As of this writing, Naya Rivera is still missing but presumed drowned after her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey, was found alone on a boat on Wednesday. Whatever happened to her, we think this is a good moment to celebrate the actor, singer, and writer as a mother who, like all of us, was trying to do her best for her son.
“Just the two of us,” reads the caption on Rivera’s last Instagram post, showing her and Josey give each other kisses. She had rented a pontoon boat to go on a ride in Lake Piru with her son.
In between sexy selfies, Rivera’s Instagram feed includes a slew of adorable images of her son with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey.
She made a TikTok video of the little guy dancing to Drake’s “Toosie Slide” in April, and shared a photo of him in a homemade Very Hungry Caterpillar costume in March.
While the working mom gushed about her son online, she has also been honest about the ups and downs of parenthood.
In her 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, Rivera revealed that she had an eating disorder early in her career, and that she had an abortion while starring on Glee in 2010.
“I’m a woman, and I’ve experienced a lot of different things that I have been very vocal about, especially in the reproductive rights movement,” she told Self in 2017 of being honest about her abortion.
When it came to her pregnancy with Josey, Rivera was determined to enjoy her body. “Weight wasn’t something I wanted to focus on, so I ate anything and everything and had a blast,” she told Fit Pregnancy in May 2016.
Breastfeeding wasn’t her favorite thing at first.
“Bottom line, it’s hard! Breastfeeding is like finding out that all of a sudden you can get bacon from your elbow… It’s a trip,” she wrote in a People blog post, per the Daily Mail. “I started to feel like I was only a tit to Josey, and there was many a time I would walk in the door to a crying baby and immediately have to strip and feed.”
But she ultimately, she came to appreciate it. “The bond between a mother and baby when you’re breastfeeding is incredible and something no one else shares with your baby,” she wrote. “There’s also something amazing about the fact that you are sustaining a human life solely with your body. The benefits of breast milk for babies far outweigh the negative side effects for mom.”
That of course, is just the beginning of the sacrifices moms make for their children.
“I feel mom guilt all the time. You want to be everything to your child,” she told Self in 2017. “If you’re not there and you feel like you’re missing out on something, it’s totally natural to feel that. I have other mom friends who work full-time Monday through Friday and sometimes the weekend, and they tell me how hard it is. So hats off to every working mom.”
She said something similar a year earlier to Entertainment Tonight, expressing reluctance to return to full-time acting. “I’m a mom now, and what I love more than acting is being Josey’s mom. So, I want to be here for him. And I don’t want to miss anything. I’m going to navigate the right way to do that.”
Being home with him certainly had its rewards.
“The love I get from him,” she told Mini Magazine, per People, in 2016. “Little things like the two kisses he stood up and gave me last night to say thank you for making him mac and cheese from scratch. It’s a love never found anywhere or with anyone else.”
Rivera did return to acting, however, starring in the series Step Up: Highwater. Season 3 of the show is slated to air on Starz, after YouTube canceled it earlier this year.
She also launched a children’s clothing company, JOJO&IZZY, in 2018, inspired by her son.
“First and foremost, everything I do is for Josey,” Rivera told People. “Josey inspires me in so many ways that it felt natural to want to create this for him and I. Starting this company from the ground up is something I’m really, really proud of. I know that my son is proud of it too. It’s a sweet bond that we share together. … I’ll take things to Josey for his input, especially the capes. He really loves the capes and thought he was a superhero. He kept running around the house saying, ‘I’m a superhero!’”
Our thoughts are with Josey right now, hoping his superhero spirit holds up.