TERI HATCHER, 40
With an Emmy nod behind her and the new season of Desperate Housewives ahead, Hatcher is basking in her second-act success. "I don't feel like, 'What do I have to do to keep up?' " she recently told InStyle. "I'm going to have to be who I am. With the barnacles of age." Helping to keep her grounded is 7-year-old Emerson Rose. "Life is never happier than the times my daughter and I spend together," she says.
MARY-LOUISE PARKER, 41
"As you get older, you're less of a know-it-all," Parker has said. But she obviously knows what she's doing: The mom to 20-month-old William Atticus (with ex Billy Crudup) has earned a Golden Globe, an Emmy (for Angels in America), a Tony nomination (for the Broadway show Reckless) and critical acclaim for her new Showtime series Weeds. Next up: She'll play the wife to Brad Pitt's outlaw in the big screen biopic of Jesse James.
JODIE FOSTER, 42
Three years since her last film (Panic Room,) Foster is back in the thriller Flightplan – on her own terms. "I just want to make movies I care about," she has said. She also has a couple of young men to impress – sons Charles, 7, and Kit, who's soon-to-be 4. "I'd like to play something more heroic. I'd like to do like The Matrix or something," she told PEOPLE. "I feel like my boys would really get into it."
SHERYL CROW, 43
"I'm enjoying this part of my life." Sheryl Crow has said. "I feel like I've walked through some fire and come out the other side." And found the best part yet: The Grammy winner (whose album Wildflower is due out Sept. 27) got engaged on Aug. 31 to cycling champ Lance Armstrong. "I've always wanted to be in a relationship that felt supportive and elevating," she said recently. "And I've also always wanted to be that for someone else."
JULIANNE MOORE, 44
"Whatever your age and whatever your sex, it's always hard to find a really great role," Moore has said. But who is she kidding? The double Oscar nominee Far from Heaven, The Hours) has six projects on the burner, including this month's The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. But she's anything but ungrateful: The mom to Caleb, 7, and Liv, 3 (with writer-director husband Bart Freundlich) told Oprah Winfrey, "I'm so happy with my life and my relationship and my family and, you know, my job. I have a great job."
PATRICIA CLARKSON, 45
Clarkson counts herself as "lucky" – but she can also thank her talent, earning a 2002 Emmy for Six Feet Under, Golden Globe and Oscar nods in 2004 for her role in Pieces of April and a plum part as Robert Downey Jr.'s wife in the film-festival favorite Good Night, and Good Luck (directed by George Clooney). "You have to seize the moment," the indie-movie veteran, who dates actor Campbell Scott, says, "because it's not like there's an endless supply of great parts for women – especially for someone like me, who's in her early 40s."
CATHERINE KEENER, 46
Good things come to those who wait: First, Keener received an Oscar nod at 40 (for Being John Malkovich), then she got the laughs, playing Steve Carell's temptress in the summer hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Next up: Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Friends with Money, with Jennifer Aniston. Plus, there's quality time with son Clyde, 5, and actor husband Dermot Mulroney. "It's wonderful to just take a little time off and just be," she says.
A tumble from a horse on her birthday in August left Madonna with cracked ribs and a broken collarbone, but it barely caused a hiccup in her busy life. The mom of two (to Lourdes, 8, and Rocco, 5) has kept up with her Kabbalah activities, attended hubby Guy Ritchie's film premieres and worked on her new album, Confessions on a Dancefloor, due Nov. 15. (The first single, "Hung Up," hits stores next month.) "She is a fearless girl," says her rep, Liz Rosenberg.
GLORIA ESTEFAN, 48
"As I see it, each day you're either older or dead, and it's easy to choose between those options," says the five-time Grammy winner. For Estefan, whose 2004 Live amp Re-Wrapped tour was billed as her last, that means trying something new: She's hitting the road again this fall – for her first book tour. On Oct. 11, the mom to son Nayib, 25, and daughter Emily, 10, will release the children's tome The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog, inspired by her own pet.
GEENA DAVIS, 49
Swearing in as the first female President of the United States in the ABC drama Commander-in-Chief was a no-brainer for Geena Davis. "My whole life has been about playing roles that women are excited to see and can identify with," the Oscar winner tells Entertainment Weekly. As for the future, the mom of three (daughter Alizeh, 3, and twin boys Kaiis and Kian, 1) doesn't rule out anything – even the actual Oval Office. "I figure if I can get two terms out of this show, I'm ready to just glide right into the real thing."
LENA OLIN, 50
It's far from over at 49: With hot roles on both TV (playing Sydney Bristow's double-agent mom in Alias) and in film (husband Lasse Hallstrom's upcoming Casanova, starring Heath Ledger), Swedish beauty Olin has time on her side, in her own way. " I'm not regimented," the mom of two told InStyle. "I don't diet, and I exercise the way I want to."