Maggie Gyllenhaal: 'It's Hard to Be a Mom'

07/14/2009 at 01:00 PM ET
Splash News Online

Life with a toddler can be challenging — to say the least! — and it has given Maggie Gyllenhaal, mom to 2 ½-year-old Ramona, a whole new perspective on parents in general. “I’ve learned that you cannot judge the way another person is raising their kid,” she tells PARADE. “Everybody is just doing the best they can.”

“It’s hard to be a mom. I can relate to the anxieties of having other people tell you what to do.”

In the new film Away We Go, the 31-year-old actress portrays a mom who takes attachment parenting to the extreme. Some aspects of the role hit home for Maggie, but others were a stretch. “Shortly before my daughter was born, I had a fantasy that everything was going to be organic and cloth diapers,” she recalls. “I think a lot of people are that way.” Once Ramona arrived, Maggie says she quickly learned that “in the real world” her fantasies presented “complications.” Her character — who nurses a 4-year-old and practices a family bed —  “is really far out when it comes to her ideas of parenting,” Maggie notes. “I’ve never gone that far.” Although the subject matter was at times foreign, portraying a mom on screen was not. “I don’t know if I could have done the movie if I wasn’t a mother,” Maggie says.

“I had to comfort a crying 11-month-old baby. If I hadn’t been able to pull it off, we would have wasted a lot of film time. So I thought, ‘Thank God, I know what to do.’ Then I’d go home to my own baby daughter. So I felt like I was just doing non-stop mothering.”

Raising Ramona with husband Peter Sarsgaard in New York City meant finding a stroller that worked for the couple, and fortunately Maggie’s line of work meant they had plenty of options to choose from. “We were sent all sorts of strollers by these stroller companies because that’s one of the perks of being an actor,” Maggie shares. “And so we kind of tried all of them and it was sort of like picking out your first car.” Noting that “you can’t function without a stroller in New York,” Maggie says she’s now a pro at mothering in the big city.

“We have one that is lightweight and easy to fold. I’m good with a stroller, like those moms who know how to click ’em and close ’em just before they jump on the subway.”

The decision to return to work after Ramona’s birth was one Maggie found “very difficult,” but some projects were too good to pass up. The blockbuster The Dark Knight was easy to make because “there’s a lot of just sitting around in your trailer,” according to Maggie, and so mother and daughter had plenty of time together. Away We Go, a smaller budget film directed by Sam Mendes, was more challenging. “When you’re doing a tiny indie film, you’re working so hard you just don’t have any time,” Maggie explains. “You work a lot harder.”

Away We Go is in theaters now.

Source: PARADE

— Missy

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Elli on

Uhuhuuu – to many strollers to choose from, what a pity!
What did we do? We checked several websites and the reviews on amazon and then decided for one. BUT: we had to pay for it, so stop complaining, please!
Also, she is certainly one who do not has to go to work immediately and it was her will or the temptation of interesting roles to play that led her to act again although she had a small child at home – what about those moms who need to work but are torn (and there is no allurement in their jobs!)?
Sorry, no sympathy at all.

kai on

I recently saw the trailer of this movie and her character was against using strollers at all, saying “why would I want to push my child away from me?” lol makes sense if you think about it. has anyone seen the movie? is it good?

Brandi on

Who is complaining Elli? You missed the point entirely….

ecl on

In fact, she called the free strollers “a perk.” Mothers just love to attack each other because they know their job is devalued by society so they have to build themselves up by acting at though others are worse mothers.

j.U.d.E. on

When will she and Peter have another baby, is my question! A little boy, who’d look a little bit like his uncle, Jake and a whole lot like his yummy dad Peter!

Mia on

I didn’t see her complaining in anything that she said in that interview, except, the fact that being a parent (mother) is difficult, and though I don’t have kids, I can easily imagine how difficult it is, so at least she’s being up front about it. I think a lot of people complain about babies because they cry constantly, and are messy..etc, but I personally would be more worried about the toddler years when they are more independent and are more needy in their own way.

Mira on

That’s a movie I won’t go to see, that’s for sure. Nursing a 4-year-old is natural, not “extreme”. And so is co-sleeping. People have been doing both for thousands of years. Formula-feeding and nurseries are an extreme fad, when you put things in perspective.

Karolina on

One of the perks of being an actor? I’m sure there are thousands of actors that are not getting any free strollers to choose from… An actor and a movie star are not synonyms.

gaia's mommadukes on

Away we go was quite funny, they had a advanced screening of it back in May and it maya rudolphs relationship in themovie reminded me so much of the time me and my husband were pregnant with my daughter. We traveled around looking for a new home too(tho we ended up back in nyc). Honestly maggie gyllenhaals character was really annoying but I think that was the point.

kara on

Well said, Mira. And I dislike how she comments on judging one another as mother’s, then goes on to call nursing and cosleeping ‘extreme’.

