Maggie Gyllenhaal on Motherhood: “I Wanted to Be Cool and Easygoing”
Last week, Parents caught up with Maggie Gyllenhaal at the 125th Anniversary celebration of The First Aid Kit by Johnson & Johnson. After hearing from Safe Kids Worldwide about preventing childhood injuries, we spoke to Maggie about how she keeps her two daughters, Ramona, 6, and Gloria, 14 months, safe, and what she does to stay relaxed even in scary moments.
P: When you first became a mom, were you the nervous type?
MG: I was young when Ramona was born. I was 28 and still kind of a kid in a lot of ways. I wanted to be cool about everything and easygoing. I didn’t realize that the way to be easygoing is to do some preparation, to actually have a diaper bag with the things you need! Because if you do that then you don’t have to constantly be worrying, “Oh G-d! They need a snack and where am I going to get something?” I know all that now! Also my second daughter is much more easygoing with her own bumps and bruises. She’ll fall over and kind of get up and be fine. Not always, but she’s a different personality than my first.
P: Who puts on the Band-Aids at home? You or Daddy? Does Ramona or Gloria have a preference?
MG: I’m not sure Gloria has ever had to have a Band-Aid, yet. And Ramona definitely prefers me for that kind of thing, although Peter is happy to do it, too. She’s definitely more of a mama’s girl.
P: Have you had any scares with Ramona?
MG: I look at my girlfriend who has three little boys and they have been in and out of the hospital. They have gotten broken bones and stitches and my kids haven’t had any of that stuff…yet. It’s partially to do with their personalities. Ramona definitely is super active, but she’s also cautious.
There was one time when Gloria was about 4 weeks old that Ramona slipped. We were staying at a friend’s house in upstate New York and I was downstairs with our newborn. All I heard was a big thud and crying. I went upstairs and Peter was holding Ramona’s ankle in this way and looking at me in a way that I thought, “Oh my G-d she broke her ankle, and we’re upstate, and I have a 4-week-old, and it’s like 100 degrees.” And I really thought something terrible had happened and, in fact, it was nothing. But I think the way that she’d fallen he just thought, Ok sit down. Let me check it out. Peter was a soccer player, so he knows all about injuries. I remember that as a really terrifying moment, because when you have a tiny baby you are so sensitive, and my heart was just so open in those first six weeks in particular. So I still was not fully functional. I didn’t know how I was going to manage taking her to the emergency room with a newborn. Thank G-d I didn’t have to.
P: You mentioned that your husband is great with these sports injuries. Is Ramona going in to sports or dance?
MG: I think she’s just active the way a kid is active and loves to do cartwheels and round-offs. In her school they do a lot of that stuff. She’s very strong. But, I don’t know yet what she’s going to be.
P: If you end up on the sidelines, how do you make sure she’s safe being an active kid?
MG: Well, like they say, some injuries are part of being alive. It’s just the same as…I think about heartbreak for my children or even the social stuff that goes on between friends. It prepares you for being an adult where you get hurt all the time—not as much physically. I think about that sometimes, too. If you ever fall as an adult—slip and fall—how incredibly jarring it is. As kids they’re doing it all the time, just falling over.
I think the ways that you hurt yourself both physically and emotionally as a kid are ways of preparing you for dealing with those same kind of things as a grownup. So, I don’t think it’s the end of the world for people to get hurt, but I do think that you have to be careful. I think you have to keep an eye out for them and you have to keep boundaries.
I thought before my kids were born that I was just going to be so easygoing. In fact, I find that it’s easier for me and it’s better for them to be really clear about what’s safe and what’s not. What’s okay and what’s not.
P: When they’re with their Grandma Naomi, do you leave behind instructions?
MG: My mom has said, “I’m allowed to give her more treats than you do. I am allowed to let her stay up late. That’s my job.” It’s part of the gift of being a grandmother.
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