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When two-time Emmy award winner Julie Bowen's 6-year-old son Oliver went into anaphylaxis as a toddler, she realized that she needed to get educated on life-threatening allergies—and fast. After all, her son had eaten peanuts before, and yet had to be rushed to the hospital after being stung by a bee while eating peanut butter. (Crazy, right?) Turns out he was allergic to both.
While talking to mom.me about her involvement with the Anaphylaxis101 campaign, Bowen also chatted about her super-popular sitcom Modern Family and her character, Claire (who, apparently, is a better cook); being outnumbered in a houseful of boys (she also has 4-year-old twins John and Gustav); and what she would do if she had a girl.
You must have been terrified when your son Oliver went into anaphylaxis.
It was really scary. I don't know whether it was more or less scary because we didn't have a whole lot of education (on the topic). We knew that people could have bad allergic reactions to things, but we didn't understand ... he'd had peanuts before, he'd had peanut butter before, so why was it now? The bottom line was that he wasn't doing well and had to be rushed to the hospital, and we have since educated ourselves. That's why I wanted to join the Anaphylaxis101 campaign. You can go to the website and find out what the signs and symptoms are. It's just about not being caught unaware. It's about being prepared.
I would say I’m the kind of mom who says at this point, "Good enough really is good enough," as long as you are paying attention to the big things.
A lot of people downplay allergies as no big deal. How can parents become more informed?
I’m a fairly well-educated person in certain topics, and
there are things that I didn’t know. Some food
allergies can become progressively worse over time; some of them present in
different ways; some people have a latex allergy. I learned all of this from
Anaphylaxis101.com, and the bummer is the word “anaphylaxis.” It’s complicated.
It’s long. It sounds so scary, but once you go to the website, it’s meant to be very
interactive, very simple and very straightforward.
We do not want people to
not be aware—people who are coaches, teachers, even people who don’t have
kids but may be around them and see something happening—they need to know.
How do you balance motherhood with your work on Modern Family, especially with twins plus one?
It’s always exhausting with three kids so close in age, and boys have a lot of
energy, but it wasn’t that hard when they were younger. The twins just turned
4, and Oliver just turned 6. They are going through a phase where there is no
substitute for their mom and their dad. They prefer both—they will take one or
the other if they have to. But I am just starting to discover, for the first
time really since becoming a parent, that there are things that I have to say
no to, as far as work, because I look at how disruptive it is in our lives, and
I think, "Not worth it."
There’s going to come a day when they don’t really care
where I am and prefer that I’m not home so they can do whatever it is they want
to do. And right now I want to be there. They’re little—they’re so little, and
I still really want to take care of them.
What kind of mom were you before vs. now?
Once I had three, I lowered my standards enormously in regards to some things—they are not the best-dressed children, they do not have the chicest haircuts, but I do put things like their health first. Those things I get done. I would say I’m the kind of mom who says at this point, "Good enough really is good enough," as long as you are paying attention to the big things—love them, feed them, give them some structure. And if you have reason to believe they have any allergies, make sure you know about it and get prepared.
Is there something your Modern Family character Claire would do that you absolutely would not do?
Claire is a much better cook than I am. I look at that, I’m
like, God, it’s nice to have a prop department bring in a cooked turkey. I
think I’d cook turkeys, too, if someone brought them in.
Never say never, but I never thought I would resort to physically pulling
my children off of each other when they’re going at it, but I do it all the
time. That character’s kids are so much older. I’m at the very caveman period.
It’s very male and grunty and filled with laughing and crying.
I would give money to have somebody sit on the floor in the bathroom with me and do nails for an afternoon instead of "Let’s build something and then destroy it, not clean it up and cry."
Do you ever feel outnumbered?
I really do, but my father had three girls and a
wife. People always used to say, "Your poor father." I thought, "Why my poor
father?" So now I’m a mom with three boys and a husband, and people never say, "Poor you." They say, "You lucky thing!" And I think, "Isn’t that weird?"
People always tell me, "Oh, you’re the perfect boy mom" because I’ve got
a lot of energy and I like to wrestle. I like being physical and running around but, my God, I would give money to have somebody sit on the floor in the
bathroom with me and do nails for an afternoon instead of, "Let’s build
something and then destroy it, not clean it up and cry."
So, any daughters in your future?
Three is enough. I love my boys, and I love the weird energy between them. I mean, they are in love with each other, but they express their love by head-butting and throwing, and I'm like, "That's a very strange form of love."