Neil Patrick Harris says he struggled with fatherhood when he and life partner David Burtka first brought home their twin babies, Gideon and Harper.
The 38-year-old star of the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" made his comments during an interview at his Los Angeles home with talk show queen Oprah Winfrey for an episode of her show "Oprah's Next Chapter," which is set to air on her OWN cable channel on Sunday, June 3. Harris and Burtka introduced Winfrey to their children and talked to her about raising them as a same-sex couple as well as their past experiences dating women.
Harris and Burtka, a 37-year-old celebrity chef, have been together for at least seven years. Their twins, their first children, were born in October 2010 to a surrogate mother. Burtka said he is the more "maternal" parent. Harris told Winfrey he "didn't love" the "first six, nine months" of fatherhood.
"I struggled with it a lot, like, in therapy with my own therapist," he said. "When they're so little and just crying, I just, I didn't know what's wrong and I try to soothe you and you're still crying and I know that he's more maternal and is much more intuitive with that, so I would pass off and then, you know, like, fix the crib, like clean the dishes. I'd do my work. I wouldn't just vanish."
"But I would try to provide, but I didn't feel like I was bonding with them, which was okay, because I still feel like my strengths will come when it's like, 'Papa, let's build a fort.' I'll be like, 'I love forts - let's do that,'" Harris added. "But I need to know that they want to build a fort or tell me what's wrong or have a conversation. I think that that's where my strengths will be more in the forefront."
The men told Winfrey that they had never met the surrogate who carried their twins but had researched her medical history. The egg donor, they added, was a different woman.
"[The surrogate] was more like the oven. Two eggs, two embryos, one of mine, one of his," Burtka replied, pointing at Harris.
The actor said he and Burtka plan to provide information to their children about their origin, saying: "I think that the way that they were brought into this world was very unique and weirdly scientific and the technology involved in it, I think, is remarkable."
"But it came because we really, really wanted kids," he said. "Like we really had thought it through, financially, emotionally, relationship-wise. We didn't just accidentally get pregnant and decide that now we need to make this work. These kids come into our world with nothing but love."
Harris was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and began his acting career when he was 3, playing Toto the dog in a school production of "The Wizard of Oz." He made his on-screen debut in 1988, appearing in the movies "Purple People Eater" and "Clara's Heart."
His breakout role came in 1989, when he began playing a teen doctor in the drama series "Doogie Howser." His character on the show had a female love interest, while Barney, the character he currently plays on "How I Met Your Mother," is a womanizer. Harris told Winfrey that he was about 6 or 7 years old when he realized he was gay. Both he and Burtka acknowledged that they had dated women in the past.
"Yeah," Harris said. "Good times. I dated a fair amount. I didn't really feel like I'm a liar and I'm gay and I'm doing this and I wish I wasn't. But I did feel like it wasn't clicking like it was supposed to and I kept wondering maybe it was me."
Harris and Burtka are one of the most famous same-sex couples in Hollywood. In November 2011, they were honored by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center at its 40th Anniversary Gala. The couple, which has supported the group and other LGBT organizations for years, was given the Rand Schrader Distinguished Achievement Award.