CelebrityBabyScoop Chats with Mayim Bialik on Her New Book and Attachment Parenting
She first stole our hearts as the hat-wearing teen Blossom and the saucy young Bette Midler in Beaches. Now we love Mayim Bialik as the quirky neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory. Not only does she have an outstanding acting career, she also holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is one of the most hands-on moms in Hollywood.
Mayim opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her latest endeavour: her “memoir” on attachment parenting, Beyond the Sling. She says we are “so trained to believe that independence from a child and having a child that is independent is ‘best.’” The thoughtful mom-of-two also talks about her sons whom she homeschools, how she handles the criticism for her outspoken – and sometimes unpopular – views on attachment parenting, and her high-profile life: “I don’t fit in in Hollywood. I never really did.”
CBS: Tell us all about your book.
MB: “I’m super nervous and excited to bring our families’ experience with parenting – and parenting this specific way – to the general public and anyone who is interested. I never expected to be writing a book! This is just the way we live and the way a lot of our friends do. And this is what works best for us. So it’s kind of funny to write a book about it.
Having a background in neuroscience really helped me come to a lot of understanding about the choices that I already wanted to make. And that’s one of the points I make in the book: you don’t need a Ph.D. in neuroscience to be a good parent. But for me it really helped understand a lot of the intuitive things I was doing that a lot of popular parenting wisdom says you shouldn’t do.
I think of it more of a memoir than a parenting book. I say in the first chapter it’s not a book that tells you how to parent. It’s a book talking about our style of parenting. There might be something in there that people want to incorporate or try to understand better.”
CBS: One of the criticisms of attachment parenting is that a lot of moms feel too overwhelmed to commit to it. Any thoughts?
MB: “That’s one of the criticisms against attachment parenting. But I say in the book that all parents should receive at least a minimal education from doctors, nurses and all sorts of people in medical positions to understand why people make decisions that lead to choices like attachment parenting.
I think that every parent feels overwhelmed and is trying to figure out the ‘best’ way. But I think that in our culture we’ve been so trained to believe that independence from a child and having a child that is independent is ‘best.’ And I think that we’re finally seeing a lot of scientific research supporting that being close to your baby, fostering that attachment, and surrounding yourself with a community of people that supports that, is beneficial for the child and for the parent.”
CBS: Aren’t you exhausted though?
MB: “I’m always exhausted, but most parents are! But yes, if you make the decision to have your child breastfeed on demand and you make the decision to be the primary caregiver to your child, if you make the decision not to sleep-train your child because you believe they will be ready to sleep independent when they’re ready, yes it’s exhausting!
I also see a lot of parents that don’t parent the way that we choose to and have a tremendous amount of anxiety, worry, and fighting with their children over things that I don’t fight with my children about. So I think it’s actually a trade-off of where you want to put your energy. It’s a lot of work early on with your child for sure. But like I said, for many of us it’s worth it.”
CBS: How do you get out of the house for work or events?
MB: “My husband is at home with the kids when I’m not, but for the first year for both of their lives, I didn’t go out a lot. And I wasn’t working. I was finishing my degree with my first son. And when Fred was born, I had just finished my thesis and my husband was still in grad school. But at this point, we don’t don’t have a nanny, we don’t use a ‘sitter. I go out when I can. I work [write] when the boys are sleeping. And my husband has made the decision to be an at-home parent with them at this phase of our life.”
CBS: You are amazing! You are a Hollywood star and yet you really are in the trenches of motherhood!
MB: “I promise you I’m a very normal person – I clean my own toilets and everything.”
CBS: Is Fred still breastfeeding?
MB: “Fred still breastfeeds, yes. Not as much as he used to. He doesn’t breastfeed at night. Not every day, so we’re definitely on the path to him not breastfeeding. It’s been a very interesting journey.”
CBS: Do you feel like you missed your calling as a midwife?
MB: “In some ways I do. I’m a lactation educator counselor. My hope is to one day be able to be an IBCLC, a lactation consultant. I would’ve loved to have been a midwife, but it’s something that I didn’t even really come to until I was well into my 20′s. I’ve thought of being a certified doula. As a medical person, I’m really fascinated with the full process of midwifery in particular. Now I just go to a midwife for all of my checkups.”
CBS: Have you met famed midwife Ina May Gaskin
MB: “No, but I’m meeting her at the Atlanta birth center this summer. She and I will both be speaking at a fundraiser there. I said I have to wear my hair in braids!”
