What's A-Parent is a series highlighting those who get real about the hardships that come with raising kids. These often untold stories help show parents they are not alone in their struggle, and are doing an amazing job.
Today, the pressure to be perceived as the perfect parent seems worse than ever. With so many blogs touting kids meals that look like masterpieces and Instagram posts showing off flawless families, social media can add an extra layer of frustration and competitiveness for parents.
But in the new movie Bad Moms, set to release July 29, a group of overworked and overwhelmed mothers decide the perfect mom gig is not for them. Instead, they indulge in freedom and fun. They party like college kids, drive too fast, and ignore all food labels. You can keep your ceramic "#1 Mom" mug.
"It's a really positive, funny, female-driven movie and it's crazy to me that it was written by two men," Bad Moms star Mila Kunis told A Plus.
“There’s so much pressure we put on ourselves, socially speaking. This movie takes the veil off and exposes everything that we, as humans, put an act on to do. This is a version where there’s no act. It’s just people in their rawest form.”
Such themes are especially relevant to Kunis, who became a mother for the first time in October 2014, when she had her daughter, Wyatt. Soon after, she began to feel those unrealistic expectations set by the myth of "the perfect mom" so many other women experience, too.
Just to name a few things the "perfect mom" is expected to do: schedule playdates, volunteer at school, help with homework, never miss a PTA meeting, throw extravagant birthday parties, work a full-time job, handle all the housework, be a picture-perfect wife, etc., etc., etc. — all with a genuine smile on your face and fulfillment in your heart, of course.
Such an absurd amount of pressure can make any parent feel as though all their effort will never be enough.
"I had so much guilt about going back to work after I had Wyatt. I felt like I was failing as a mother because I wasn't there for her every minute of the day," Kunis said. "It took me a little while to realize that I was a better mom going back to work because when I was with her, I was present 100 percent. If you are with your kid and you are present, and you are there and you're engaged, and you care, then you're a great mom."
Instead of trying to reach this unattainable "perfect mother" status, let's agree to dispel the myth and admit the pressure is too much.
"It’s so taboo to be like, ‘I feel like I’m not perfect.’ You just have to know you’re doing the best you can, and that’s more than enough. I know I’m the best mom Wyatt’s ever had, and I’m the best mom for her.”
If celebrity moms like Kunis can admit this, mothers everywhere should give themselves more credit, too. No one does it all and they certainly don't do it all alone — a hard concept to grasp for any new parent.
Kunis has had to learn to ask for help and take it when it's offered. And fortunately, she's had a strong support system, which, of course, includes her husband Ashton Kutcher.
"It's still taken me so long to figure it out," she said. "There are times where I will ask for help and Ashton literally goes, 'I'm so fucking proud of you,' because it's the hardest thing for me to do."
She went on to praise her husband as being a great father and beyond hands on, saying, "I've never felt like I was in more of a partnership in life than I do with him. Literally, every day it feels like it's me and him against the world. At all times. And, with raising Wyatt, sometimes it takes fathers a little bit of time to connect with the baby. It just does. It didn't take him [any time at all]. He was connected to her before we even conceived her. He's so beautiful and so wonderful and so giving and so generous and so loving that, every day, I wake up and I'm so grateful to have him in my life."
The couple is now expecting their second child together.
Motherhood has changed and surprised Kunis in many other ways, too. For one, she feels a different kind of unconditional love she didn't even know existed before having a daughter.
"I thought that I could not have greater love than the love for my husband," Kunis said. "This is not to be cheesy, but I literally was like this must be the greatest love a human being can have and we both felt that about each other. Then, we had Wyatt and we were like, 'Whoa!'"
Wyatt has also taught her to be more patient and to remind herself that everything will work out. Kunis admits she has a tendency to spiral situations into the worst case scenario, but having a kid has made things so unpredictable that she's had to overcome that habit.
“I was always so structured in my life in a certain way, and having a kid made me be like ‘OK let’s just see what happens.’ You just have to go with it.”
21-month-old Wyatt has learned a few things from her parents, too. "I think that she got my dance moves. She's a really good little dancer. I mean she shakes those hips, I gotta tell you. She loves herself some music," Kunis said.
She's also learned to prank her parents which Kunis believes is nature, not nurture. "She'll pretend to go in for a kiss and then be like, 'No no no no' and start laughing and running away," she said. "I don't know where she got that. I never did that to her. All of a sudden she fully learned the art of a fake out. I feel like my husband is a little bit of a jokester so maybe that's something where it's his personality coming through."
As Wyatt grows up, Kunis hopes to teach her the advice she wishes she could give to herself as a teenager.
"When I was a teenager, everything to me felt so permanent. Everything was so dramatic and it felt immediate and permanent and dark. I wish I could talk to myself and be like, 'Relax, none of this matters. Everything will change.' That's the one thing that I want to instill in her is that it's OK. This may seem like a horrible thing that just happened, but tomorrow don't worry about it. Live and learn versus dwelling. If I can teach her that this is just one hurdle out of many, that this is not the end of the world. This is just the beginning. Just know it's OK to make mistakes and it's OK to fail. It's actually great to fail. You need to fail. Without failure, you'll never have success."
Maybe a few overwhelmed parents could benefit from this advice, too.
Ashton Kutcher is a co-founder of A Plus.