16 Lovely Quotes About Motherhood From Laura Dern

The actress has a son and daughter with ex-husband Ben Harper.
Laura Dern has a son, Ellery, and daughter, Jaya, with ex-husband Ben Harper.
Jeffrey Mayer via Getty Images
Laura Dern has a son, Ellery, and daughter, Jaya, with ex-husband Ben Harper.

Laura Dern knows the highs and lows of being a parent.

The actress and her ex-husband, Ben Harper, have a son and daughter, Ellery and Jaya. Since becoming a mother in 2001, Dern has been open about her experiences navigating parenthood ― from her social media rules to her children’s influence on her political values.

In honor of her birthday, here are 16 parenting quotes from Dern.

On Figuring Out Parenting

“Motherhood is the greatest experience, but very humbling. I mean, talk about not knowing how to do anything! I learn more every day. I am not strict; I need to learn how to get strict. The value that most of us wish for our children is that they will walk through life with integrity, listening to their truest self. And that’s what it boils down to, because you don’t know what life is going to offer you or what the world is going to look like in 10 years.”

On Being Inspired By Her Daughter

“I’m deeply invested in our country and our moral obligations to the well-being of other families, and she’s teaching me what’s happening in the world in a really profound way.”

On Celebrating Mother’s Day With Her Village

“I reached out to all of the moms at my kids’ school who I know help raise my kids, and said, ‘Let’s all have a meal together so that we can thank each other, because we know that we can never do it alone.’ My son has spent the night for four days, while I’m here in New York doing press, with other moms. ... It takes a village.”

On Social Media

“I’ve created limits that I think are important so they’re not flooded, and my daughter’s not happy about them. Now it’s a popularity issue of who’s on social media and who isn’t, and so we just engage in really deep conversations about why I think certain things are too much and why I think certain things create opportunity. We have Instagram on my phone, which we utilize and have fun with and talk about. It’s like, ‘OK, that’s cool pop culture. I understand why you want to follow that person, so what’s a cause that you can follow at the same time? For that pop culture person, let’s also follow Greenpeace.’”

Ellery (left) was born in 2001 and Jaya (right) in 2004.
Barry King via Getty Images
Ellery (left) was born in 2001 and Jaya (right) in 2004.

On How Parenthood Changed Her

“But I would say that the beginning of motherhood, for me and a lot of women I’ve spoken to, feels like, how am I going to do this ‘other thing’ called motherhood, as we’re busy finding our own lives? But with some time it starts to integrate, until every thought you have is, how am I going to do this as a parent, or for my or with my children? And, how am I going to be of service as a parent? Your life shifts instantaneously. I was always an activist. I cared deeply about environmental health, particularly for families and children, but then you become a parent, and it’s not that your priorities shift; it’s the amount of intent starts to shift in a really interesting way.”

On Her Divorce

“My kids are doing great. And in a way their living situation is not shockingly different ― in that their father is a touring musician so they were used to the comings and goings a bit ― not to say there aren’t a lot of other things. But, like me, they never really knew a mom and dad sitting down at the table for dinner every night. So I think that creates an easier transition.”

On Sharing Her Son’s Health Crisis

“[Jimmy Kimmel] inspired me to then get on my Instagram and share that my son had a surgery at birth and it was life-threatening and we were in terror. I was sitting in rooms with families who didn’t have as much ease knowing if they could get health care or not. ... Every single child in this country deserves health care. That is not a partisan issue. Everyone deserves a healthy planet. That is not a political issue. For our children and our environment, we are one family. And we are one click away from sharing our story and making a difference. That? That’s a blessing.”

On Raising Her Kids As They Grow Up

“It’s easier and harder. Every age brings something new. As I’ve been told by friends who have kids in their 30s — they’ve said to me, ‘Oh my God, I’ve never been so involved with my kids’ lives as I am now.’ So it shifts with every turn in their lives, and it’s the greatest blessing in the world. ... To get to worry about things like how they’re doing in the classroom and not wanting them to be bullied — those are good problems to have, relatively speaking.”

Dern with her children and mother, Diane Ladd, in 2017.
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images
Dern with her children and mother, Diane Ladd, in 2017.

On Modeling Womanhood For Her Daughter

“I feel like Jaya’s modeling to me more than I’m modeling to her most of the time. ... [Around the election,] it was amazing to watch [her] generation, particularly girls, want to become involved. It is oddly a very exciting time, as a mother, to watch a generation of girls feel empowered in a way that we weren’t even.”

On The Country She Sees For Her Children

“I focus on what I’ve decided is this country and the country that I describe to my children. And there are very few things that seem clear, but there is zero tolerance for a few things, because we’re Americans, and we’re clear about a few things: Nazis, racists, people who denounce people based on their cultural or religious or sexual preference ― like that doesn’t fly in this country. Our grandparents and great-grandparents have worked too hard to get us here. So I am continuing to tell my children the story that is what this country is built upon, and there have been some mistakes where there are a rare few who don’t understand. And we don’t have to have compassion for their ignorance, but we can acknowledge it, and we’ve just got to keep using our voice.”

On What Kids Learn About Relationships

“I don’t think kids expect the fairytale anymore, either. Most couples don’t hide that they fight from their children, whereas in our parents’ generation you hid everything. A therapist would now tell you that it’s good to fight in front of them as long as they can see the resolution. This is being human ― you get angry, you get hurt, you yell and say things you don’t mean ― and then you circle back and you’re accountable. Otherwise kids hit adulthood and they don’t know how to deal with conflict.”

On Acting In A Film About Child Sexual Abuse

“I have to say it does make you incredibly paranoid, and I was already paranoid. It strikes a chord in how we want to protect and be the champion for kids to know their own boundaries and to honor themselves.”

Dern with her kids and father, Bruce Dern, in 2015.
Steve Granitz via Getty Images
Dern with her kids and father, Bruce Dern, in 2015.

On 21st-Century Parenting

“In our parents’ generation, children were supposed to be seen and not heard ― condescend to children, make them feel small, you’re the grown-up, and they have to be in their place. Now we’re being supported to raise children as though they are our peers, to not condescend ― progressive parenting.”

On Her Message To Her Daughter

“You will succeed and fail in equal measure. Both experiences are worthwhile. They will both define you. The truth is, the minute I surrendered to the flow of the mess of life, everything came together magnificently: my longing for art, my skill as an actor, and my capacities as a friend and mother. The beauty of being a woman today is in savoring the minutiae of life, all the moments that add up to you. The joy you’ll find in being in your body, in sexuality and sensuality, in service, in art, in mothering. You have to get out of your own way and write your own story ― and not be forced into the narrative that you think will give you the easiest path to success or the most likes. I want you to live in the space that’s your own, your own delicious mess. The story comes from within you.”

On Building Her Family

“There’s nothing more important than my kids. It’s great getting to know their DNA, and all the options that are afforded to them because of their DNA, through my family and their dad and his family. My son has suddenly become an amazing runner and my dad was a runner. That was originally going to be his profession. I think it’s so fascinating that we have these gifts from our families. The way my son gets amused about things and uses his hands are so his grandpa, and that fascinates me. I am so moved by family.”

On The Joy Her Children Bring

“The best time I can ever have is with my kids because no one makes me laugh harder.”

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