Julie Bowen Spills About Raising Three Boys and Her True Feelings on Halloween

The Emmy-winning Modern Family mom dished with us about her beauty routine, the male psyche, and what she really thinks of Claire Dunphy's favorite holiday.
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Great news: Julie Bowen is just as high energy and hilarious as you hope she'd be. The Emmy-winning actress was nominated again this year for her helter-skelter hilarity as Claire Dunphy on ABC's Modern Family. The mom of three—Oliver, 8, and twins John and Gus, 6—gave us the lowdown on her mom beauty routine, the most surprising thing about raising boys, and what she really thinks about Halloween.

P: Congrats on your nom. What a tough category that was this year!

JB: Oh my gosh! So many people! Honestly, it's ridiculously great to just get invited to the party.

P: You looked very glam on the red carpet, but on a day you don't have hours to get ready and you're not attending an awards show, what is your beauty routine?

JB: It was hotter than Hades, but thank you. I'm consistently simple. I need things to be easy and the same every day. Then when it's time for a big red carpet I don't have to change anything or suddenly have my face shaved off or whatever it is people are doing these days. I use the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair line and the Rapid Dark Circle Repair Eye Cream that has moisturizer and SPF. It's bam bam. I've been known to do it in my car. If I want to do any makeup it's a little mascara and a little lipgloss and that's it.

P: You come from a family of girls, and you're raising three boys. Do you feel like you're learning about that male psyche?

JB: I went to all-girl schools. I had sisters. I didn't have any friends who were boys until I was 14 or 15. Now I understand that young males come out of the womb the way they are—it's not necessarily a byproduct of the environment. They're just aggressive, emotional, and yet simple. At times that looks stupid to me. Why on Earth would you run into a wall over and over until you break something? I don't understand it. But at the same time, I love boys now that I've gotten to know what they really are. They are very straightforward. It's not a lot of manipulation. We get in arguments and power struggles and then it's all over. There are no grudges. Girls are a lot more complicated creatures. Right now I'm really loving my boys.

P: What is the most surprising thing about having three?

JB: The most surprising thing to me is how different they are from each other. They're all made of the same genetic material and brewed in the same pot and yet they are wildly different—even the twins are vastly different from each other.

There's a lot of letting myself off the hook of nature versus nurture. I can't control who they are. Gus is much more tactile and emotional and sensitive and John, his twin brother, will duck kisses from me in front of his friends and will run into something in front of me to see how badly it hurts and then laugh. And you're like 'WHAT? You were literally born at the same time!'

P: Are all three of them still sharing a room?

JB: Yes. We got them built-in bunk beds last year. We try to keep them kind of contained a little bit because when they were in beds next to each other, the chaos of leaping and jumping from bed to bed.... I hated bunk beds and then I thought no, they're like little jail cells [or] the capsule hotels you see in Japan.

P: How did you survive back-to-school with all three of them?

JB: I don't know that I have survived. They're doing great. We have a real routine. They have this app called Choremonster. They earn points for doing things they have to that day—getting dressed, putting their clothes in the hamper. Then they earn iPad time or a Pokemon card—they're really into Pokemon right now. As long as we're all on a routine, I don't upset the whole apple cart when suddenly I'm gone for a bunch of days. Everybody knows exactly what to do.

P: Having been together for seven seasons, you've watched Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, and Nolan Gould grow up as your TV kids. You've been a mother figure to them. How have your real-life experiences with them helped prepare you for what's to come with your boys?

JB: Nolan is the only boy. He definitely helps me. I just adore him. He's become such a lovely friend, more than a friend than my own children will probably be allowed to be—because being a good parent doesn't always mean you're friends with your kids. It's really a privilege to get that kind of insight into a teenager's mind. I'm looking at my kids who are a few years away from that and going, 'Oh my gosh, that's what you're really thinking about.' He'll talk to me in a more frank way than my own kids probably ever will. We'll talk about girls or dating or jobs or cars or travel and just hearing his thoughts is so helpful because I know I'm getting access to a vault of information I may never get again.

P: What's the most surprising problem you've already had to work through with your own kids?

JB: Sports. I always thought sports were going to be a thing with boys that took care of itself. Don't they just pick up a ball and run out into the backyard? So realizing that, in fact, you have to encourage it. Getting them involved in team activities has been very challenging at times. Being consistent and supportive of commitments is really important, and I take that directly from my own parents. They would say, 'You don't have to do field hockey, but if you sign up for it you have to see it through.'

JB: I know, I know. Halloween starts at Labor Day and then Christmas starts at Halloween. It sucks.

P: Are you the type of mom to throw a big monster bash?

JB: Are you kidding me?! NEVER. If it was up to me—I am such a Grinch about Halloween. (I realize I'm mixing my holidays.) As kids, we made our own costumes or planned what we were going to wear. My kids—[it's] always the night before. This year I got ahead of them. They were super into Pacman so I got them Pacman costumes. I looked far and wide and found them and I was like 'Ha-ha!' And they're like, 'Mom we're not super into Pacman anymore.' Too bad! You will modify it into something else, I suppose, because I got ahead of it this year. I did not wait until the night before to try and get the Minecraft outfits like last year.

And also, there are too many events surrounding Halloween! Halloween is supposed to be one night after dinner you get sick on candy and it's over and now it's the whole month of October. There's the class parade and then there's the class party—it does not end. We discovered Operation Shoebox. They will take your Halloween candy—anything you can fit in a shoebox—and send it to troops overseas as long as it's not opened, and that is what I do with it—because come on!

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 the resident theater aficionado and has interviewed tons of celeb parents. Follow her on Twitter: @RuthiesATrain.

The process by which your baby becomes a boy or a girl, according to what's written in his or her genetic code, is awe-inspiring. Watch it all unfold.

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