Laura Prepon is no stranger to setting boundaries. The actress, New York Times bestselling author, and mom of two is notorious for keeping her private life just that: private. She has yet to share the name of her 3-month-old son, she hid an eating disorder from the cast of That 70s Show, and when it comes to anything that has to do with her husband or her children, she always discusses the pros and cons with her family, and as a family, before moving forward.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in my industry for over 20 years,” Prepon told HeyMama. “And it’s a wonderful industry, and I love it, but your privacy is something you give up, especially now that there are smartphones. Everyone has a camera where they can take a picture and put it up online. Everywhere you go, everyone is a photographer. So it’s kind of a different ballgame now.”
But instead of adapting to the “different ballgame,” Prepon decided to switch up the sport entirely and play by a different set of rules — a set she created by and for herself. In her book You and I, as Mothers: A Raw and Honest Guide to Motherhood, Prepon pulls back the curtain on motherhood in general and her experiences specifically, offering a level of insight and reflection that reads like an intimate conversation one might have with a mom-friend over a cup of coffee (or something stronger).
“I knew that [writing this book] was going to be a very vulnerable situation for me,” Prepon said. “But because I felt like it was really important to have this conversation, I decided to put myself out there.” For Prepon, realizing the power of being free from the guards we moms put up — be it the alluring picture-perfect social media posts that filter out the messy aspects our lives or leaning into the “you can have it all” cultural messaging moms are constantly bombarded by that leaves us shouldering the majority of the child-rearing and household responsibilities — came after she disclosed the loss of a pregnancy.
“When I shared that, I can’t tell you how many women reached out to me, thanking me, saying they had had similar experiences,” she said. “I had just never really heard about it and was like, ‘Why aren’t more women talking about this?’ Because it’s happened to so many women.”
While the book offers readers a glimpse into Laura Prepon’s otherwise private life, it also creates an ongoing dialogue between not only Prepon and the reader, but Prepon’s friends, whom she refers to as her “mom squad.”
“One of the reasons why I didn’t just share my stories, but include my ‘mom squad,’ was because there are so many different perspectives,” Prepon explained. “Not every reader might relate to how I might deal, personally, with communication. But they might relate to how Jenji Kohan does, or Mila Kunis. There are also questions for the reader at the end of every chapter, for them to reflect on their own situation. It was just really important to me that this book felt like you were getting advice from a friend or a sister or a group of women who’re all going through what you’re going through. I really tried to make it feel like a dialogue to give that sense of community.”
Laura Prepon has also been fostering a sense of community remotely these days, scheduling regular Zoom calls with her girlfriends, staying engaged with fans via social media, and embarking on a virtual book tour. As a result, Prepon has heard from a number of women — some moms, and some who are not and may never become moms — who are able to apply aspects of Prepon’s book to their lives and how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“What’s funny is, dealing with this pandemic as well as so many of the things we go through in motherhood — the isolation, lack of community, anxiety, stress, not being able to nourish ourselves the way we normally do — all these things are such a parallel,” Prepon said. “By no means am I saying that being a mother is like getting through a pandemic, although at times it does feel that way, what I’m saying is that a lot of women who’ve reached out to me can apply a lot of the tools in the book to their current circumstances, which makes me really happy. It’s helping them.”
But maintaining a connection with her community — be it friends, fans, or avid book readers — is difficult under normal circumstances for the mom of two. And right now, we’re not living under normal circumstances. Laura Prepon is also in pre-production for a film she’s directing, her husband is in the preliminary stages of directing his own movie (which involves spending his time watching Zoom auditions of various actors), and they have two young children to care for, meals to cook, dishes to clean, and a Brooklyn apartment to sanitize.
“Every time a box comes, everything stops,” Prepon said. “We keep everything sanitary and wipe the knobs on the doors… It’s this whole other procedure that we have to do, you know? So between work and all the house stuff and spending time with our children and doing school for our toddler and taking care of our newborn, it’s a lot.”
Which is when Prepon’s boundary-setting comes back into play. It’s an art she has mastered in both the public eye and privately and is key to being able to take care of her wants and needs in the midst of so much uncertainty, overwhelm, and a slew of additional responsibilities borne out of the current public health crisis.
“I think it’s really important to set boundaries, especially now that we’re all staying at home and self-isolating,” she said. “There are so many times when I have to work, but I still have to clean and I still have to cook and do all this stuff. So I talk to my husband and I’m like, ‘From this time to this time, I really need to work and I need you to do this.’ And visa versa.”
Laura Prepon has even perfected the subtle art of setting boundaries with her kids, an ability any mom who has been touched out can tell you is difficult to master but vital for one’s mental health.
“Even with my toddler, just setting those boundaries of ‘when mommy is working, you have a daddy. Don’t come knocking on this door.’ And staying firm with that,” she said. “So even with my kids I try to set those boundaries. And it’s also up to my partner, who is watching them, to keep them away from the door.”
Setting and adhering to boundaries is a quality rarely celebrated in moms. From the moment we get a positive pregnancy test or however we find out we’re about to become parents, we’re told to sacrifice every aspect of our lives for the sake of our new human charge. If we carry our babies, we give up complete bodily autonomy for 40 weeks (more or less) of pregnancy. No matter how our babies come into our lives, we sacrifice sleep in the name of late-night feeding sessions, rearrange priorities and schedules, and in many cases, even give up our careers. But there’s no honor in sacrificing everything, Prepon says, and it is through her book that she shows moms how to be vulnerable yet secure, forthright but particular, an open book that still has secrets.
“Nobody gets anywhere by being a martyr,” Prepon said. “I think in general, it’s just about leaning on people. There’s only one you, and that’s something that I am going to always try to instill in my kids and it’s something I hope my daughter and my son get from reading stuff that I have written or listening to interviews that I’ve done — just being confident in who you are. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something that I hope for.”