For many millennial women, deciding to have kids one day means possibly sacrificing their hard-earned careers, time, bodies, and lifestyles. If that prospect leaves you hesitant to take the plunge, you’re not alone, and Charlize Theron’s new movie Tully, makes it clear just how hard motherhood actually is. The refreshingly raw portrayal of pregnancy and its aftermath showcases the complicated challenges that come with the job, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the process or adulthood, for that matter. And even star Theron, a parent of two, understands why motherhood is so frightening to so many people.
Back in her 20s, Theron felt strongly about not having kids, explaining that she wanted to party, travel, be free of that commitment, and make as many films a year as she wanted. "If I were a mother in my 20s, I don’t think it’d be anything close to the experience I have now," she says, speaking at the Tully press junket in April. Her co-star Mackenzie Davis, meanwhile, who says she feels strongly about wanting kids one day, found Tully rich in its exploration of women — moms or not. "It was less about a view of motherhood. It turns me on to learn more things about being a woman that I haven’t been invited into yet," she explains at the junket. "I was turned on by an honest story about how f**king hard it is to be a mother. I want that information when I make decisions."
Tully, out May 4, chronicles exhausted mom-of-two Marlo (Theron) who has another baby on the way, and it gets into the nitty gritty of motherhood: post-birth body changes, sleep deprivation, and outright frustration included. Theron wants the movie to show women they aren’t alone if they feel reluctant to have kids because of the harsh realities that come with it. "The more we can demystify it, the more a younger generation will appreciate it," she says. "It’s less scary when you know what it is. It happens to everybody… there’s nobody who’s pulling this sh*t off or crushing it, it just doesn’t exist."
Often times we see women depicted as flawless moms in the media, but of course, that’s not the reality for anyone. "There’s such a lack of that honest storytelling," Theron says. And as Davis, who plays Marlo’s night nurse Tully in the film, tells Bustle, the reality of it — the imperfection — is absolutely all right. "My mom is the mythical woman who can do it all. It’s really intimidating," she explains. "I’m learning that I’m not like that, and that’s OK."
For those who are convinced motherhood will have its crappy moments, Theron won’t argue. "Because it is. It just is. It’s messy," she says. "Anybody who’s raised kids will tell you that… It’s not as pretty and perfect — other moms don’t always feel like it’s a blessing… I even find sometimes I say stuff about my kids and people will be like, ‘Don’t call them assh*les.’ I’m like, ‘But that’s how I feel about them some days! I feel like they’re being little assh*les!’"
Having children, Theron adds, should only be a decision that comes when and if one is ready. "From the moment you decide to have kids, that’s what takes up every decision you make, whether it’s career, life, moving, anything," Theron says. "I became a parent the moment I wanted to. It’s very empowering when you can have those circumstances, if you can choose when is right for you."
And hopefully by the time you’re thinking about having kids (if you decide to do so), you’ll have realized through movies like Tully that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Marlo’s husband, played Ron Livingston, is rarely home due to work travel, when he is, he’s usually playing video games, while Margo acts as the primary caregiver. But he’s not necessarily a bad guy, as Theron explains.
"What I loved, and was also very challenging on this, was to not villainize him. It was very, very easy for him to become the bad guy, the guy that doesn’t get it. The truth is that a lot of dads don’t get it… I know a lot of my friends don’t share half the sh*t that they should with their husbands," says Theron. "[But] I also understand the the dude that just wants to f**kin’ escape and play video games. Sometimes I just wanna watch the f**kin’ Housewives of Beverly Hills! And not be bothered. [So] I can’t judge him, I empathize with him."
As Theron says and Tully shows, putting yourself first at times is crucial, and it’s something so many people forget to do. "You can’t do it all. It is impossible," the actor says. She’s even adjusted her own lifestyle to support her kids while maintaining necessary self care. "I go to bed at 7:45 every night. And I f**kin’ love it. There’s an interesting Dateline that I’m gonna be falling asleep to. So excited about that," she jokes.
It’s important to know when enough’s enough and that cutting yourself some slack isn’t just OK, it’s encouraged — regardless of whether you’re planning on having kids one day or not.
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