Raise a toast to imperfect mums

Actresses (from left) Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in Bad Moms.
Actresses (from left) Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in Bad Moms.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

Bad Moms' stars Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate and Kathryn Hahn say they share the same struggles of mothers around the world

Mila Kunis' biggest worry as a new mother is that one-year-old Wyatt, her daughter with husband Ashton Kutcher, is going to be spoilt rotten.

Although the straight-talking actress, 32, puts it a little more bluntly than that. "When I was having Wyatt, my biggest fear was having an a**hole for a child. I really mean that. I just don't want my kids to be a**holes," says the star, who is now expecting a second child with Kutcher, 38, her former co-star on the sitcom, That '70s Show (1998-2006).

Kunis was speaking to The Straits Times and other press in Los Angeles about her new movie, Bad Moms, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

The comedy sees her playing an overworked and under-appreciated mum, Amy, who finally snaps and decides to rebel against the expectation that mothers must behave perfectly all the time.

When I was having Wyatt,my biggest fear was having an a**hole for a child. I really mean that. I just don’t want my kids to bea**holes.

ACTRESS MILA KUNIS on her biggest worry as a new mother. She has a one-year-old daughter, Wyatt, with her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, and is expecting their second child

Along with co-stars Christina Applegate, Kathryn Hahn and Annie Mumolo, who play members of a school's Parent Teacher Association, Kunis says she shares many of the same concerns and struggles that these characters and mums all over the world do.

The actresses are aware, however, that their children are more fortunate than most.

Kunis says: "They're going to be so privileged and grow up in a world where everything is so accessible, from information to material things. So how do you make certain items special, how do you make them appreciative of the things they have? How do you teach work ethic to a child who doesn't need one?

"In today's society, it's so hard to come by and that's been one of the biggest struggles I've had as a mother," says the performer, who has appeared in comedies such as Ted (2012) and Friends With Benefits (2011) as well as the Oscar- winning drama Black Swan (2010).

The star's own childhood was a far cry from her daughter's: Kunis grew up in the former Soviet Union before she, her parents and older brother emigrated to Los Angeles when she was seven. There, her father found work as a taxi driver and her mother got a job at a pharmacy, so the family did not have a lot of money.

"I grew up so poor that I was like, 'Doesn't everybody drink ketchup with water as soup?' But for (Wyatt), she's going to have everything because that's the lifestyle she's going to know," says Kunis. "How am I going to change that for her? It's an everyday battle."

But she believes she and Kutcher - who was the star of the hit television series Punk'd (2003-2007) and Two And A Half Men (2011-2015) - have a few tricks up their sleeves to make their children more appreciative.

"We took our nieces to Skid Row," she says, referring to an area in Los Angeles with a large homeless population. "We drove through and we were like, 'Welcome to LA, b***hes.' This is real life.'"

Co-star Applegate - the 44-year- old star of the Anchorman movies (2004 and 2013) - wrestles with a similar issue when it comes to Sadie, five, her daughter with musician husband Martyn LeNoble, 47.

"It's a challenge. My kid has 200 stuffed animals because she won't get rid of any. And I keep going, like, 'There are kids who don't have anything, Sadie - they don't have any toys, shoes or even food on their table. Wouldn't it be so nice for you to give them?'

"And she goes, 'Well, I'm keeping them for my kid, so... maybe I'll give them one?' With everything. And so I'm scared. It's like, 'Do I have a spoilt kid who's not going to have compassion for others?' So I'm working on it."

Applegate's character in the movie, Gwendolyn, is a parent who bullies and picks on the other mums at the school for being less than perfect - treatment the actresses say they have received.

Says 43-year-old Hahn, who appeared in We're The Millers (2013) and Our Idiot Brother (2011): "I remember taking my kid to preschool and being sweaty, red-faced, my hair basically in dreadlocks and my child looking the same way - like, leaking lunchbox, everything's falling apart, it's a nightmare.

"And then there's the mom that walks in who not only looks so perfect and camera-ready, but her child also looks the same. And then there are the birthday parties with cake pops with fondant on them.

"So yeah, there are crazy expectations and this idea of perfection. There's so much cultural noise on what it is to be a mom and parent and, of course, it's impossible (to be perfect), especially when you're working mommas, which most of us are. It's hard, something's got to give."

"And it's usually the shaving of the legs," quips Applegate.

The cast points out that parents seemed to worry and judge one another a lot less in the 1970s and 1980s, when they themselves were growing up.

"We didn't have car seats or seatbelts," says Applegate. "In the 1970s, we were lucky that we were alive."

Kunis adds: "I grew up in Russia in the 1980s so that's practically like 1940s America and yet I survived."

Applegate wonders what is behind the increased pressure on parents today. "I don't know - is it the Internet? Is it because everyone's got an opinion about everything? Are people so damned scared our kids aren't going be perfect?

"I don't want my kid to be perfect because then she'll be complacent. I want her to always know that practice is progress, it's not perfect. It's always learning and growing and making mistakes and getting yourself and making yourself stronger.

"And I think that's what this movie's about - that it's okay to be a bad mom, it's okay to fail and we don't need to be perfect. Because that's setting a standard for a kid that is unrealistic."

Kunis and Applegate - who have both been targeted by tabloids and paparazzi, who have photographed them and their children - say they are under extra scrutiny as celebrities and can thus relate to those who feel judged about their parenting.

"I think that's a daily occurrence," says Kunis. "I think most people relate to that - I don't think you have to be a celebrity, you just have to be human. Because I think nowadays people have such a predilection towards judgment because it's so easy to judge, it also makes someone feel better knowing you can make someone feel 'lesser'."

In Bad Moms, some of the women's husbands are shown as being not very helpful when it comes to chores or child-rearing, leaving most of the heavy-lifting to the mums.

Applegate admits that she ends up doing most of the work at home, too, but says it is because she is "a control freak, so that's my problem".

"My husband is very hands-on and would love to be even more hands- on, but I'm just, like, 'Let me just do it all because I'm going to do it better. I'll just change the diapers and cook the meals because I do it better.'"

Kunis says Kutcher, whom she married last year, more than pulls his weight. "I have the world's greatest husband - I really do. He's incredibly hands-on and wonderful. I got really lucky - I don't think it's physically possible to be more hands-on as a father than he is.

"We both work full-time and when we're home, we're home with our child and super present. We wanted a family so much that, to us, it's really important."

• Bad Moms opens in Singapore tomorrow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Raise a toast to imperfect mums'. Print Edition | Subscribe