You might know her best as Robin Sherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother, but her latest role in the new movie Unexpected (out today) is one that will resonate with moms everywhere. Smulders plays Samantha—a high school teacher who unexpectedly gets pregnant with her longtime boyfriend—and has to navigate the huge changes motherhood will bring. As a mom of Shaelyn, 6, and new baby, 7 months, Smulders is no stranger to the unpredictable. And in an unexpected turn of events, she had some thoughts for our readers before I asked any questions:
Here's an idea. Put this out to your readers. I never really had any experience with babies. I would babysit in high school, but they were always older like 6, 7, 8, right? And I didn't understand until I had kids. I feel like if people could bring their babies into high schools and be like "This is what it's like to be with a baby for a day" people would be like "Woah." I think the idea of a baby is so cute and they're snuggly and then you're like holy s***. It's a real job. Babies are great, motherhood is great, but I think you'll just be a little bit more prepared.
Parents: Speaking of being unprepared, in Unexpected your character, Samantha, had not been planning on getting pregnant and she is very concerned about losing herself when she becomes a mom. Did you have those same fears?
Cobie Smulders: Oh of course. Oh my G-d of course. My character is very concerned with her career and having to give it up. It's an interesting sort of twist in the film because it is so much about timing. I do feel like in the case of Samantha she's like "If I'd just gotten pregnant four months later I would have gotten that job." She's trying to manipulate these little details, which I've gone through myself. "If I got pregnant I could have done this film and that film" but five years down you're like Whatever. It's happened the way it was supposed to happen and that's just how it is.
P: What was the hardest part about adjusting to motherhood?
CS: When you're at home all day with a baby doing the same thing and you don't have any outside perspective—you're not reading the news, you're not going out and meeting people, you're not going out and having these new experiences—it's repetitive. We get up and we feed and in two hours we try to nap and we read a book and it's sort of the same thing over and over again and when you do that and you're not getting a lot of sleep you just feel like "This is my life and it's never going to end." And I'm here to say it does. It's just that first chunk that we as women have to get through.
P: So the first time around with Shaelyn—not knowing that feeling would end, that it was a first chunk—how did you handle that?
CS: I'm very lucky because when I went through my first pregnancy I was already employed. I was on How I Met Your Mother. We were season 4, which was a sweet place to be. It was fueled by the best crew and director on the planet; they were so accommodating. We had a flipping nursery on our set because we were all popping out babies. It timed out for me where I didn't even have to miss any work. I gave birth and I had a 4-month hiatus and then I went back to work. I'm so privileged as a mom. And I know that that is not the case for everybody. I think maternity leave should be mandatory. I'm from Canada where they have maternity and paternity leave which I also think is huge and amazing.
P: What's something you never thought you'd do as a mom but you now do?
CS: Well so many things. I'm here talking to you. I have a lovely nanny with my kid right now because one's in a day camp and my husband is working. Growing up it was like "I'll have kids and I'll stay home with them all day and I'll raise them in the forest. We will only eat organic food that we've grown ourselves from our garden. And every month we'll kill that chicken and they'll learn about the cycle of life." And it's like no. We live in New York City. We Seamless a lot. Seamless is happening three times a week. That to me is the biggest advice I give friends: Just flow with it. Just be present and let it happen and do your best. It really is the hardest job in the world. It really is.
P: Both Samantha and Robin (your character on How I Met Your Mother) were very uncertain about having children. Did you know you wanted to have kids?
CS: Yeah, I always loved kids. I come from a big family. I have two sisters and a brother and then my father remarried and I have four siblings from that marriage, which happened when I was quite young. So I always wanted kids but I also always wanted a career. I've always wanted both. It's a balancing system.
P: You previously struggled with ovarian cancer. So describe the reaction and emotion you felt the day that you found out you were pregnant with your daughter.
CS: It was pretty shocking. Going back it was kind of meant to be at the right time. I don't know if you ever play this game where you're like "If I could go back and I could change this one thing everything would be better or good." Now that I have these kids I can't change anything and I wouldn't. Just looking back, everything sort of happened for a reason.
P: How were your pregnancies? Any crazy symptoms?
CS: That's what I like about this movie. Kris [Swangberg, the director] and I are both women who've had children. There are all these movie pregnancy things and we said "Let's not do that because I really didn't experience anything like that." I felt like pregnancy and motherhood were very separate things for me and I was very grateful to have a pretty easy one.
P: What surprises you most about having two kids?
CS: Just that you love them the same. You know how your parents always say that? "I love you all the same." And you're like "That's bulls*** I'm your favorite." I'm like no that's totally true. Maybe that will change and maybe one will be a jerk growing up and I'll think I like you a little bit less right now, but I think it will always be true. You really have this love for both of them.
Ruthie Fierberg is an editorial assistant at Parents. Though she does not have children of her own, she's practically been raising kids since her first babysitting job at age 11. She is also our resident theater aficionado and has interviewed over 40 celeb parents. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain.
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