Now that we’re parents, we know how it goes: Set foot in your kid’s school or on their bleachers, and to their friends you’re just “Cameron’s mom” or “Olivia’s dad.”
So imagine what it’s like to be actress Maggie Baird or, as she is now known to most of us, “Billie Eilish’s mom.” If your kids haven’t yet clued you in, 17-year-old Billie Eilish is a rock star, and we mean that quite literally. Maggie spoke with us about what it’s like to parent a teen when the whole world is watching—and when you have to balance fame and touring with the everyday stuff like making sure your kid gets enough sleep.
Q: What has it been like as a parent to go through this whole experience with your daughter?
Baird: It’s such an ever-changing experience. You catch me one day and it’s all about the general “having a teenage daughter” and how to cope with that. The next day it’s how to cope with a busy touring schedule. It’s been a really intense experience.
Q: It feels like Billie jumped to phenom status practically overnight.
Baird: I think that’s what it seems like. I know in the general world of the music industry, it’s fast, but it has been three and a half years. She had a song that really took off on SoundCloud, which caused some industry attention and some fan attention, but it wasn’t overnight. The first year and a half, every experience was completely new. I think Patrick [my husband] and I just kept looking at each other like, Oh my God, what is going on. Record labels calling, and Billie and Finneas [Billie’s 21-year-old brother, who writes and performs with her] writing this amazing song, and then another amazing song. But it wasn’t overnight fame. Even though the level of it is surprising and incredible and probably more than we ever imagined, it was gradual.
Q: Was your life more ordinary before all of this?
Baird: We didn’t have a lot. Finneas got his singing lessons because I would go cook for his singing teacher while he had a lesson. Or we bartered for gymnastics lessons for Billie by Patrick doing handyman work. They wanted to do something and maybe we didn’t have the money, so we found a way to make it happen. And they worked hard, also. Billie wanted to ride horses, and it was definitely something we could not afford. We saved up, and we got her one week of a rec center horse camp, and then the people there said that if she came and worked at the camp, doing birthday parties or cleaning the stables, she could get lessons in exchange. So she basically paid for her own horseback riding lessons for two years by working at the stable and doing birthday parties.
Q: How has the fame been for your family?
Baird: There’s a huge upside to fame—you get a broader audience for your stuff so you get more opportunities—but there is a huge downside. And I’m really talking about Billie, not us. It is a huge amount of work. Teenagers are working hard all over the country and world, and they may be working hard at school, sports, any extracurricular—anything they love. Teenagers are famously overworked and under-sleeping right now. In some ways she’s leading a typical life because she also is experiencing that.
Q: So do you feel like you’re just a mom of a teenager with the same worries or do you have a whole different set of worries?
Baird: I think I definitely have a different set of worries. I don’t have to worry about whether they will go to college. Her safety is my primary worry, and it is a huge worry. And her mental health: How can we help her achieve the things she says she wants to do and also help her stay sane and healthy? Those are really hard, and do not always go together. It’s very complicated because your mental health is associated with a lot of different things, including how much sleep you get and how much downtime you get. But also, your mental health is associated with your creative impulses and how much you get to fulfill them—so we can’t just take everything away and say, “You’re over-scheduled, it’s too much, it’s all going to stop.”
Q: Has Billie had a hard time maintaining a social life?
Baird: She has a few very good friends from childhood that she’s always had and is still super close to, and then she has some other friends that she’s met more recently but she’s very good friends with. It’s definitely hard. She can no longer go out in the world. She tries, and it’s not been working out too great lately. It’s hard for her to go to more normal, teenage places, or places in Los Angeles where everyone hangs out. That is definitely a challenge that we’re dealing with now, adjusting to that and how to help her see her friends.
Her friends have had to adjust to it, too, and that’s hard. Not everybody understands what her life is like and that she just can’t go to the Americana and see a movie. It’s not always fun for them to be with somebody who may be recognized all the time and taking pictures if she’s out, or maybe having to have security.
Q: Do you have rules like other parents? Curfews, rules about drugs and alcohol, and so on?
Baird: We don’t have a hardcore curfew, but we do have a “you should be home by 1 a.m.” kind of deal. We’ll say that we’re quite lucky, in that she does have a pretty clear picture of not wanting to do drugs because she’s seen what it does to people. That’s why she and Finneas wrote the song Xanny on the album.
Q: Billie’s music is so wildly creative—where does it all come from?
Baird: The music is 100% Billie and Finneas. They are absolutely a team in that regard. Finneas and Billie write together. Sometimes he writes it alone, or sometimes she writes it alone, but then he produces it, and she’s very involved in the production. The whole sound of the album, the songs, all of that is the two of them. The visual component is really from her brain.
Q: There doesn’t seem to be any jealousy between them.
Baird: There definitely is not. I think because they have different strengths and interests, and they complement each other so well. I’m not saying they don’t fight. They definitely argue with each other because they both really care about what they’re creating, and they work it out until they get where they want to be. It’s an intense but beautiful kind of relationship. They’re very, very close.
Q: Have you made their career your full-time work, or are you doing your own projects at all?
Baird: It’s pretty much my full-time job aside from acting, if I get an acting job thrown at me out of the blue. But, really, we’re the only people who have 100% her interest at heart. I can’t say enough good things about her team; on every level, they’re amazing. But you also know that someone has to be completely your child’s advocate. That’s fallen to us. She can speak up for herself, and she does, but sensing that she needs a break or she’s tired, that’s mom.
I’m sure at some point somebody else will be able to do it, and she’ll be in a different place, but it has been really important for us to say, “This is the season of our life. This is the season where I’m trying to help Billie.” I’m just trying to help her stay afloat, stay feeling good, help her do what she wants to do. That’s my job right now.