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Reese Witherspoon says: ‘Your brain gets confused after having a baby’

Section: Celebrity Mums

One of our favourite actresses, Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon made her latest film The Good Lie shortly after giving birth to her third child. Here, she opens up on life as a working mum, the importance of ‘giving back’, hiding baby weight and why she hates the gym.

We love Reese Witherspoon both on screen and off. Family-centred and with her feet on the ground, Reese, 38, has often spoken of her ‘definitive Southern upbringing’ in Nashville, Tennessee, saying it gave her ‘a sense of family and tradition’, teaching her the importance of ‘being conscientious about people's feelings, being polite and responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life.’

Now married to agent Jim Toth, Reese has three kids: Ava, 15, and sons Deacon, 11, and Tennessee, two, and is enjoying a stellar year, starring in hit films Wild (for which she was Oscar-nominated), Hot Pursuit and now The Good Lie, plus launching her own fashion collection, Draper James. Here she talks to M&B about life as a mum and film star…

I’m excited that everybody’s liking the films I’ve been in lately. I think for a few years I was a little bit lost as an artist, not being able to find what I wanted to do, not making choices I was ultimately very happy with. I wanted to get back to playing interesting, dynamic female characters. 

I’d just had my third baby when I went to work on The Good Lie. I was still nursing and taking care of him. I read the script, and thought ‘I have to do this. How am I going to do this?’ You know how your brain gets confused right after you have a baby? I was really confused. I worked with the hair and makeup people and became a brunette for the part and it's always nice to depart from yourself. I was sort of covering all my post-baby weight, too.

I took my 14-year-old daughter to a refugee camp. The film is about a civil war in Sudan so this was research. She's a wonderful, socially-conscious girl. Even if you read a million books on a situation, you don't understand it until you see it yourself. She didn't say a word, and didn't talk about it until a couple of days later.

We saw women giving birth on metal tables, and babies her brother's age sitting on concrete slabs and sleeping with seven other brothers and sisters. The remarkable thing was the determination of these people to have a better life for their children. I think it's definitely going to affect my daughter for a long time, as it did me. She gained awareness from the experience, hopefully a feeling of wanting to give back.

Travel is the antidote to any kind of selfish behaviour in children. It's not their fault, kids nowadays, we give them all these technologies, and access to things that disconnect them, so as much as you can show them of the world, it's great.

Be mindful of the advice you give children. I really wanted to be a Broadway kid and so I went to camps where I had to sing, dance and act and I remember a singing coach said 'Whatever you do -- don't sing!' I think that I told that story when I won an award for Walk The Line. I was like, 'Thank God I didn't listen to them!' Frankly, it was hard to get over that mental block because someone had told me, basically, 'You don't know how to do that. Don't do it.' So you have to be careful what you say to people.

I'm one of those people that has inspirational quotes on Post-its everywhere. Like, the six evils in the world and how to avoid them: desire, greed, envy and so on. And I like positive affirmations. I have to say that ‘judge not less ye be judged’ is a pretty good one that's sort of guided me through life.

Best advice about love I ever heard? A girlfriend said something really smart to me the other day. She said she always went to the same coffee shop and she was into the guy making the coffee. He was this cool guy in a band and she always wanted to go out with him, but she never noticed that the other guy serving her the coffee every day was totally in love with her. So she said, 'I think it's important not to follow the guy that you're chasing. Look at the guy who's chasing you.' I think that takes time and life experience to notice because boy, is it fun chasing boys, especially when you're young. But when you're older, it's a whole other thing.

I can remember the first time I stepped in front of a camera. I had a really great experience in my first film The Man on the Moon. We finished two weeks under schedule and we only worked from 8am to 5pm. I thought this movie thing is a breeze and so it was a rude awakening on my next film…

Having three kids, you get used to juggling. You should have seen my hotel room this morning! It's a disaster: chaos! Pancakes and milk and fruit and teenagers - it was madness.

I’m not a gym fan. I’ll be totally honest with you: if I never had to see the inside of a gym again I would be a very happy person. There are people who love it, it’s just their thing. I can do it, and I do it for my job because I’m really lucky to have a job, but it’s not my first choice of morning activities.

I try to live a normal life even though I’m in the public eye. There comes a point at which you are so subject to public opinion that I think that you have stop looking at newspapers and things like that because you could just be so tied up in other people's opinions of you. Over time, you become self-motivated, and you have to be sort of driven and ambitious to become the kind of person that you want to be because everyone is going to tell you, 'That's too difficult,' or 'That's not possible' and 'Oh well, you're this kind of actress, you're not that kind of actress,' and you just go, 'Oh alright, I'll show you. That's what you think.' And I've done just that. And I always try to do that.


Photo: Carlos Tischler/REX

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