Since Tamera Mowry-Housley became a mom, she’s become a pro at the challenges of parenthood — even tantrums.
The co-host of The Real spoke to PEOPLE for this week’s issue about the biggest public meltdown she’s had to endure so far as mom to daughter Ariah Talea, 2, and son Aden John Tanner, 4½, which took place when she had to fly across the country with Aden for the first time when he was 2½.
“He was so used to sitting on Mommy or Daddy’s lap on a plane. He didn’t like having his own seat,” says Mowry-Housley, 39. “He didn’t feel comfortable with it, so he would not sit down. The flight attendant said, ‘We can’t take off until your son is sitting.’ I was like, ‘Oh no, we’re about to experience something crazy!’ “
“It took a while for my son to sit down, put the seat belt on without screaming and crying,” she continues. “You get a couple of stares at you that aren’t very welcoming, but in that moment, all you have to do is remember if you’re doing your best, who cares what anybody else thinks? And for the most part, you will get a flight attendant or a parent to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job’ or ‘I remember this — you’re not alone.’ “
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Mowry-Housley now looks back on the difficult event as a way for her to pay similar kindness forward. “I return the favor now,” she says. “When I see a toddler having a meltdown on a plane, I look at the parent, give them a little smile and say, ‘I’ve been there, you’re doing great.’ “
“It just makes them feel better because we judge ourselves as moms. When you have additional people judging you, sometimes you just want to cry,” the Sister, Sister alum explains. “Honestly, after that flight, I did … [Ariah] was 4 weeks old, so I was dealing with my daughter, nursing her and trying to get my toddler to calm down.”
“My husband [Adam Housley] and I had to switch off — because my husband is such a present and hands-on father, it made that situation just a little bit more doable,” adds Mowry-Housley. “But at the same time … it’s embarrassing.”
Speaking of tears, the moment Mowry-Housley feels most in over her head in parenthood is when both her kids are crying at the same time.
“It is a sound that will make you start crying,” she says with a laugh. “So say they’re fighting over a toy, or Aden is upset with something and then Ariah gets upset with something and then I have an important phone call or I have to get them out of the house for school within that time … it can be very challenging, and I just sometimes throw my hands up and start crying too. We just all have a cry.”
Fortunately, the star has learned that there’s no way to know what’s coming until you experience it, especially in parenthood. “I have adopted the saying, ‘You are a perfect parent until you are one,’ ” Mowry-Housley says. “I said I would never co-sleep with my child — ‘Nope, not gonna happen!’ I’m co-sleeping with my child.”
“But he’s not going to be in there when he’s 14 years old. There’s a reason he wants to sleep with Mommy and Daddy,” she explains. “Mommy works long days, and that is his time to cuddle with me … He feels safer in our bed.”
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The difficult times are balanced out by the ones that melt Mowry-Housley’s heart — like when Aden and Ariah are playing together and are able to work out their differences on their own.
“Seeing them have a disagreement and then, without anybody saying anything, them actually taking care of each other,” she says of her proudest mommy moment so far. “Saying you’re sorry, hugging it out, helping each other pick up the toys, sharing. It’s always refreshing to see them do some of the things that you have taught your children many times … It’s beautiful.”
The season 4 premiere of The Real airs Sept. 18.
For more on Tamera Mowry-Housley’s life as a mom, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.