She’s known for her high-jinks comedy roles, but as actress Mila Kunis tells Karen Anne Overton, becoming a mother was no laughing matter
Mila Kunis is refreshingly un-Hollywood. Witty, whip-smart and willing to make fun of herself, she showcases a more human, humbler side of celebrity, particularly when it comes to motherhood. Having begun dating childhood friend Ashton Kutcher in 2012 – the pair met while working on That ’70s Show when Kunis was 14 – the couple have surprised even themselves by turning what was initially intended as a fling into one of the most enviable marriages in Tinseltown. And since becoming parents to daughter Wyatt, two, and son Dimitri, born in November 2016, they are arguably the coolest parents, too.
Last year Kunis starred alongside Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn in Bad Moms, a raunchy comedy about the trials and tribulations of three overworked and exasperated mothers who finally cut loose. And despite the flawless image presented by the media, the 33-year-old admits to struggling with the idea of being the perfect mum and despairs when she doesn’t live up to her own expectations.
“As mothers, we need to be able to admit that we can’t be perfect all the time. We have to accept that we’re going to make mistakes!” declares Kunis. “I’ve learnt that from my own experience as a mother, and that’s why making Bad Moms gave me the chance to bond with the other women who all have kids and have gone through the same thing themselves.”
When asked if she deems herself to be a good mother, Kunis nods emphatically. “I think I’m pretty good,” she says, before relaying an incident when Wyatt was a baby. “I was driving along the freeway to meet Ashton at work and I remember being in a really good mood. Then, when I looked at Wyatt in the rear-view mirror I could see she was happy too, but then I turned white when I saw that she wasn’t strapped into her baby seat,” recounts the star. “I pulled over on the highway, trying to stay calm, strapped her in, and then just started driving again.
“I told myself that I would never tell this story to anyone and that it was a mistake I would never make again. But as soon as I arrived and met Ashton, I burst into tears. I was so upset and just kept telling myself I’d messed up.” But her epiphany would come only a month later when Kutcher made exactly the same mistake. “So I was like, ‘thank you!’
I wasn’t alone,” she laughs.
At a time when so much emphasis is put on women having it all, Kunis is a breath of fresh air. Her frankness is likely a side effect of a tough but loving childhood that epitomised the ‘American dream’. Born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, her parents sacrificed their academic careers to move to the United States when Kunis was seven to secure a better future for her and her older brother, Michael. She has described in the past how finding herself as a young child in a new country where she was unable to speak the language was akin to being ‘blind and deaf’, and it’s from these humble beginnings she has worked to forge a life for herself.
“I definitely have an East European work ethic and mentality. You never feel secure and you never stop working,” she explains. “You also remember what it’s like to have very little and that keeps you motivated to keep working as hard as you can, even when things are good in your life. My parents always gave our family everything we needed in life, and I never felt poor even though we didn’t have a lot of luxuries. But our family was very close and supportive of each other.”
Yet despite being a workaholic, the actress has also been adamant that when the time was right, family would become the priority. “I have never wanted to be the person who only has business on her mind,” Kunis says. “To me, this job has always been a hobby that turned into a great profession, but I don’t live and breathe acting. I’m excited about being a full-time mum. Although, give me a year of not working and I’ll see how I feel!”
Having had an exceptional career comprising fantastic comedy roles in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and her ongoing part as the voice of Meg in TV’s irreverent animation Family Guy, along with meatier fare like the harrowing ballet drama Black Swan, it’s fair to say that motherhood came at a good time for the star. And like many women, she confesses to experiencing a fundamental shift in her desires and values. “For me it changed everything. My priorities really shifted when I decided to start a family, and I think I became incredibly selfless,” she says firmly, before adding with a megawatt smile, “Knowing that I was going to have a baby made me think, ‘I know that I have to give up so much of myself and I’m happy to do that’.”