It was through raising three fictional children as Modern Family‘s Claire Dunphy that actress Julie Bowen found herself being shaped as a mom of her three real children.
When the beloved ABC series first began airing in 2009, Bowen had her hands full with three young children — then 2-year-old son Oliver and twin newborns John and Gustav — but was raising much older children on TV. So, when it came to playing the mom of Haley, Alex and Luke, Bowen found herself learning on set.
“Claire has more led me [in motherhood] than me her, because when I started doing Modern Family I had babies,” Bowen told PopCulture.com exclusively. “So, I kind of learned that you’re supposed to let stuff go, because I kept saying it over and over.”
“I had my own little life lessons every week,” she added.
Being so close with her Dunphy kids actually gave her a heads-up on some of the less predictable stages of adolescence.
“There were phases when my fake children on-and-off were in stages that were baffling and confusing, and then they went into a different stage,” she told PopCulture. “I was like, ‘Oh, I get it. This isn’t static. This is an ever-evolving process.’ So, I think that Claire has ultimately taught me more than I have brought to Claire.”
Nolan Gould, who plays Bowen’s son Luke Dunphy in the series, was particularly helpful for the mother of three boys.
“I literally would watch Nolan – my oldest son is now the age that Nolan was when he started – and I remember all the phases Nolan went through,” Bowen told PopCulture. “There were so many. We’d come back from hiatus and suddenly everything was sarcastic, or suddenly everything was funny or really cool or into girls or something, but there was still Nolan there every time.”
She continued: “I love that kid [Gould], and he was really, really helpful for me as a mother of boys.”
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, Bowen reflected on her first Mother’s Day after the twins were born: “I fell asleep on the floor of their bedroom, and everyone let me sleep there,” she said. “Everyone in the house decided that’s for the best.”
This year, she’ll be spending the weekend celebrating her twins’ birthday, as they were born on May 8.
“What better way to celebrate being a mom than by being a mom?” she told PopCulture.
She also makes it a point to celebrate her own mother, whom Bowen described as “super resilient, super independent and very no nonsense.”
“Those are things about her that I love,” she told PopCulture.
It’s in thanking her mom that Bowen’s partnership with Hallmark and Improv Everywhere comes in.
Placing a 12-foot Mother’s Day card in the middle of a Los Angeles park ahead of the holiday, Bowen helped surprise unassuming moms with words of affirmation from their loved ones. She even shocked her own mom with a sweet personal note!
“She does not necessarily like to be the center of attention, so she was a little subdued,” Bowen said of her own mom’s reaction, “but I think the fact that it’s not actually Mother’s Day … genuinely surprised her.”
She admitted, “I never made a big enough deal about Mother’s Day. I never got why everybody made such a big deal until I became a mom, and then I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ So, I wanted to thank her for teaching me to be a mom to my kids.”
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Photo credit: ABC