You know Molly Ringwald as the freckled, angst-filled teenage star of the 80s. But with her just-released book, Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick, she’s here to tell you she’s so much more than that. She’s a wife, actress, writer, and, most importantly, mom (to daughter Mathilda, 6, and twins, Adele & Roman, 10 months) – a role she loves to talk about. We caught up with her to dish about the best parenting advice she’s ever received, playing the bad cop, and why she’s okay disciplining other people’s kids. – Andrea Zimmerman
Your book is called Getting the Pretty Back, which is all about remembering the vivacious woman from our youths. How do you get the pretty back?
I don’t really love working out, [but] I stay consistent with it, because I know if my body’s in shape, my mind will be in better shape; the two go together. Being in the best shape possible is important. It’s easy to let yourself go and say, “Oh, I don’t have time to do this or that,” but it’s important to make time for yourself. [Exercising] is always going to be inconvenient. I have three kids and a husband and we all have schedules, so it’s never been easy to say, “Okay, I need an hour for myself.” But it’s really important to in order to recharge your batteries.
You say that taking that hour or two away from your husband and kids has actually made you a better parent.
I think so. We all want to be good parents, and it’s easy to say, “I’m just going to live for them.” Yes, my kids are incredibly important, and, yes, my kids come first, but I know that as a parent I need to come to them with a fresh mind. I can’t be too exhausted or too tired. And I am a better parent [after I take time off] – I have more energy, more fun.
Can “keeping the pretty” apply to your relationship with your husband? How do you recover from marriage ruts?
Marriage is a commitment, one of the strongest commitments you can make to a person. It’s certainly not easy. The people who think you get married and live happily ever after and ride off into the sunset are people who have probably never been married. It is difficult, and when you throw kids in the mix, it’s even more difficult. I think [my husband and I] have gone through a lot together, and we have a commitment to working on the relationship. The key is communication.
What’s your parenting style?
I’m very honest with my kids, especially my six-year-old. I’m not honest to the point where I’m talking about things that she’s too young for, but I’ve tried to figure out a way to talk to her about difficult subjects in ways she can understand. We had a conversation yesterday about why there was war. I related it to the playground.
You talk about maintaining friendships with people that don’t have children. Why is that so important to you?
It’s very easy to think that our way is the only way, and it’s very easy to lose who you were before you had kids. It’s very important to remember that while you are a mother, that’s not all you are. You’re still a woman. I feel like I’m a woman, a mother, a wife, an actress, a writer, all these different things. And seeing friends or people who don’t have kids allows you to access that part of yourself. Also, I don’t think your friends should be abandoned because of their choice to not have children, and they shouldn’t have to lose their friends, either.
Who’s the bad cop – you or your husband?
I tend to be a little more of the disciplinarian. He’s more of a softie. We’re very different people, but I think he knows that what Mommy says is the way that it is; I don’t back down.
What’s your best childhood memory with your mom?
Cooking. My mom was always in the kitchen. She was a stay-at-home mom until I left the nest, so she was there a lot when I was a kid. She was also the “room mother” for all our classes at school, and she always made these incredible cookies, which were always decorated and beautiful. I remember being so proud that my mom did that.
Do you see similarities between your kids and yourself as a child?
Yes! My daughter is very headstrong, especially with style and how she wants to do things. At one point she almost reduced me to tears because she wouldn’t wear these expensive patent leather boots I bought her. She has a great sense of style, but it’s different than what I would wear. One of the hardest things parents have to accept is that they have to let their children express themselves, to love them and allow them to be different.
You tell a funny story in your book about disciplining a group of kids who were calling your daughter names. Would you mind another mom disciplining your kids?
When I lived in France, I noticed every parent would reprimand other children just by saying, “Hey, that’s inappropriate” or “Don’t do that.” And other parents would appreciate that. But in the United States, moms tend to say, “Hey, that’s my kid, stay away.” Personally, I wouldn’t mind if another parent reprimanded my child if my child was saying or doing something inappropriately, especially something dangerous. But it’s about how it’s done. If it’s done respectfully and constructively, I have no problem. If another parent is saying something abusive to my kid, that’s not okay.