Ruth on

Agreed, Mira.

C on

In an interview she gave about Away We Go, she actually indicates that her character in the movie isn’t that far off from the way she thinks about parenting, just more so. And if you see the movie, her character IS extreme and kind of loony–not so much because of the things she does (nursing the 4 year old and co-sleeping), but because of her attitude in doing them. She’s a caracature of a yuppie-hippie. In reality, Maggie sounds like the least judgemental person on the planet!

The idea of the “family” including equality between men and women and the concept of monogamy has also changed pretty dramatically in the last “thousands of years” Mira. Modern concepts of co-sleeping and attachment parenting are not exactly the same thing! I just say, to each his own.

lizzielui on


No where in that article does Maggie say nursing a four year old or co-sleeping is extreme. Those are the author’s words, not Maggie’s.

kara on

I stand corrected lizzieliu. She does, however, refer to both as ‘going that far’ which is a judgemental statement.

lizzielui on


Again, read the article. The author added those specific characteristics and then inserted Maggie’s quote. Maggie is talking about her overall character in the movie, not just those two elements. Maggie doesn’t pinpoint those two examples herself. As others has expressed, her character in the movie was way, way over the top and not just because of the breastfeeding and the co-sleeping. I guess you would have to see the movie to understand what she is talking about.

Erin on

Are people actively looking to be offended? Maggie said getting strollers are a perk, implying she knows she’s lucky. She said prolonged breast feeding and family beds are “far out”. Statistically each has a rather small number of practitioners and so I don’t think it’s “far out” as in weird but it’s “far out” as in not the norm. She made a point to say how she thinks everyone is doing their best at parenting, which I think is true! I’m sure a lot of women who are irritated at her comments would look at a mom feeding her infant formula would consider that “far out”. What’s weird to some is normal to others.

michelle on

Oh goodness. I think some people actively search for ways to be offended by others choices. Just because they are different than your choices do not make them wrong. And they don’t make your choices wrong either. There is no one right way or standard blueprint for parenting.

christina on

Mira — I disagree. I think those things are unnatural and creepy. I will see the movie to laugh at her character!

Anna on

I think people care waaay too much about what other people think. Really, if Maggie does think that cosleeping is extreme… who cares?!?

Mia on

Everyone’s choice are different. Personally, I don’t see why you would nurse a toddler. The only real aesthetic reason you even nurse a baby is 1. nourishment and 2. a young baby can’t hold its head up yet, so you need to support it, but once a baby is a about 1 year old, and can hold its head up and sit up on its own, and especially beyond that, start feeding itself and/or drinking from a sippy cup…there is no aesthetic reason to breast feed after that.

Kasee on


For thousands of years humans also did not walk upright. That doesn’t mean it’s natural for a human today to want to walk with our knuckles dragging. In the historical sense, children were breastfed until 4 and 5 because it was a guaranteed food source in a world where there were no supermarkets and famine was common (hence,why so many children in 3rd world countries nurse for years). Families also co-slept because a shelter was usually one room. There was no other option. I’m all about live and let live, and if those things make you happy then go for it. But please accept the fact that to others it does seem strange to breastfeed a child with a full set of teeth and food readily available.

alli on

Sorry, breast feeding until 4 is natural? Is that what the majority of mothers are doing these days? lol. She was prompted to talk about motherhood so she did. It really drives me crazy how some posters take things so personally. You can agree or disagree but please don’t get so offended! My word!

Me on

Kind of ironic that she starts with, “I’ve learned that you cannot judge the way another person is raising their kid. Everybody is just doing the best they can,” and then gets blasted by some who seem determined to pick her apart. There are so many awful happenings in this world to be offended by. Why look for things?

SH on

Anna is right. You do what’s best for YOUR family, we’ll all do what’s best for OURS, and WHO CARES what anyone else thinks about it?! TO EACH HIS OWN!! It’s not ‘my way or the highway’ here people…

Rebecca on

Christina, what is more natural than snuggling with your baby and partner for a little nap? I can’t think of much!

