Maggie Gyllenhaal: I’ve Stopped Judging Other Mothers

08/20/2012 at 01:00 PM ET
Rob Kim/FilmMagic

From the outside looking in, Maggie Gyllenhaal thought she could pick a perfect parent out of a crowd.

“I used to be judgmental of the way other people would parent,” the actress, 34, shares in Scholastic Parent & Child‘s August/September issue.

“I would look at someone talking on a cell phone while her baby was asleep in a stroller and think, ‘How can that mother have her cell phone out?'”

But shortly after the birth of daughter Ramona in 2006, as a new member of the motherhood club, Gyllenhaal found her perceptions on parenting suddenly shifting.

“Then you actually have a baby and you’re like, ‘She’s sleeping; I have 10 minutes; I’ll make three phone calls,” she says.

“I think so much of my judgment — not only about how people parent, but about people in general — went away when I became a mom.”

Aside from her newfound approach toward other mothers, Gyllenhaal — who in addition to Ramona, 5Β½, is also mom to daughter Gloria Ray, 4 months, with husband Peter Sarsgaard — also came to a realization regarding her own parenting powers.

“I was 28 when Ramona was born, and I had this idea that I think a lot of people in their twenties have, that I was supposed to do it perfectly. At least, if not perfectly, then exceptionally well,” she admits.

“I’ve realized that that isn’t possible and that part of being a human is making mistakes — and making lots of them.”

And while Gyllenhaal understands “the element of parenting where you have to be a mom and say no,” she is thoroughly enjoying her blossoming relationship with her mini-me, Ramona.

Courtesy Scholastic Parent & Child

“The fun part is being with this little person and learning about the world and listening to her questions,” she explains.

“She comes and runs errands with me and we make it fun. When we talk, she talks like a person. She knows the words that she needs. She’ll ask me if she doesn’t. I like that.”

An advocate for a strong education — it’s “one of the most important gifts you can give your kids,” she states — theΒ Won’t Back Down star is looking forward to her daughters’ intellectual futures … with one exception!

“Besides literature, I liked history. I had trouble with math, though,” Gyllenhaal admits.

“I kind of faked my way through it. I don’t know how I’m going to help my daughters with it when the time comes.”

— Anya Leon

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 72 comments

Sandra on

I really enjoyed this article. And I really like the name Ramona.

Sopie on

Its funny how parenthood, especially when you have your second and third children, makes us less concerned and judgemental of others and more concerned about being the best we can be for our own family.

Anonymous on

common sense

Emily on

This woman is interviews has the most beautiful face, and wears less make up then most.

JE on

This was a lovely, honest article.

I think Maggie really seems down-to-earth.

Guest on

Can some one please tell me the problem with taking a call while your child is sleeping…!?!? what are you supposed to do? Sit there and stare at him or her the ENTIRE time they’re napping. Good Grief

Amaryllis on

My only requirement is that I’m not annoyed with other people’s children. Other than that, raise them the way you want.

karrilv4 on

I couldn’t agree more with her comments! I just had my first baby last fall…and all of my judgments and opinions about how others parent have just disappeared. I see a mom chatting on a phone will the baby sleeps and think “Good for her! She probably has ten more important calls to sneak in while the little one’s asleep.”

Noonah on

Oh, this is so true! I used to be very judgmental before I had children, and even when my first child was born. Now, being a parent of three, I do not judge anymore. Well, not as much. πŸ™‚

Thanks for sharing Maggie, you are a great actress and a great Mother.

Kelly on

Good to know there are people out there judging me for talking on my cell in the presence of my child. She sounds like a real b****.

Katie on

Except she didnt say that, she said now that she has had children she understands because yes many people that don’t have children assume your ignoring your child.

Vivian on

No offense but you sound like a real B**** here. This article was very genuine and honest. There are some moms who yap on their phone so much that their child’s needs come last. I see it all the time in my town. Please read the article again, slowly this time, so you understand it better.

Anonymous on

I think this happens to a lot of parents. I used to think that all parents had to do was be “consistent” in their parenting and their children would have no problem….. then I became a parent and found out how hard it was to maintain “concistency” when it’s your own child….ha!

judy on

agree. Love this!

Amy on

I’m sorry @kelly and @”guest” – did you stop reading the article after she said that she USED to judge people for things like being on the phone?

CM on

I they, kind of like myself, find it odd she ever judged people for that. The baby is asleep… It’s not like it’s being ignored/neglected.

Andrea on

My exact thought!

mel on

why wouldn’t you talk on your cell while your baby is asleep, that is the perfect time, they are sleeping, you can get stuff accomplished!

