Playing the role of Mrs. George in the new "Mean Girls" movie, Busy Philipps gets to say an updated version of the iconic line, "I'm not like a regular mom. I'm a cool mom."
During her visit with Hoda Kotb and Laura Jarrett on TODAY, Philipps admits that in real life, she's actually not a 'cool mom.' Instead she says, "I'm an incredibly communicative mom."
In the greenroom after the interview, Philipps, the mother to 10-year-old Cricket and 15-year-old Birdie, communicates exactly what she means in a chat with TODAY.com.
On "mean girl behavior"
In her experience with her older daughter, Philipps saw social conflicts peak in fifth and sixth grade.
"I found that a lot of what people consider 'mean girl behavior' was really sort of pre-puberty as the girls are trying to figure out where they belong and how they move through the world," she says as she sinks into the greenroom couch. "Middle school was a little tricky."
One particular middle school incident was so shocking to Philipps that she remembers where she was standing when she received the email from the school on her phone.
"I was just like, 'Why do I feel like I'm in "Big Little Lies"? I don’t want to be in “Big Little Lies”!’" Philipps says, referring to the Liane Moriarty book and TV drama series that chronicles a group of upper class mothers whose seemingly-perfect lives unravel to the point of murder after a simple playground squabble in their California beach town.
Though Philipps doesn't reveal details about the incident, she says, "I was very confused by the whole thing, and also so heartbroken for my kid who was going through it, you know?"
The way Philipps coped with that particular situation — and the way she has tried to prevent future situations — is to talk about it. "I think it comes down to having a good therapist and good communication with your kids and good communication with the school — just good communication."
Should a similar situation arise with her younger daughter, "I feel more prepared for it," she says. Next time, she will follow her "first instinct, which was to get it settled properly instead of trusting other people [to do so] because you literally cannot. It's your kid."
Sharing family stories onlineSharing photos, videos and family stories online was "all sort of accidental for me," Philipps says.
Initially, Philipps thought Instagram "was literally my friends and people I went to high school with" because she joined the platform so early. "I suppose we could have reconsidered, but it felt like it was a thing that was working in our family and the way we were handling it."
Philipps and her writer/producer ex-husband Marc Silverstein handle these issues with — surprise, surprise — communication.
"We were open and talked to our kids about it and explained to them that if they didn't like it, they can always say, 'No. Don't do that. Don't post it.' Which they have," Philipps says.
In fact, Birdie is more comfortable being in the spotlight than Cricket, so although both girls attended the "Mean Girls" premiere, only Birdie agreed to be photographed on the pink carpet.
Cricket is "not so sure" about being in the spotlight, and Philipps respects her boundaries. "I wouldn't want to make her feel like it's part of being my kid."
Philipps and Silverstein don't have many "hard and fast rules about anything," but "the one thing that we feel really strongly about is them having private [social media] accounts until they're of age."
Acknowledging that the digital world is a lot different now that it was when she first became a mother, Philipps adds, "If I were entering the world of parenthood right now, I actually don't know if I would even share pictures of my kid." She pauses and then jokes, "But that ship has sailed!"
Losing her identity
Though she's thrilled by the independence her kids have gained (10-year-old Cricket wants to do everyday tasks on her own and 15-year-old Birdie opted to go to a boarding school abroad), Philipps instantly becomes quiet and thoughtful when articulating her shifting family dynamics.
"It's really hard. I feel a lot of feelings about it. I ..." she pauses, "I ... miss their 'little person-ness.' I think after Birdie left for boarding school, I had a real moment of mourning the kind of mom that I probably am never going to be again, which is the mom of little buddies who need their mama.
"They will always need their mom, but it changes," Philipps continues. "It's great and wonderful and deserves to be celebrated, and also there's a real loss of identity."
Advocating for change
Now that her kids are demonstrating more independence, she has the time to support causes she believes in. She has teamed up with the ACLU as an Artist Ambassador for Reproductive Freedom to spread the word about ballot measures and the importance of voting because, as always, communication is key.
In conversations with mothers at her daughters' schools, she's heard comments like, "I don't even really pay attention anymore because it just seems to hard." In response, she says, "I get it. It does. So I can pay attention. And then I'll just tell you what to do."
Philipps hopes that she can use her platform to “make it easy to be actionable so that you don’t shut it off. So that you really are able to show up for yourself and for your neighbors and for your kids and for the future.”