Mothers' Nature

Stop for a moment and listen carefully in any mall and you can hear the distinctive warble of the adolescent daughter: “Mom, you are so embarrassing!” Sound familiar? It does to Cheryl Ladd. “If I went to Jordan’s school, she would say, ‘Can’t you just look like the other moms?’ ” Ladd recalls of her daughter, now 26. “So I would wear no makeup and casual clothes. Then she would say, ‘Well, everybody said you didn’t look like Cheryl Ladd.’ ” The attitude is part of a jarring transformation from sublime to contentious. “You have this child who had been loving and you adore, who all of a sudden is screaming, ‘I hate you, Mother! You’ve ruined my life!’ ” says Cybill Shepherd, whose daughter Clementine is 21.

Thankfully, though, teenage girls grow up. Once the tempest of adolescence has passed, “it’s like a butterfly coming out of a chrysalis,” says Jane Seymour, who has found peace with daughters Jennifer, 21, and Katie Flynn, 19. As the celebrity moms on the following pages can attest, the rewards of raising a daughter can be as profound as discovering that she is your new best friend—or as simple as extending your wardrobe. “She has such great taste and style,” Alana Stewart says of Kimberly, 21, “that now I borrow her things.”

Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson

She revels in the lavish perks of celebrity—the clubs, the clothes, the best restaurants. But last fall, just as her role as groupie Penny Lane in Almost Famous was making her truly famous, Kate Hudson revealed her more familial tastes. She took then-fiancé Chris Robinson, 34, lead singer of the Black Crowes and a Georgia native, to Mom’s house for a home-cooked meal. “She comes from a southern family too,” Hudson says of her mother, Goldie Hawn. “She’s like, ‘I’ll make you chicken and dumplings,’ and she’s walking around the house barefoot, with flour everywhere. And we all cooked with her. That’s family. This is my passion.”

A passion passed down. “My mom’s a wonderful movie star,” says Hudson, 22, whose father is Bill Hudson of the ’70s comedy trio the Hudson Brothers. “But that’s not who she is at all. She didn’t bring that home.” Instead, Hawn, 55, who has lived with actor Kurt Russell, 50, for 18 years (Hudson calls him Pa), tried to minimize the disruption of fame on her family life. She tried never to spend more than two weeks away from her children (Hudson’s brother Oliver, now 24; Wyatt, 14, Hawn’s son with Russell; and Boston, 21, Russell’s son with actress Season Hubley). She also forbade Hudson to quit high school for acting.

But Private Benjamin was hardly a drill sergeant. In addition to the obvious similarities—those wide-set eyes and thick blonde manes—mother and daughter are free spirits. “I was 15, and I remember my mother going, ‘Honey, have you already had sex?’ ” Hudson once told Details magazine. “When I said yes—that I’d already lost my virginity to a boy I was just mad for—she was supportive.” Indeed, Hawn encouraged her daughter to make her own choices—and mistakes. In a 1999 interview with PEOPLE, Hudson recalled begging her mom for a perm, only to be warned, ” ‘Honey, you’ll ruin your hair.’ So I got a perm—and I ruined my hair.”

Lately Hudson has made very few missteps. After graduating in 1997 from Crossroads, a Santa Monica performing arts school, she landed roles in a few small films before Famous, for which she earned a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination. Last year was a big one for her personal life as well. She and Robinson, who share a Manhattan apartment, wed on Dec. 31. Hawn and Russell wept at the nuptials in Old Snowmass, Colo. Hawn’s new son-in-law may sound like a mother’s worst nightmare—a longtime proponent of using alcohol and drugs to enhance creativity, Robinson ended his first marriage in 1997 after just one year. But Hawn insists, “I really love Chris. He’s loving, funny, smart and a family man. I’ll take him.” Besides, marriage hasn’t exactly taken her daughter away: “We talk every day,” says Hawn. “We love hanging out.”

Clearly, Hudson, currently starring as an Irish waitress in the romantic comedy About Adam, has emerged as an actress in her own right. Still, inevitably, she is compared to Hawn. (“When she smiles,” notes actress Sharon Lawrence, her costar in last year’s thriller Gossip, “you see a lot of her mom in her.”) “To me, it is an honor,” Hudson has said. “She is the epitome of beauty: She’s beautiful aesthetically, but she is a beautiful mother too.

