Christina Elmore tells Yahoo Life that she's feeling "very blessed and grateful, but it's pretty busy" — and boy, is that an understatement. In addition to having two TV shows — BET's Twenties and HBO's Insecure — return to screens this month, the actress also has two little ones underfoot at home. She and husband Ryan Duke welcomed their second son in February; he's now 8 months old, while his big brother is 4 and a half.
Here, Elmore opens up about her parenting style, postpartum life and how her experience mirrors that of her Insecure character, Condola, who announced at the end of last season that she's pregnant by Lawrence, the perpetually on-off love interest of Issa Rae's lead character, Issa.
How has it been filming again as a new mom?
I think that the COVID of it all made it so that it just so happened that I started shooting Insecure when I was, like, six or seven weeks postpartum. And as I am in a postpartum stage, so was Condola. It was kind of a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing in that my full self could come to work with leaky boobs, and my belly still going down and no sleep and my eyes bloodshot, all of that; it was a part of the character and could come to work. But it also meant that I was always around a baby [playing her onscreen child] and then I never sort of got to have that moment of separation. I love being a mommy and I also really love going to work and having time together and time apart, but it felt like my worlds were combining in a weird way. And 4 a.m. call times, when you've woken up three times in the night already with the baby, suck [laughs]... It was a really cool sort of full circle thing to be both in a very tired state and playing a character who also was living in one.
Condola's storyline is going to touch on some important parenting issues. Being postpartum yourself, did you have any input on that?
There was definitely some of that. I mean, the writers on that show are just fantastic and they don't need my help at all. But there was some sort of on-set shifting and being like, "Well, I might do it like this," or "I might try this." You can see in the trailer that there's a little baby and I was working with actual people's kids and I was like, "Well, this kid is showing us clearly that he wants to cry right now, so maybe we should lean into that [laughs]?" There was definitely some of that. And it was great because there's also a lot of new parents on the set; I was one of a few who were either expecting a child or had a young child or a young baby. So there was kind of some real interesting conversations to be had as we were sort of finding out the theme, which was also new for me. [It was] really fun to be able to bring that part of myself to work.
With two shows and two kids, do you have any time-saving mom hacks that help you get things done?
Definitely pumping in the car. I don't know why I wasn't pumping in the car with my first baby; I was always plugged in... I live in L.A. where I'm driving all the time and sitting in terrible traffic trying to get to work or get to wherever, and now it's not wasted time. It's useful time.
I have been intentional about my kids going to bed at a certain time every day. I know some kids stay up or it is better for families to find the time that works for you. What has worked for us is that my kids go to bed at 7. I work a few months out of the year and then I have a lot of time at home, so I feel like I get the best of both worlds. I'm a working mom, but then half the year, I'm a stay-at-home mom. Our biggest family hack is that we have a clear bedtime that everyone knows. Everyone's excited about bedtime; we've made that a fun thing. [And then] there's always a few hours in the night while I also get to be this adult human in the world.
I think that makes me a better mom when I'm able to watch a show or answer some emails. I don't answer any of my texts during the day. That's a hack: I don't respond to texts at all during the day until 7:30 p.m. I [then] respond to all of them and then I let them pile up again until 7:30 the next day [laughs]. And so then I'm not stressed about how I didn't get back to them, or I had to stop doing whatever else I was doing with my kids or work. I just have a designated time for texts.
Is bedtime your hard-and-fast parenting rule, or do you have other things you're really vigilant about?
Bedtime is definitely one of them, and only recently for the little guy, who still wakes up a few hours later to nurse. But also — and I think a lot of parents are coming to this — we just don't believe in punitive discipline. So it's more of a hard-and-fast rule for us. Discipline is really like "disciple-making," and so modeling and respect is a huge part of the way we do it.
It's a shift for me because growing up, I have wonderful parents, but I also was spanked and I also would feel bad and I also had timeouts and all those things that I don't knock — and I think I turned out pretty great — but we don't do any sort of punishment. We more sort of hear your feelings: "Oh, you're so mad." And we validate that. "I hear you, you're angry, you're upset. I'm still going to keep this limit though, because that's what it is, but you're allowed to have all the feelings we want about it. You can scream about it, you can stomp about it. And yet the limit stands."
For me, it's been a great sort of reparenting myself moment, to realize that I can have my feelings and they count, even if I can't have what I want. So that's sort of a rule we have and it's helping my relationship with my husband, I think, too. It's OK for him to feel this way and for me to feel differently and to find a way for us to be OK with that and respect each other still.
Are there any parenting experts you look to?
We take RIE classes, which stands for resources for infant educarers... They're set up like a "mommy and me" [group}: You go and you sit and you observe your children. But to us it's a really restorative, respectful, peaceful, conscious parenting ethos and you learn to think of your baby from birth as a whole, endowed person who has thoughts, feelings, emotions that are all valid, and as valid as an adult.
There's Destini Ann, who is a parenting TikToker and Instagrammer who is also [into] super-peaceful parenting. What I really appreciate about her is that she's very Black and I think sometimes I go to these classes and I don't see any other Black families often, and I think there's a disconnect between Black cultural parenting and this new sort of respectful, peaceful parenting. I would encourage more and more culturally specific families to think of these [approaches] and ways they can incorporate them into what they're already doing and into the way that they think about parenting and the way that they've been parented. I think a lot of these make sense, if you think about them.
How would you describe your parenting style?
I think I am a fun mom with hard boundaries [laughs]? I don't know... I let my kids run around naked and I look like a hippie country mom, but I also really am a stickler for limits. I'd say I'm a crunchy mom with a healthy respect for boundaries.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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