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"I don’t need much to be happy if my kids are doing well, so it’s a gift," Julie Bowen tells PEOPLE

By Natalie Stone
May 11, 2018 04:10 PM
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Julie Bowen loves being a mom of three — a role she embodies both on- and off-camera.

“I’m never bored. I look at an opportunity to fold laundry and watch basketball all at the same time as a vacation — really! Because the rest of the time it’s just so go, go, go, go. I don’t need much to be happy if my kids are doing well, so it’s a gift,” Bowen, 48, says about the best part of being a mom to her three sons — Oliver, 10, and twins John and Gustav, 8 — whom she shares with ex Scott Phillips.

“They occupy so much of my time and my brain, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.

Celebrities at the Harlem Globetrotters game, Los Angeles, USA - 19 Feb 2017
Credit: John Photography/REX/Shutterstock

While having three adolescent boys under one roof is a guarantee for lots of excitement, parenting in each family comes with its own unique set of challenges.

“When my kids are not doing as well or have challenges that I think I can fix, I want to fix it! Yes, I want to teach them to fix it, but really I want to fix it,” she says about the hardest part of being a mom. “Let’s face it, it’s very hard to let them go through those processes on their own and find out how to fail and how to succeed and how to be resilient.”

Reflecting back on her own childhood, the actress praises her mother as a role model of how to raise and interact with children.

“My mom’s a really tough, strong and independent woman. She was as much a partner as a parent, that’s the most influential thing I can think of from my parents growing up. My parents’ opinions, thoughts, motivations weighed equally and I hope that’s true for my kids,” Bowen says. “I hope they don‘t see one of us — their dad or I — as driving the train and the other just being a passenger. I want them to understand we’re different and have different ways of doing things and have a healthy respect for each of us.”

Bowen, who is the voice of Hallmark’s Mother’s Day commercial — on April 7, she helped “surprise moms with giant reproductions of Mother’s Day cards with handwritten messages from their actual loved ones” in downtown Los Angeles — may be the star of a hit show, but the two-time Emmy winner still struggles with “mom guilt” like many working mothers.

“My ‘mom guilt’ has been greatly lessened by the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to work in Los Angeles on a show with notoriously fantastic hours. So I lessen my ‘mom guilt’ by telling my children that. I’m like, ‘Some moms are deployed right now, okay. How would you feel about Afghanistan alright? It’s really far, we’d FaceTime.’ It’s often met with blank stares or eye rolls now. They’re like, ‘Yea, okay mom, whatever.’ I’m so lucky. I love my job,” she says.

As she looks back on her nine years and nine seasons that she’s starred as beloved TV mom Claire Dunphy, Bowen tells PEOPLE that she has “really learned a lot from Claire, especially early on.”

And although shell soon be saying goodbye to the series, which will (most likely) end after upcoming season 10, according to co-creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, Bowen has gleaned valuable wisdom from the show that she’s been able to apply to her own parenting practices.

“It’s basically like getting the wisdom of all these really, really funny writers who created this person who had kids older than me and I could bring some stuff to it, but I got to say and do things that the mother of kids a little bit older than mine would say and do, so that was really valuable and fun,” Bowen says.

“I kind of learned some parenting stuff along the way,” she adds. “I’ll miss getting to play with Ty Burell every day. I have to stop or I’ll cry.”