Jaclyn Smith and Spencer Margaret Richmond

Her daughter may have turned 15, but Jaclyn Smith is the one experiencing growing pains. “I loved every stage of motherhood,” the former Charlie’s Angel says wistfully. “The little baby thing where you get up early, hold them and feed them, and put them to sleep rocking them in your arms. I went to the park the other day and saw a stroller and got a pang.”

Rearing a teenager has its own joys, but also its sore points. “Boys are calling, but she’s not really dating yet,” says Smith, 55, who often finds herself at odds with Spencer Margaret over what movies she can watch. “I wish she’d see My Dog Skip over and over for the rest of her life, but she’s making more of her own decisions now, and I have to let her.” Despite such struggles, mother and daughter spend hours together shopping, baking cookies at their Holmby Hills, Calif., home and surprising one another with affectionate notes and cards hidden under pillows or in lunch boxes. “At Easter, Spencer Margaret wouldn’t hear of not dyeing eggs, even though she’s so busy with her friends,” says Smith. “So there we were in the kitchen arguing and laughing over which was the prettiest. She’s not too old for those kinds of family moments.”

In fact, they are so close it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s the parent. Years after her 1989 divorce from her third husband, cinematographer Anthony Richmond (father to both Spencer Margaret and Smith’s son Gaston, 19), Smith mentioned how difficult the split must have been for Spencer Margaret, only to have the tables turned. “She turns to me and goes, ‘Mom, it just wasn’t meant to be. I want you to be fine with it because I’m okay,’ ” Smith recalls. Still, the last thing she wants is for her daughter to grow up too fast—especially in her own dealings with the opposite sex. “No boys are coming to pick her up and go out alone,” she says. “There’s plenty of time for that.”

Jill Eikenberry and Alison Tucker

The former L.A. Law star has always felt a bit guilty about raising her stepdaughter Alison Tucker before she found success. “I was a young, ambitious New York [stage] actress,” says Eikenberry, 54, who married fellow Law star Michael Tucker, 56, when his daughter was 4. (Alison was raised by Tucker and Eikenberry but still sees her biological mom once a year.) “I felt like I put Alison in a backpack and took her everywhere.” The backpackee had no objections. “I was so lucky they didn’t have enough money to get a babysitter,” says Alison, 31, a Los Angeles actress and gift-basket maker. “I got to see everything.”

Each also overcame adversity. At 13, Alison was hit by a car and spent two months in a hospital. Then Jill battled breast cancer. “We tended not to talk about it because we were so scared,” Eikenberry says. “Later she told me that she was afraid to hug me—she was afraid she’d hurt me somehow.” These days Alison and her stepmom (who has a son, Max, 19, with Tucker) do a lot more talking. Her advice? “She says, ‘Follow your heart, follow your passion,’ ” says Alison. “Cheesy mom stuff.”

Cheryl Ladd, Jordan Ladd and Lindsay Russell

As a shiny-tressed crime fighter on Charlie’s Angels, Cheryl Ladd wrangled scores of low-life baddies. Considerably tougher, she says, was managing her daughter Jordan, 26, and stepdaughter Lindsay, 24, through adolescence. Unlike sons, says Ladd, “everything is huge with a teenage girl. There’s no middle ground, no water off a duck’s back.”

Ladd, 49, and Jordan were able to draw upon past tensions when they costarred as a mother and her rebellious teenage daughter in the 1998 TV movie Every Mother’s Worst Fear. “Our scenes together were great,” says Jordan, an actress whose father is Ladd’s first husband, David Ladd, 54. “We just reverted to our old relationship.” Which is to say bickering about curfews and permission to throw parties. Ladd says that when things got tense between her and the girls, she would call in reinforcement from Brian Russell, 57, her husband of 20 years, a musician and Lindsay’s dad. “If I had to put my foot down, he was right behind me,” she says. “Having that involved a father, I can’t tell you how important it was.” Adds Lindsay, a budding musician who calls her petite stepmom Fifi: “She and my dad worked as a team. There was unity in their decisions about us.” Ladd says that unity now extends across their whole “truly loving family.” Sums up the ex-Angel, who recently headlined Broadway’s Annie Get Your Gun: “We’re all just so crazy about each other.”

