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Julia Roberts on Losing Her Beloved Mom, Betty: ‘She Raised Three Girls Pretty Much on Her Own’

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Julia Roberts is the 2017 World’s Most Beautiful Woman! Learn her secrets to staying young — and subscribe now for this special edition featuring over 50 pages of beauties — only in PEOPLE!

Julia Roberts learned about motherhood from the best — her own mother, Betty Lou Bredemus.

The Oscar winner, who has been named PEOPLE’s World’s Most Beautiful Woman (for a record fifth time), opens up to PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle about how much her mother taught her about parenting.

“My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own,” Roberts says in the magazine’s new cover story. “My brother [actor Eric Roberts] is older, so he was gone and out of the house. She never showed the strain of it.”

Bredemus died at the age of 80 in early 2015 after suffering from lung cancer. The late acting coach was divorced from Roberts’ dad, Walter, in 1971 and was later divorced from her second husband, Michael Motes, in 1983. The family — including Roberts’ sisters Lisa Roberts Gillian and Nancy Motes — continued living in Smyrna, Georgia, throughout Roberts’ youth.

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  • To see the full interview, watch People Cover Story: World’s Most Beautiful — Julia Roberts, streaming now on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network. Go to People.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on your favorite device.

As Roberts started her own family — in 2002, she married Danny Moder, with whom she shares three kids, 12-year-old twins Hazel and Phinnaeus and 9-year-old Henry — the actress turned to her mom for advice on how to balance a career and young children.

“[When I] had three children under 3 years old, I was like, ‘Mom, how did you do this?’ ” Roberts recalls. “And instead of saying, ‘Well, you just have to apply yourself and it takes effort,’ she goes, ‘It’s called daycare, honey.’ And I was so appreciative and so grateful she didn’t tell me some sage, bulls— story about what it’s like to be a great mother.”

The actress admits that she still thinks about her mother “all the time” — and it doesn’t take much to be reminded of her.

RELATED VIDEO: How Julia Roberts Talks to Her Kids about Beauty: ‘You Don’t Want to Mess Them Up’

“The kids talk about her a lot,” Roberts says. “It’s funny because her name was Betty and I feel like lately, she just crosses my mind, and I’ll turn and I see something that says ‘Betty,’ just unexpectedly. In Africa I saw the name twice when I was thinking about her.”

Roberts was recently in Africa participating in a segment for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day where she visited Kenya and teamed up with adventurer Bear Grylls to visit a remote village and deliver lifesaving vaccines.

“I was so excited and encouraged by all the spirit that I saw and all the help that I realized could be done,” she says of the trip.