Julie Bowen Working Mother

Scott Kirkland/PictureGroup

As a mom-of-three, Julie Bowen‘s got a good grip on motherhood, but that hasn’t stopped her from picking up a few parenting pointers from her Modern Family character, Claire.

“[I’ve learned] that being your kids’ best friend is not always the best parenting choice. It’s not about everybody being happy all the time,” the two-time Emmy winning actress tells Working Mother of raising her sons, Oliver, 6, and fraternal twins John and Gus, 4.

“It’s about setting limits. In my house that makes my kids very unhappy, like tantrums-on-the-ground-twice-a-day unhappy. But the limits are set.”

But while juggling three boys isn’t always easy – she likens the task to “running a small army” – Bowen, 43, admits one of her greatest challenges came after welcoming her first son.

“I think going from zero to one was hardest because of the mental difference between all of your time being your own to there being a living being you now have to consider first,” she explains.

As her kids continue to grow, Bowen has been spending less time away from home, concentrating on mandatory commitments while opting out of extra activities. “I’m discovering that my kids now notice more when I’m gone, that they want more time and attention,” she says. “So I shorten trips to a bare minimum or just don’t go at all.”

Fortunately for the family of five, when Mom is away, Dad is always up to play! “He writes software so he has an office in our house,” Bowen says of her husband Scott Phillips.

“Essentially he’s always there for the kids, even when he’s off duty and the door is closed and he’s working. He’s definitely the element of consistency our children need.”

– Anya Leon