Anyone going through the wonderful journey that is motherhood knows it’s no walk in the park. Just when you think you’ve got it down to a science, there’s a curveball thrown your way.
Actress and new mom Lyndsy Fonseca, star of Disney+'s Turner & Hooch, is learning this first hand and navigating the path in a way that’s perfectly suited to our modern age. The SAG award-nominated actress has always had a passion for child psychology, and focused extra time and effort to parse the best approaches and "tools" to help her work through difficult times.
Having read up on all the latest child science media, she's become a big fan of the "conscious parenting" method. It's a down-to-earth approach that takes the feelings of a child into account and allows them to express and access their deepest emotions. Part of being a mother is to act on instinct, and that’s exactly what Fonseca has done in adopting this philosophy to create space where her three-year-old daughter can flourish.
We chatted with Fonseca to learn how she’s embraced motherhood and conscious parenting, and how she and her husband Noah Bean are raising their daughter in an open-minded environment.
How are you?
I’m okay! I feel like I’m in a constant state of traveling and juggling all of it—and also just being so grateful that this is my problem, and trying to remember to check in with myself. That’s just honestly where I’m at at this moment, in this day.
Where are you based right now?
Well, we live in Los Angeles, but like many actor couples (my husband’s also an actor and producer), we’re rarely where our home is, so we’re just always on the go. Right now I’m calling from Mystic, Conn., where my mother-in-law is. I just wrapped a movie in New Jersey called Spinning Gold, and my husband’s about to shoot a pilot in Manhattan, so we’re staying on the east-cost until he finishes. It’s actually really nice to be in my mother-in-law’s house with family, and have my daughter be able to see her grandma, especially after this crazy year we’ve all had.
How many kids do you have?
We have a three year old. Greta is her name. She’s almost three and a half.
Are you with your daughter now?
Yeah, I actually rarely leave her. She travels with me everywhere. There was one time I had to shoot and my husband was shooting, and so we had to come to an agreement of who would get Greta for longer. I had to go nine days without her so that he could go two weeks without her. It was the hardest nine days of my life. It was honestly awful, but I knew she would never remember it. I knew that it would be harder on me, and that she’ll just be fine in her long life. I just had to keep reminding myself of that.
Does Greta spend time with you on set?
She has in the past, but with COVID, it’s been a lot more difficult and not as safe. We shot Turner & Hooch in Vancouver for eight months, and she only came to set once when my husband had this zoom meeting. I was like, "I know it’s against the rules, but listen, I’m a mom and I gotta have her today." Obviously everyone understood. The great thing about Turner & Hooch is that, for the most part, everyone on set is a parent and gets it. It’s a lot trickier with COVID because she’s not vaccinated yet, and safety-wise, I have to keep her safe. It’s a very different experience nowadays than it used to be when she was a baby.
What’s been the most surprising thing about being a parent?
They say that when you become a parent, you get triggered with your own childhood stuff, for better or worse. It’s really amazing how specific it’s become for me. I’ve been amazed by the shortcomings that have come to focus that I didn’t realize I needed to work on. In addition, there are these things that I was naturally really good at that I had no idea I was good at until I became a mom. Also, every six months they go through these crazy cognitive-behavioral leaps, and you are faced with these new, really easy and really challenging experiences. That’s my favorite thing about parenting: it is a nonstop look into how you can become a better person.
I want to be a better mom all the time, so I’m always saying "oh wow, I see that I really snap at that. That’s where I have a short fuse." When it comes to bedtime and sleep schedules, I’m very regimented. When she’s going through a sleep regression, I noticed I have a shorter fuse, whereas other things, I can be very, "let’s talk about our feelings." If she has a tantrum somewhere, I’m totally fine. I just let her have it, or we can talk through it. It doesn’t trigger me. The sleep stuff triggers me. Why does that trigger me? I dive deep into it. I love being able to reach out and get the tools.
If I have all the tools in my toolbelt, I feel totally prepared as a parent, and when I don’t have those tools, I’m floundering around going "oh my god! I need to figure this out, I need to read a book, I need to listen to a podcast." I need to have the information to have the tools so I have them to deal with when those situations come up.
Could you explain a little about conscious parenting and how you’ve approached it?
I didn’t know before I became a parent what that really meant and what that was. When I started researching the different theories or methods on parenting, it always was the one that seemed the most respectful for the child. That was a big thing. I can recall a lot of moments in my life that there’s shame around. I was a very expressive child, much like my daughter, and there’s a lot of moments in which I feel shame around certain big feelings. I think one of my favorite things about conscious parenting is that, really at the core of it, it’s all about eliminating shame, eliminating the kid being wrong, and having the tools as a parent to guide them but allow them to be children.
I think sometimes we don’t really know what kind of parents we’re going to be—especially with your partner. You have your first kid, and as the kids get older, you don’t really know who’s going to be the disciplinarian. Sometimes you think you know. What I didn’t realize is that I don’t have a problem with being strict and having boundaries. Other parents struggle with creating boundaries. That wasn’t my problem. My problem has been more of a challenge to find the tools to create environments in which she feels completely able to express herself, because I see so much of myself in her, and I want those big feelings to be allowed.
What is the most important thing to you, regarding parenting? Is it the elimination of shame and the ability to express yourself as a kid?
It’s one of my biggest topics, I think as a parent. Eliminating shame and allowing her to go through the age-appropriate process. We can guide them, and we can give them the tools, but I think it’s really hard to not have full control as a parent. They’re just these separate beings. They’re their own people.
