Busy Philipps On Why Winging It is the Best Parenting Philosophy

Busy Philipps, host of Busy Tonight on E! and mother of two, shares brutally honest, heartfelt (and hilarious) parenting tips that will make you go 'same.' Listen, learn, and laugh your head off.

Busy Philipps and Daughters Birdie and Cricket
Photo: Miller Mobely

If you're among the 1.1 million people who follow Busy Philipps on Instagram, then you already love her. Not following? You're missing out. The 39-year-old former star of Dawson's Creek, also known for her starring role as Michelle Williams's best friend in real life, has spent the past few years on social media letting us in on her not-always-perfect life as a struggling actress, mother of two daughters, Birdie, 10, and Cricket, 5, and wife of I Feel Pretty director and screenwriter Marc Silverstein. Her revealing new memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little, hits bookshelves on October 16, and her new late-night talk show, Busy Tonight, launches on E! on October 28. Between it all, she found some time to talk to Parents about momming. As Philipps herself would say, "Okay, guys, get this!"

Wing. It. "I call myself the all-over-the-place, doesn't-have-a-plan mom. Is that a parenting philosophy? On a daily basis, I'm just trying to hold it together. Our family has no absolute rules about screen time or sugar or anything. I mean, Marc and I were raised that way, and we turned out fine."

Reject mommy juice. "This may be controversial, but I'm just going to say it: I'm so fucking over the culture of mommy wine and glasses that say 'Mommy Juice.' I hate it so much! You go to a preschool birthday party at 10 A.M., and it's like, 'Does anyone want a wine cooler?' Um, no, girlfriend. I want to make sure my daughter doesn't fall off this play structure. It's such a weird thing! And if you know me at all, you know I love a good margarita. I just don't think the two things need to be tied together. I'm the best mom when I'm sober."

Time-outs are garbage. "We're flailing in the dark when it comes to discipline. Nothing works! Birdie is a child for whom no consequence is great enough. I'll say, 'If you do that, I'll take away TV for a week.' You know what she counters? 'Fine.' Or I'll say, 'Then no playdates,' and she's like, 'Okay.' And then who have I backed into a corner? Me! So, we don't really do punishments. The only thing that works sometimes is rewards."

Tap out, if necessary. "We have a non-sleep-trained 10-year-old, which is emotionally exhausting. Birdie's little brain just won't turn off. We've tried everything: meditation, meditation apps, therapy. Your job as a parent is to put your own shit aside so you can deal with your child's, but her refusal to go to sleep every night was very triggering for me. I wanted to yell, 'Snap out of it!' So, Marc took over bedtime with Birdie. He'd say, 'Busy, I got this. I'll do it every night.' And he did. I was always sort of embarrassed about her sleep. But once I started talking about it, other parents would tell me, 'Oh, our son wakes up with us every morning.' Once I let that shame go, it became easier to manage."

Find a mom friend at the same stage as you. "Lots of my friends are having babies now, and so I'm like Old Lady Glamour in the corner, smoking a figurative cigarette, signaling, 'Come over here, kid. I'll tell you all about preschools.' I really value my mom friends who have kids the same ages as mine. When I feel like I'm truly failing for whatever reason, one of them offers perspective. She'll admit, 'I told my kid that she was a horrible person!' And I'm thinking, 'Oh, I feel better. I only flipped mine off.'"

Marriage is hard. Fight for it. "Marc and I had a really rough time after Birdie was born. He was not understanding how to be a dad and, in fact, didn't try. I was parenting by myself. When I told him I wanted to have a second child, he said, 'Fine, but it's all on you.' That was so heartbreaking. Marriage is always hard, but especially when you have kids. Blythe Danner once said that the secret to her long marriage to Bruce Paltrow was that they never fell out of love with each other at the same time. Isn't that the most beautiful way to put it? You're going to go through periods when you're not into it, but there always has to be one person willing to fight. I went to Marc several times and said, 'I cannot do this anymore. Something has to change, and it's you.' We've had a lot of serious discussions and counseling, and he's incredibly participatory now in a way I don't think he could've imagined before. We're a work in progress but trying our best, and that's the most you can do."

Busy Philipps Closeup Floral High Neck Dress
Miller Mobley

Put on your own oxygen mask first. "I live to make sure everyone is happy, but I also make sure I'm taking care of my own mental health. I see a therapist. I work out almost every day because cardio knocks out my anxiety. It makes me happy when I spend time with friends and see bands, so I do that. Occasionally, I watch TV, but even that can feel overwhelming. I can't keep up with all the new shows. That's why I stick with Friends and Seinfeld reruns. They soothe me."

You're allowed to say no. "I'm an overextender. I agree to everything. But now, with my own TV show, I have to learn to say no. I was signing up to be Cricket's room mom at her elementary school because I knew it would make her happy, and then it occurred to me that that would be a truly insane thing to do. You can't volunteer for everything, and that's okay."

Demand what you're worth. "I've been so exhausted by kowtowing to men's view of what women should be, how they should act, and where their place is. I'm just over it. Smash the patriarchy. Seriously. I'm done. I won't be a part of that system anymore. See, I sold this late-night talk show to E!, and they wanted my show to be on one night a week. I told them, 'All the dudes get four or five nights a week. Give me the same thing.' They said, 'We want you to build.' And I said, 'No! It's trial by fire. Give it to me. Let me do it.' And they did. Would one night have been easier and more manageable for me? Yes, absolutely! But that's not fucking fair. I want more."

Make your kids proud. "At the end of the day, my girls are going to be in therapy. I get it. They're going to have complaints. They'll have notes. But my ultimate hope is that at some point, they'll see me as a fierce, fearless badass who just wanted to entertain people and change the world. That's not going to happen anytime soon. This year, they'll just be annoyed that I'm working so much, but maybe one day..."

Listen to other moms (especially Courteney Cox). "I've always struggled with anxiety, but I had intense postpartum anxiety after first becoming a mom. We were broke. We couldn't afford a sitter. We didn't have family available to help. And I couldn't get a job, because I was told I was overweight. I felt isolated. It was just me and Birdie, and I became paralyzed by fear that something would happen to her. Eventually I got hired on Cougar Town, and Courteney Cox took me out for lunch. She could see I was holding on to this thing I didn't need to carry, and she encouraged me to get help. And because she was also my boss, it really hit home. I started seeking help and went on Lexapro for a year and a half, which did a lot to calm me down."

Voice your fears. "I still had horrible anxiety when I was pregnant with Cricket. I'd convinced myself she was going to be stillborn and that I was carrying a dead baby. I wasn't telling anyone about it, either—not my therapist, not Marc, not my friends. Finally, I had a full-blown panic attack, at which point Marc got it out of me. And as soon as I said the words, I knew it wasn't true. It was my Oprah 'aha' moment. You can get trapped in these cycles of anxiety, and as soon as you give voice to your fears, you alleviate their pain and pressure. Now, when I'm going through things, I remember to talk about them. I don't want to be a pretty girl wearing an anxiety necklace. I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about my anxiety in a real way. You have to be open and honest."

Exercise—and also eat nachos. "I'm able to intellectually appreciate the fact that my body has done a truly incredible thing, but I don't love the extra skin. People say, 'Wear it like a badge!' Um, yeah, that doesn't speak to me. I'd rather have a flat stomach. But for my girls, I want to lead by example. Weighing myself wasn't helpful for my mental state, so I stopped doing that a couple of years ago. Now, I just try to make healthy, balanced choices and don't call any food 'bad.' My girls see me exercise, but they also see me eat nachos. I think both are important."

This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine as 'Momming While Busy.'

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