Kelly on

I did read the article. If you lived in NYC as I do (and Maggie) you run into these judgmental moms more often than not. I’m just so sick of it. It’s nice that she says she doesn’t judge people anymore, but I think she does. Maybe not for stuff SHE now does, but for stuff she deems bad. I’m just so tired of it!

Anna on

Yes, Maggie, there is a terrific way you can help your daughters with math! First, get your hands on all four of Danica McKellar’s books, then read them with your daughters. You and they will be all the more enriched for it.

Catca on

I love Maggie’s comments but wish that more mom’s were like this. I see a lot of mothers openly judging each other all the time. We really should give each other breaks and also realize that each child is different. A child’s mother knows better than you what is best for her child.

Jennifer on

Wow. Let me tell you! I judge no parent anymore.

formerjudgymommy on

Hear, hear! I have a 2 1/2 year old and am expecting #2 and I wish I could go back and put a muzzle on myself and my judgemental behavior before having a child!

anne on

what kind of idiot would not even have the brains to realize a woman would most likely make calls while the baby is sleeping in front of her? what an idiot

JF on

Welcome to the world of reality ….

SM on

And on the flip side, when I am judged as a parent, I drop you from my social circle without a second thought.

Sharon on

I’m sorry, but if you’re not making phone calls while your child sleeps, you’re an idiot. Just don’t hit them or abuse them is all I ask.

PS on

Yep, nothing like becoming a parent yourself to make you realize all the stuff you thought was odd is actually normal or simply what that parent has to do in the moment, and ultimately most of it doesn’t harm the kids at all.

bree on

Goop lite.

Mommytoane on

I see some people really need to go back to bed and roll out on the right side. Or stop eating Grumpy Charms every morning. Its not healthy to be so….well. Rude.

I love this article. Its so honest and so true about many of us. As young adults we are pretty judgemental…we have this idea in our head of how perfect life will be….and that bubble bursts when you have kids. Doesn’t matter how many you have….1-20 whatever…kids change your perspective of everything. We all have our moments of judgement and we all have our differences..particulary of opinion, its looking past those differences that make us adults.

Frenchcanadianchick on

The ”best” parents are often the ones who haven’t had kids yet. Once the reality of having them sets in, most people get a lot less judgemental. Hence the expression: Don’t judge me unless you have walked a mile in my shoes.

Tiffany on

I think it’s pretty natural to judge others. Anyone who says they don’t is not being honest. What I don’t like is when I am at the park with my children and I play and engage with them and little kids that don’t even know us will want to play, obviously wanting attention, while their parents are talking on cell phones or yacking with their friends, not paying them any mind what-so-ever. I have seen some that sit in their cars!

Sarah on

I think theses kids you talk about want attention from your kids, not you. What is wrong with letting your child play at the park freely without constant interaction from the parent?

Lala on

No, I agree with the before comment. I have been at the park, playing with my child, when another child engages with me. They ask me questions, ask me to push them on the swing, or help with with the monkey bars. I ask them where their parent is, and they point to a bench, with a mom on her phone. I also have seen parents sitting in the car, while their child does this. So yes, they are sometimes looking for that adult interaction.

red on

Absolutely. It’s so easy to see a misbehaving child or a cell-phone parent and think, “Oh, c’mon.” But then it’s your screaming toddler or your 10 minutes of peace and you think, “Dear God…what have I become.” I’m glad someone like Maggie could give such an honest interview!

cn tower on

Zoe, FrenchCanadianchick, et. al. — so true and you see it time and time again on this site….many of the so-called “experts” on parenting don’t even have kids themselves. Very irritating. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to engage in a (constructive) debate over certain things (even sensitive topics sometimes), but how can you do this when you lack perspective???

Milky on

I too don’t understand her past criticism of a mother talking on a cellphone? Can someone explain it? Is it because she was ignoring the baby or what? I’ve never come across this before, and obviously I’ve heard a lot of mothers criticizing a lot of other mothers for all sorts of things πŸ˜‰

This one seems particularly harsh though! Is it acceptable if you’re talking on the phone *about* the baby? πŸ˜€

Tata on

In reference to her daughter, she says: “she talks like a PERSON”…..hmmmmm, could it be because even though she is a child, she actually IS a person?!?

Tata on

She says in reference to her daughter: “she talks like a PERSON”……well really? I wonder if it’s because even though she is a child, she IS a person?!? Ignorant!

