In the new movie Monsters vs. Aliens, Reese Witherspoon voices the 49-foot 11-inch Ginormica, who helps save the planet from destruction. Offscreen, the 5-foot 2-inch Oscar winner has equally big shoes to fill as mom to kids Ava, 9, and Deacon, 5. We chatted with the superstar.
Q. Why did you want to do Monsters vs. Aliens?
A. This was the first animated film I've been asked to do where I was really excited about the character. She's a great female role model. She discovers her strengths throughout the movie and ultimately becomes the hero of the story.
Q. Do your kids get that you're famous?
A. They know what I do for a living -- that I'm an actress. But they haven't seen any of my movies. Yet.
Q. What kind of mom are you?
A. I'm an "all kinds" of mom. I'm a working mom, so I definitely have those moments where I wish I could be home with the kids. But I'm lucky that my job isn't all day every day, so I do get to be there for the school fairs, plays, and volunteering in the classroom. And that's the most fun for me -- it's so shocking to see my children in school having an entire life without me.
Q. What do you find most fascinating as you watch your kids grow up?
A. Everything! Their capacity to learn and their amazing compassion. It touches my heart every day to see just how much they care for their friends and the world around them. And it reminds me to be more connected to my community and to my family.
Q. Have you been given any parenting advice that you'd like to pass on to our readers?
A. My mother gives me great advice every day. For instance, good manners are very important. And treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Children learn this from their parents. I actually just read an amazing book by Marian Wright Edelman called The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small. She writes a letter to parents about how difficult it is to be a good parent, but how important it is to be the person you want your children to emulate. This book really inspired me.
Q. Give us a "Reese, she's just like us!" sort of mommy moment.
A. My kids dress up my Oscar. It wears different things depending on the weather.
I took Ava to a Carrie Underwood concert, and she said, "Mom, I really appreciate you taking me to the concert, but will you please not embarrass me in front of Carrie Underwood by singing because she's a real singer and you're just, like, a movie singer." Realizing you're not anything special to the kids is always a great sort of reminder that you're just a regular person. A regular embarrassing old mom. You know?
Not until Ava was about 7 did I really feel like, "Okay, I'll admit it, I'm kind of a good mom." I read to my kids every night. My son gobbles up the books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and my daughter loves everything by Gail Carson Levine. I love to sing around the house and in the car, but my daughter hates it.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of Parents magazine.