Kristen Bell: Dealing with imperfection, that's what being a mum is
A Bad Moms Christmas star Kristen Bell tells Gill Pringle about overworked mothers and coping with depression
Actress Kristen Bell knows even attempting to recreate a social media perfect world is impossible.
"You cannot beat yourself up because your house doesn't look like a Pinterest board," muses Kristen Bell, who believes there's a serious message behind raunchy R-rated comedy A Bad Moms Christmas, the sequel to last year's sleeper hit.
"This story is an incredibly relatable thing, to feel like an overworked mum - and even if you're not an overworked mum, then you probably had an overworked mum. And to discuss the idea that mums are allowed to be more than one thing, feels taboo and crazy and provocative and funny," says the actress.
"I couldn't believe that a movie like this hadn't been written before because it was just screaming to be told. At that point I had two little kids and was experiencing all that pressure. Everything about being a mum is stupid and funny and you always smell like urine. And there's nothing funny about perfection, but there's a ton of comedy in imperfection, and that's what being a mum is - dealing with your imperfection. We can all relate."
Bell (37) herself has become one of the more relatable women in Hollywood. She may be the voice of Princess Anna in Frozen, but she never acts like a princess, dropping f-bombs that would make Olaf blush and publicly talking about her struggles with depression and anxiety.
Married for 10 years to fellow actor Dax Shepard, with whom she has two daughters, she says their girls couldn't care less that she's the voice of Disney princess Anna.
She sighs as she reveals how her four-year-old daughter, Lincoln, will be dressing as Elsa for her school's Halloween parade. "Again. I said: you're young, you're supposed to have your finger on the pulse. What's new? What's exciting? You're two years late with Frozen, and she's like: I don't care. Not only am I going to be Elsa - you're gonna be Elsa too. True story."
While A Bad Moms Christmas deals with family pressure around the holidays, then Bell doesn't lose sleep about creating a perfect Christmas for her own family.
"Our house looks like a giant arts and crafts dumpster. We make our own decorations every year. I give the kids construction paper and crayons and whatever they come up with, I just tape it on the walls. We have a lot of matching sweaters and matching pyjamas. It's very decorative - which is really the only thing we care about because we'll spend the whole day decorating or just playing and then forget to make dinner. We're not very regimented."
Both hailing from divorced, fractured families, this adorable couple entered into their own marriage with eyes wide open. Wed in 2013, she says the key to their happy union is communication.
"If you're leading with your own vulnerability, you'll never be met with anything negative. You can't look a person in the face who's been vulnerable and deny them what they need. We try to be true and honest with each other, and that works for us."
Twelve years sober, her husband works closely with AA to retain his sobriety. "The practice of AA is very evolved work; doing a fierce moral inventory. I also live by the rules of AA and I am not an addict.
"Dax is a very evolved, constantly-working-on-himself kind of guy. Even in middle school he would spoon with his best friend because human touch gives you a lot of dopamine. He's also very close with his mum and they snuggle a lot. He leads with his vulnerability and openness and that's what's so attractive about him."
Never flinching from discussing the hard topics, she says, "Our relationship wouldn't be interesting if it weren't authentic. For a very long time, particularly when we first had our kids, we were very territorial of our relationship then somehow we hit a point when we realised; we found a weird, quirky way to work this out. Everybody's trying to figure it out. If we talk about it and we're honest about it, maybe it could help somebody."
Bell's new life approach even led her to go public last year talking about how she received help for depression and anxiety.
"I had a lot of positive feedback after deciding to be open about my struggle; I will continue to encourage people to talk about their own struggles because nothing thrives in darkness and shame is only there because the lights are off. The stigma has to be squashed if anybody wants to feel better."
For all her candour, she admits to doubts and insecurities. "For sure, but I talk myself down all the time. I feel pressure to be perfect on a daily basis, and sometimes you're doing great and other times you're not. There's been moments where I have dropped my kids off at school, truthfully, wearing two different Birkenstocks because I got ready too fast or I've not worn a bra.
"But I chose to find comedy in that and not shame myself. Guilt is not for me. I have it - but I don't get along with it. I think that guilt and shaming yourself is wasted energy."
A Bad Moms Christmas is out now