Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Avengers) stars in Kris’ Swanberg’s Unexpected, the story of a teacher and her student going through pregnancies while dealing with the issues many women face today about sacrificing careers and overcoming that in our day and age. As a working actress and mother, Smulders talked about how her experience informed her choices in the role and shared with a round table of moms her journey in balancing a family life and career.
The challenges many women face today in choosing between who to be after they become moms, is something she and director Swanberg wanted to make sure to represent as accurately as possible. It’s not just about choosing to be both is better than the alternative. It depicts how both are incredible journeys no matter what you choose.
Staying at home with your kids is one of the toughest jobs both emotionally and mentally, psychologically. We had a lot to talk about in that respect and bonded through that. I feel very jealous towards women who are like “I’m gonna stay home and be a mom. That’s it. That’s great. That’s all I need.” And I wish that’s what fulfilled me but I just know that I like to work and I have to have something for myself and that comes with its own feelings of guilt. So it’s a challenge, its a constant balancing act as you all know.
Cobie on how she’s balanced her work and family life
Its different I feel like I haven’t quite figured that out yet. For me because my kids have a big age difference, it’s been manageable. I don’t know how women do it when they have three kids under three. There’s six years (difference). It’s helpful but I think there’s good days and there’s bad days. For me, its been choosing to stay more present. To be like I can only really plan to tackle these plans ahead, you just have to stay present and that’s been very helpful.
In How I Met Your Mother, Smulders played career woman Robin Scherbatsky who couldn’t have kids, offering a compelling portrayal of a woman who could still choose her happiness and in this she plays a teacher who decides she wants to tackle both being a mom and still be career oriented. Smulders talked about how her roles always address these assumptions that only one or the other offers real fulfillment and how she relates to that in the real life:
I have a hard time being told you can’t do this because______. And Even if it’s some as wonderful as ‘You’re having a child. You can’t take this new job because you’re having a baby.’ It’s like that’s wonderful, why can’t I do both? I think that’s one of the interesting things about her as a character that she has to sort of educate herself in what is important and what sacrifices should be made. How do you make them and then be happy?
The film voices not just the wonderful parts of being pregnant but also is about how it’s okay to express the not so nice parts, the distancing of traditional roles for instance:
There’s a lot of things in this film that moms have a hard time saying. I have a hard time saying ‘I wanna work. I wanna leave my child and pursue a job.’ It’s hard.
No one’s really talked about these topics. Do you go back to work or not? Just sort of dealing with that issue of ‘Who am I if I’m now a mom? Can I be a mom and be myself? Is there a place where I can live and be both of those people? Or does that completely change my identity now that I have kids?’ I think in this day and age more women are in the workforce. There’s more women who are doing both and so its becoming more prevalent. I’d like to see more of it, I would like to see more of it from the government. I come from Canada where we have a year of maternity leave or six months maternity leave. I feel like that’s how it should be. Help support the next generation and support women being able to go back to work.
As the film portrays two very different but linked journeys to give expectant mothers more relatable and realistic takes on expecting a child and everything that comes with that. On whether she had any advice to give to women, Cobie imparted what she learned from her pregnancies:
It’s hard, you know, giving advice. It’s so subjective on your own experience and I feel like I received so much advice. I either didn’t listen to it or I tried it and it didn’t quite work. So I feel like the only “advice” I think is to kind of go with the flow of it and not really expect anything because I think you never really quite know until you’re doing it. And I think that if you start to try to go like, ‘Well it should go like this’ or ‘why aren’t they walking yet?’ ‘why aren’t they talking yet?’ ‘They’re in the percentile for this but they’re not in the percentile for that!’ All this fuckin’ shit–all this stuff out there that I think people try to conform you too. I just don’t think that that’s real. If there are health things going on, go to a doctor. You kind of have to go and see it day by day. I remember that at the beginning, you kinda gotta go, ‘Get through the day, get through the next day and then get through the other day.’ Taking it one step at a time.
Unexpected is in theaters now!