Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.
Shay Mitchell has gone from starring in Pretty Little Liars to raising a little one, welcoming daughter Atlas with partner Matte Babel in October 2019. The Canadian actress tells Yahoo Life her approach to parenting can best be described as "no stress" — whether that means shutting out negative vibes or protecting her daughter's skin health.
Here, Mitchell opens up about giving herself grace — and some essential me time — as a new mom, passing on her Filipina heritage to her daughter and partnering with Pampers Swaddlers.
What about Pampers Swaddlers appealed to you as a mom?
Skin health is definitely something I didn't know much about prior to having a baby. I thought I was prepared with all these different lotions and potions and everything, but truly, when I thought about it, I was like, wait a minute, she spends 23 hours a day in diapers, give or take... And so now having that experience and seeing how comfortable she is, how much it truly is such an absorbent diaper and keeps the moisture away — that is the best thing for skin health. Healthy skin starts with a diaper that keeps skin dry, and I can definitely attest to that now, being a mum.
Do you have a parenting philosophy that you follow?
I don't really have a label for my sort of parenting. I think it's just, like, "no stress" [laughs]. If that's one, then that's what we follow. Matte and I are pretty even-keeled when it comes to all things her. For me, it's important that she doesn't feel that [negative] energy. I myself feel when other people are stressed, and I don't want her to ever feel that way. I also think that it doesn't really help anything; we're going to try to be as prepared as we can, but at the end of the day, so you can only do your best, right? So everything else that can come up and pop up and be unexpected, you just have to deal with it as best as you can.
You've posted about trying to be the best version of yourself for your daughter. What does that look like for you right now?
It means taking time for yourself. That could be 30 minutes to an hour, however long you feel you need, to do something for yourself. I think that's definitely been an incredible lesson that I've learned, that I couldn't just be giving all of my energy to everybody else and not saving any for myself. I think that as new parents, you can kind of get caught up and just forget about what you need, too, as a human. And so now spending the time to organize my day and work it out with whoever I need to so that I have a half an hour to an hour of time just for myself, however I want to spend that, is incredibly important. And I do believe that it makes you a better human all around: better partner, better business partner and especially a better mom.
You were praised early on in your mom journey for helping to normalize breastfeeding. How did that moment come about?
Truthfully, I wasn't being like, "I'm breastfeeding my baby, take a photo." I was at a photo shoot, doing my job and what I do every day, and I needed to feed her. So I put her on my lap, I fed her, the photographer took a photo of us and I thought it was beautiful and I posted it. It wasn't really like, "I need to normalize this, let me show everybody that I breastfeed my daughter." No, it was just that I was at my job doing what I do, and this is what happened. And I also just think it's so natural, and I thought it was a beautiful image that I wanted to share. So there wasn't that much thought behind it.
Did people take it any way that they did? Yeah. There were some people that thought it was a nice photo. There were some people that thought I shouldn't post it, but I don't ever really pay attention to any of that. I do what feels right for me, and I thought it was a beautiful photo so I put it out. It wasn't really like [taking] a stand behind normalizing anything, although I feel like it should be, because it is very natural. But that was just a photo that happened to be literally taken in the moment.
When you have a public profile, you tend to have a lot of people commenting on your parenting. How do you tune that out?
As long as I feel like I'm doing the best job that I can, and I can go and sleep peacefully at night, then I'm doing a great job. And I think as new parents, we're always wondering and always setting our expectations so high. I think what we can all do is just give ourselves a little bit more of a break and know that we're doing the best that we can.
What are your favorite special moments with Atlas, especially now that she's hitting the toddler stage?
Our moments of joy are when she wakes up and just having that morning time with her. I think it's so funny how she tries to wake us up; I usually bring her into our bed in the morning. And it's so much fun to see her throughout the day, just her little mannerisms coming out and seeing a little of myself coming out in her, or Matte in her... Seeing the world through their eyes is so incredible, especially in a time that was a little different for us, over the past year. It's just cool to see what she feels is exciting. The bird outside the window is something I hadn't paid attention to before, and now I'm excited when it comes; seeing how excited she gets make a world of difference. It's those little things.
What are your hopes for her in the years to come?
I just want her to live a life [where] she feels she can be the most authentic and real to who she is, and who she wants to be, whatever that is. I want her to have the confidence that she can take on anything, and that she always knows she can come back to us, but I want her to be strong and independent and know that the world is her oyster, as I was told too.
Your mom is Filipina. Are there any customs you're passing down to Atlas?
There aren't any customs, but I'd definitely says she loves Filipino food. She loves pancit [noodlee dishes] and noodles and everything, so introducing some of the cuisine has been exciting. Then again, there's nothing truly that Atlas isn't liking at the moment. We really try to incorporate everything that we're eating and she seems to enjoy all of it. But definitely the Filipino cuisine is something she gravitates toward.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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