In a series of intimate exchanges with author and longtime friend Jonathan Safran Foer, Natalie Portman opens up about her life as an actress, director and mother, musing on the passage of time while simultaneously juggling mundane tasks including laundry and bath time.
Portman, 35, has stayed largely out of the limelight since giving birth to son Aleph in 2011, with then-fiancé Benjamin Millepied. (The pair wed in 2012.) However, her emails offer a glimpse of her domestic life now, which paint a strikingly normal portrait of parenthood. Specifically, the Oscar winner says that she savors family time on the weekends.
“When I’m not working, I’m pretty much exclusively with my family, so my rituals have to do with school, meal preparation, playdates, bedtime,” she writes as part of an exchange published in The New York Times’ T Magazine. “I do the whole week’s laundry, which I love because it’s a task with a clear beginning and end. And then we spend the weekend together as a family – usually somewhere in nature, often with friends who have children. Lots of cooking.”
At the end of one email, she writes that she has to go get her son out of the bath, “where Lego Batman is alternately battling dinosaurs and performing a concert.” She ended another by declaring that “I gotta go to sleep though there’s some loud Harry Potter music blasting in the house.”
The former child star also says her decades in front of the camera made her feel ready to tackle her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness.
“What I always look for in my work are new challenges – things I’m not sure I can do,” she writes. “And oftentimes I can’t do them, and I fail. But that’s what keeps me interested, and nothing offers knowledge and self-knowledge like failure.”
Motherhood, she says, also helped her prepare to helm the film. “It made me much calmer under stress, because there’s that weird parent thing you develop, that when things get really bad, your voice gets calm and your blood pressure slows, and you can make everything okay again.”
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The Harvard graduate also acknowledged her soulful side in the email exchange, revealing that an ex-boyfriend once dubbed her “Moscow” because “he said I was always looking out the window sadly, like ‘Moscow,’ like some Russian novel or Chekhov play.”
“Clearly there were grounds for this ex getting fired,” she added. “But he did have a point – I have that longing, yearning, it’s-better-over-there tendency.”
Even so, Portman says she’s also very capable of staying in the here-and-now, especially when she is spending time with her son.
“Yesterday we saw five bunnies when we left the community pool, and they didn’t clear my Wonder Line, but the look in my son’s eyes definitely did,” she wrote. “He also made prolonged eye contact with a horse, during which it was pretty clear they were having some sort of communication. That made me feel wonder.”
Parenthood in general seems to evoke feelings of wonder in Portman, as she admits to getting a little schmaltzy about the passage of time.
“Time goes exponentially fast as a parent. I hate saying it, cause ugh, we hated it so much when people said it to us,” she wrote. “They always said it, and now we say it, and it’s awful, and we’re old. But it’s also true.”