Cookie magazine sat down with Gretchen Mol to talk about motherhood and her bewilderment at how stylish Katie Holmes and Suri always are!
Back in her 20s, Gretchen Mol used to cry—”just weep,” the actress says—”when the threat of pregnancy came into my life. I’d literally cry. Like, ‘Am I going to throw my life away?'” Now, of course, it’s someone else’s turn to cry: that of 14-month-old Ptolemy, Mol’s son with her husband, director Kip Williams. For instance, just this morning the boy started bellowing long before sunrise—and, like mothers everywhere, Mol dealt with it as best she could (a lukewarm bath and a let-him-cry-it-out attitude). “Just going with it is the only thing I know how to do,” the 36-year old says over a much-needed coffee and a spinach omelet at a café near her Greenwich Village home. “I’m not someone who reads up on everything and decides this is how we’re going to do things. When he’s having a tantrum, I am not going to look it up in a book and say, ‘Okay, 14 months old? Check.’ I just deal with whatever is thrown at me.” She’s quick to admit, however, that relying solely on instinct has failed her on occasion—not that Dr. Spock offers explicit directions for preparing one’s toddler for an audiovisual mind warp. “One morning I had to do a live news show, and I called Kip to say, ‘Turn the TV on,'” she recalls. “Ptolemy started crying. Of course it freaked him out. He doesn’t watch much TV. I just thought, I am so insensitive.” Eventually, Ptolemy will have to get used to seeing his mom onscreen, considering she’s a working actress. If that is a slightly less glamorous gig than being the Next Big Thing—in 1998, Vanity Fair’s cover asked, “Is she Hollywood’s next It Girl?” alongside a nip-tastic photo of the alabaster-skinned model turned actress in a very sheer dress—Mol’s not complaining. She has the leeway to work on indie movies (she plays a divorced artist in the Cuban-missile-crisis drama An American Affair, out this month), do stage work (both on and off Broadway), and, these days, play a ’70s police officer on ABC’s time-traveling thriller Life on Mars. It’s a stroke of luck that the show shoots in New York, so she’s just a taxi ride—not a red-eye flight—away from tucking in Ptolemy every night. “I love bedtime,” she says. “I get such a sense of accomplishment when he rolls over.” What’s more, being in New York means Ptolemy gets to spend lots of time with extended family. “My mom is in Brooklyn; my older brother is here; Kip’s family is here; my sister-in-law loves to come,” Mol says, ticking through her family tree (and sometime babysitters). “I told my agent I didn’t want to work in L.A., even if it was the greatest job in the world. I didn’t want to compromise.” Granted, motherhood rarely presents such uncompromising situations. Mol has figured out that “some days, you have it easy. Other days, you’re the person wrestling with the stroller and screaming in public. I’ve been on both sides.” She’s grateful that the paparazzi who stalk the West Village haven’t caught her on those screaming-in-public days—though they have shot her early in the morning, sleepy-eyed and teeth unbrushed. “How can Katie Holmes find time to be conscious of her style?” she wonders aloud. “How does Suri always look so good? My kid goes through three T-shirts in a day, and that’s if I bother to change them.” On the continuum of complaints, though, stained shirts rank pretty low, as Mol knows too well. After one of her cousins died following a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), she got involved with an organization that raises awareness and research funds for another neurodegenerative disease, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), which is usually diagnosed in young children. “A lot of those kids will never walk or talk, but they’re loved and love back the same way,” she says. “When your child is developing in a normal way, you can’t take it for granted.” And when he wakes up at a predawn hour in a window-rattling tantrum? You roll with it. “You bring who you are to motherhood,” Mol says. “If you’re a chaotic person, you’ll be a chaotic mother, and your kid will learn to deal with that. When you become a parent, there’s nothing you can do to change your life. I’m the same kind of person as a mother that I am in life: I try to be considerate; I like order,” she says. Then, as if on cue, Mol reaches into her coat pocket to pull out her lip gloss and instead fishes out … a well-loved plastic whale. “So what if I have toys stuck in my pockets? I’ll never be the mother who makes parenting look effortless,” she says with a wide grin. “But I wouldn’t trade my life, either.”