I’ve noticed for myself, when I have moments of frustration or shorter fuses, it’s usually because I feel totally out of control. If I can lean into that and I can say "she’s her own person, she’s processing something, and I don’t have the ability to be in control about this," I can set my boundaries. I can talk through it. I can let her feel acknowledged and validated, but this is going to be something where all I can do is guide her in these moments. It’s just being there, for example. Not just saying stuff, but actually showing them an example.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of conscious parenting?
Well, by far the most rewarding is the laughter. My kid is so freaking funny. She brings so much joy into my husband and I’s lives. It’s amazing. She’s so expressive, so verbally advanced for her age that she says some crazy sh**. She’s so communicative, and I just laugh all the time. You can go through your adult life and your day-to-day moments of what you need to get done, juggling everything, and they’re living in their own existence. They really bring you back to this genuine, pure state of existence, and it’s the ultimate gift. It’s really fantastic.
What has been the most challenging?
I think it’s the boring logistics of being a parent. If we go here and we need to do this, then do we bring Greta? How do we get someone to watch her when we do this? This is her naptime, etc. I’ve got a younger child, so I’m still at the tail end of the toddler years. I really think it’s the logistics of trying to live your life but also honor their schedule, and deal with the logistics of having a child with you.
Have you noticed a difference in how your children experience the world versus how you remember you experiencing it as a child?
It’s just a different time. She’s living life in a different generation, so there are those things. My parents divorced when I was two, so I think there’s the fact that my husband and I are always with her, for the most part. We’ve never had full-time nanny help. We’ve had grandparents help here and there, and we’ve had babysitters for date nights and events, but we’ve never had a full-time carer, so she’s really with us a lot. I don’t remember spending that much time with my father at this age. Watching her have that bond with my husband, and having her have that foundation at these early stages of life was really important for my husband and I.
The world’s current climate is a very difficult one, with everything from climate change to issues of race. How do these things play into your psychology of parenting?
They’re very important to us. Those are two topics that we are active about, because when you live a life like ours, which is a white privileged life, it’s very easy to live in your bubble. Greta doesn’t have to see anything other than the bubble of our home. Our responsibility as parents who are conscious in today’s political climate and today’s climate is that we have to actively give her those experiences. It can be as simple as having people around us, dolls around us that are diverse.
I will say 100 percent, one of the biggest issues with this idea of liberal white parenting is that it's a trap to assume they’ll just understand. Psychology and science have actually proven that, unless you’re talking to your child about these hard topics, they’re not gonna just get it. There are a lot of neurological and scientific studies with children that explain these different experiments where they show a black doll and a white doll and they say which one’s bad and good and things like that, and you’re like ‘but my kid has a diverse group of friends.' Doesn’t matter. If you’re not having the conversation of race and privilege and what society is going through and history, the child’s not going to understand.
Obviously, with the three-and-a-half year old, we talk about age-appropriate things, but we talk about everything. A family member, one of Greta’s cousins, is an adopted mixed-race child, and Greta was caressing their hair and asking all these questions. It’s very easy to say "we don’t touch other peoples hair," but this is a beautiful opportunity to talk about where this child came from, and the history of their lineage, and how it can be beneficial to our life. One of the things I try and teach Greta is what a gift it is to know so many different kinds of people, because they influence us. One of my favorite quotes was "If you don’t have your child have a teacher or a person of authority in their life that looks different from them, then that’s a great, great loss to them," because they’re not looking up to people that look different for advice and guidance and culture and different ideas. That’s very important to us.
We also talk to Greta very, very intensely about waste. Everyone knows a toddler wants to run water all day long, but we say we have to save it for the whales, and we talk in a way that she can understand for a three-and-a-half year old. If she wants to buy a Toy Story plastic water bottle, we say we don’t buy plastic. We have water at home, we don’t need that. We can do a Woody picture instead of buying a Woody water bottle.
I think it’s also about just letting them have experiences that are fun, and that open their mind up. Ultimately, kids take in things that are around at the time. Instead of badgering a kid about stuff that they need to know, it’s like, "let’s have fun with all of this information."
You said you hadn’t really heard of conscious parenting before you became a mom. What inspired you to take on this method of parenting?
I just did so much investigating. I love child psychology, and I just found myself connecting to the method. It felt right to me. I find, again, the way that it anchors for me in my truth is through shame. Maybe that’s because I was a very expressive child, and I feel like I had moments in my life that sort of were shamed, but I feel as a parent that it just felt right. You’re only a child for such a short period of time. When I listen to Nurture vs Nurture, which is one of my favorite podcasts, I connect with it. I’m like, "yes, this makes sense! This will allow children to be able to just be children."
I find that conscious parenting is really about honoring the child and their childhood experience. I think a big misconception is that they get full reign of the house, or that they have zero rules and zero boundaries. It’s about honoring childhood and allowing them to flourish in that very small moment of their life.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I didn’t already ask?
Every little moment that your kid's going through, whether it’s stubbornness or tantrums, there are so many resources out there. I think a lot of parents get stuck in this like, "I should know how to deal with this. I can’t believe I can’t control my boy or girl," and a lot of times, the instinct is to go into a stricter mode. Usually, if you reach out to the right resources, what you find to just acknowledge where they’re at.
"Sportscasting” is a term that just completely changed my life as a parent of a toddler. Basically, you just talk about what the kid’s going through, like "I see that you’re having a hard time. You’re having a big emotion about that. Okay, let’s allow that to happen." It’s amazing the power that has. As parents, we just need to reach out and watch our community ... because then we don’t feel so frustrated or alone. In short, it would be that you don’t have to suffer alone. Zen mammas, like the Teresa Palmers of the world, they’re out there, and they’re talking about this conscious parenting. Dr. Becky on Instagram, Montessori approaches—there are so many incredible resources out there. You don’t have to struggle through a difficult moment.
Photography by: The Riker Brothers