'Balance Is a Joke': Ali Larter Gets Real About Working-Mom Challenges

Actress Ali Larter talks tips on being a mom of two, the truth about work-life balance, and how to get through those tough parenting moments.
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You know her from "Heroes," the Resident Evil movies, and that infamous court scene in Legally Blonde, but there's more to blonde beauty Ali Larter than her acting skills. The 40-year-old has a cookbook, Kitchen Revelry, under her belt, and shares her love of food on her blog at AliLarter.com. And these days, she tackles the big screen (she's currently filming Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) knowing that 5-year-old son Theodore and 15-month-old daughter Vivienne will be home waiting to greet her when the long workday is done.

Parents.com: What has surprised you the most about becoming a mom of two?

Ali Larter: I feel such a great sense of self-worth being the mother of these two kids and so lucky that I get to spend my days with them. They fill me with so much joy and inspiration (and sometimes frustration!). It seems like the craziest time in life is when your children are young, but this time is also so precious.

What are some parenting hacks you practice to make your days easier?

AL: We let one person choose breakfast and everyone eats that, because I decided I'm not making different meals. We negotiated for a couple of years before becoming a "no negotiation" household. Setting clear choices like this is helpful for young kids.

We also love to cook together, so the kitchen is often pretty messy and a bit of a disaster. When we're dripping all over after making different batters or scrambling eggs for French toast we like to use Lysol disinfecting wipes to take away any bacteria that could be living on the kitchen counter. My son loves to help chop or peel vegetables, and any time he gets to use a little knife or peeler he gets so excited.

How do you show each kid they're special?

AL: When I had my daughter over a year ago, my son created a fun, silly code word that he would say whenever he needed some time with me. Those moments of just the two of us together really helped during that first year when we were introducing her into the family. We still do it to this day. We just went on a sushi date after his karate class. But he does love to include his sister. My kids are four years apart, so there can be some sass and jealousy, but they really do enjoy each other's company.

You have a crazy schedule between work, traveling, and being a mom. How do you handle work-life balance?

AL: I think balance is a joke. I do the best I can, but the work that I'm in makes me more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner. When I'm working those 15-hour days I'm excited to have that time for myself. I gain so much energy from it and it fulfills my creativity. I enjoy being able to do the work that I love, and I hope my children see and understand that. But when I'm not on set, I try to do it all with my family. We love spending time outside as much as possible by hiking, swimming, bug hunting, making "potions" and exploding volcanoes, and paddle boarding.

Life isn't perfect. What has been your biggest parenting fail?

AL: There have been so many! When I first brought my son home from the hospital he started screaming, so I tried to change his diaper. When I opened it up he had a blowout that flew like 4 feet all over me and off the changing table. I learned you can't just open the diaper and let it sit there. You need to have that next diaper underneath ready to tuck up in moments of disaster. The double diaper is a must.

How do you move on from any tough parenting moments?

AL: I find that a glass of wine and a good cry can be very helpful. I also lean on my girlfriends and my sister. Having a community of moms is essential. Your husbands can be helpful, but they'll never truly understand what you and your body have been through. Lean on your friends, chat on the phone with them, and don't ever feel like you're alone in this.

What advice would you give an expecting mom who might be worried about bringing another child into the mix?

AL: We all worry, and you're not alone. From all the moms I know, we all feel one step behind and we're all doing the best we can. Sometimes, you just have to get on the floor, cry it out, and then get up and play with the kids. Motherhood is hectic. Your life is changing and your body is changing, but you just have to remember it's a transitional time.

What's the best parenting advice someone has ever shared with you?

AL: At my son's baby shower, my sister told me, 'You're the one who was put into this world to take care of and protect your children, so always listen to them and respect them.' I thought this was such a great piece of advice, because when kids begin school and start experiencing the different struggles that come with childhood, this reminds me that I have to be my child's advocate.

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