Mayim Bialik: From Big Bang Theory to attachment parenting

Actor Mayim Bialik, like her comedy alter ego, really is a neuroscientist – and now also the author of a parenting book that is ruffling a few feathers, she tells Rebecca Schiller

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I like Mayim Bialik all the more when it's clear that she couldn't care less either way. Busy, opinionated and impossible to pigeonhole, she informs me early on that mothers cannot "have it all", while seeming to manage to have most of it herself.

The 38-year-old actor – probably still best known for starring in US teen sitcom Blossom – simply doesn't have time for Hollywood niceties. She has a CV that leaps from blogging for the Jewish lifestyle site Kveller.com, and activism on several fronts, to playing Amy Farrah Fowler, a socially awkward neuroscientist in the resoundingly popular comedy The Big Bang Theory. Oh, and though it's not widely known, she actually is a neuoscientist, having completed her doctorate when her youngest son was two. Now, she is also the author of a book on attachment parenting, Beyond the Sling, published tomorrow in the UK.

Bialik, who is, in fact, Dr Bialik, has a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, where her research focused on OCD in sufferers of the rare genetic disorder, Prader-Willi syndrome, in which excessive appetite leads to obesity.

Her book, billed as "a real-life guide to raising confident, loving children the attachment parenting way", has found loyal followers in the US who praise her commitment to long-term breastfeeding and gentle parenting. She has also received hefty criticism from what she unapologetically describes as "indignant women who want to be in offices and not parenting their children actively", as well as those who disapprove of her co-sleeping, veganism and vaccine scepticism. But though attachment parenting gets a bad press as a hippified, guilt-inducing, anti-science, it was the academic in Bialik that was inspired to write about her family – reacting against parenting manuals that she saw as "ways to get your baby to behave like it's not a baby". Having studied the hormones of mammalian bonding, attachment parenting seemed to her to be the species-normal way to respond to children.

"We should be disturbed that society privileges making money above raising our kids," she says. Not shying away from unpopular views, she adds: "You can't be in two places at once. It's impossible to be at home and at work. I'm a feminist, but I made the difficult decision to stay at home when my children were little. I'm lucky that the father of my children was there to look after them when I did return to work."

Bialik's contradictory, hectic world now includes the label of "divorced mum". She fought to keep the details of the 2012 separation private and it now seems that Bialik and her ex-husband Michael Stone have hit the elusive break-up jackpot: the amicable divorce. Bialik describes herself as "blessed" in her relationship with Michael, and while admitting that divorce "changes your schedule" somewhat, she paints a rosy picture of co-parenting, with Stone homeschooling the children while she works.

But she is keen to confess to life being tough, full of difficult choices, and explains that she only makes it work by "lowering demands on myself". Yet even with a full-time filming schedule she isn't interested in having a helpful entourage. "I clean my own toilets. I don't have a nanny and no one has ever put our six- and nine-year-olds to bed apart from us."

It is an odd life for a celebrity and she admits that "even my friends who aren't Hollywood actors are much fancier than me". I ask how she manages to fit in on the red carpet while being just as comfortable at home bleaching the loo. Her simple answer, confidently delivered as ever, is that she doesn't really know what being comfortable is. "I never really fitted in; even before I was an actress. I was the kid who didn't fit in, the teenager who didn't fit in," she explains. "I was a misfit. I guess that hasn't changed as I've become an adult."

She may be a misfit, but it seems that being a mother makes the oppositional worlds of Mayim Bialik make sense; at least to her. Although she happily Instagrams pictures of her new make-up palette, selfies with her fellow actors and proud displays of pro-Israel T-shirts, it is her children that provide the trail of breadcrumbs to follow back home. Describing them is the only moment in our conversation that she sounds vulnerable: "My children are compassionate because they have been shown compassion. What else could I want?"

'Beyond the Sling', by Mayim Bialik (Pinter and Martin, £9.99), is out tomorrow

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