Bette Midler and Sophie

“Bette,” says her pal, composer Marc Shaiman, “absolutely loves being Sophie’s mom and best friend.” In that order. When it comes to raising Sophie, 14, Midler, 55, and stock trader husband Martin von Haselberg, 52, tolerate no nonsense. “There are some things that are completely off the table,” she told Good Housekeeping last fall. “Really terrible language. And drugs. Sex before you’re ready for it.” Add sulking to that list. “Sophie is entering the sullen years,” Midler told Ladies Home Journal, “so there is a lot of wiggle-waggle face-pulling and singing of stupid songs.” Other tonics for the teen blues: cooking together, shopping and an occasional PG-rated night out. At a recent Beck concert in New York City, Midler scored Sophie a backstage meeting with her idol and shared a giddy scream with her on the ride home. “That,” says Shaiman, “is when it’s fun to have Bette as your mom.”

Phyllis George and Pamela

Following her 1998 divorce from former Kentucky Gov. John Brown, 67, after 19 years of marriage, Phyllis George, 51, found herself swimming in the dating pool once again. Splashing nearby: daughter Pamela, 17, who was eager to offer advice. “She says, ‘Mom, be yourself, don’t nag, and always look your best,’ ” recalls the former talk show host and 1971 Miss America, who costarred in last year’s Meet the Parents. “These are the things I’ve told her for years.” George splits her time between New York City and Lexington, Ky., where Pamela, a high school senior, lives with her dad. (Brother Lincoln, 20, is a Wharton undergrad.) They see each other at least once a month. All the better, notes Pamela, to review her mom’s potential suitors: “Sometimes I’ve said, ‘Oh, come on, Mom, you can do better than that!’ ”

Alana Stewart and Kimberly

In addition to their size-6 figures and 5’9″ frames, Alana, 56, and Kimberly Stewart, 21, share a stubborn streak. “We’re really strong-headed,” says Kimberly, a model and footwear designer whose dad is Alana’s ex-husband rocker Rod Stewart, 56. Alana, currently performing in a play called C-Cup at L.A.’s Dorie theater, totally agrees: “When I was her age, people knew not to mess with me, and Kimberly definitely has that.”

That in-your-face attitude, says Alana, made Kimberly “this little dynamo from the time she could walk.” But that dynamo became dynamite when she entered teendom and began blowing up at her mom. “Everything I did was wrong,” recalls Alana, who also has two sons: Ashley, 26, with first husband George Hamilton, 61, and Sean, 20, with Stewart.

What a difference a few years make. Kimberly, who lives not far from the nest in L.A., says she has come to realize that her mother “is always right—about boys, about career moves.” That revelation is part of a distinctly adult awakening: “Mom was once my age,” says Kimberly, “and she knows what’s up.”

Susan Sarandon and Eva Amurri

Between takes on the set of the upcoming comedy The Banger Sisters, in which they play—appropriately—a mother and daughter, Susan Sarandon and Eva Amurri might simply have appeared to be costars sharing a laugh. “I would hear them talking about which of the extras were cute, that kind of thing,” says director Bob Dolman. But when the camera rolled, it was a case of mother knows best. “Susan was giving Eva little acting tips,” he explains, “like how to exit or how to think about turning.”

Such gentle coaching is typical of the way Sarandon, 54, has raised Amurri, 16, whose father is Italian film director Franco Amurri, 47. (The same goes for her two sons, Jack, 12, and Miles, 9, with longtime beau Tim Robbins, 42.) “You want to encourage them,” the actress told The Christian Science Monitor in 1999. “But eventually you have to love them enough not to control their lives.” To that end, Sarandon is supportive of Amurri’s acting ambitions, helping her to nab small roles on several of Sarandon’s movies and even a guest spot on a February episode of Friends on which mother and daughter played soap stars. “She was watching Eva with a big smile on her face,” says the show’s cocreator Marta Kauffman. “She’d say, ‘Good for you. You’re doing great.’ ” At home in Manhattan, high schooler Amurri has been known to dish out somewhat harsher critiques—as only a teenager can. “My daughter complains that I…never get out of my sweats,” Sarandon told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY in 1999. “We’ve gone through periods where she has laid out clothes for me.”

