Comedian and mom of twins Michelle Buteau pretty accurately summed up how parents have felt during this last pandemic year: “I feel like I am Lucille Ball in that chocolate factory, just like bwaaaaaaaaa! It’s one of those things where I feel like I’m doing it all right and all wrong. At the same time.” Ditto for us, Michelle!
On Tuesday, Buteau chatted with SheKnows’ own Reshma Gopaldas during our live event SK Conversations: Safety Obsessed: Prep for the New Normal, presented by BAND-AID® Brand. As the mother of 2-year-old twins Hazel and Otis, Buteau said surviving this year of pandemic parenting made her realize how much her own self-care affects her kids.
“I have to check myself sometimes to make sure I’m OK because I am the root of the tree,” said the host of the popular Netflix series The Circle. “And if I don’t have my ‘me time,’ how are my beautiful blossoms going to really survive?” she quipped.
Taking time for herself is also key to developing and maintaining the patience she needs to handle two toddlers, Buteau said. She noted that not having enough of that particular virtue is something she beats herself up about, like earlier this week when she yelled at Otis for almost putting his finger in an electrical outlet.
“I was like, ‘NO, don’t do that!” and he just started to cry,” Buteau said. “And I realized that I shook him to his core and was mean to him. Because with Baby Girl, you really got to let her know. Like, baby girl needs a Black momma,” Buteau continued, explaining how Hazel and Otis are such different kids. “Baby Boy is just like, ‘Take it down, please. This is a yoga class. I need to Shavasana.’ And so I had to apologize to him, ‘I know you don’t like to hear me yell.'”
Being less anxious as a mom is another of Buteau’s goals, which she is realizing may be at least partially influenced by her struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss before she and husband Gijs van der Most welcomed their twins via surrogacy.
“My whole body is filled with anxiety when they’re crying for me or when they’ve hurt themselves or when they’re fighting. And it’s like road rage; it’s not that I’m angry, but I’m just like, Oh, let me fix it,” she said. “And I’m realizing by talking to my mom friends, especially ones that have experienced loss, once you’ve had a miscarriage and you’ve been in a dark place, you know that something can go wrong. So you’re just a different person. And I don’t want to live like that.”
To combat the dark place, the star of the BET+ TV remake of First Wives Club says she reminds herself to “enjoy the moments and live life to its fullest and take it in because we are not here forever,” she said. “Women just love to beat ourselves up because we can’t do everything all the time. It’s like, yeah, nobody can.”
While moms can’t do everything perfectly all the time, when Buteau described the best recent “mom moment” she’s had, it sounds like the Survival of the Thickest author must be doing a lot of things right to raise such sweet kids.
“Hazel, who’s older than Otis, is a really good big sister,” she said. “When I drop him off at daycare and he’s crying, she’ll soothe him and be like, ‘Shhhh, it’s OK.’ And then she takes his hand and walks him down the hall. And I just fold like a beach chair, like crying, because it’s so nice they have each other.”
Buteau, who was born in New Jersey to Caribbean parents, is also navigating bicultural parenting with her husband of 10 years, who is Dutch.
“It’s so funny, because when you meet someone, you’re like, ‘Oh, I see my children in your eyes’ or something, and then you have kids, and you’re like, ‘How are you this person?'” she joked. “He is way more laid back than I ever thought he would be, and I just look like a helicopter mom compared to him. Dutch people are very, like, ‘Let them figure it out.’ And Caribbean people are like, ‘We’re not going to the E.R. today, so get off the tree. If you don’t know how to climb up and down, don’t do it.’ I think we help each other in that way.”
At the end of their conversation, SheKnows asked Buteau for the parenting wisdom she would share with all the other moms out there:
“You’re going to constantly feel overwhelmed and like you’re not doing a good job and that you can’t do it all, but what that actually means is that you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing,” Buteau said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. And what is perfection anyways?”
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