Lucy Liu opens up about her nontraditional family and the best advice her mother gave her

Lucy Liu and more moms reveal #HowWeFamily for Tylenol
Lucy Liu and more moms reveal #HowWeFamily for Tylenol

By: Chelsea Huang

Last August, Lucy Liu surprised fans with news she had welcomed her first son, Rockwell, through a gestational surrogate.

While the happy news was met with plenty of support, many questioned her move -- but Liu, who says she has always felt "nontraditional," was prepared for the stigmas attached to the birth of her son, and met them with grace.

"I know that some people have posted things that are maybe more critical or less encouraging or question why and how, and I think that's fine," she told AOL in an exclusive interview. "I don't think you're always going to get people who are 100 percent behind you. If you do, then maybe you're doing something wrong, like you're trying to please too many people."

The decision to have a child through a gestational carrier didn't happen overnight. Liu, 47, grappled with the concept with uncertainty for "a little while," mainly to focus on her career, before seeing others take the path.

"I really loved what I did and continue to love what I do -- and I was ike how does it fit, how does it match? And I saw people who had either adopted or had children through a gestational carriers, and they were able to carry on, and the world didn't fall apart ... So that helped inspire me to say, 'I can do this,' " she said.

Seeing others whose families more resembled her own was integral to helping her feel secure in her decision -- and now she's teamed up with Tylenol to help bring awareness to the "nontraditional" family with the new #HowWeFamily campaign, which emphasizes how people love in their family, rather than the methods of becoming one.

"I didn't have a family the traditional way, and I think it's important for people to know that there is a reference that you can go to. Growing up, I didn't recognize myself on television. As a mother, and someone who is not necessarily traditional, it's nice to have other people embrace or support you, because it's a wonderful journey, but it's also very scary."

As a single mother who worked 16 hours a day, 10 months of the year on her show "Elementary," Liu has embraced and welcomed others into her "wonderful but scary" journey."

"I learned early on that I'm not going to be afraid to ask for help," she said. "You're sort of letting go of your ego when you do that because you're not thinking that no one else can do it better. I'm sure that many people can do it better, and I can learn from them."

One great resource for many new moms is their own mother. Liu dished the best advice her mom ever gave her -- in the form of a tale.

There was an older monk and a younger monk on their way to a temple, and along the way, they saw a woman who needed help crossing a stream. The older monk carried her across the stream, but she complained that he got her skirt wet, dropped her oranges -- this and that. After they left the woman, the younger monk went on and on about how unappreciative she was. Finally, they got to the temple door, and the older monk turned to the younger monk and said, 'I left that woman at the side of the stream, why are you still carrying her?'

The moral of the story?

"Even though they're not physically with you, emotionally, we bear so much burden, and sometimes we just have to let it go. And sometimes, we don't even know we're carrying it," Liu said.

Perhaps that's what inspired Liu's low-key plans for her first Mother's Day.

"I'm just going to do nothing. I'm not going to multitask, I'm not going to do a million things, which I love doing -- but I'm just going to be of single mind with my son. Just simplifying that day."

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Originally published