Eva Mendes on setting an example for her daughters: 'The idea that we have to be 1 thing when we grow up is really limiting'

Eva Mendes on her love of Dr. Becky, raising two girls and leaning into her inner hustler. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Eva Mendes on her love of Dr. Becky, raising two girls and leaning into her inner hustler. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

Eva Mendes reckons she's probably done this herself, but asking a child "What do you want to be when you grow up?" now gives her pause. Kids don't want to be just one thing, the mom of two notes; they want to be ballerinas and firefighters and astronauts. So why make them feel like they can't do it all?

"The idea that we have to be one thing when we grow up is really limiting," Mendes, who shares daughters Esmeralda, 7, and Amada, 6, with partner Ryan Gosling, tells Yahoo Life. "So I just want to be able to show my girls, especially [since] they're girls, that no, you can change and shift and you can change your mind at any point, and you can change your major, change your decision. Not to say it's going to be easy and ... you're probably going to quote-unquote 'fail' more than you're going to succeed, but that's part of it. And I want to be the example of that by doing it, and by taking the shame out of failing, specifically."

In her case, that means not solely defining herself as an actress; indeed, aside from a voice acting role on the popular Australian cartoon Bluey last year, her last acting credit was 2014's Lost River, directed by Gosling. "I just feel very connected to my inner hustler," says Mendes, who in addition to raising her two girls, has thrown herself into entrepreneurial opportunities based on what "reflects my life in that moment." The latest is partnering with Skura Style, a line of chic (really), antimicrobial cleaning sponges that indicate when they're ready to be replaced. The cleaning buff signed on as a co-owner and brand ambassador after discovering the women-owned brand's "Skrubby Sponge" while in the throes of the fruit-wiping stages of the pandemic.

The partnership makes sense given that Mendes is a self-described "control freak" who finds cleaning her home to be "cathartic." While she prefers to "kick everyone out of the kitchen" and tackle the mess herself, she's open to the idea of letting her daughters take on chores themselves. After relying on a "clean-up" song for years, getting the girls to tidy up their rooms these days means asking nicely — and, if push comes to shove, threatening to eat their ice cream if it doesn't get done, Mendes laughs, calling that approach a "major mom fail."

"I'm a mom in progress," adds the Hitch star, who is currently in London with her family, who have recently recovered from COVID. Life right now, she says, is "full-on."

"It's fun. It's joyful. It's maddening. It's frightening," Mendes says. "The emotions that we run through in one day — like, it's all there and it's all so raw."

She's not above turning to the professionals for guidance. Like plenty of other moms, she follows parenting gurus Big Little Feelings and describes herself as a "Dr. Becky student," a reference to the popular clinical psychologist whose Good Inside platform features expert advice on everything from sharing to sibling drama. The expert has helped her navigate, and honor, the overwhelming emotions her kids' experience.

"I'm saying [to myself], 'I don't have to have the answer to this. It's OK not to know; just be there with them. Don't let them be alone through it,'" Mendes says. "That's my big takeaway from [Dr. Becky]. And it's really saved me in my biggest parenting situations that I'm confused about. I'll just think of what Dr. Becky says, like, 'just be with them in that feeling, be with them in the not knowing. Don't have them be alone in that space.' And that's really made a huge difference in how I parent."

Though she uses social media mostly to shout out the business projects she feels passionate about and prefers to not post about her personal life, she does enjoy connecting with other parents online, whether she agrees with their advice or methods or not. Last year she shared a quote about choosing not to spank her kids, garnering both praise and criticism.

"I have tons of nieces and nephews and I respect that everyone parents differently," she says of the response. "I have my opinions and sometimes I'm not sure I should let them out, you know? And sometimes [with] social media, I become confused in what it means to me. Like, we don't need another opinion out there. So I'm trying to not just be another opinion, just because I have the platform. I do try to post mindfully and not be tone-deaf, and also just respect that everyone has different beliefs. But I like to post when I feel like, 'Hey, this has helped me. Maybe it helps you.'

"I feel very connected to other parents, even if I disagree with what they're saying," she adds. "I love learning from other parents, and I'll listen. I'll take all and any advice I can get. I might not implement it, but I take it."

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