The best things celebrity parents told us this year

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Camila Alves McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Lachey are a few of the celebrity parents who got real about having kids. (Photos: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Camila Alves McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, Shaquille O’Neal and Nick Lachey are a few of the celebrity parents who got real about having kids. (Photos: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

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

New moms hear it all the time: “Don’t worry, it gets easier.” But, at the risk of being a downer, does it really? If talking to experts and celebrity parents for Yahoo Life’s So Mini Ways series has taught us anything, it’s that nobody has all the answers, and that every stage of parenting — from the bleary-eyed daze of bringing home a newborn to waving goodbye to your high school grad and wondering, what now? — comes with its own unique challenges.

Over the past year we’ve had dozens of conversations with stars who are in the thick of parenting, whether that means changing diapers, negotiating with newly independent tweens and teens or contemplating life as an empty nester. And while everyone’s parenting journey is different, there’s a lot of common ground, too. Ahead, read some of the comments that struck a chord with us this year.

The path to parenthood

“I had some professional things that I’d been hoping for not come through or had been delayed. And I just thought like, ‘What am I doing? Like, I just gotta have a kid. I [didn’t] want to wake up and just never be able to, because more than writing and creating shows, my great dream in life was to become a mom, because of my relationship with my mom.” — Mindy Kaling

“To be honest, I couldn’t have imagined having a kid earlier. I was kind of toying with the idea around the time I was like in my late 30s; I just didn’t think it was going to be for me. And you know, Nova was a surprise. I mean, I would’ve liked to have a kid, but I thought I was too old, to be honest, and I was in a newish relationship so we definitely weren’t trying to have a baby. [But] when I look back I just feel such peace and ease and that the world gave me Nova when I least expected it but I most needed it. She’s been the greatest blessing in our lives.” — Diane Kruger

“I think so many people out there have the capacity to adopt. And so many people have an internal desire, but they’re afraid. Fear often stops us from making decisions that we know we should deep down make. And I always call fear ‘false evidence appearing real.’ Most of the fears we carry are false. … [But] I was confronted with something that was very clear: That the best option for my son was to be my son.” — Hill Harper

“I absolutely think it’s really scary that because of Roe v. Wade being overturned that the way that I became a mother may no longer be available to other people. And that’s really scary that IVF would be questioned or overturned; that letting science and medicine play a role in how we become moms is an issue. I am a very spiritual person. I believe in God; I believe in the word of God. And I also believe that God has given wisdom to these incredible scientists and doctors to make a way. … I look at my son every day and I’m reminded of the favor and the faithfulness of God.” — Adrienne Bailon Houghton

(Image: Quinn Lemmers)(Image: Quinn Lemmers)

(Image: Quinn Lemmers)

The balancing act

“I think that as moms, we have really high expectations of what we can do — as we should. But the reality is that we have to step back and go, ‘Alright. I know I can handle a lot, but what is really realistic for me?'” — Camila Alves McConaughey

“Accept all the help. Usually I’m a very proud person and I think I can do it myself and don’t need any help, but these are the times when I have to be accepting all the help, whether it’s an extra feed or extra hands.” — Jamie Chung

“Be kind to yourself, and understand that you need breaks and that children need breaks from their parents too. You go away from each other, you come back and you’re going to be a stronger and better person.” — Lucy Liu

“People around us expect us to be the exact same way, as far as how available we are and how much energy we can give, and everything changes when you become a parent.” — Lea Michele

“I’m juggling both work and parenting and I think they know — I hope they would know — that they’re the most part of my day and of my life, but I also have a job that I adore. I also want them to know that you can do both. That doesn’t always look perfect, or even good, but I want them to know that you can have a career that fulfills you and you can also love the kids that you have. And so, yeah, I’m not with them in the mornings, but our evenings are pretty cool.” — Jenna Bush Hager

“You’ve just gotta really be patient and try to stay in the moment. My biggest thing, I think, is I work a lot and I’m very ambitious that way. So what I really try to do is stop and put everything else on pause and just try to be as present as I can with him. Because that’s all they really care [about]; they just want a good time with their parents. He loves hanging out with me. And so when everything else feels really important, the most important thing is for me just to be there and be present with him.” — Josh Duhamel

“I’m a firm believer in ‘how you do anything is how you do everything.’ I don’t cut corners as a mom. I don’t cut corners as an athlete. I don’t cut corners as a partner. I own my failures when I make mistakes because I have to give myself grace as a parent. I’m not always gonna get it right.” — Ashlyn Harris

