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There's no crying in comedy

Coming up through the Second City comedy troupe taught me to be tough. There were four men and two women in my cast and I learned very quickly that there is no crying in comedy. If one of my scenes got cut two days before the show I tried not to get upset and instead think, okay, well I have two more days to try to write a better scene. You just have to keep trying.

Romance and red carpets don't mix (for me)

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No judgment to couples who choose to be completely public about their relationships, but for Ian and I [Vardalos' husband is Ian Gomez of Felicity and Cougar Town fame], maintaining our privacy has worked best. The few times we let something slip in the early days it would be misconstrued and taken out of context and if we happened to be on a red carpet together reporters would yell, "Kiss! Kiss!" I just wanted to yell back, I don't come to your house and ask you to kiss! Now we don't do it. We have this running joke where if either of us gets asked by the media if we have any Valentines Day plans, we'll make up something totally outlandish just so that the other person will see it and laugh.

You should not worry about "should"

We all know that person who suffers from beautiful-woman syndrome. The mom who is totally perfect and will constantly offer advice and it gives you the shivers and makes you feel like you're not doing enough: You should have your kid in ballet by the time she's 3 or she'll never have the muscle tone to play competitive sports, and so on. I try not to let that sort of guilt get to me. Of course, sometimes I wonder whether I should have already started my daughter in Mandarin classes, but mostly I want her to live an unscheduled life.

Even A-listers should mind their Ps and Qs

I've been so fortunate to work with the most compassionate people in the industry. Here comes the namedrop – Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson [who produced My Big Fat Greek Wedding]. They are just a shining example of how you can push boundaries and be really ambitious while still being kind and polite. My mom always said be polite while you break the rules and it's so true. Nobody wants to work with you if you're obnoxious.

Listening can be the best teacher

If my daughter is pouring out her heart about something another girl said to her at school, I don't jump in and say, "Well we've got to call that girl's mom." Instead I try to let her find her way through the story and eventually I can hear what she has already decided is the right solution. I think parents today feel a lot of pressure to make every problem a teachable moment, but sometimes it's just about being there. Of course I want to fix everything. I want to chew my daughter's food and feed it to her, but that would be detrimental to her character building.

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