April 07, 2010 04:00 PM

Courtesy Redbook

Women do themselves a disservice in their rush to be all things to all people, Jennifer Lopez says in the May issue of Redbook.

“We tend to give away a lot,” the 40-year-old actress and singer points out.

“We take care of a lot of people, and we can’t forget to take care of ourselves.”

As for just how an overwhelmed mom might set out to make that happen, Lopez suggests starting small.

“If that means once a week you’re going to go off without the kids … and just go shoe shopping — well, that’s me, because I love shoes — or get a facial even if your sister thinks that’s selfish, or join a Zumba class, or take a painting class, or whatever, you’ve just got to do it,” she explains. “It’s just two hours a week, for heaven’s sake.”

Getting away is only half the battle, however, and Lopez admits that no matter where she is her thoughts are often with Emme Maribel and Maximilian David, her 2-year-old twins with husband Marc Anthony.

“I never expected to feel the guilt of not being able to be there for them at every single moment,” she confesses. “You feel guilty whenever you can’t have your kids right there with you on your hip. And for me there’s two, so it’s bad back and bad arm time having a 50-pound kid on each side.”

In fact, Lopez goes on to list guilt as the biggest surprise of motherhood. Remarking that “nobody every tells you” about the feeling, she theorizes that perhaps, “women are a little ashamed to admit it.”

Coming to terms with a growing family and demanding career “takes a lot of work,” but Lopez is quick to point out that it’s far from a solo struggle.

“I’m not different from any other mom who feels the need to go out there and work to provide the best for their kids,” she insists before adding, “I ask myself, ‘What would make me the best me to my kids?’ And that’s being a happy, healthy individual who has a sense of fulfillment and can give them everything they need.”

It is the latter sentiment which Lopez says drives her today.

“My main priority now is that my kids are happy; that’s my number-one focus in life,” she reveals. “Are these little people happy, content, and getting everything they need? Everything after that is secondary.”

Taking the focus off work and putting it instead squarely on Emme and Max has proven eye-opening in more ways than one. “I think the biggest thing they’ve taught me is what loving someone is and what it should feel like,” Lopez explains.

“It’s like, ‘Wow, how much do I love these children?’ No matter what they do — it doesn’t matter. This is what unconditional love means. It’s crazy, but it’s heaven and earth.”

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