CBS: How do you handle the criticism on your beliefs of attachment parenting, breastfeeding, etc.?
MB: “With my first son I was very sensitive, I felt very judged, I doubted myself a lot. But what I did is I found other women who parented this way. Other moms who had the same struggles and were judged the same way. And we created for ourselves a community of strength and support. There’s about 5 of us who I’m very, very close with. That’s who we go to when we need help and when our inlaws think we’re nuts.
I think that’s a really big part of what is missing. There’s a lot of mom groups created all over the world and there’s a lot of emphasis on, ‘Is your kid reaching this milestone?’ and, ‘What stroller did you get?’ and, ‘What clothes are they wearing?’ But for me it was the women of the La Leche League and the women of Holistic Moms Network which I’ve been a member of before I was back in the limelight. It’s really been the women of those communities that have helped me.
And also, I talk about this in the book, everyone’s allowed their own opinions! Some people want to have a conversation with you, and some people just want to be right. I’ve really learned which is which, and know when to smile and say, ‘Thanks for your opinion. This is what works for us and I’m glad you’re doing what works for you.’ ”
CBS: Your acting career is impressive! First it seemed you were born to play Blossom, then you were perfect for the role as a young Bette Midler in Beaches, and now you have perfected the role of Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory!
MB: “I guess that’s what happens when you’re a character actress. You adapt to roles that are very specific and character-driven, and you make them your own. I was teased my whole life for looking different than everybody else and acting different than everybody else. But I guess when you’re an actor you finally find a place where that’s OK.”
CBS: Is acting your true passion?
MB: “Being a mom is my true passion. If I had to never work again – and in my industry you may never work again – that’s really the place where I feel I belong. As a mom.”
CBS: And what about a career in neuroscience?
MB: “I think that if you have a Ph.D. and you leave the world of academia, it is very quickly not worth what it was. So I can’t go back to a research professorship or anything like that.
But I teach neuroscience in our home school community, so it’s definitely something I’m active in. For me, having a neuroscience degree opens up a whole world of understanding child development. Part of my training was learning about the brain and learn how we learn. I studied neuropsychology which was also super helpful.
But having a neuroscience degree and working in show business is very, very useful I promise you! I get to analyze people all the time [laughs]!”
CBS: You seem so un-Hollywod. Do you feel like you fit it?
MB: “No I don’t fit in in Hollywood. I never really did. I never really fit in anywhere – I was always kind of an odd kid no matter what I was doing. But I’ve been really, really lucky. I have an incredible manager who was a friend of mine as a teenager; it’s like having a friend helping guide my career. I have an incredible publicist who tells it to me straight, and I found a stylist who knows how to dress me even though I don’t like to dress like a lot of Hollywood actresses. She makes it all kind of come together so that I can just be anxious about having to be out with crowds of people which is enough to make me anxious [laughs].”
CBS: How are the boys doing?
MB: “They’re good. Miles is 6. I just wrote a really funny post on Kveller about the ‘road trip from hell.’ It was a family road trip in Arizona for 5 days. And omigosh if I didn’t want to kill myself or one of the children [laughs]!
It was nothing horrible, but I don’t why, our 6-year-old acted like a teenager! So saucy and like he owned the whole town of Tombstone, Arizona. It was hysterical. He’s wonderful, but 6 is a little bit bipolar. The whole year has been very up-and-down, we’ve found so far.
And Fred is awesome! He’s 3 1/2 and starting to talk more which we appreciate. He’s just a really, really sweet bundle of love. We’re kind of amazed. We got two really mellow kids, but the second one is pretty loveable!”
CBS: Do you think Miles has caught a bit of the acting bug?
MB: “I hope not [laughs]! No, I think it’s just normal expansiveness to being 6. We read a series of books that are kind of old-school. But it said that 6-year-olds can be very up-and-down. There’s no maliciousness or meanness in his saucy-ness, but he’s just sowing his oats. He’s a joy.”
CBS: And you’re home schooling the boys?
MB: “Yes, in fact somebody just asked Miles that and he said, ‘It’s usually my dad when my mom works.’ But yes, we’re kind of un-schoolers so it’s not like we’re following a strict curriculum where he needs to wake up every day and do. So our life is a lot of figuring out whether I’m home or my husband is home.”