When it comes to celebrity moms, it’s hard to find a more accomplished example than Oscar-winning actor/producer/designer/author/lifestyle guru Reese Witherspoon. The star of Big Little Lies juggles a loaded work schedule with the responsibilities of being a mother to her three kids: 19-year-old Ava, 14-year-old Deacon, and 5-year-old Tennessee. Even as a massively famous celeb with plenty of financial resources and family support, Reese’s effort to balance her home life and her career comes with stresses, struggles and victories that working moms of all backgrounds will recognize.
Here, you’ll find 10 moments when Witherspoon opened up and allowed us all to see her down-to-earth working mom experiences.
1. When Witherspoon shared a tough moment of working mom guilt
During the press tour for A Wrinkle in Time, USA Today asked Witherspoon how she makes time for both work and family, and Witherspoon revealed a candid example of how challenging it can be to reconcile those two major sides of her life:
“‘I was driving my son to preschool two days ago, and he said, ‘Mommy, I know you work, but the other moms work and they do drop-off but they ALSO do pickup,’ she recalls, noting that Tennessee has a friend whose mom is a therapist. ‘He goes, ‘Why doesn’t she become a producer and you become a therapist?’ And it hurts, you know?’”
2. When Witherspoon took pride in her ability to set a strong example for her kids
She spoke with InStyle about her 25-yearlong film career and the affect her work life has on her family, offering a refreshing and positive perspective on the example she’s setting for her children:
“I’m just trying to hold on, trying to make it through. My older kids help with the little one. It’s nice to have a big family… My mom worked, and I think it’s good for kids to see women working and being successful. I think it’s going to make them hard workers because they see that I don’t get much sleep. But I love what I do. I want them to grow up with passion. This is the one life you get, and you have to live it to the very end.”
3. When Witherspoon encouraged her daughter to get a summer job
Speaking of setting an example, Witherspoon clearly places value on hard work. And she wants to instill a sense of independence and productivity in her kids, regardless of their privilege. Therefore, she encouraged daughter Ava to get a part-time job as a host at an LA pizza joint and make her own money over the summer. While most teenage children of Hollywood stars rely entirely on their parents’ cash, Witherspoon’s move will likely yield positive results for Ava down the road according to New York City career coach Maggie Mistal.
Mistal told Bravo TV, “[A]s a mom, [Witherspoon is] teaching [Ava] to be humble. Her daughter might get perks because she’s her daughter, but she’s trying to instill life skills so she can create her own success. Living off someone else’s success isn’t very fulfilling. You need to get exposure, you need to understand what regular people go through, perspective is really grounding. Anything you can do to ground them in reality is useful.”
4. When Ava gave her mom’s business a rave review
“I love being around my mom, and this shoot was an opportunity to have fun and support her work as a female entrepreneur. She also brings a lot of comfort and positive energy with her to work, and I think it’s inspiring to see her personal relationships with everybody on set. I had a great time being a part of the shoot with the bonus of having even more mother/daughter pictures!”
5. When Witherspoon discussed her choice to cut back on work travel while her kids were young
Not every working mom has the ability to travel less frequently during her children’s early childhood, but if you do have that flexibility, Witherspoon recommends taking advantage of it.
She told Working Mother, “[W]hen my kids were little, I definitely traveled less and did fewer films. Now that they are older, I find it a bit easier to travel. But I try and balance every busy time with a period of no work and just dedicate that time to my kids.”
6. When Witherspoon revealed the real secret to her working mom success
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) March 18, 2015
7. When Witherspoon had to deal with the sadly universal reality of mom-shaming
In 2016, Witherspoon posted an Instagram photo of a fun breakfast featuring two cinnamon rolls and an apple slice she fixed for son Tennessee:
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) March 9, 2015
Unfortunately, several commenters decided to take the opportunity to criticize Witherspoon’s parenting, accusing her of serving a breakfast with “too much sugar.” Plenty of other moms jumped into the comment section to defend Witherspoon’s choice — and Witherspoon herself wisely chose to stay out of the fray entirely. But the fact that the dissenting comments happened at all is a calling card of “sanctimommies.” Lots of non-famous moms can relate to the experience of having their parenting choices questioned by others.
8. When Witherspoon challenged the world to see ambition as a positive attribute
In another interview with Working Mother, Witherspoon declared her belief that parents shouldn’t shy away from career ambition, directly refuting the commonly held opinion that mothers should only focus on their children and should push their working lives to the side.
“[Ava and Deacon] will pull me aside and say, ‘I’m really proud of you, Mom.’ It means a lot to me to have two kids who support my ambition to change perceptions of women. As moms, we have a unique opportunity to keep changing this attitude that ambition is an ugly quality in women. That it makes you unlikeable. What is likable anyway? I’m allergic to that word. We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself,” Witherspoon explained.
9. When Witherspoon started her day with an enormous & much-needed coffee (#momlife)
10. And when Witherspoon decided to pay it forward & offer mentorship to girls who want to pursue film
It has been SUCH a dream come true to have this incredible group of young girls join @HelloSunshine & @att for our first ever #FilmmakerLab to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking. All I have to say is… watch out world! These are your future filmmakers of America! pic.twitter.com/7gu8j1Kqhr
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) August 11, 2018
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.