Beware, Boy Moms: Hilary Duff’s New Children’s Book Will Have You In Your Feelings

The actor reflected on the early years of motherhood with son Luca, 11, while writing My Little Sweet Boy.

Written by Leigh Blickley
Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Random House Books for Young Readers

Hilary Duff didn’t set out to become a children’s book author. It just happened.

The actor, businesswoman, and mom of three added New York Times Bestseller to her list of accolades in 2021 after her book, My Little Brave Girl, resonated with mother-daughter duos everywhere. And although she initially dabbled in young adult fiction with the 2010s Elixir trilogy, the 36-year-old’s recent works are simply inspired by her kids.

“When I was writing My Little Brave Girl, it came so naturally to me to think that Banks was having to be so brave spending time away from me,” Duff, who recently wrapped a two-season run on How I Met Your Father, tells Scary Mommy of her 5-year-old daughter, Banks. She also shares 2-year-old daughter Mae with her husband Matthew Koma and 11-year-old son Luca with ex-husband Mike Comrie.

When it came time to write a sequel picture book, Duff knew she wanted to celebrate her son and reflect on those early years of motherhood.

“With My Little Sweet Boy, I really wanted the message to be that it’s OK to be in touch with your emotions, it’s OK to have big feelings, it’s OK to not always feel brave, it’s OK to not always be strong,” she explains, “and to kind of take the pressure off of boys and change our language a little bit when we talk to them.”

For Luca—you continue to teach me and amaze me. This stage of parenthood is so cool. I know you are big now, but you will forever be my little sweet boy. Let’s keep growing, forming, and making forever memories. Thank you for giving me the privilege of parenthood heart explosion.

Hilary Duff's book dedication

With illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, My Little Sweet Boy is a lovely, heartfelt follow-up that encourages children to embrace life's ups and downs. Below, Hilary Duff talks about the book, parenthood, and how she tries to balance, well, it all.

Scary Mommy: What was the process of creating the story for My Little Sweet Boy?

Hilary Duff: My Little Sweet Boy was a really fun trip down memory lane for me, remembering those first few years of becoming a mother. This was really a love letter to my son and his toddlerhood.

SM: Your son Luca is now 11. Did writing the book allow you to process your lives together thus far — looking back on those baby and toddler years — and your hope for his future?

HD: Yes, 100%. It put into perspective all that we've experienced — all the memories, all the growth. And as we move into him becoming a teenager and our relationship shifts into a new stage, I just hope to continue to understand him and shift with him and support him in becoming exactly who he's supposed to be.

SM: What made you want to become a children's book author?

HD: I didn't set out to be a children's book author. With My Little Brave Girl, it was kind of an emotional time when I was trying to race home every night and get a moment with my daughter Banks, and the book just started coming to me. But many female-driven storybooks were inspiring me at the time.

SM: Have you noticed a change in children's reading material over the years? If so, what are some of the stories or even subject matters that stand out to you?

HD: I think a big shift has definitely taken place in terms of inclusion and topics that we as a society are putting at the forefront ... it's really nice for parents to have those to lean on to spark great conversations in the home, or to help soothe any confusing or difficult times.

SM: What is the hardest part of being a mother of three? And what's the best part?

HD: There's not enough time for anything, and getting out of the house — that's the hardest part! The best part is having each other and making memories, and watching my children's relationships and their bonds grow, watching the way they laugh with each other, the things they find funny … My favorite time of day is at night when we're all exhausted but everyone's winding down and cozy, and we're all together.

SM: What have you learned while growing from a young mother into a seasoned pro?

HD: I try to not be as hard on myself when I forget things or can't make everything happen. I'm not responsible for everyone's happiness all the time, and that's something I've really learned after having my third child. But I'm still learning. I still don't know what to do sometimes, and I don't feel like I have all the answers, but there's just a pressure that's removed [because] I know that, in the big scheme, those little things don't matter. And I think the more kids you put in the mix, the more you realize you can't let those things stick around and bog you down, you know?

Hilary Duff’s daughters Banks and Mae.

SM: I also have two daughters, 5 and 2, and watching their sisterly bond is everything. How has it been for you to see that relationship blossom?

HD: I've noticed it the most in the past four months. Without being prompted, Banks will share with her sister or make sure she has what Banks has. She'll give up something she really cares about because [my daughter] Mae wants it. We do book time and bath time together, and they'll play and giggle ... I have no idea what it's about sometimes, but it's just so sweet to watch the language they share and the way they look out for one another.

Mae is always looking to Banks — in almost every picture I take, Mae has her eyes fixed on Banks, like, "What's she doing? I want to do it, too."

SM: How do you balance motherhood and self-prioritizing yourself, your career, and your marriage? I know it's a loaded question!

HD: I don't! I just do the best I can. A mom is spread so thin! Something takes over where you're just like, "OK, yesterday I was at Luca's football game, and this day I'm going to be doing soccer with the girls, and I'm going to take Mae to dance this day because last week I took Banks to dance, and then Matt and I are going to have dinner and say goodbye to the kids because we need that."

It feels like you're getting pulled, so it just feels like the natural thing to do to kind of prioritize each one of them at different times. I also have really great support in my household, which helps me feel like I can give enough to work — and really, it's like extended family for my kids.

SM: We're "lucky" to live in a day and age where men share in the load of parenthood more so than in the past. How do you and your husband, Matthew, tackle it all together?

HD: Matt gets up early with the kids the most often because I usually take the afternoon and nighttime shifts — and those are the hours that go on and on forever. In the mornings, I'll wake up with the kids, of course, but he's usually 20 minutes ahead of me and has already made breakfast, packed the majority of the lunches, and made coffee — which is the most important! He drives the kids to school a lot and does a lot of our grocery shopping.

He's great. Like any man, he needs direction, but as long as he has direction, he's happy to do it. Usually, we'll look at each other when we're six hours into the day and go, "OK, six hours in…" and then when there are three hours left to go, he'll be like, "Three hours to go!" and we're like "Yep, we've got it" and just buckle up and keep powering through. The amount of things we cram into the day is absurd.

He's really good at reminding me that I don't need to constantly entertain our kids, and our kids don't always have to have something going on. He can tell when I'm really wiped, and I need him and vice versa, so it's a really nice balance.

SM: What's your advice for a mom in the thick of it?

HD: I have a friend in town right now, and at the end of the day, I'll be like, "Ugh, I'm so tired; what is wrong with me?" And she's like, "Are you CRAZY? You've been up for this amount of time, and you've done this, this, this, this, this…" — listing off everything — "You're not sitting around eating bonbons." And it's true. No mother is sitting around eating bonbons!

There's never been more pressure on moms to make a cute lunch, and to make it look easy, and to never forget anything, and to be prepared for all the picture-perfect moments… it never ends. Of course, you're so grateful to be a mom — I'm so grateful to be a mom and for that to be my identity — but it's also so hard.

So I would say, if you can just let yourself feel how overwhelming this all is and know that no mom is sitting around being like, "This is easy!" That's an important feeling to honor, and to give yourself space to realize that what you're doing is hard.

This interview has been edited for clarity.