“We’re all bored,” Mayim Bialik says of lockdown life, but the truth is that the former child star has a lot on her plate right now. There’s her leading role in the brand-new Fox sitcom Call Me Kat, her mental health podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, which draws on her experience as a neuroscientist and — oh yeah — the responsibilities and challenges of parenting during a pandemic.
“There’s definitely a level of frustration and exhaustion, especially when I’m anxious — when the news is scary, or when I’ve been looking at the news too much, or when numbers are spiking, or people that we know are positive,” the actress tells Yahoo’s Kylie Mar of being a “divorced parent in quarantine.” Bialik and ex-husband Michael Stone divorced in 2012 after nine years of marriage, and co-parent two sons, 15-year-old Miles and 12-year-old Fred.
“They just want to play video games all the time,” she groans of her housebound kids, but admits that it helps that they’ve been homeschooled and therefore require less constant attention compared to her friends’ kids. “They’re used to the notion of ‘Mom or Dad needs to actually have a life while you’re home.’”
Even so, Bialik adds that the situation has taken a toll on her mental health.
“It’s very hard to manage my own anxiety when there’s not another adult in the house, like, I’m just gonna say that,” the 45-year-old star says. To help her cope, she reached out to her family therapist early on in the pandemic.
“She said, ‘Your goal right now is to take care of yourself and to take care of your children, and to not freak out over every single thing,’” Bialik shares. “She said this is not the time to try and teach discipline from the ground up, or try and take out my anxiety on them and be like, ‘I’m anxious so now it’s your anxiety.’”
Instead, she is focused on “being gentle with myself [and] gentle with them,” whether that means giving herself a “break” by enjoying a family movie night over a more educational project (“It’s OK to just chill on the couch”) or ordering in the occasional meal to give herself a break from cooking.
“Dinners are not super-elaborate — like, at first they were, and now I’m just like, ‘Eat this can of beans, I can’t anymore,’” she quips.
“I’ve taken the pressure off me,” she adds. “Especially when there’s not another adult, and I don’t have a nanny, I don’t have a housekeeper, I don’t have any of those things, it’s just me, it’s always been just me since I got divorced, like eight years ago.”
The impact the pandemic has had on her mental health — “my anxiety which is normally pretty high, got really, really high,” she says — has also helped inspire her new Breakdown podcast. In order to “cover everything mental health,” Bialik, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2008, and partner Jonathan Cohen interview experts in the field as well as celebrity pals who open up about their own struggles. These are important conversations to be having, she notes, amid a pandemic that’s putting strain on many people.
“A lot of my friends who had not experienced mental health challenges were all of a sudden thinking, ‘What is happening to me? Why can’t I sleep? Why is eating so hard?’” she says. “And I said, ‘Welcome to the club! You’re anxious.’”
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected Bialik’s stance on vaccinations. Last fall the former Blossom and Big Bang Theory star posted a video clarifying her opinion following years of what she called “inaccurate” rumors that she’s an anti-vaxxer because her children had until recently not had flu shots and were on a delayed vaccination schedule. Bialik told fans that, in light of the pandemic, she would herself be getting a flu shot for the first time in 30 years and would get a COVID-19 vaccine when available.
“The amount of research required to kind of make that sort of decision for me is really based on kind of the basic science of what’s going on in the world and how we protect ourselves,” she tells Mar. “Science is real ... It really does matter that people be as careful as we can be, and that means changing our lives in significant ways.”
That’s not to say she doesn’t retain some skepticism about vaccines as a whole, however.
“It’s not ‘I’m pro every single vaccine that anyone talks about all the time everywhere, every single minute,’” she caveats. “I have a lot of questions about the vaccine industry, as do a lot of people. I have a lot of questions about the profits involved. [But] when it comes to this virus, the insidiousness of this virus, the way this virus works, the way that it adapts, we absolutely need to see this as distinctly different from the flu. It’s different from the common cold. This is something we need absolute protection from. Vaccines do have an inherent risk with them, and there’s a lot of complexity to this vaccine. I’m hoping that as we gather more information we can influence more people to understand the mechanics of this vaccine and the importance for our health and for our lives.”
She acknowledges that her support of the COVID-19 vaccine may be seen to run counter to the controversies surrounding her past hesitancy.
“I’m still just one person,” she says. “My kids were vaccinated late, and a lot of people were very critical of that, and I totally understand that. But this virus is different from anything that we’ve seen.”
—Video produced by Kylie Mar and Jen Kucsak, and edited by John Santo.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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