so dry, and I drink so much water and use all the oils and holistic shit. But still, my lips are always chapped and my skin is always dry. And I have to say, this stuff has really changed that. I mean, I can’t carve my name into my dry leg anymore like I normally can! Oh my god!
SK: Wow, that’s quite a testimony!
JM: Yeah, even my mom who is a nurse, she was like that Gold Bond is good shit. I’d never known anything about it and now I’m a full convert. As for sleeping naked, at first you feel weird getting into bed naked, you’re like uhhhh, what if there’s a fire?? But Jason is so neurotic, like he won’t even let me take my shoes off until the plane is in the air — but you know, if someone’s hijacking the plane, my shoes aren’t going to save me!
But anyway, you get paranoid getting into bed naked, what if there’s a fire or I have to fight off a home intruder, but it’s kind of freeing. You feel like you’re going under the covers like you’re going to get a facial or something.
SK: Sounds amazing. What’s the likelihood this continues when Jason gets back this week, eh?
JM: I do wonder what Jason’s gonna do. He’s never slept naked in his life; he has the same pair of ratty shorts that are disintegrating on his body that he always sleeps in. People are like, “Will this affect your sex life?” I wouldn’t even know, because Jason sleeps as if he’s some decrepit octogenarian, there is a mound of pillows between us. I don’t even know what he does on his side of the bed. It’s a whole situation.
SK: Well, it sounds like your side is the spa side!
JM: Damn straight.
SK: So, we know you’re the queen (or rather, the dictator) of school lunches. Is that your #1 parenting superpower? Or do you have another secret mom talent we don’t even know about?
JM: Well, I speak in German to the kids, I’m kind of militant about the German, and they speak it as well… Ooh, here are my mom hacks that are the best: One, when you have a teething baby, get an electric toothbrush and give it to them, they have so much fun with it and it’s amazing on the gums.
My second mom hack, when you’re on an airplane and you have a toddler who wants to run up and down the airplane, tell them there are bears on the other side. My son now doesn’t move on flights — he doesn’t move. We’re on the safe side. He’s like “OH, THERE’S BEARS.” I’m like “yeah, I wouldn’t go over there. I wouldn’t do it. I mean, you’re welcome to try.”
My non-superpower is that I’m the worst at getting out of a room when the kid is asleep. I get caught every. single. night. My youngest, Lazlo, he can hear anything — there’s a creak on the floor and he sits up like “MOMMY, WHERE ARE YOU GOING.” So then I’m just like, “Uh I was just stretching, aahhhh…”
SK: I’ve been there. What’s Jason’s parenting superpower? Because we know you’re WAY better at lunches than him.
JM: Animal impersonations. My youngest loves cats — well, he got bit by a cat when we were in Austria, whatever, but he loves cats. I’m allergic, so we never have any, and Jason is always like “MEOW what does a mean kitty do?” He can do the most insane stressed-out cat voice the kids love. I just learned this, and it’s uncanny. He’s really killing it with animal impersonations.
SK: Do you and said brilliant cat impersonator experience what so many different-sex couples do, celebs or otherwise, which is that the woman gets asked constantly how she “does it all” with family and career, and people just…don’t ask the man because they assume the woman is doing most of the family crap?
JM: I think that’s so totally right. I feel like a lot of the responsibility with that falls on women. We have this almost unbearable weight of guilt; the minute you have a kid, you’re like, I love you so much, I love you to the point of terror. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to balance my life when I have this insane fear that I walk around with every day. I love that I love my kids so much, but I kind of would be ok if I didn’t quite love them this much? I mean, it doesn’t feel good. You’re living with that pit-of-your-stomach fear. It’s not even that something is going to happen to them necessarily — but that vulnerability sucks. I don’t know that men feel it on that level.
As a mom, you’re shamed if you work, and you’re shamed if you don’t work. The reality is, we can’t have it all — not all at the same time. Nobody is saying to my husband, “Oh! You’re so lucky that you have a woman who bathes and feeds your children!” People tell me I’m “so lucky” my husband is “so involved.” No, I’m not! We just don’t hold them as accountable.
But my relationship is not that way; Jason and I, we’re like two moms. He does the dishes, I don’t even know how to work the laundry machine in my house. The reason I don’t is he never asks me to — because he just does it. That’s what happened with my female friends with their husbands; I’m like, he’s not doing the work because you’re not holding him accountable. I wouldn’t do it either! Women, we need to stop trying to be everything. Is my theory. We need to stop trying to be everything, and we need to ask for help.
SK: Man, easier said than done though, right?
JM: Right. We have this idealized idea in our heads that we can Do It All, and we’re told that we can by all these fucking memes on Instagram — that you can be everything! No, you can’t. Not everything at once. You can’t. Kids like mine are like, put your fucking computer away, stop working and pay attention to me. And you, you’re a single mom?
SK: Yep I am.
JM: Being alone is intense as fuck. Just with Jason being away I’m experiencing that. No matter how much help you hire, your kid is coming to you for all of the emotional stuff. There’s not really a break. Sure, maybe somebody else gave him a bath. So now he’s clean and needy.
SK: Exactly. Makes you wonder how we were ever young and carefree! I mean, okay, did you really once hire a birthday hooker once upon a time? Would you actually recommend that?
JM: It’s hard to believe that was even my life, I don’t know. It just depends on where you’re at in your relationship. For me, it was a full-blown comedy of errors. It wasn’t hot on any level; it was sort of like a dark I Love Lucy episode, like one you’d watch on HBO… Anything couples wanna do, I’m like, go for it. But if you have kids, it changes all of that. I’m at such a different place now. It’s weird to read that stuff, how it was presented, it became a sleazy sort of thing. But if you had been there, you would have been on the floor screaming laughing because it was not at all sexual. But yeah, wow, I sure had some capers then!
SK: And now you’re literally speaking another language, and it’s called kidspeak. Do your kids have any of those words? Totally made-up lingo they still expect you to understand?
JM: Theres a couple, yes. Sid says “mit” instead of “with,” which is actually just the German translation. But he’s like “Are you coming mit me here?” The other thing we say at home is “wallah” which in Arabic is almost, you swear to god, swear on your life. So we say, “You can’t lie on a wallah.” If Sid says “Wallah?” to me, it means I can’t lie; I have to tell him the truth. But, you know, we do it with Sid and he lies anyway. So it doesn’t really work.
Then there is a thing the baby says, which kills me. You know the cartoon show, Superwings?
SK: I’ve heard of it, but my son is in an all-Octonauts-all-the-time phase right now. Your husband said Sid is a fan, too!
JM: Oh, we love Octonauts. But like, why does Professor Inkling have no contribution to the team at all? What the fuck is wrong with him?? Anyway, Superwings — Lazlo calls it Fuckawings. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. I mean Sid doesn’t cuss, we don’t cuss around the kids. But still: Fuckawings.
SK: That’s amazing.
JM: I want you to go watch this show so you can see how completely not-Fuckawings it sounds. Go.
SK: Thank you, I will. Here I go.
If you, too, are sick of Octonauts and not yet ready for “Fuckawings,” check out these kids movies the whole family will love.