The star welcomed a daughter in May and tells PEOPLE she is still figuring out how to stay productive with two young kids amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Topher Gauk-Roger
December 22, 2020 02:20 PM
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America Ferrera
| Credit: JC Olivera/Getty

America Ferrera is adjusting to life as a working mother of two young children.

The star welcomed daughter Lucia Marisol in May, joining her 2-year-old son Sebastian "Baz" Piers, and is still figuring out how to balance both kids as she works from home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Oh my goodness, it's a world's difference. Everything's been so compounded by the pandemic and by quarantine, and truly not being able to have the extended network of family and friends that one would normally have when you bring a new baby home to hold the baby and give you a break or to help," Ferrera tells PEOPLE exclusively. "My son went everywhere with me. I went back to work when he was only 10 weeks old and I would hand him to like a camera grip. I'd be like, 'You hold him. I've got to go over here.' "

Ferrera, 36, reveals that her son grew used to being surrounded by people ("he loved it") and she's hoping her daughter eventually grows as comfortable around others. "Whenever there is an occasion for a new face, she just bursts into tears," she says. "She doesn't know what to do with new faces, so hopefully she's young enough that this will all start to get better before it can really start to stick with her."

Despite the added complications of having a second child in the mix, the busy actress and producer is staying focused on the positive aspects of having the family quarantine together at home. "I could never have imagined that we would be growing the family in this circumstance, but it's also been wonderful because it has forced us to to really just spend time as a family of four and really get our rhythm of just being our little family," she explains. "As challenging as the year has been, I think there will be a lot of fond memories of this time of really having to slow down and take the time to be together and sink into family life."

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Ryan Piers Williams (L) and America Ferrera
| Credit: John Salangsang/Variety/Shutterstock

Ferrera admits being a mother of two "can be overwhelming" on a daily basis, but she's still managing to find productive time away from the family. "Working from home is particularly difficult as mommy because if he or she smell me — and they smell me anywhere in the vicinity — then it's just, 'Mommy mommy mommy,' " she exclaims. "That's all they want, regardless of them having Dad or when we're lucky enough to have someone helping us out."

"If Mom's anywhere near, they just want me, so it can be difficult when I actually have to do work and get things done," Ferrera adds. "I'll lock myself in my bedroom because it’s the only place I can talk without my daughter hearing my voice and hearing her screaming for not holding her."

The star and husband Ryan Piers Williams aren't thinking about expanding the family any time soon, explaining, "This is not the year for big decisions. We're going to get on the other side of this and then figure big life questions out."

America Ferrera and son Sebastian
| Credit: America Ferrera/Instagram

While she has yet to "feel any difference" between having a son compared to having a daughter, Ferrera has been told changes are on the horizon. "My friends love to regale their stories about the differences and they're like, 'You just wait and see,' so I guess all of that is still in store for me," she says.

In the meantime, Ferrera is excited for the "super simple" holidays her family has planned this year.

"This is [Lucia's] first Christmas, which she'll never remember, but it's my 2-year old's first Christmas really getting excited and having an understanding about the holidays and celebrating," she says. "Luckily, he doesn't know what he's missing from any other year, but we're going do our best to just celebrate and make it feel special even though we can't be with all of our family and friends."

Ferrera even teamed up with with Estrella Jalisco on their Holiday Lights Program to help people light up their houses for the holidays by giving free holiday lights and covering their electric bills. As for her own holiday traditions, there's a "funny" personal one she looks forward to every year: "I like to watch Love Actually and wrap my gifts. To get to sit down in front of the movie and wrap my Christmas gifts, it's been my own little tradition forever!"

Ferrera recently wrapped her longtime stint on the hit sitcom Superstore, shortly before NBC announced this month the show's current sixth season would be its last. She says she was "totally heartbroken" by the news, adding that she's "so sad the show is over, and at the same time, incredibly proud of what it's been."

"I think what the show accomplished, the fan-base that it built, what it did for NBC — I only have so much pride in what we accomplished with the show, and it's always sad to say goodbye," she reflects. "These days TV lives forever and there's still an audience for it to reach and still people to find and discover and enjoy it, so I'm just incredibly grateful for what it has been."

While Ferrera is staying mum on the chance of a final appearance ("We're not ruling anything out, but I'm not allowed to say"), she hopes the series is remembered as "this really bold and subversive comedy that was always doing so much more than what appeared on the surface, being smart and funny about the life of retail workers."