Mandy Moore on Living in 'Technicolor' as a New Mother: 'I Had No Idea That This Degree of Love Existed'
Mandy Moore has played a mom on NBC's This Is Us for almost six years now, but it wasn't until her own son, August (Gus for short), was born in February that she completely understood her character. Before, Moore drew on experiences with her own mom and other maternal figures in her world to bring Rebecca Pearson to life, and was Emmy-nominated for her work. Last season, when she and her television husband, Jack, played by Milo Ventimiglia, were filmed changing diapers and swaddling babies like pros, Moore admits she had no idea what she was doing—despite being nine months pregnant at the time. After Gus, she learned not only baby-care basics but also that she had access to a whole new range of deep feelings. The experience was profound, and it almost made her wish for a do-over. "It's like, 'Oh, can we go back?'" Moore says. "'Can we rewind to 2015 so I can redo this entire series?'"
In real life, Moore, 37, is married to Taylor Goldsmith, 36, of the band Dawes. Moore is a singer and songwriter herself—your kids might recognize her voice as Rapunzel from the Tangled movies and TV series, and she released her seventh studio album, Silver Landings, in 2020. The couple met via Instagram in 2015, when she raved about a Dawes album and Taylor DMed her. They were married in 2018. Moore says Goldsmith was destined to be a dad, falling naturally into baby wrangling even though, like Moore, he had never held a newborn before having his own.
When Moore thinks about the fact that her TV character did everything in triplicate, she feels a profound respect. "I stand in awe of Rebecca Pearson in a way that I didn't before having my own baby," Moore says. And this is with Gus being an easy, go-with-the-flow infant. "Three all at the same time? I don't, quite frankly, know how she did it."
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Are you someone who always knew that she wanted to be a mother?
I hoped that I would have the opportunity to experience motherhood, but it wasn't until I met my husband that I was like, "Oh, this is the person who I want to do this with." It really solidified once I met Taylor.
How did you know he was the right person to start a family with?
I just wanted to spend my life with this person. He's an incredible teacher—his patience, his presence, his intuition. He's a wonderful friend. He's a wonderful pet parent, brother, and husband. I just knew that this was in the cards for him. It was inevitable. I'd say, within the first six months of our relationship, we were already starting to talk about a family. I mean, this is a man who has written songs about coaching Little League.
What is your favorite part of the day?
The morning. When Taylor's here, which he mostly is, except when he's touring, we make our coffee and then walk into the nursery together. We open the curtains and say, "Hi, Gus," and this giant smile erupts on Gus's face. He's just so excited to see us. It's as if he thinks, "You're still here! You showed up again." We bring him back to our room and spend the first hour or so hanging out in bed together. Yeah, the morning is magical.
Did the experience of being a new mom match up to what you expected?
I had no idea what I was in for. I mean, there's so much emphasis on pregnancy! Then the baby comes, and it's suddenly all about the baby, and you just figure it out. I honestly felt a little forgotten and lost. I guess I expected friendships to be maintained. When you have a child, the world as you know it shifts in such a profound way, and for the most part everyone was waiting when I came up for air. But I've also found that some friendships have seasons. So it's become important for me to reach out to new friends on social media, like chef Gaby Dalkin. We knew each other peripherally before, but now that we've had babies at the same time, I am like, "Can we hang out? Can we talk? Can I pick your brain?"
Do you guys have routines, or do you try to go with the flow?
We're loosely structured, trying to be as malleable as possible with our schedule because of the nature of our jobs. Gus was coming to work with me when he was a month old. I don't have a stopwatch where I'm like, "Okay, it's been an hour and a half, he needs to eat now" or "It's been three hours on the dot, he has to go down now." We sort of look to him for cues, whether he's hungry or whether he's rubbing his eyes. A month ago, I was in the studio making a new record, and he came with me every day. He was in the room next door in his Pack 'n Play with his toys. He was all set up.
It's good to prepare, but you also have to factor in the unknowns, right?
