I met Alyson Hannigan at a lovely little cafe on a sunny day in Santa Monica, Calif. (Life is tough, right?) She wasn’t the immature, sometimes-childish character we’re used to seeing her portray (and she definitely didn’t mention band camp). Instead, she was a well-put-together, smart and gracious grown-up who won me over the second she arrived.
Alyson has played iconic characters during her career: Michelle in the first three American Pie movies (and she just signed on to do a fourth…), Willow in the long-lasting television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and most recently, Lily in the popular comedy How I Met Your Mother. But her most important role is relatively new: Mommy to her two-year-old daughter, Satyana Marie. Alyson and her hubby of eight years, Alexis Denisof, pride themselves on being the best parents they can be.
Being a mom is a "precious gift," she says. (And somehow, when she said that, it didn’t even sound cheesy.) For her, the gift also happened to be impeccably timed, as Saty arrived on Alyson’s birthday! While she has only been a mother for a couple years, she spoke like a seasoned pro. Her best piece of parenting advice? "Get into your kid’s world." To be a good mom, she says, you have to "go at their speed." Rushing and snapping is not productive. "Just get up earlier and take your time." You have to be patient with kids, she says–nothing new, but oh-so-true.
Alyson admits being a mom isn’t easy, and she’s under no illusions that her family life and career are perfect. But she does her best to maintain balance. Sometimes, she says, "it gets all wibbly-wobbly." (Yes, she uses adorable phrases like "wibbly-wobbly.") "There’s too much of this, and not enough of that; it’s always teetering." One thing is for certain though: Her daughter is her "absolute number one priority." Alyson’s dream job would be to spend every second taking care of Satyana, but with a career, that’s impossible. However, Alyson and Alexis manage their family in a way that most celebs don’t…without a nanny. "REALLY?" I asked, not hiding my surprise in the least. "Yup," she responded proudly. Alyson or her hubby is with their little girl all day. Now, I realize this isn’t practical for most families. But, nonetheless, I’m impressed. They’ve got the means to have a zillion nannies!
It helps that Alyson’s current gig is a kid-friendly place. The set of How I Met Your Mother is equipped with a nursery AND a the perfect playmate for little Satyana. Cobie Smulders (who plays Lily’s on-screen BFF Robin Scherbatsky) gave birth to a baby girl just over a month after Alyson had her daughter. It’s great, she says, "because I have someone to go through everything with." But still, being away from her daughter is tough. "There are long [work] days," she says. "I’ll miss baby classes and activities, and it’s hard." But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. And Alyson knows how lucky she is.
Alyson also has her other half to thank for the successful balancing act she’s got going on. She and doting hubby Alexis, also an actor, have been going strong for eight years–a lifetime in Hollywood! I had to ask for her secret to a happy marriage. "Really," she says honestly, "It’s all cliché. He’s my best friend." (How cute is that?) But a good relationship doesn’t just happen. "We really work at it. We’re not just parents, we’re a couple." They’ve made Saturday date night a priority. "At first, we were so nervous to leave Saty with a sitter. All we did was talk about her on our dates!" But they’re getting better about savoring their nights out and enjoying each other’s company. That’s why Alyson’s new cause is so important to her. She’s working with StubHub to launch the national charity program "Mom’s Night Out." It’s designed to encourage moms to take a night off with their friends (or hubbies). A portion of proceeds from ticket sales from designated events are donated to Adopt-A-Classroom, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting teachers and ensuring all children have equal access to a quality education. I knew I liked her.
A Sparkling Image
With a good-looking husband, a successful career, selfless charity work and a Los Angeles home, you’d think there would be icky rumors, mean headlines, or at least a couple of unflattering photos of Alyson in the tabloids. But she’s somehow managed to maintain a sparkling image. "How!?" I asked. "Well, for one, I’m not out there clubbing." It’s funny, she explained, "The paparazzi rarely paid attention to me until I was pregnant–I wasn’t interesting until I had a daughter!" she laughed. It must be hard to explain the photographers to a two-year-old, I prompted. Definitely, she answered. "I try not to use the p-word. I just tell her they are taking pictures of us." A simple explanation is usually best. "It’s a bit like a game of hide-and-go-seek with the paparazzi, " she explains to me, "except I never know I’m playing." Makes sense. "In general, you see the same photographers. They’re polite and fairly unobtrusive." But occasionally, she says, there will be a dozen or more. And that’s just not okay!
At this point, I loved Alyson Hannigan. She was warm, friendly and chatty–the perfect interviewee. But then, something fantastic happened…
An adorable little red-head came bouncing up to the table in her daddy’s arms. And Alyson’s face lit up. "My baby!" she cooed to Saty as she kissed her hubby hello. The excitement was overwhelming–in the best possible way, of course. The couple didn’t plan to meet at the cafe–it was a surprise run-in. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to meet Saty and Alexis, whom Alyson giddily introduced me to. No wonder Alyson loves being a mom so much–her daughter was one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen! Alyson and Saty spent a couple more minutes waving and smiling at each other as Alexis (slowly) carried his little one to the store next door.
I rushed to ask my last question, which Alyson patiently answered (even though her eagerness to see Saty was definitely apparent). And then, off she went to catch up with her two loves.
And that, kids, is the story of How I Met… Alyson Hannigan.