Alice on

Wow, I guess everyone on this board nursed their kids till they were 4 then? Come on.
She’s not complaining she’s not asking to be pitied. She says children are a lot of work, period. I don’t see why everytime a celeb says motherhood is hard everyone jumps on her ‘I have it harder than you’!

brannon on

I went to a birthday party for my son recently – 3 and 4 year olds and while all of the kids ate their lunch of fresh tuna and corn on the cob and strawberries, one little boy sat off to the side nursing. He was four. I’m sorry but this could definitely be considered “far out” To each their own but please don’t expect not to be judged – in real life that’s just the way it is.

gaia's mommadukes on

I don’t see the point of breastfeeding until four, unless you’re a poor person. Most people in developing nations breastfeed until about 2. I am not criticizing it, whatever you’re into…but I just don’t get it.

christina on

And to Gaia’s point, I also agree about it making sense for thoes who can’t afford food, but in the U.S. there is a direct inverse correlatin between wealth and breastfeeding. Kind of ironic that the poorest Americans do NOT breastfeed at all typically. Formula is given out for free. Although I do not advocate nursing beyond perhaps 12 – 18 months at the most, it does make you scratch your head.

Victoria on

For the people that think that breastfeeding past 1 or 2 is unnatural, you just need to read the research about breastfeeding and its benefits. The WHO recommends to nurse for AT LEAST 2 years.
To those saying that you shouldn’t breastfeed unless you are poor, please find me a food that provides the benefits of breastmilk and has antibodies? Find me a food that automatically tailors to YOUR child’s need and development and adjusts its fat content accordingly. Yeah it doesn’t exist…
I think there is precisely a reason why so many breastfeeding mothers are of higher income and higher education.
People thinking that nursing a 4 year old is extreme and outrageous are hillarious.. I guess some people are just really that sheltered.
Strollers? Not everyone needs them with great slings.

actualsize on

I would argue the word ‘extreme’ just refers to anything more than a few standard deviations from the norm, and in that sense, breastfeeding until four is definitely extreme in the Western world. Nothing judgemental about it, statistically it’s just a fact.

gaia's mom on


I did not say that only poor women should breastfeed, I said that I can understand why poor women try to keep a child on the breast as long as possible, because internationally that’s what is done amongst the poor of all cultures.To me it is laughable that this is a huge debate in the states when for most part for many people in the world breastfeeding is the only viable option. Here we have books dedicated to the difficulties of a child latching, but in other places if your child didn’t latch she would DIE. So hell or high water it was just going to get done.

Also, the wealthier classes go through fads. It wasn’t so long ago when breastfeeding was a faux paus amongst the educated and high socio-economic status. I don’t think that poorer people are less educated about the advantages of breastmilk the same way that they aren’t not aware of the benefits of fruits,veggies and health checkups. Yet, those things are less common among the poor too for a host of reasons.

if you want to breastfeed your kid until Graduate school then go right ahead. I just don’t see why one would breastfeed until pre-k. Are the advantages so great that a kid breastfed until 4,6,7 will be THAT much better off than a child that’s been breastfed until 18months? If that’s the case why did any of us stop breastfeeding? When do the benefits of breastmilk stop? Everyone wants to give their kid the best chance at life that they can, but I’m just not convinced that me not breastfeeding my daughter until she can tell me she no longer wants to breastfeed is doing her a diservice.

robin on

oh, it’s so hard being a mom who gets sent free stuff just because she’s a celebrity!

Rebecca on

I nursed my oldest until she was 3 1/2, she weaned herself when my youngest was 2 weeks shy of 1 (so I tandem nursed for almost a year.) There’s nothing extreme about it IMO.

CelebBabyLover on

robin- If you read the article, she acknowledged that getting free stuff is a perk. Therefore, she understands that she’s lucky that she can get free stuff.

However, getting free stuff doesn’t neccesarily make parenting any easier! I don’t know why people think celebs are immune to the difficulties that come with parenting. Okay, maybe they have access to things that make it a bit easier, but that still doesn’t mean parenting is always easy for them!

In fact, if Maggie had commented that parenting was really easy, people would be jumping on her for that, too!

MC on

Kara, you wrote what I was going to:

“Well said, Mira. And I dislike how she comments on judging one another as mother’s, then goes on to call nursing and cosleeping ‘extreme’.”

You shall not judge. Unless you are judging?

Again if it works for you, it works for you. If not, no need to worry about it then.

BostonMom on

Wow, there are a lot of drama queens on this board. Even if she said it was not normal, which she did not, why would you care what she thinks? I nurse my 14 month old and if I did nurse her until she was 4, I could care less what someone else thought.

And for those who question nursing a toddler, if you nurse a baby until s/he is 1, you can’t just cut off breastfeeding or you’d be a fool and end up with mastitis or clogged ducts. Weaning is a slow process, thus the reason some women nurse toddlers (gasp). That nursling who was 11 months old is no different at 12 months + 1 day.

CelebBabyLover on

BostonMom- I agree! Even with young babies, it’s not a good idea to go cold turkey. My mother took that approach when she stopped nursing me at 3 months (because I wasn’t gaining weight and continuing to nurse actually wouldn’t have been healthy for me)….and ended up in the ER with severely engorged breasts as a result!

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