In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Cobie Smulders works alongside the Avengers as former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill. But at home, she's just another mom trying to survive summer vacation.
"I have so much respect and so much adoration for the single moms of this world because my husband is in Europe right now shooting a film and he's been there for like a month and it's like ... summertime, baby," she tells Yahoo Life. "There's no school. It's camp Mommy. It is a for real marathon of patience and staying awake."
When she does get some downtime, Smulders' morning routine sounds like most moms': "When I have the extra energy, I get up really early and have my little coffee moment, return some emails and try to get a workout in to help with the general stress," she says. "I try to find those moments and when I have them, try to shut off the mommy brain."
The former How I Met Your Mother star has two daughters who are 7 and 13. Canadian-born Smulders calls this "a real challenging time to be raising women right now in this country," but says she has hope her girls will accomplish great things.
"I also wanna say it's an amazing opportunity," she says, "because my girls are so much more outspoken, so much more confident, so much more open than I was when I was a girl. I don't know where that came from ... We're in a society that's fraught with division right now but it's just like so nice that they know who they are and what they think is right and to stand up and fight for that. I'm really excited to be able to support that."
Overall, Smulders says she'd describe her and husband Taran Killam's parenting philosophy as a bit of "guesswork" and "day-to-day existence."
"It's like, I just try to be respectful to my children and listen to them. For me, the most important thing — my dream as a parent — is for my kids to be able to talk to me about anything," she shares. "That's my goal, that's my ambition. Do I meet that goal? Some days. Some days, I don't. But in terms of relationship, that's the most important thing."
The 40-year-old actress says she also has a "no jerk" policy. "I could use more colorful words, but I'm not going to," she says. "Don't be a jerk, be kind, have empathy, show up for other people, support other people — that's our main job. That's our number one thing."
Still, in the face of teenage attitudes and childhood meltdowns, Smulders says it can be tough to always be supportive. When frustrations arise, she tries to remember what her own youth was like.
"I play this game with myself where I'm like, 'What was 13-year-old Cobie like?'" she says. "She was a frickin' monster. She was a monster. And not only behaviorally but just also the emotions — trying to tap back into what that period of my life was like, which was so heightened. Everything was the biggest deal, right?"
"So when your kid is having this breakdown over the fact that they didn't get that toy or this person said this," she adds, "or I'm dealing with a lot of, 'She looked at me like this,' and I'm like, 'I don't know what to say. I can't control how people are looking at you. I can control words, but I can't control sassy looks right now.' But that reaction — those feelings — are real, and they're allowed to have them, but they have to look at perspective."
One of the ways Smulders tries to give her daughters perspective is by taking them with her on set.
"It can seem very glitzy and glamorous, but when you're on set it's not that way," she says. "What I do like to do is have them come to set so they can understand — because as actors we get a lot of the credit for these projects but it's really important for me to be like, 'This is Bob and he's a grip and this is the sound department and this is the lighting department and this is hair and makeup and this is wardrobe.' I want them to understand that this is a group effort and a job for so many people. I want them to know I am part of a team."
Smulders, who recently appeared in the season finale of Hulu's How I Met Your Father, spoke with Yahoo Life as part of her work promoting Colgate and the brand's Colgate Smile Fund. Through the fund, Colgate will invest in non-profit organizations that help equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in school and outside of the classroom. In its first year, donations will be made to City Year, which provides mentorship in underserved schools.
For Smulders, whose own father was a dentist for 40 years before retiring, the collaboration was a natural fit. "I've used Colgate my whole life," she says. "My father just drilled into me every night, 'brush your teeth, floss your teeth.' I do it every night and every morning and I've never had a cavity. I always say, you don't have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you wanna keep."
So does this dentist-raised actress have advice for parents on how to get kids to brush their teeth consistently?
"You just gotta be adamant about it," she says. "There's no fancy thing — you just have to create the routine and stick to it. My kids hate going to the dentist, so I always do kind of use that like, 'If you don't like getting your teeth cleaned twice a year, you aren't going to like having to go in for more dental work.'"
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.