RedEye

Tips from an 'Instant Mom'

Nia Vardalos didn't enter motherhood with ease. This Canadian-born, Second City-trained actress and author (most well known for writing and starring in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding,") pulls back the curtain on her struggles to become a mom in her new book, "Instant Mom" (Harper One).

"We're all instant moms — no matter how your child has come to you, no one is ever prepared for this daunting responsibility of keeping a child alive," she said.

Vardalos adopted a daughter in 2008 with her husband, actor Ian Gomez, after a decade of trying to become a mom.

"We struggled with fertility treatments and then we had so many 'almosts' with the adoption process and it was heartbreaking," she said. "When we were finally matched with a 3-year-old girl who was in foster care I realized all of those mis-steps that didn't work out — they were meant to not happen. I would do it all again because every single thing that didn't work led me to this incredible little girl. "

Daughter Ilaria is now a "thriving" 7-year-old.

"Every day there's a new discovery," Vardalos said. "She was telling a story in the kitchen the other day about how she was going to kiss a boy but there's a 'no-kissing' policy in school and she was so funny about it and I just looked at her thinking, 'I can't believe how she's grown up into this amazing little person.'"

In honor of Mother's Day, here are some lessons Vardalos has learned through the process of becoming a mom:

Support other moms.

"I met mothers on the playground of other 3-year-olds who looked well-groomed and rested and I looked like I was homeless because I was trying to negotiate with a child I didn't know and feed her and bathe her. And they came over and talked to me and recognized the dazed and confused look in my eyes that they themselves had when they had an infant. We became friends, and that was huge because they said, 'I've been there.' You need to have that sense of community."

Don't take it personally.

Vardalos said if our children lash out, it could have nothing to do with us.

"When my daughter would have trouble sleeping and she would cry and panic, and coming from foster care, she was so used to having people come and go," she said. "So I couldn't take this behavior personally. Just remembering this really helped me. She was in survival mode and thinking 'don't leave me.' That was really enlightening for me."

Empower your child.

"Now that she's almost 8, I let Ilaria make her own choices," she said. "For example, with food, I'm trying to give her the gift of organization and to process and so she fills her own backpack. I will make lunch for her, but I really say 'Listen to your body.' So if she says, 'I want chocolate,' and I say, 'Sure,' because she will have one bite of it and then she's done. If I withhold it then she would want more and overindulge."

Be fearless.

"When I am happiest is when I'm being a fearless idiot. I'm not talking about being reckless, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It's about saying 'I'm going to parachute.' I'm very happy right now because I challenge myself in that I wrote from a place of 'This is how I feel. I don't care what you think,' and that's really rare for me. And the stories people are sharing with me since I've talked about my struggles are amazing. It's opened a dialogue about being fallible and saying 'Just because I can't have my own child, doesn't mean I've failed.'"

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Spring cleaning by giving back

    Spring cleaning by giving back

    How to de-clutter by donating your unused items

  • Wedding trends for 2013

    Out: Bridezilla. In: Crowdsourcing. Check out what else wedding experts say is hot this year

  • Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Chicago sues red light camera firm for $300 million

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has sued Chicago's former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, for more than $300 million on grounds the entire program was built on a $2 million bribery scheme at City Hall that has already led to federal corruption convictions.

  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

Comments
Loading
79°