In her latest film, “Otherhood,” Angela Bassett plays a mother trying to reconnect with her grown son. But offscreen, the actress has at least a few more years before she reaches empty-nester status.
Bassett and her husband, Courtney B. Vance, have teen boy and girl twins, Slater and Bronwyn. Since becoming a mother in 2006, she has talked about parenting pressure, work-life balance and more.
In honor of her birthday, here are 12 quotes about motherhood from Bassett.
On Parenting Older Kids
“This is a good period right now. You know, children change. They’ll do something different, become something different in 30 days then cling to you, release you, run away from you. But they’re in a good little spot right now. I wouldn’t mind if this period stuck around for a little while. You ask them to do something ― or you don’t have to ask. They get up and wash the dishes, or you only have to ask once. I remember there was a time when you had to ask five or six times before it got done. Now it’s like I ask once and they do it. Or there was a time they’d do it, but do it grudgingly. Now it’s like, OK mom. They do it with a good attitude.”
“You know, it’s so easy to be hard on yourself. Don’t be so, so hard on yourself, because being hard on yourself is just you trying to be perfect, trying to be the best that you possibly can be. You know, take stock and remember those things that really ignite your passion. That make you happy. I didn’t get a real clear sense of who my mother was until after she passed away, and would read letters, or people came up to me how she spoke into their lives and what she meant to them, or how enthusiastic she was. I knew she could be fun in those moments that I would hear her laugh laboriously until her tears ran down her cheeks. I really sort of loved that. But you want so much for your kids when you’re a single mom on a fixed income and with a 12th grade education ... it’s that that you don’t want for your kids, and that’s why she pushed us, but when you’re in it as a child you really don’t understand these things about your parents. So enjoy who you are, enjoy your kids, and realize they’re gonna do some good things, they’re gonna make some mistakes, but it’ll all turn out as it’s supposed to.”
On Having Independent Kids
“They want to be with their friends. They have their school friends, they have their sports friends, church friends, and they want to spend time with them. You know what? I want to spend time with my friends too, so I get it, but I know what they like! So I just try to find a moment, something that we can enjoy together that I know that they would really appreciate. Recently I took my son to a three-day music festival, just he and I, and we just hung out, and he just got to see me, his mom, relaxed, cool ... you know, I’m going to bed, you stay up and watch Trevor Noah if you want to, but giving them that sort of independence. I went off to do a movie in Germany for six weeks, but before leaving ― because I know my daughter, she misses me a lot, she’s a mommy’s girl ― I gave her a ticket and said, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Paris for the weekend?’ Because she’s been talking about that for maybe about three years ― ‘Mom, let’s do that, I want to go to Paris, I want to see that.’ So just knowing what they like and surprising them, and then just spending that quality time together to chill, like friends, you know? Because there’s enough times when we’re home and we’re putting the parental demands down ― be in the bed by 9:30, turn those cell phones off, as a matter of fact, give them to us, you know.”
On Support From Friends
“Of my girlfriends I do have a couple who have kids going through it and whose kids are right along or a little older than mine. You know, college age or just about to go off to college. And I have girlfriends who are empty nesters, and some who are single and don’t know the whole parenting thing ― their great auntie. But yeah, I can call them up. It’s important to have someone to express your vulnerabilities to, or be affirmed in the fact that you’re not crazy or you’re not looking at the situation incorrectly.”
“Courtney loves nothing more than a project, and there’s no bigger project than raising kids.”
“It’s hard not to focus all of your attention on your children because they come so helpless, and they come so beautiful, and the smell — they’re really designed to suck you in. They’re really persuasive, and they persuade you to focus all of your attention on them and maybe put your dreams on the back burner at times. But you have to be really adept at balancing your dreams, hopes, and desires and raising them so you don’t lose yourself, or your relationship, in the process.”
On Parenting As A Celebrity
“We just dropped them off to a summer camp: two weeks, first-time-going-away-by-yourself-alone kind of a camp. I was just talking with my husband and before they left, he told them, ‘This experience is not your mom or your dad’s. This experience is about you. So lead with who you are, not with who your mom and your dad are.’ You know, they’re meeting new kids, and he specifically had to say that to my son. My daughter was like, ‘Got it!’ She’s not going to do that. She’s going to get in there and meet you on an equal playing field. My son might say, ‘Well, you know, my mom was in ‘Black Panther’!’”
On Joining The Cast Of ‘Otherhood’
“What got me initially was that although we’re talking about something that we all go through, either as parents or kids, it was funny. There was a lot of comedy in the real-life situation of it, of searching for your autonomy. That’s what got me. I literally laughed out loud while reading it. That rarely happens. The opportunity to do something funny, where art imitates life — and how funny that is, how humorous that is — was attractive to me.”
On Her Daughter
“I’m just speaking from my experience, but my daughter, from the time she was a little one, was always sort of looking to me for the example of what to do and how to be. I have twins, and if I told her brother something like, ‘Slater, put that down. Slater, don’t stand on that. Slater —’ she would be my little copy. If he would do something, she would say, ‘Slater, put that down! Slater don’t stand on that!’ She was my little copycat! One time I literally had to say, when she was 3, ‘Bronwyn, I’m the mom.’ She sort of looked at me and got it: ‘Oh, okay, I don’t have to tell him what to do.’ I think girls get you. You’re on the same page a little bit. They’re always there. They’re so loving and attentive, wanting to do the right thing. Boys are just wild. Jumping off stuff, hanging from stuff — you just wonder why their brain is even telling them to do that? Slater would just run off and meet people. Girls stay a little bit close and observant. Boys are just jumping out there, like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’”
On Children And Race
“Even from the age of 4, from preschool, they’ve had to deal with ― and as crazy as it seems or sounds ― color issues because they were African Americans. Whether other kids will play with them or have issue with that. And it can’t come from their young minds, it’s something that they’ve heard from somewhere. It makes you gasp and it just squeezes your heart sometimes, because you never want your kids to go through these sort of pain issues. Or you thought it’d be much later, once they get a firm footing of who they are.”
On Raising Autonomous Kids
“I think it’s a rite of passage and I think it behooves us to have a little awareness. I’ve heard it said that motherhood, or parenthood is that job, that if you do it right, you work yourself into unemployment. You don’t have to be there every day. They’re self-sufficient, they’re great citizens. They make great choices. They’re making good choices for their lives by and large, we all make mistakes, hello whatever, but that’s what you want for them. You don’t want them clinging on. I remember early on we had a nanny or whatever (baby nanny with twins), and she would just ‘bye bye kids’ and they would cry when she left the house. And I said, them crying is what you need. What they need is for you to sneak out the back door and see you in the morning the next day. They don’t need to cry after you. That makes you feel wonderful. Your kids don’t have to call you to fill your need. Know that they’re going to grow up. They need to be free. They’re looking for autonomy and you just pray, pray for them. You call them up sometimes. It’ll be OK, but that’s what you did. You won’t be ‘Sanford and Son,’ still livin’ in the house with your dad.”
On Understanding Her Mom
“With my mom, we were both Leos. I think we probably had some characteristics that are similar: strong-willed, independent. She had high standards. She was very adamant on doing things the right way, the proper way. Sometimes felt a little critical, but now that I’ve become a mother myself, I think that it was really just wanting the best for your kids, knowing that it can be a cold, cruel world out here, and that you have to be prepared for opportunities. Get your education, that was her main thing. You are going to college. She must have said that to my sister and I from 8 years old onward, because she didn’t go to college. She knew how, as a single mother, how difficult the journey had been. She didn’t want that for us. I think that was part and parcel why she was so strong and stringent with us.”