Nancy O'Dell Chats with Katherine Heigl
How has it been for you juggling career and motherhood?
"It's difficult! I feel like the working-mother syndrome is super-relatable to all of us. It's hard to look at Naleigh, like again last night, she says, 'Where are you going?' And I say, 'I'm going to work. And she always does this thing, she goes, 'But why?' It's this little face and this little voice, and I don't know how to explain to a 3-year-old why. But the reality is I miss work. And I miss her when I'm working! It's complicated. But I know that, for me, it keeps me feeling sort of inspired and motivated and feeling good about myself as a person. I don't know... I just need to work. It's part of who I am."
But at the same time you have said that you almost felt like you failed as a mother because you wanted to go to work?
"Right, it makes you feel really guilty because, you know, I grew up with a mother who was a stay-at-home mom until we started working together. And a lot of friends' mothers were all stay-at-home moms, so that's the paradigm you have. You think that's what I'm supposed to be. If I choose to be a mother, then I need to be able to do this. I need to be able to stay at home with my child and it's 24/7. And when I realized I couldn't really do that successfully—in a way that made me feel like the best version of myself—I thought there was something wrong with me...that I maybe shouldn't have chosen to be a mother because I couldn't do it that way. I guess I'm hoping that my kid will forgive me and understand and that we can figure it out as we go."
Did you think, though, because you were feeling the guilt so much, of letting your career go?
"I tried. One, I do need to work because we need the income, and two, I've done it my whole life. I don't know who I am—I'm not complete without this other part of me."
And you're very good at what you do....
"Thank you! I don't know about that, but I love being on a set. I start to really miss this part of my life that I've had since I was 11. I thought I could juggle seamlessly with having the child and being a mother. But when she first came into our lives, I was doing Life As We Know It, and it was awful. I constantly felt like I was failing my kid because I wasn't there for all these special little moments, especially in the beginning when she first came to me. And my attention was so divided that I threw my back out like six times; I had all these stomach problems; I was so stressed out. I stopped working for a while [because I thought] I need to bond with this baby and not miss these moments. Then, four months go by and the opportunity for another job came up, and I was like, 'YES! YES! I'll take it, I'll take it!' And then I thought, 'Oh my God, I was supposed to cut back. I was supposed to be phasing out of my career.' You just can't do it all. I have to step back and trust that I have a wonderful nanny...and husband. We try to juggle it. I really admire the celebrity couples who...one will take a break while one is working. We can't really do that; our opportunities come when our opportunities come. And I'm not going to ask my husband to pass on one so that he can stay home with her while I'm working. It's just not fair."
Are you going to have another child?
"I'd probably adopt [again]. I watched [Grey's Anatomy's] Chandra Wilson and Ellen Pompeo work up until a week before they delivered. It's not for me. [If I were pregnant] I'd want to put my feet up on a sofa, eating whatever I like."
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Parents magazine.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.