Karen on

When I was a young mom I thought women not nursing were neglectful. I judged how they birthed, or what they put on their babies bottoms, etc,. I realize now had some serious confidence issues or something when I recollect how I judged others. I had no idea! Every family is unique and has their own story. I’ve learned as my children grew and are now grown that my business is my own family, not another’s.

Tilly on

lol!! Who has TIME to judge?? Life is too short…Be the BEST mom YOU can be, love your kids unconditionally, be gracious and kind to all humans….interesting article though. πŸ™‚

cynlee on

How refreshing…finally a star who doesn’t think she knows it all, and is’nt going to tell the rest of us how it’s done…way to go Maggie!

larsen on

Same thought exactly, I was thinking was an anal person she must be to be upset that a mother dares talk on her phone …even when the kid is awake… is a mother suppose to cease to be a person and never talk or have a personal life once the baby is born?? what is the big deal here??

boohoobytch on

she’s a terrible actress but I like her as a person – I am NOT a mom

Mina on

I try not to judge, but sometimes you are allowed to when you see DIRECT NEGLECT! For example, i once saw a baby in a snowsuit in a hot mall. Figured ok, she just ran in and will be leaving shortly. I did my shopping and saw her 2 hours later with the child still in the snowsuit, now crying. I couldnt HELP but think, that poor baby is probably hot!! Then once at the store, a boy threw a magnet that nearly hit me in the head. Not only was he not disciplined for it, but I never recieved an apology and his mother watched. All she said was “dont do that” and the boy laughed. She then continued shopping. She needed to access the dangers and do something about the situation instead of ignoring it. I judged….and rightfully so! I raise my kid properly and so should others. I’m not talking about tantrums, I ignore them because thats common. But if a situation is dangerous or neglectful, then I start judging!

babygirl on

What a refreshing, mature attitude. Makes me like her even more!

Tiny on

Someone needs to say it. Especially in our internet coluture, all women want to do is knock each other down…

Anna on

I don’t mean this in a rude way, but just honestly curious. Does anyone know why she thought the mother talking on her cell phone was a bad thing? I would understand if she was ignoring the baby, or driving it would be very bad, but I’m just having trouble understanding what she meant.


PS I agree with the articles lately about how mothers judge each other so much, I’m happy we’re moving in the right direction and starting to be less harsh on each other πŸ™‚

MrsC on

These Hollywood mothers with teams of nannies and personal assistants will never seem like real mothers to me. Sorry.

Me on

@kelly…oh boo hoo!!! stop worrying about people judging you and worry about your own life and children! Teach yourself and your kids not to worry what others think about you!!!

Susan on

So true…Love her.

Melissa C on

Thank you Tiffany! I go to the park with my childen often and what I see there is moms yacking on with friends or on the cell phone while their little terrible children or throwing sand in my kids eyes or taking their toys right from their hands. This isn’t the 60’s and 70’s most parents do not tolerate another parent “parenting” their child. So what to do??? Try to be nice and talk to the child “no no no that is not okay” or scream at the parent that isn’t paying any attention to her bad ass kid?

Tina on

I think she was referring to the risks of cell phone use causing cancer. Not judging anyone but I personally do not let cell phone get within 5/6 feet of my 2 yr old daughter. With heavy use of cell phones and wifi – we simply don’t know what true risks are so it’s not so awful to try to limit radiation when possible.

Anonymous on

MrsC.- Actually, not all celebrities have those things. Jenna Fischer, for instance, recently said that she doesn’t have a nanny, chef, personal trainer, etc. Other celebs have also shared that they don’t have one or more of those things. Sorry, but it just irks me when people assume that just because someone is a celeb, they have a huge staff of people helping them out!

Sarah- I couldn’t agree more! Obviously parents should be watching their kids at the park (or any place, for that matter) and making sure they don’t do stuff they shouldn’t, but I don’t get why so many people today seem to think that parents should be right there in the sandbox or wherever playing with their kids.

When my brother and I were growing up (which wasn’t all that long ago), our parents would sometimes play with us at the park, but more often than not (especially once we got older and could pump ourselves on the swings, handle the monkey bars on our own, etc.) they sat on a bench or wherever and watched while we played (and had a blast!) by ourselves.

To me, a playground is a place for kids to stretch their wings, so to speak, and use their imagination….something that’s hard to do if a parent is right beside them the whole time!

Anonymous on

I love what Maggie said, and I wish more people on this site shared her views (sadly, the comment section these days seems to be mostly full of judgemental, catty, even downright mean comments!)!

