Ashton Kutcher on Balancing Family With Work and His Proudest Parenting Moment
By Leena Tailor
Getty Images/David Livingston
It takes a lot for a 3-year-old to share a cookie!
For Ashton Kutcher, the simple gesture from his 3-year-old daughter, Wyatt, was the ultimate pat on the back for good parenting with his wife, Mila Kunis.
“My daughter’s three and my son [Dimitri]’s one, but when I see them be generous and kind to each other, I don’t know that there’s anything better than that,” Kutcher told the crowd during his keynote address at the Third Annual City Summit at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California, on Saturday afternoon. “I think all you’re trying to do as a parent is build kids who are really good decision-makers and who are kind -- not just nice, but kind. Being kind is when it’s uncomfortable to do something generous and you still do it.”
“So, watching my daughter make a decision about whether or not she’s going to share a cookie is a weird thing,” Kutcher continued. “I know she’s like, ‘I want this mother f**ken cookie,’ and then she independently shares it. I’m like, ‘Cool, you just made a sacrifice.’ If nothing [else] comes from my kids, [let it be] understanding how to make sacrifices and be generous. To me, those are the most memorable things.”
Kutcher candidly discussed some of his favorite parenting moments while attending the conference, an annual event founded by Ryan Long to bring entrepreneurs and business leaders together to network, educate and inspire. Kutcher was asked to to share his insights given his strong background as a philanthropist and savvy investor, who has shares in companies like Uber and Airbnb, and is preparing to host and judge a pitching contest for entrepreneurs at the upcoming SXSW Conference.
The 40-year-old father of two received a standing ovation after hitting the stage at Universal Studios’ Globe Theater, but pointed out that it’s not often he would make such appearances on a weekend. In fact, Kutcher is vigilant when it comes to the daily practices that help him balance work and family life.
“The number one thing I work on in the entire world is my relationship with my wife and my relationship with my kids,” he shared. “It’s the most important factor and thing that I have in life. I made a really a good decision not to have young children before I was pretty established with my career, which not everybody can do. But if you can afford to do it, I think it’s pretty wise because you do have to take your foot off the pedal a bit [after having kids,] especially if you’re an entrepreneur and just starting up -- it’s risky.”
“But one thing I do is schedule my intimate life,” he continued. “I schedule my time with my kids. I make those blocks, hard and fast in my calendar, and I don’t move them. I come home, I put my phone away, I don’t work when I’m with my kids and when I go to sleep, I don’t take me phone. I’m really, really diligent.”
Kutcher added that he has his phone set to Do Not Disturb mode all day, with the exception of Kunis and one person from work, in a bid to be working only “on my clock and my schedule.”
“Generally speaking my weekends are off-limits,” he said. “I spend that time with my kids. I make a few exceptions here and there. [Right now,] my kid’s are napping. I actually moved the time to be here to my kids’ nap time and as soon as I get home they will wake up, so this is how this was engineered!”
Kutcher continued to ignite applause when asked what has been one of the greatest things he did right in life, immediately declaring, “I married my wife.”
While family life is clearly his greatest passion, the former That ‘70s Show star is also dedicated to his business and philanthropic endeavors, continuing to use his name and entrepreneurial spirit to do good in the world.
“Our vision is that someday we can live in a world where every child can just be a kid,” he explained. “A little over 10 years ago, I saw a Dateline special and there were 4/5/6-year-old girls in Cambodia, who were being raped by grown men for somebody else’s profit and I was just shocked. I would never have thought something like that existed and I started to research and realized it was not just happening in Cambodia -- it was happening all over the world, in the US, in Los Angeles, in my neighborhood. That was a terrifying realization.”
It was a harrowing thought, which spurred him into starting Thorn, which works with law enforcement agencies and develops programs and builds technology to protect children and “fight back.”
Juggling such a powerful work and family life is a long way from Kutcher’s early days in New York, during which he recalled being terrified after moving to the city at 19 to pursue a career as a model.
“I had $100 and was in a two-bedroom apartment with five other guys in Hell’s Kitchen and I remember very vividly that it was terrifying,” reflected Kutcher, who modeled for brands including Calvin Klein before landing the role of Michael Kelso on That ‘70s Show, in which Kunis played his girlfriend. “I had my Boy Scout sleeping bag and was sleeping on a futon watching roaches crawl across. I would walk 50 blocks down the road to my modeling agency every day and sit on their couch for eight hours a day, waiting for them to send me out.”
“They were like, ‘What are you are doing? We’ll call you.’” Kutcher added with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘This is my job, so I’ll be here until you’re ready to send me out.’ They got so annoyed they’d just send me out to everything. Then they sent me to my manager and said, ‘Go sit on her couch for a while!’”