Mom-life can come with some big sacrifices. But Drew Barrymore, actress and mom-of-two, is totally cool with that. Here, she opens up about her "crazy" parenting style.

drew barrymore in isabella crocs
Credit: Courtesy Sean Lashley

Don't let actress Drew Barrymore's Hollywood address and early fame fool you. Her approach to parenting is just like any other mom's. She lets her young daughters, 4-year-old Olive and 3-year-old Frankie, wear princess dresses to museums, they throw tantrums in public, and she acts like a "crazy person" when it comes to their safety (her words, not ours). When it was time for our interview with her, Barrymore had to reschedule in order to take her daughters to swim lessons. "I promise I'm not a flake," she told us when we spoke. "I chose them over work this time, because sometimes I don't have that option. I just wanted to spend the morning with my kids more than anything." You're speaking to Parents magazine, Drew. All we can say is: Preach.

Parents: We understand! Schedules get jumbled, kids get sick, babysitters cancel. What would you share with other moms who are having a tough day in the world of parenting?

Drew Barrymore: It definitely takes a village. I have a group of girls I work with—we nicknamed ourselves The Village Girls—who I can call in a pinch. We all "freelance" with each other, so I feel like I have a good system if I have to work or there's an emergency. I know there's someone I can always reach out to, and I won't get anxious with who's taking care of my kids.

I'm so Type A and buttoned up with my kids, which is hilarious because in my real life I'm the most disorganized person. No one will let me hold my passport or, in this case, I'll forget I've double-booked an interview over swim lessons. When it comes to my kids, though, I feel like an absolute soldier with a Kevlar vest, and instead of a bullet belt it's filled with a sippy cup and snacks. I love going on adventures with my kids—we've done Disneyland and Legoland—and I feel like we all literally suit up as if we're going to some type of battle. But instead of armor, it's all kids' stuff.

Charity and giving back to others seems to be an important focus in your life. Is this something that you want to instill in your children even though they're so young?

Absolutely. They always know when I'm doing something for charity and what it is that I'm doing. Many times the work that I do is in a hospital setting and I'm not allowed to bring my children because of health rules, so I show them pictures and explain to them the stories that I hear. I have a mapped out plan of how I'm going to be able to bring them into the philanthropic world as they get older and can participate more, but there are definitely events we do now with Baby2Baby and Safe Kids Worldwide that are much more kid-focused and help them become more aware of the work I'm involved with. Someday they'll be able to come with me when I'm travelling to far-off countries or helping at the hospitals. It's just a matter of time and age.

How are you teaching your own daughters to embrace their individuality?

I let my kids be themselves, and I choose my battles. So, yes, they have to stay by my side until the walk sign goes on to cross the street, and I will stay on them like a diligent crazy person to keep them safe, but when it comes to playing or expressing themselves or thinking a certain way, I let them be who they really are. It could be as little as wearing what they want, like, "Oh, you want to wear your princess dress? Do it!" It's not my battle, they look adorable, and it makes us all feel happy. This even works with how I handle discipline, because my two daughters have extremely different personalities. It's not a one-size fits all thing, which I think is very much in keeping with the Crocs "Come As You Are" campaign that I'm involved in that's all about embracing individuality.

A woman named Christy Doramus, who has this great company called Crowns By Christy, saw Frankie out in her princess dress on Instagram once and commented, "My mom used to always let me wear what I wanted!" Christy has such great style and is just a solid, respectable, cool chick. I thought, "OK, good! That's so encouraging to hear from a girl that I'd be proud of if my girls grew up to be like.

Has your own childhood upbringing shaped how you're taking on parenthood?

Not really—I wouldn't do anything with my kids that I did as a kid. However, I do like expressing myself and the "Come As You Are" campaign is exactly how I've lived my life. That kind of freedom and joy is definitely in keeping with how I raise my kids. I didn't really have family growing up, so it makes me appreciate having a family now, and I Sheryl-Sandberg-Lean-In a whole lot more. Maybe if I did have a different upbringing I wouldn't be so passionately invested in my kids and know what a gift and a blessing having family is. So, that worked out well!

We're officially coming into the summer season. What does your ideal day with your kids look like—do you tend to fit in as many activities as you can or do you prefer to keep it relaxed and easy?

I'm a pretty hit-it-hard mom. I like days at the house where we do nothing, but we also have tons of activities planned, like horseback riding, an amusement park trip, going to the zoo, and visiting a turtle sanctuary. I'm definitely an ambitious mom, and it makes me feel good about the days when we don't do much. I'll plan fun weekend trips, but nothing crazy. I would never say, "We're going to Italy this weekend!" I mean I wish we could go to Italy—that's my dream vacation with my kids. We're just too busy and they're too young, so we're doing activities that are more fun for them now. I want to do things that they'll enjoy, not necessarily what's my romantic notion of a vacation.

School is just wrapping up, but once it's back in session how do you make that transition from easy summer days to getting your kids back into a routine?

Their lives, unlike much of my childhood, are very consistent. We go to bed at a certain time. We eat at a certain time. We have our windows of the day, whether school or play, that are similar in structure. I think my kids know how to roll with the days, and they love when we're travelling—they're very adventurous—but they're totally cool with spending a day at home. They know exactly what the drill is when they do have school. Our lives aren't all over the place. The timing and system is pretty set, so we can color outside the lines and it won't throw the kids. Consistency just makes us feel settled. We know what's happening, who will be there, and how it's going to go down. That system is very comforting and makes us relax, because we know things will be a certain way even if there are different types of days or we're in different places.

You seem to be incredibly busy between your charity work, beauty brand, career, and being a mom. How do you find "me" time and a strong work-life balance?

I'm not going to lie. I literally asked myself when was the last time I got to be by myself. It has been wild. Maybe someday soon—like the unattainable Italy fantasy—I'll find a day to be totally alone. That sounds nice. It sounds like an interesting option. But it's not usually an option, and I'm sure all parents can relate to that. And, honestly, I kind of just feel bad, and I find myself thinking, "So I could be with my kids right now and I'm not getting any work done and I'm just hanging out?" I don't know. Maybe I'll get "me" time when my kids are older and more independent and have a different social life, but right now, playdates still require me to be there. So maybe someday, but I think that's true for every mom. You don't get "me" time and if, God forbid, you do, you kind of feel off the whole time.

Raising strong girls is important now more than ever. If you could give your girls one piece of advice for the future—whether that's about their own careers or beauty routines or relationships—what would it be?

My daughter went to the Women's March with her dad, and we all have an immediate response to the lyric, "Who run the world?" They yell, "Girls!" I think we're living in a really difficult time in the world, but a very strong and exciting time for young girls. While navigating social media is more of an issue for older girls than my girls, it's a new territory and difficult waters to navigate. I feel like there's an overarching, positive, strong message that girls can do anything, and there's a superhero-vibe going on that we just have to take and run with and never look back. We can only grow it and make it stronger. In some areas of the world, we might think we're going backwards, but we cannot let girls go backwards. We have to look forward, and put one foot in front of the other with total empowerment.