Mandy Moore is opening up about the feelings of isolation she's experienced since giving birth to son Gus in February, particularly as a new mom amid the pandemic.
In Lansinoh's IG Live talk with clinical psychologist and perinatal mental health specialist Ashurina Ream, the actress and singer spoke candidly about the challenges of being a new parent.
"I had these preconceived notions of myself going into motherhood," Moore told Ream. "Obviously I knew it was going to be challenging, but I thought, 'Oh, I maybe have this sort of naturally maternal side,' whatever the heck that means. But I guess I just didn't really recognize the worries, the fears, the sense of responsibility that is so ever-present moving forward once you become a mom."
Noting that, as a nursing mother, "my life sort of is existing in these two- to three-hour increments" at the moment, the 37-year-old confided that she's found motherhood to be "so strangely isolating," even with the help of her "very supportive husband," musician Taylor Goldsmith. That loneliness has been compounded by the pandemic.
"I guess when I imagined motherhood, I sort of imagined like, oh, you find community... and you go to Mommy-and-Me classes and baby classes," she said. "And I'm sure that's a reality for some people in different parts of the country, but I don't know if it's something that I would feel necessarily the most comfortable with at this point in time, just considering what we're kind of living through. And so it's having to reframe these expectations that you've had about what it's like to be a mom and what it's like to connect with people. The isolation is something that's really hit me that I wasn't necessarily expecting."
The Emmy-nominated actress plays a mom of triplets on the NBC drama This is Us, but shared that "playing a mom on a television show is maybe one iota of what it's like to be a parent." During the discussion, she admitted asking co-star Milo Ventimiglia for advice on holding and swaddling a baby when working with infants on the set.
"Having one child is like a whole new ball game for me," Moore continued. "I kind of joke around, like, 'Can I go back now? Can we start the series from the beginning because I just have some little inkling now what it's like to be a parent that I didn't before?' ... But I think just the reality of postpartum [life] versus what I was sort of expecting, having played a mom already and knowing that that oxytocin wash was not gonna last forever, and the isolation — it is something that's been really surprising. You just, without thinking about it, reprioritize everything in life."
Moore added that she's also struggled to maintain her friendships, because "I personally don't have a ton of friends who have babies." Describing herself as shy by nature, she said that it's been "hard to find community" since becoming a mother.
"Putting yourself out there and trying to find a new community of new moms to sort of be able to bounce ideas off of and talk to you and confide in is intimidating," she shared. "I'm actually a really shy person, and so I've found it hard to reach out and try to find people to connect."
The former teen star also opened up about other challenges she's faced as a mom, including trying to "stay connected to myself and my identity outside of just being a mom." She described leaving Gus at home for the first time last week to go hiking in the mountains with two fellow moms, noting that "physically I needed to do something for myself; I needed to tap into something that I was passionate about before he was here." During the trip, however, she grappled with guilt at being away while feeling physically overwhelmed by the hike. The experience, she told Ream, has helped her process the "unrealistic expectations" she can set for herself and recognize the need to "show myself some grace" rather than beat herself up for not meeting those goals.
Moore also spoke about feeling "inadequate" sometimes as a mom. She shared that the attention she received during the pregnancy left her feeling "on top of the world," only to then be plunged into the depths of postpartum life.
"Everything shifts to the baby," she explained. "The baby obviously should take priority, but moms should take priority right alongside [them]... At around three months [after giving birth], I was hit with this wave of just not feeling good enough. I think it coincided with the chaos and the energy of those early months and weeks starting to wane; our time with sort of extra support was coming to an end... It was really scary and it makes me emotional to think about now. I still feel like I'm in it, but I'm finding my footing.
She continued, "I think as his needs really started to continue to change... I just felt this rush of like, 'I'm not good enough for him. I don't know how to be his mom. I know how to feed him, but beyond that, am I suited for this?' I just felt so ineffective, and I would look at my husband who just seemed to have a supernatural ability to take care of Gus. Like, he could make him smile. He could make him laugh. He would get on the floor and roll around with him. And I just felt like whatever I did it just wasn't right, and I couldn't get him to sleep and it made me feel horrible."
She added that she'd have Goldsmith put the baby down at bedtime because she found the experience triggering.
"I'd look at other mom friends of mine online living this like seemingly picture-perfect existence of what I imagined it was supposed to be," she said. "And I'm like, 'what am I missing here?'"
Moore has since come to be more forgiving of herself and to accept that motherhood comes with ebbs and flows that she'll work through.
"I'm still learning. I know nothing, but I'm still here putting myself through the paces of just stopping and breathing through it," she said. "Recognizing that I'm best when I trust my own instincts, remembering that everything is a phase."