Actress and director Laura Prepon has played plenty of memorable roles in her life—feminist teenager Donna Pinciotti on That ‘70s Show and prison inmate Alex Vause on Orange Is the New Black both come to mind—but her newest one is mom to 1-year-old Ella, who she shares with husband Ben Foster. Here she speaks to The Local Mom’s Network about how motherhood has fundamentally changed her life, from how she cooks to how much she worries (hint: both are more now).
How would you describe your life before and after becoming a parent?
Man, it is completely different—but it’s everything I’ve always wanted. Being a mother and a wife is something I waited my whole life for. For me, I used to take a lot of risks without much thought at all. I wasn’t a worrier. And I would put myself in situations that were challenging and hard and dangerous.
Are there things you miss about pre-baby life?
One thing I really try to do and I know it’s not easy, is to try to not lose who I was before I became a mother. I’m not going to go ride my motorcycle or climb a dangerous mountain and almost get altitude sickness again, like I did when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro the year before I had Ella, but I want to go to Peru and climb Machu Picchu and bring our daughter with us, because that’s doable and safe.
That idea of not losing yourself—how does that carry over into your relationship?
We have our date nights no matter what it is. And getting someone to watch our daughter so we can have a stayover. Whether you’re staying at a nice hotel or a Motel 6 and packing a picnic with a bottle of wine, just go and be yourself with your partner without having your child or children there.
What surprised you about becoming a mom?
You hear about the mother protection mode or maternal instincts—someone lifting the car off of a 2-year-old and having superpowers. I didn’t realize becoming a mother would change me on such a cellular level. Every cell in my body worries about her and her wellbeing and making sure she is nourished. When I first had my daughter I was stressed out…I didn’t realize babies came out smiling. They’re so tiny. They sleep all the time and they don’t become themselves until they’re six months, crack a smile, you see their personality. When she was little I was so worried about her breathing in the middle of the night watching their chest rise and fall. And then as they get older and more sturdy and that has helped.
You wrote The Stash Plan: Your 21-Day Guide to Shed Weight, Feel Great, and Take Charge of Your Health. Are you all about feeding your daughter healthy foods?
I cook everything for my kid. I love it. One of the reasons why I wanted to start my YouTube channel was after my first book I kept getting questions from fans and other followers, how to stay healthy and be simple and easy. I saw moms struggling to find time to make healthy food for their family.
Right—I love your super simple chicken recipe that you shared, which you can use in everything from salad to pasta. Definitely trying that soon!
My mom taught me how to cook chicken like that when I was 12-years-old! I go to work in the dark a lot of times and come home when my daughter is asleep, and that’s hard not to see them and I want to make healthy food for whoever is watching her to heat up and also bring to work to nourish myself. How often do we just eat their leftover cereal?
So how do you avoid resorting to Cheerios for late dinners?
I batch cook like my mother taught me when I was young. I’ll go to the farmers market and get squash and chicken! You chop up squash, throw it in roasting pan and it gets sweet. You can do other stuff while it’s cooking. Or you can prep it in the morning and cook it when you get home. My daughter just pops it in her mouth. I’m also obsessed with bone broth. My daughter has been drinking it as soon as I got the okay from her pediatrician. It’s literally like a multi vitamin in a cup.
Does your daughter have a favorite food?
My kid loves soups. If you get squash from a farmers market, roast it on a pan and reheat them and your kid can pop them in their mouth like bit size chunks or throw them in a broth and puree it for a butternut squash soup that’s packed with nutrients. Heat it in a pan with cut up chicken chunks. You can freeze it in individual containers. Cooking is very meditative for me.
Is it odd filming a relatively intense show like Orange Is the New Black and coming home to a toddler—intense in a whole other way?
It’s a juxtaposition of going from very hard days—but everyone has hard days at work—and when you come home and your kid is walking home with a bucket on their head! My priorities are so laser sharp now—everything is my family, my husband. Because my priorities are so sharp and so in line, it makes my work not so stressful. I really don’t bring it home. I love talking to mothers who have all different types of jobs. Being a working mother is difficult so any tips I get, I love to share.
So who do you turn to for parenting advice?
I have some friends who are working mothers who have intense jobs that put things into perspective. Having a community of mothers around you is so important and I didn’t realize how important that is until I became a mother. It takes a village. Things like The Local Moms Network and what you’re doing is so important because it builds that community.
For more great parenting tips from Laura Prepon, visit her YouTube channel. And for more interviews of moms who are inspiring us, go to our new Profile section.