Tia Mowry-Hardrict on the Moment Her Son Said ‘I Love You’

01/30/2014 at 02:00 PM ET

Tia Mowry Hardrict That Awkward Moment Premiere Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Focus Features/AP

For Tia Mowry-Hardrict, it was worth the wait.

But for the record, the actress was starting to wonder — not that she was counting — but it had been two and a half years.

And then it happened. The Instant Mom star’s son, Cree Taylor, said those three little words that every mother longs to hear (and no, they were not “I want Daddy!” after a 3 a.m. nightmare).

“He just told me for the first time, ‘I love you!'” the 35-year-old told PEOPLE while attending the Los Angeles Premiere of That Awkward Moment.

“I gasped when he said it because I’m always saying, ‘I love you, Cree! I love you, Cree!’ I’m not expecting to hear anything back, and he goes, ‘I love you.’ And I was like, ‘Aww!'”

It happened when the first-time mother least expected. That’s the genius of these toddlers, they know how to build suspense and then strike with unfailing cuteness.

“It was in the morning, and of course I’m into co-sleeping, so he was in the bed with my husband and I,” Mowry-Hardrict explains.

“We were playing Angry Birds on my iPhone — because he loves that game first thing in the morning — I lean over to him, I give him a kiss on the cheek, and I say, ‘I love you, Cree,’ and he reciprocated and said, ‘I love you.'”

The actress adds, “Then, of course, I started bawling. I was just floored and my husband was looking at me like, ‘Oh my God, Tia.'”

While motherhood has proven to be one joyous surprise after another for Mowry-Hardrict, there was one aspect of this unconditional love that no one prepared her for.

“No one ever told me about the guilt that you have as a working mother — and I wish someone had,” she says. “I’m all about keeping it real, and I got the, ‘It’s great being a mom! It’s the best thing in the world!’ I wish someone would have been honest with me about that because the guilt is so strong.”

To help herself mitigate the misguided self-reproach that she feels being away from her child, Mowry-Hardrict focuses on what she sees is the bigger picture. Not the paycheck, but the ultimate maternal payoff.

“I’m like every other mom out there that goes to work to help provide for their family, and take care of their child, and I really had to learn how to change my perspective on it,” she says.

“I want my child to grow up seeing that his mom works hard for what she gets. If I can instill that with my son, that, ‘Mommy works hard, and things aren’t just given to her,’ then I’ve done a good thing.”

– Reagan Alexander

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Anonymous on

Ummmm he’s 2 1/2 and just now saying “I love you”???? Maybe she should say it every day and then he’ll know it’s a regular thing you say when you love someone.

guest on

Ummmm he’s 2 1/2 and just now saying I love you???? Say I love you to your kids every day and then they will know it’s a regular thing

Penelope on

Wow someone (Anonymous/Guest) really needed to say something snotty, so much that he or she posted under two different names. Life that boring for you. And it’s widely known that a lot of boys are slower to speak especially when compared with girls their age. But don’t let me stop you from being snotty…

Debra on

is this really news?

Andy on

Wow…people really can find something negative to say about this innocent story? …(SMH!!!)

I think this is an awesome moment she wanted to share in her interview. More power to you Tia, you do what is right for you and yours. Ignore all the BS.

Mandy on

If its not news for you why did you bother clicking on the story?? For a parent hearing those three words is pure bliss, she is a proud parent nothing wrong in that.

Haha on

Co-sleeping? AKA how to avoid having sex with your husband!! Don’t go crying when he cheats on you!

kp08 on

@Haha There’s nothing wrong with co-sleeping. Night time isn’t the only time you can have sex! They seem to be a very loving, happy family, so obviously it works for them.

Anonymous on

kp08- Nor is your bed (or bedroom, for that matter) the only place you can have it! 😉

Anonymous on

Haha- So basically you’re saying that it’s okay for a husband to cheat on his wife if he thinks they aren’t having enough sex? Wow, just….wow!

Guest on

Being a new parent and discovering “firsts”; there is really nothing like it. I am with her in that regard because I remember my son’s “firsts.” You never forget it. However, I am with some of the others regarding the co sleeping. I did it and it was really hard to break my son from sleeping with me. He was around 5 years old when I was finally able to get him to sleep in his own bed. And, being a working mom is hard. You just have to balance it and make sure that family comes first (because sometimes your job can require you to work long hours – as my does).

Huh? on

I can’t believe she is co-sleeping. Marriage killer

Sandra on

Co-Sleeping is not a marriage killer or a sex killer if you are creative enough. Co-Sleeping is a habit that can be broken just like all other habits, it just takes a little time and patience, just like weaning.

Jojo on

This is not a news story, it is part of the babies blog on this site.

I think it is great and I cannot wait for this moment!

Haha on

Every single person I know where they practiced co-sleeping are now divorced! One couple’s marriage broke down as the wife refused to stop this when the girl was 8. This girl is now 16, parents divorced, and has had all sorts of psycological problems and still thinks she should be able to sleep with her dad. Needless to say, as the now partner of this father, she has tried everything over the last 4 years to get between us, ranging from making herself sick and rubbing it in her bed clothes, to pretending to pass out so her father has to stay with her in her room. @kp08…….I adore my children and when my partner is not here, we sometimes all sleep in my bed, watch a movie or have breakfast in bed as a really treat! I love and so do they. But where co-sleeping is practiced constantly, the child does not understand where child ends and adults start. And that adults need privacy as does the child. I have witnessed the down-side to co-sleeping and it is really unpleasant, especially for the child. Everyone has to be able to sleep alone…….I did for 4 years when my husband and I split up (not due to co-sleeping!) and I was fine to do so. This child I know cannot be in a bed alone and will do anything to have someone or her dog in her bed.

Margarita on

I loved this story 🙂 I have a one year old who says “mama” and “dada” and gibberish. I can’t wait to hear those 3 little words. I will probably cry too when I hear them for the first time.

guest on

spend more time with your children instead of being famous.

guest on

Nobody is a perfect parent Nana….watching the show her child clearly has a wide range of vocabulary. Instead of playing angry birds on the phone with your child, play with your child. He will surely pick up the words “I love you” very quickly with some good QUALITY time from his mom and dad

TysMom on

I love you for the first time was the best thing ever.

To all you judgmental women, kids all learn and develop at their own pace. Some mommies have kids with special needs and language delays and may never say those words a mom waits to hear. What if that was you child? Grow up!

guest on

I agree all kids develop differently. If you do have a child with special needs spend more time with them. period!