It’s safe to say that most #MillennialMoms have fond memories of seeing Haylie Duff on Disney Channel (sometimes alongside her sister Hilary Duff, as on the popular show “Lizzie McGuire”) and as Summer Wheatley in the iconic 2004 film “Napoleon Dynamite.” It’s also safe to say that anyone who’s followed Duff’s multifaceted career since the early aughts can attest to the fact that she hasn’t slowed down and that there’s not much in the entertainment industry that she hasn’t been inspired by, tried, and succeeded at.
“Like most people in this business, I feel like I’m an artist and I’m inspired by whatever it is that is in front of me at the moment,” Duff explains of her career in acting, singing, songwriting, TV hosting, food blogging, cookbook-authoring, and beyond. “I find the creative outlet in so many different places. But it’s kind of that thing when you hear that an activist is also an artist and they paint all these crazy things. I think that I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to find the creative outlet in just one arena, that I’ve been able to do it in a few feels pretty fortunate to me. Otherwise, maybe I would have been over it by this point in my life.”
For Duff right now, the view from “this point” in her life is looking pretty good. At age 32, she and her fiancé, entrepreneur Matt Rosenberg, are loving parents to an almost-2-and-a-half year old daughter, Ryan. She’s staying busy and fulfilled with her website Real Girl’s Kitchen (a Pinterest-worthy trove of actually-doable recipes, home décor hacks, and tales from her very own exploits in the kitchen) and a slate of upcoming acting projects (notably, a recurring role on season two of Rob Schneider’s “Real Rob” on Netflix, out now). And she’s enjoying the well-deserved success of her new kids’ clothing line Little Moon Society.
Perhaps it’s because Little Moon Society—which she founded with her lifelong friend, children’s clothing designer Jessica Frank, to offer ethically made and high-quality clothing for babies, toddlers, and kids up to size 8—is her newest professional venture, or perhaps it’s because the line is deeply inspired by her daughter, but it’s easy tell how sincerely she cares about this project, and how proud she is of how it has all come together. And she has good reason to be: The collection is adorable (just look at Duff’s daughter Ryan in the photos in this feature), but it also taps into values of quality, ethical production, and consumer consciousness that surely resonate with many modern parents.
“Our clothes are made with really high-quality materials and they’re well-made, so they’re built to last—not just for one child, but for a sibling or for a cousin,” Duff says. “It was really important to us to be ethically made and I think that’s the biggest thing behind us. As far as our general vibe—we always say we’re made for play. So it’s soft, cozy, comfortable clothing that fits really well and is made really well.”
As a creative pro and busy mother with many hats to wear, Duff keeps a packed schedule and then prefers to go on total silent-mode in terms of work, phone, and email when she’s spending time with her family. So during a golden moment between work and home, we caught up with the Texas-native about her upcoming acting projects, Real Girl’s Kitchen, Little Moon Society, and, of course, the joys of motherhood and raising a family in sunny Los Angeles.
Your daughter Ryan is almost 2.5, what is she like right now and what do you like to do together?
She is really into music and dress up. She’s all about princesses and putting on all kinds of costumes and things like that. She spends the majority of our evenings up on our coffee tables performing. We have a lot of music time together. She loves her little ballet class. She’s very girly, but she also loves to go out and play soccer in the backyard with her dad.
She’s at a really cute age right now!
She’s almost 2.5, which is really crazy! It’s crazy because it’s going by really fast, but, actually, I really love this age. Everyone always says: “Terrible 2s,” and “Oh, they really become super-opinionated at this age,” and things like that, but I really love this stage. I’m going to be sad to see it go. I feel like she’s growing so fast.
What have been the biggest joys and challenges of motherhood so far?
I think, so many times, that those two things come packaged together. For example, one of the biggest struggles for me was leaving her at preschool the first time. I’d never left her anywhere before—she’d stayed with my mother or Matt’s mother or her nanny, but I’d never taken her somewhere and left her there. That was a big struggle for me, and it was a struggle for her—that first transition isn’t always easy—but she worked through it, and the next two times of being dropped off, she was giving me a kiss and saying “bye-bye!” and so happy to go. So, sometimes the hardest struggles are packaged up with the most wonderful joys because I was so proud of her—to see her flourish in that way, to see her gain that independence and that confidence—and that’s what you wish for your child, for them to feel secure enough to go into something like that with confidence, and to feel that you’ve propped them up enough.
What’s the best part about raising your family in LA?
I love living in Los Angeles! I am so happy to be raising a family here, and I’ve got to tell you: There are so many things that are great about it. You have amazing weather, parks that are nearby, and beaches nearby. You just have so many options for things to do with your family, and since the weather is nice basically all year long, it really encourages families to be outdoors. I’m always looking for things that will bring me outside—whether it’s taking Ryan on a little hike or taking her to a farmer’s market. You’re just constantly encouraged to be outside because it’s so nice.
