You know, that balance we're told holds the key to a happy, healthy life. That perfect equilibrium, where we make enough time for our kids, our spouses, our careers, our homes, our friends, and, oh yes, ourselves. Balance is supposed to be the kinder, gentler alternative to "having it all," but Thurman doesn't buy it.
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"The idea of balance itself is kind of an assault on reason," says Thurman, 42, best known for playing the vengeful, blood-spattered Bride in the Kill Bill films and the slinky gangster's wife in Pulp Fiction. Now she's in her first significant TV role as a famous scene-stealing actor who tries her hand at musical theater in the buzziest show of the season, NBC's Smash.
"Both your family and your career require full-time commitments to really do well," she says. "It's somewhat impossible to give all your attention to two things or four things."
So what do you do? "You have to pick one [commitment] that you know you can't live with yourself if you screw up," Thurman says. "I couldn't live with myself if I screwed up my kids."
Thurman on Working Motherhood
That's why Thurman took a four-year hiatus in the late 1990s, doing only a few small, low-budget projects after giving birth to daughter Maya, who is 14 this July. Son Levon, now 10, was born the year before Kill Bill hit the multiplexes. Fortunately for Thurman, director Quentin Tarantino had written the part of The Bride for her and refused to recast the role, delaying production for months while she was pregnant.
"I probably very much shortchanged my career when I did that, but it was worth it," she says. "Still, it's not easy. I have a wonderful relationship with my children, and they're the most important thing to me, but one does wish to have a creative, independent life as a person, too. It's hard to be a self-sufficient provider and parent and have a foot in both worlds."
Another break in the action may be coming soon -- Thurman revealed in February that she is pregnant with her third child, a girl, due in late summer. Dad is her boyfriend, financier Arpad "Arki" Busson, who also has two children from a previous marriage.
Thurman understands, on a very personal level, that she has it far easier than most working moms. Back when she was pregnant with Maya, she encountered a neighbor who forever shaped her perception of just how difficult parenting can be.
Living in a small brownstone in Manhattan with actor and then-husband Ethan Hawke, Thurman happily dragged home the usual array of baby gear that expectant parents stock up on: stroller, car seat, crib, swing. She saw her upstairs neighbor doing the same thing.
"She kept coming into the building lugging giant bags of baby goods up and down the stairs, just huge bags. She was a very slender and slim person, and at that point I was not!" Thurman says, laughing. "I finally said, 'I know what I'm doing with all these bags of baby things, but what are you doing?'"