Nothing can prepare you for motherhood. Sure, the ups and downs of having a new baby are well-documented, but it’s all moot until you experience it for yourself. No one understands that better than Shay Mitchell, the actress and entrepreneur who welcomed her first child, Atlas, with her longtime partner Matte Babel last month. Although Mitchell is no stranger to multitasking—having balanced television roles on the Netflix thriller You and the forthcoming comedy Dollface with running a thriving travel accessories brand, Beis—she admits that the realities of raising a newborn take some getting used to. “I got three hours of sleep last night, so it was a good one,” she says with a laugh.

On the phone from her Los Angeles home, Mitchell is upbeat and endearing, quick to crack a joke about engorgement (you’ll have to Google that) and praise her friends for the sound parenting advice they’ve given her. Like many millennial moms, she’s had to adjust her schedule, stepping back from the demands of constant work to enjoy Atlas’s earliest moments fully. “I find myself being a lot more present, and I’m just looking at her every single day. You reflect on how fast time passes when you’re forced to slow down,” she says. “The surprising thing is how much I enjoy this calmness.”

Maintaining inner peace can be tough, but for Mitchell, taking the time to reflect has made all the difference. “When she’s awake, we just kind of have a chill moment together,” she says. “I’ve had to reprioritize my work time with her schedule, and that’s been interesting for me. Before it was all about my schedule, now I work once she falls asleep.” The pressure to attempt to do it all—and do it perfectly—is all too real for working moms, and Mitchell has dealt with her share of self-doubt. “There is a lot of stress and anxiety,” she says. “I’d heard all these things from my friends saying, ‘You’re going to second guess a lot of things you do, you’re going to feel guilty when you leave her.’ [It’s been all about] just taking the time to get ready and be by myself to [say,] ‘Okay cool, now I can handle this, I’ve got this, so many people have done this before me, and so many people have felt the same way.’”

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Those quiet moments can take the form of a five-minute shower, reading a good book, or indulging in one of life’s little luxuries. “It’s putting on a nice nightgown if I’m staying at home, which is most of the time now,” Mitchell says. “As much as it is hard because you just want to put on that old T-shirt that’s right next to the bed, I really do try, I have a shower, I put on a beautiful lotion and a nice robe, just something that makes me feel like myself; and then I can continue throughout the day.”

A believer in a reliable support system, she counts her childhood pals, and Pretty Little Liars costar Troian Bellisario, as sources of sound advice. The baby boom within her friend group has her hopeful for the future. “It’s been wonderful because my best friend who lives in Vancouver, she had her daughter last May, and I’ve watched her raise her. So now to have [our kids] be close in age is incredible,” says Mitchell. It’s funny because all my friends have had little girls. When I found out that we were having ours, I was just super-excited [because] we are a close group of families, and hopefully our daughters will be another little close group of friends as well, growing up.”

Given her presence in the public eye, Mitchell’s every move is scrutinized. When she and Babel enjoyed their first solo evening after Atlas’s birth at Drake’s 33rd birthday party in October, the entire internet saw fit to share an opinion. “It concerns me that people are so quick to pass judgment on others, especially without knowing any facts, and behind the protection of the screen,” says Mitchell. “My daughter had been born for several weeks, and when Matte and I chose to take our night out, which was an hour and a half, it surprised me that people chose to be so reactive and aggressive and assume the absolute worst about us—and more so me.”

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The prevalence of mommy-shaming on social media is an unfortunate reality, but Mitchell wasn’t going to let the trolls dampen her mood. “There are real issues in the world, and I wish people would stop jumping to extreme conclusions about things that aren’t their business, but Matte and I just choose to ignore it because we couldn’t be happier right now,” she says. “For me, I’m going to do exactly what I feel is right for my family.”

At present, what feels right is preparing Atlas for a series of firsts. As a travel buff with an entire YouTube channel dedicated to her international trips, Mitchell is eager for her daughter to become part of that experience. Even her daughter’s name alludes to Mitchell’s love of new places. “A close friend of ours was listing off names for her daughter that she had had a year and a half ago. Then she said Atlas and I looked at Matte, and he looked at me, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” she says of the moment when the couple settled on the moniker. “It’s just the perfect name; from that day, we knew it was going to be Atlas. People would ask us, ‘Do you have a name?’ But we were keeping it hidden. I’m sorry to everybody that I lied to!”

Next up, Mitchell is preparing for the holiday season. A Christmas enthusiast who started playing Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous song on November 1, she plans to go all out. “[Atlas] was born in October, so we just had her first Halloween. I dressed her up as a little burrito, but what was great was my mom coming over with all my old baby clothes. She even had my Christmas dress from when I was an infant,” says Mitchell. “To take the traditions that I’ve always had and now be able to extend them onto my own family is a blessing. My Christmases were great before, but we had no young energy in the house before her being born. She’s the first grandchild on both sides, and everybody’s super-excited to celebrate with her. Let the Christmas shopping begin, right?”

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