Yeah, the books are fantastic, but you're still going to find yourself googling. The other night, at eight o'clock, he'd been asleep for an hour, and I walked into his room and was like, "Ooh, I smell poop. Should I change him? He's going to get a diaper rash." So I get on my phone and start searching, "Should I wake up a sleeping baby for a poopy diaper?" And there are 50 contradicting answers explaining why you should and why you shouldn't. So I'm like, "You know what, I'm just going to trust my gut and do this stealthily." Of course, he woke up and started crying, and then he peed all over me and all over himself. It was a disaster. So we're very much still flying by the seat of our pants, but I feel like that is parenthood in a nutshell, and we're going to be doing that for the rest of our lives.
Has having him had any kind of effect on your creativity?
Not to sound cheesy, but all the clichés are true. Life is Technicolor now. It just makes sense in a way that it didn't before. I had no idea that this degree of love existed in the world. Yeah, it's going to change what I write about and, as an actor, what I'm able to access. I have a new color to bring to the table that I didn't have before. It's going to impact the choices I make when it comes to work. Everything is different now.
Did anything turn out to be more difficult than you thought?
Once that initial wave of new-parent euphoria sort of wore off, when the chaos of those early weeks started to wane, and the extra support we had in the beginning started tapering off, the reality of being Mom was suddenly front and center. It was scary. Like, "Oh, wow. Now the onus is on me. Do I know what I'm doing?" And I watched my husband effortlessly step into it. Everything he did seemed easy. He could get Gus to go to sleep like that, to laugh like that, whereas I felt clumsy and awkward. I felt a lot of shame and a lot of guilt. But friends told me, "Find some grace and patience for yourself, and know that all of this is new." Suddenly, we glided into a new phase and Gus preferred me to my husband. And it's going to change again. It's a roller coaster.
There's so much expectation placed on mothers and not quite as much on fathers, so maybe they don't have that pressure hanging over their head?
There's so much expectation from society, and we put ourselves under so much pressure and scrutiny. It's silly. I feel like I'm going to be constantly checking myself, because right now, I feel like I have a handle on things, but I know that any day I'm going to feel like I'm flailing again.
What are some of your goals for motherhood?
Gus is the most important thing in my life, but I still love my job. I know it will be a balance of figuring out how to do a bit of everything. I want to be present and available, and I want to be involved at school. I very much want to be the parent who volunteers for the field trip. I had that in my own life with my parents.
Does Gus already love music?
He's just fascinated by the mechanics of music being made. Gus will watch my husband's fingers while he's playing the guitar and will start kicking his legs when he hears a beat that he likes, and he really likes it when we sing. He watches my mouth when I'm singing. Maybe he recognizes my voice from in the womb because I used to sing to him all the time.
What are some things you're looking forward to experiencing with him in the next year?
I'm super-excited about holidays. I love Halloween and Christmas and birthdays. Holidays mean family to me. I'm excited to figure out what our traditions are going to be. In my family, on Christmas Eve, we always had breakfast for dinner because on my parents' first Christmas together, they had no food in the house except eggs and bacon and toast, and so that became Christmas Eve dinner. That might be a fun tradition to keep up with our family. Or maybe we'll force Gus to have some sort of family band with us, and we'll make him sing carols with us.
Maybe you could even do a family Christmas album.
Exactly. Gus will have no choice in the matter.
Everything You Need to Know About Mandy Moore's Family
Song we sing to Gus: "When I Paint My Masterpiece," written by Bob Dylan and made famous by The Band.
Children's book we read: Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin, is his favorite.
Sweet story behind the name August: That's the month we found out we were having a boy. Once we chose it, we also realized it starts with an A (my full name is Amanda) and ends with a T, for Taylor.
Favorite baby toy: He won't stop chewing Sophie la Girafe.
Part of pregnancy that I kind of miss: Having him all to myself and feeling that deep connection. I mean, nothing is better than having him here, but feeling him inside, when it was just the two of us, was very special.
Hardest part of pregnancy: Being so sick at the beginning.
Most special tree ornament: A picture of our dog, Joni, who passed away last year when I was seven months pregnant.
When Gus goes to bed, I watch: Ted Lasso.
Self-care "must": Baths. (Also, though, a bath with him is my favorite.)
Chances of making it to midnight on December 31: Less than zero.
One of my resolutions: Less phone time.
New thing I hope to try in 2022: Hitting the road to play music with my husband and baby in tow.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's December 2021 issue as "'Life Is Technicolor Now.'" Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here