JRW on

Tiffany – aren’t you being a bit “judgey” with your comments. Just because I mom is not engaging their child to the extent you think they should at any given moment does not make them a neglectant parent. Maybe they homeschool and need a few moments to themselves, had a bad/stressful/hectic morning and just needs to chat with a friend for a moment.

meghan on

Does not one of you judgemental hags making comments about Ms. Gyllenhaal see the irony here?

jenni on

This is just my take on it… Some ‘theorize’ that the radiation emitted by cell phones causes cancer. Infants and young children have thinner skulls, among other more delicate parts, that are less effective at blocking the radiation. That’s why you should limit a baby/child’s expose to cell phones. Again, just my theory on why she was judging the mom on the cell while her baby was asleep.

Nicole on

I don’t have any kids yet, and I have never looked at a mother using their phone and judged them for it.. That’s just silly!

I probably would if she was texting, etc. and the child was screaming.. But otherwise who cares..?

meghan on

wow, what a refreshing article. i agree with all of it. love this!

Jen on

Hear, hear! She is so right. Babies don’t come with a hand-book. I tried to do it all, too and it made me crazy. With my 3rd, 4th, I let go and took all the help that was offered and did much better.

Lee on

A great article… To the angry ladies, with all due respect, get over yourselves. As we grow as humans, and mothers, we admit our follies and move on. So move on. At least she has the humility to recognize and admit her poor past judgments.

As for math help, also look at Khan Academy online. It’s free and brilliant!!

Cassie on

Agree with Meaghan.

How sad to see comments full of judgment in an article about reducing judgment.

You all really need to relax and stop being so catty and vindictive. Grow up.

tlc on

LMAO….this is the MOST judgemental site out there for parents. I find it very funny that most of the people posting have probably and most likely slammed a celeb on this VERY SITE for something. Katie? Angelina? Jennifer? Tori? All of them are “judged” on a regular basis – Katie most of all.

Maybe this is an appropriate article for all the sanctomommies to read but it won’t stop the nasty comments on here.

Cassie on

It’s funny just one celebrity mother tells she is becoming less and less of a bitch while real mothers on internet are becoming more and more bitches.

I’m not a mother but I am very judgemental kind of person and I’m sure I’ll keep on being after motherhood. At least, I’m honest towards it on internet.

We have no idea if Maggie is a real mother or just a poser, we all are judging her based on assumptions we made thanks to the press and thanks to the idea of every celebrity mother is awful. The huge majority are but they probably will tell you are all awful mothers by staying on internet while yours kids are misbehaving somewhere.

Guest on

@ Kelly grow up

Mina on

Ever since my cousin had a boy who has autism, I dont judge the child or the behavior. However, if I blatently see someone being neglectful, like ignoring their child or the child doing something wrong/dangerous and its being ignored….I judge away baby!!!

andciek on

Catty moms! Some cool ones too.
Ill just say I judge moms who vaccinate their kids. Its worse than hitting!
Long run, it stays in their bodies and its poison.

Holiday on

andciek and I judge you for not vaccinating! Babies die from whooping cough and other diseases that are preventable. If you hippies keep up with this non vax crap you are going to bring back diseases that havent been seen in years. And you do realize many babies have died recently from whooping cough right? I dont get your mind frame at all… why would you not want your children protected against diseases? Very irresponsible of you!

Anonymous on

andciek- That’s funny, because I tend to get judgemental for the opposite reason! I think NOT vaccinating is just plain irresponsible, as it puts not only your kid but other kids (such as very young babies who haven’t recieved all their shots yet and kids who can’t be vaccinated for whatever reason) at risk of contracting a serious disease that could possibly kill them.

Also, I will never understand why anybody would be willing to risk losing their precious little one to a serious but very easily preventable disease.

And no, I don’t believe vaccines cause Autism. I am actually on the spectrum myself, and I believe very firmly that it’s genetic (for reasons that I won’t go into since frankly they aren’t anyone’s business!)!

Anonymous on

Just want to add that I do NOT want this to turn into a vaccine debate. I was simply sharing my views on why I feel the opposite way andciek does!

Mina on

My grandfather contrcted polio when he was in his 30’s. He was never vaccinated. I’m the kind of person who believes in going as au natural as possible (because yes, our bodies were designed to fight off the bad stuff) but I wont risk my kids life. A vaccination doesnt hurt. Its not like chemo being injected into your body. I’m the kind of person who doesnt even take tylenol for headaches! I’ve never been on birth control. I only take antibiotics when I have a bacterial infection and not for every cough and sniffle! I play in dirt with my son so our bodies get used to fighting off germs. However, when it comes to vaccinations, its a thumbs up for me!