American icon Jodie Foster, mom of Charlie, 9, and Kit, 6, is not only one of the queens of modern cinema, she is also a devoted hands-on mom. The actress told More magazine this past August that being a mom requires juggling — and loads of patience. “Every once in a while I’ll have one of those days when I’ve fed the fish, cleaned 10 poops from the patio, taken the cat to the vet, sewn my son’s karate stars on until my fingers bled, and made sure that he has everything, and he wakes up and goes, ‘Oh, what’s for breakfast?’ He doesn’t know, and why should he? Right?”
Jodie’s screen success came early. She received her first Oscar nomination at age 12, for her supporting role in “Taxi Driver.” In her twenties, she snagged two Best Actress Academy Awards, one for role as rape victim, Sarah Tobias, in The Accused (1988; the other for her indelible performance as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
In her professional life, Jodie, 45, is used to receiving accolades for her hard work. But being a mom, she says, can sometimes be a thankless job. “There’s absolutely no sort of acknowledgment or reward for [parenting],” she says, “Except for the intangible of my kids growing up to be wonderful people.” And that, she says, makes it all worthwhile.
To Jodie, what it means to be a mom has changed over time. During the first few years with your child, she says, “You’re still changing diapers, and it feels like it’s going to last forever.” But now, she says she is able to connect with her children on a deeper level, especially her elder son Charlie. “I like having these conversations with him where I talk about my passions and he talks about his,” she says.
What may come as a surprise to all of us is that Jodie would trade gowns and glamour for Scrabble and Pizza Night with her boys any time. “The red carpet is work for me. I work from 9 to 5 and when I get home, I don’t want to go back to work by going to an industry event. For me, putting on makeup and a fancy dress is work.”
Known for her intellect, Jodie is one of the few Hollywood actresses who took time off from acting to attend college. After graduating at the top of her class from the Lycée Français de Los Angeles, she embarked on her English Literature studies at Yale University, graduating magna cum laude in 1985.
Jodie’s latest endeavor is the movie Nim’s Island, which co-stars Little Miss Sunshine actress Abigail Breslin, and 300’s Gerard Butler. After she got the role, Jodie found out that the book “Nim’s Island,” from which the film was adapted, was on her elder son’s summer reading list. “We read the book together, and then he read it to his little brother, which was just lovely,” she said.
Jodie spoke with Mommywood’s Natasha Burton about respecting your children for who they are, embracing imperfection, and loving comfortable shoes.
What’s been keeping you busy lately?
Well [my new movie, Nim’s Island]–that one’s been keeping me busy. Finally I get to do kids’ movies. And this one’s about a little girl who is living on a desert island with her father and she starts corresponding with [my character], a very neurotic, rather agoraphobic writer who [Nim] believes is a great hero-adventurer but is in fact somebody who barely leaves the house. But they end up on an adventure together. It’s great for me because I get to do something that has more comedy to it, that’s lighter. It’s something my kids can see–they can come on the set.
In Nim’s Island, your character Alex always has Purell and Progresso soup on hand. What product can’t you live without in real life?
Wow, I not much of a product person. Well, I can’t live without my fleece Uggs! And I’d say my New Balance [shoes].
What do you think moms taking their kids to see Nim’s Island will like most about the movie’s message?
It’s a great girls’ empowerment movie. I think they’ll like the fact that it’s a low-tech adventure. It really is about a kid taking care of herself in the most basic of ways. She has her tool belt and you see her climbing a volcano and hanging out with pelicans and iguanas. I think there is a real overload these days of the high-tech movie going experience. It’s cool to have your kids have the feeling of heroism and independence because they can actually take care of themselves.
What do you want to teach your children?
Well, I guess not all of us can live on an island or by ourselves, but [looking again at the film] Nim’s communion with nature and her respect of it.
What’s your secret to balancing your career and your family?
I think you have to accept that you can’t do it all well. Some things aren’t going to be absolutely perfect. You have to do them all with the same amount of gusto and accept that they aren’t going to be perfect.
What do you do when you’re feeling selfish?
I like to go to the gym. That, and read a book. That, to me, is the greatest luxury in the world: To be able to have the time to just sit down on the couch and read a book.
What would you say is your greatest achievement?
Everyone will say having children is the greatest life achievement. Yeah, I’d say so [too]. I look at them now, they’re nine and six, and they’re real people. They have their way of looking at the world and their own interests and their own curiosities. It’s a wonderful feeling to have promoted who they are but [also] to recognize who they are and watch them develop independently.
What’s your definition of Modern Mom?
That’s a tough one! Not needing to have your kids’ interests [match your own]. Being able to recognize that they have other interests and other talents. Being a great fan of theirs and really respecting the fact that they’re different than you are. That’s definitely a big change from my parents’ generation.