How does your parenting style compare and contrast with your fiancé’s?
Truthfully, we’ve been pretty on the same page with our parenting opinions, which, I think, is very fortunate, because I don’t think that always happens. I hear a lot of stories from my friends like: “He wants to do the cry it out method but I don’t!” For the most part, I think we’ve been pretty in synch, which is great, but when you become a parent for the first time, there are always differences about how to do this or how to do that… One of the things that I struggled with when I first became a parent was sleep crutches. Ryan was in a swaddle and then she was in a Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit, and she still sleeps in a jumbo-size sleeping bag because I’m just terrified of blankets. I think Matt would have rather not done the Magic Sleep Suit and just gotten her sleeping in the crib the normal way, but when your baby is fussy, or whatever, you’ll do anything to make them comfortable and happy.
Your kids’ clothing line, Little Moon Society, is all about keeping kids comfy! What inspired you to start that business?
I normally say that my daughter inspired it because she tends to be the thing that makes me slow down and put my phone down, and in those moments I find such inspiration. But I will tell you that I have so many wonderful moms in my life that have businesses and are hard-working and are amazing mothers at the same time, and I feel like that had a lot to do with it, too. We’re in an age where women are handling more than ever, doing more than ever, more capable than ever, so as much as my daughter inspired me, women inspired me, too—to push myself to do something that scared me a little bit and step outside my comfort zone and try something that I was inspired by—and not in a competitive way… I see so many great women around me who are having their own success outside of being a successful parent that it’s encouraging to all of us to do more and be more.
What sets Little Moon Society apart in the kids’ clothing market?
I feel like we’re a very conscious brand. And by “conscious” I don’t necessarily mean “all organic” or the normal ways of being conscious—but we’re conscious of waste, we’re conscious of where we’re made and being ethically made, and making sure there are fair wages for the people that are sewing our clothes, dying our clothes, and packaging our clothes. I think being a conscious brand goes way deeper than just saying you’re an organic brand.
I think those values really resonate with parents when they’re shopping—they want quality from many angles.
I think so! It’s hard because there’s always the option for the $5 leggings from big box-style stores, and that works for some people too. But for my own self and my own family—not to say that I have some hard line drawn, by any means—I see those clothes tearing faster, I’m throwing them out faster, and I end up buying so much more, whereas the things that are really well-made in my daughter’s closet tend to be her favorite things for so long. I’m always trying to be a less-is-more shopper.
You also stay busy with Real Girl’s Kitchen. Tell us about the history and essence of that website.
Real Girl’s Kitchen, for me, came along 6-7 years ago almost… I started Real Girl’s Kitchen on BlogSpot and I thought it was just going to be a hobby and something to fulfill me creatively when I was in between movies or shows or whatever. I started posting about things I would learn or mess up in the kitchen because I didn’t really know how to cook. It was more like my trials and tribulations of trying to be a good cook, but then I really fell in love with it, and it became the thing that inspired me most in life. Pretty quickly, it turned into me writing for Hello Giggles and Huffington Post and all these places, and shortly after that it turned into a book [The Real Girl’s Kitchen], and I sold the concept of the book into a show and we did a couple seasons of “Real Girl’s Kitchen” for the Cooking Channel, and I did a season called “Haylie’s America” for the Cooking Channel after that. It’s been the craziest ride, quite honestly. It was something I never expected to happen. It’s been a real gift in my life, for sure.
Is instilling a passion for food a big part of your life with your daughter? Does she help out in the kitchen?
Oh my God, yes… [Recently], my mom taught her to make fried okra the other night and it was pretty cute. She was mixing the batter and putting the okra in the bowl after my mom cut it. And it was really fun for me to watch it because I learned how to make fried okra with my grandmother. So it was kind of cool.
Many fans first came to know you as an actress! Tell us about the acting projects you have coming up.
I’m a recurring character on [the Netflix series “Real Rob”] with Rob Schneider that premiered [its second season] on September 29. He’s amazing, he’s so funny, and he’s an incredible director and such a visionary. He’s really just super-rad… And I have 2-3 Lifetime movies coming out in the next year and a really cool movie for SyFy Channel.
As a working mom with a lot going on, how do you strike a balance and make sure you’re choosing meaningful projects?
Not over-extending myself is a big part of it. Being able to say “yes” and “no” to things is the biggest blessing in my life. I don’t feel like I have to say “yes” to everything because then it does give me more time with my family. I think the biggest thing is making my work time my work time and making sure that Ryan is cared for by somebody that I trust—so I’m not worried and I’m not checking my phone every 20 minutes—so I can really just crank out what I need to do at work, and then when I’m at home, my phone gets put away, my email doesn’t get answered…the work stuff gets set aside when it’s time to be with my family. For me, that’s how I find the balance.