Jane Seymour and Katie and Jennifer Flynn

When daughter Katie, now 19, and stepdaughter Jennifer, 21, were adolescents and acted up, Seymour had a remedy that would make Dr. Quinn proud. “I had twin babies that were too adorable for words,” says Seymour, 50, of John and Kristopher, now 5, her sons by her current husband, actor James Keach, 53. “I would just give one of the babies to the children, and it’s hard to have a dark mood with a gurgling, delightful, cherubic baby kissing you and hugging you. For us the antidote to adolescence was these twins.”

The main cause of those dark moods: “It was always the curfew thing,” says Katie, Seymour’s daughter by ex-husband David Flynn. “I always wanted to be out later, just to go to friends’ houses, nothing terrible. And the curfew was like midnight or 1 a.m., which wasn’t that bad, I see now.” These days both kids are in New York, Katie at Columbia University and Jennifer, Flynn’s daughter from a previous relationship, at Vassar College. From a distance those teen years don’t seem so bad. “It’s very hard letting go,” says Seymour, who lives in L.A. but sees her daughters on trips to New York City. Agrees Katie: “It’s weird being by myself. I miss the family sitting down for Sunday dinner.”

Diana Ross and Rhonda, Tracee and Chudney

Ross may reign supreme in the concert hall, but above all else, she considers herself a mom. “I am going to put on my tombstone ‘Motherhood,’ ” Ross, now 57, told PEOPLE in 1987. She has, after all, raised five children: Rhonda, 29, whose dad is Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., 71; daughters Tracee, 28, and Chudney, 25, by her first husband, publicist Robert Silberstein; and sons Ross, 13, and Evan, 12, with husband No. 2, Arne Naess, 63. Seeking feedback on her mothering skills, she once asked the kids what they thought. The reviews were glowing. “She raised her kids to be independent and mentally tough,” Tracee told USA Today last September. And to use their talents. Rhonda, who wed in 1997, is an actress in New York City; Tracee, also an actress, resides in L.A. and stars in the UPN sitcom Girlfriends; and elementary school teacher Chudney is an aspiring children’s film producer in L.A. But no matter how busy they get, filial duty is never forgotten. “We’re supposed to call Mom every Sunday,” Chudney told LIFE in 1999. “She gets all upset if we don’t.”

Cybill Shepherd and Clementine Ford

Cybill Shepherd didn’t want to interfere. But stick a model in front of a camera—on her daughter’s wedding day, no less-and sparks may fly. “Right after the ceremony we went to do the photographs, and I said to the photographer, ‘Can you raise the camera, please?’ ” Shepherd recalls of her daughter Clementine Ford’s big day in April last year. “I said, ‘I’m not insulting you. We’ll all look better.’ But Clementine said, ‘Oh, Mom, shut up and let him do his job.’ She was a little tense.”

But then the relationship between Ford, 21, and her famous mother has never been terribly smooth. The daughter of Shepherd and her first husband, David Ford, an auto-parts dealer, Ford grew up in the shadow of her mom’s Moonlighting career. “The whole time she was doing that show, from when I was 5 until I was 9, was hard,” she recalls. “She worked insane hours. She’d miss a lot of school functions or she’d come for five minutes and have to go back to work.” Things got tougher when Ford hit puberty. “She would get very upset with me when I tried to set limits,” says Shepherd, 51, who lives in Los Angeles. Aware of her own limitations, Shepherd went into therapy. “She really learned how to be a fantastic mom,” Ford reports. “She got all the kinks out by the time I was 14.” Well, almost. “It helped things to be more peaceful,” says Shepherd, who also has twins, Zachariah and Ariel, 13, from a three-year second marriage to chiropractor Bruce Oppenheim. “But it was never easy.” At first discouraging Ford from acting, Shepherd relented when her daughter turned 18, even giving her a small part on her late-1990s TV show Cybill. “You have to step back and be there when they want you,” she explains. “And otherwise get out of the way.” That’s why Shepherd defended Ford when friends implied that she and her new husband, actor Chad Todhunter, 24, were too young to marry. “She’s far wiser than I ever was,” says Shepherd. “I’m proud of who she is.”

Updated by
Michelle Tauber
Michelle Tauber
Michelle Tauber is the Editorial Director of Society & Culture at PEOPLE overseeing Parents, Royals, Health, Weddings and Politics. She was previously the Senior Editor of Royals at PEOPLE and PEOPLE's first and only Head Writer.
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