House rules

“Our rules are probably stricter than most. Our kids don’t have social media. They’re allowed to look sometimes when it’s our phones. Sometimes, our kids will be like ‘you guys are the strictest household!’ But I say, ‘yes, but everyone still wants to come here!’ … I believe kids need to know what their limitations are, and they actually thrive in that environment. We’re not mean, we’re not unnecessarily strict, but we have rules. And the same way I abide by my code of rules, I expect the same from our children.” — Sarah Michelle Gellar

“I think a lot of Korean culture, especially when it comes to child-rearing, is based a little bit on shame, and that’s how you kind of keep people in line. Shame is a very important part of how people were kept in line in my childhood. And I think we have taken that down a lot in our house.” — John Cho

“I do believe in nepotism, but I believe in respectable nepotism. If I build a company, I want you to know how to run a company. And that’s what I’m trying to teach my kids. Like, hey, I’ll give it to you, but you gonna have to gimme something back. You’re gonna have to show me when I get ready to go into the old folks home, you have to show me that you can run it. I got six kids, just gimme one or two. Please take over what I’ve built and add onto it. This ain’t about me. It’s about you and your kids and your kids’ kids. I got it cracking. Now it’s up to you to keep it cracking. If not, we’re gonna go back to where we used to be, in the projects. Is that what you want?” — Shaquille O’Neal

“The word that comes out of my mouth daily when it comes to my daughter is ‘yes.’ Or like, ‘absolutely — we need it’ or like, ‘absolutely — buy it.’ Or ‘yes, she needs that dress.’ Everything is yes when it comes to my daughter.” — Wilmer Valderrama

(Image: Quinn Lemmers)(Image: Quinn Lemmers)

(Image: Quinn Lemmers)

Setting an example

“The idea that we have to be one thing when we grow up is really limiting. 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.” — Eva Mendes

“I put myself in a very vulnerable position. I’m still one of the only [openly] queer Muslims in entertainment … and so I put myself in a line of fire. And I do that so my son will understand, and my future children will understand, that they get to be whoever they want to be, and they should be incredibly proud of that. And if we don’t have someone like me in entertainment, who does say it’s OK to be yourself, what state will they be in if they are not — air quotes — ‘straight white people?’ What will that look like for them? I want them to understand that their father did all he could to try and make the world a somewhat more accepting place.” — Tan France

“As a parent, all we want is to keep our child safe. With the overturning [of Roe v. Wade], all of [my son’s] friends, they are less safe now. They don’t have the rights that I had, which is just unimaginable to me. So I do think, as a mother, it’s important to talk about how long the fight was to get abortion passed — how long we’ve had it as a right and how important it is to health care. It is health care.” — Debra Messing

“It’s always sweet to feel their love and to see when they’re proud of me because I hope that when they see me doing my thing, they can be inspired and know that hey, anything you dream of is possible. If you believe in your dream, that’s where it starts. And if Mommy did it, why can’t I do it?” Ciara

Getting it right

“They have their own distinct personalities and perspectives and ideas and opinions that they bring to the table. So it’s a combination of teaching them but also just watching.” — Boris Kodjoe

“The pressure you put on yourself not to screw these little people up is the only thing you care about. I find myself getting consumed by it … you just want your kids to be happy and content. I always wanted to be a dad but the extent to how much I care — that was pretty eye-opening.” — Nick Lachey

“[It’s a] big lesson of just daily surrendering up to God and surrendering her up to God and just saying, ‘I can control so much.’ And that’s a very, very scary lesson for a parent. [When your kids are] younger you have this element of control of what they eat, what they wear, where they’re going, the parameters. And then that just slowly, slowly gets less and less. And it’s a little scary, but it’s a good lesson for me.” — Tony Hale

“As far as parenting goes, I mean, everything is exhausting, right? Sometimes it feels impossible, but then your kid will say something so outrageously amazing — this tiny human you’re raising to be, like, the future of our world. You never know what they’re gonna end up doing.” — Jessica Simpson

The empty nest

“I can’t even talk about it, it’s so upsetting not being in touch all the time. It kills me. The meanest thing your kids can ever do to you is grow up.” — Pamela Adlon

“When your kids are adults … they’re such different people. You almost mourn those children that were 3, 4, 5, 6, because those people don’t exist anymore … Those kids are gone. So it’s weird. You can really get melancholic and sad. I see why people have babies. My mom had my little brother when my sister and I were 11 and 13, much to the surprise and chagrin of my dad. But I see why people do it. I think mourning is almost the right word because you just miss those kids. They’re pretty much the same from about 5 to 11, and they still think you know everything and they still run and throw themselves around your legs when you walk in the door. And then you’ve got these two adults you love in exactly the same way, but they’re wildly different people.” — James Denton

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