April 25, 2016 11:55 AM

Only weeks after announcing her divorce from husband Will Kopelman, Drew Barrymore can still draw upon her sense of family to lift her up.

All of her life lessons, she says, can be applied to her most important role: motherhood.

“I just feel like my whole life was collecting things in a butterfly net of experience,” she told reporters Sunday while attending Safe Kids Day 2016 at Smashbox Studios. “What to do, what not to do, how to live, how not to live, how to be free, happy. Just gaining every bit of wisdom that I could, all for that because I cannot remember life before kids. It seems like a dream.”

A dream that she is happily living each day with daughters Frankie, 2, and Olive, 3, and one that is buoyed by the voices of other women that share her experience.

“I was saying this quote that a women said at a conference that I was at the other day,” the actress tells PEOPLE. “She said, ‘I can’t wait to go to work, and I can’t wait to get home.’ And I thought, that sums up a great womanhood to me.”

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The 41-year-old mother of two is sporting some new ink on her right wrist, a tattoo of her daughters’ names, which she recently debuted on Instagram.

“I had been wanting to do it, and then, one day, we were on our way to an appointment and I was like, ‘Can we just quickly stop at this tattoo shop?!’ ” she says with a laugh. “I walked in and I was like, ‘Who is available to do a tattoo … quickly. Like, right now?’ And this guy came up and was like, ‘Yeah, I can.’ And so I was like, ‘I am going to write this down on a piece of paper, and then can you just transfer it onto my arm?’ So, it’s my handwriting.”

Storybook enough for an actress whose career has spanned over three decades, for a woman who always doubted that she would ever find this level of happiness, who, even to this day would not know what to tell a younger version of herself. Not that it would have mattered, she says.

“I wouldn’t have listened, so I wouldn’t even bother,” she says, laughing. “But everyone wishes that they could know what they know now in a romantic and poetic way because I am so happy now and I have such a good thing in my life with my kids. So there is always that want to go into that 12-year-old’s room and say, ‘It’s going to be alright. It’s actually going to be great!’ “

And then she adds, with a knowing smile, “Maybe I would have listened to that.”

— Reagan Alexander

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