She has a hot new show and is in the midst of a remodel of her L.A. home, but for Rachel Bilson, motherhood always comes first.
“Being a mom is No. 1 for me and it always will be,” Bilson — who has a daughter, 3½-year-old Briar Rose, with her ex Hayden Christensen — tells PEOPLE for this week’s issue. “Anything I choose to do for work has to be something I really want.”
Currently, the 36-year-old actress is relishing in her new role on ABC’s Take Two, as a disgraced-TV-star-turned-private-investigator. Briar comes along to the Canadian city of Vancouver, British Columbia, when they film, and though Bilson doesn’t have a nanny, her mom helps out when she’s working.
Bilson is also open about the challenges of co-parenting with Christensen, 37, whom she dated for 10 years before they split last September. “We’re still kind of trying to figure it out,” she says of their “work in progress” dynamic with Briar. “It’s a tricky one. And I don’t know that there is any right way, necessarily.”
“We say Mommy has a house and Daddy has a house but she’s pretty young to have an in-depth conversation,” continues The O.C. alum. “Most important for me is that Briar is okay and secure and stable. No matter what I’m dealing with or how much it hurts or how much anger there is, it’s just about her.”
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The actress says she draws inspiration from her own mother, sex therapist Janice Stango, who divorced her father, TV producer Danny Bilson, when their daughter was 9 years old.
“My mom was a great mom,” says Bilson. “My parents went through a divorce and she showed me nothing but love so I was totally secure and okay when she did.”
Ultimately, “Briar needs to feel loved from the people she loves the most,” the star explains. “She has that love that is unconditional so I think we’re doing okay.”
As Briar gets older, Bilson says she sees elements of both Mom and Dad. “She’s strong-willed and pretty funny like me,” she shares. “And she’s super athletic like her dad!”
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These days, the mother of one cherishes small moments with her daughter: baking cookies and muffins (“She’s the best egg cracker!”) and singing Disney songs.
“I’m doing everything right now,” says Bilson. “I’m working and I have my girl and I have this cool house with the bunk beds that she really wants. I don’t really know what’s next, but I’m enjoying the moment.”
Take Two airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST on ABC.
For more from Rachel Bilson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.