The actress shares two daughters with husband Peter Sarsgaard.

By Isabel Jones
Updated May 14, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

Maggie Gyllenhaal may be best known for her award-nominated performances in Crazy Heart and The Deuce, but it’s her least-publicized role that’s the most important to her: mother of two.

The 41-year-old actress spoke during Loacker’s annual Power Mom Day on Saturday about her experience as a mother to daughters Ramona, 12, and Gloria, 7, with husband Peter Sarsgaard.

“Being a mother includes the entire spectrum of feelings. I think once you're a mother, you will never live without pain again,” she explained, pointing to the pain of separation from your children as well as the empathy you feel for them. “First you have the pain of ‘oh my God, this is so much — I’m so tired,’ or seeing your children go through something painful, all of those things, and then they go and you’re like ‘I miss you.’”

350th Anniversary Gala at Opera Garnier In Paris
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As for balancing motherhood and a spotlight-heavy career, there are the obvious challenges. “I remember being on Jon Stewart in this sack,” she recalled of promoting a film soon after the birth of her second daughter. “I felt it was the wrong time to be having my picture taken — not by like my husband or people who love me and know me, but in general by the world. I found it really difficult, to be honest.”

Gyllenhaal, who started her family at age 28, said she was “becoming a grown up” at the same time as she was raising her eldest. “I didn’t even know I needed a diaper bag,” she said of her early days as a mom. “Nobody told me,” she continued, recounting a story her soon-to-be-teenage daughter will surely love to see in the news: “I remember going out with my oldest daughter when she was very young and she pooped and got it everywhere and I just like was like, I don't know what to do. And then, you know, you learn.”

Raising two children in such tumultuous times, Maggie makes sure important conversations are being had and issues conveyed, but in age-appropriate ways. Gyllenhaal’s eldest, Ramona, is an activist herself, who’s “really activated by the climate emergency,” as is Maggie. Ramona keeps mom in check though, reminding her to be aware of her impact when she slips up and grabs a plastic straw. “We don’t use anything like that — we don’t have to use plastic in my house because of my daughter.”

“It’s a different conversation with a 12-and-a-half-year-old than it is with a 7-year-old,” Gyllenhaal clarified. “My 7-year-old, I’m not going to talk to her about a school shooting,” she said, “I don’t think that’s appropriate, but I will talk to her about how dangerous guns can be, whereas Ramona is aware if there’s a school shooting.”

Maggie won’t take full credit for her daughters’ awareness though. “Some of it is things that you’ve taught them, and then other things are just them. And some of it is growing up right now, coming into awareness of who you are right now, with so many painful, upsetting things right on the table.”