Reese Witherspoon’s foray into young motherhood was lonely, the actress confessed in a recent episode of the podcast Armchair Expert co-hosted by Kristen Bell, explaining that she lacked support after her first pregnancy. “It’s just not a one-person job.”
The Oscar-winner reflected on her first marriage to actor Ryan Phillippe, a 7-year union that, when Witherspoon was 21, produced daughter Ava, now the same age, followed by son Deacon, 17. In 2011, Witherspoon married CAA agent Jim Toth and the two share 8-year-old son Tennessee.
However, in that “delirious” postpartum period after welcoming Ava, Witherspoon felt unmoored.
“You need so much support,” she remarked. “And I did not have a lot of support with my first baby. And I learned really early, like, this is not going to work,” adding, “I tried to muscle through five months with Ava, just not sleeping.” Although Witherspoon was fortunate to have the financial means to stay at home with her infant she acknowledged, “It’s just not a one-person job.”
Their larger conversation was about working mothers, millions of whom either opted out — or were forced out — of the labor force during the pandemic through layoffs or voluntary leave to care for children. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 2.3 million women left their jobs last year at a rate best comparable to 1988. And missed opportunities such as honest conversations about money within a partnership, federal paid family leave and a discrepancy between men and women in leadership positions were part of the problem.
“Why do we not place more value on the raising of children?” asked Witherspoon. “It drives me up a wall. Why is there not a quantifiable amount of money for caregivers?”
But Witherspoon counts her blessings as a parent. This week, the Shine On with Reese producer shared an Instagram photo of her eldest children writing, “Gosh, I’m lucky to be their mom.”
These celebrity moms make us all feel better when they share the highs and lows of parenting.