Rachel Griffiths Hoping Three Kids Enjoy a 'Free Range' Childhood

11/06/2009 at 06:00 PM ET
Steve Granitz/WireImage

Although she garnered an Academy Award nomination for her role in 1998’s Hilary and Jackie, Rachel Griffiths — currently starring in ABC’s Brothers & Sisters — says that television work suits her just fine. “I have a nice balance,” she notes in the November issue of Cookie magazine.

The ability to bring new baby Clementine Grace, 4 months, to work helps. “[Clem is there about] “half the time, depending on how my days are,” she adds.

On those days when her family of five — which includes son Banjo Patrick, 6 this month, daughter Adelaide Rose, 4, and her artist husband Andrew Taylor — are together at their Santa Monica home, Rachel says they can often be found outside.

“Children are like dogs,” she explains. “They really shouldn’t be inside; They need to run and use their bodies.”

To that end, Rachel says she’s tried to emulate her own “free-range” childhood with Banjo, Adelaide and Clem, conjuring up memories of a time when “your mother would yell, ‘Dinner!’ and kids would come out of the creek or appear out of bushes.”

“I’ve tried to create a sense of danger and exploration in a safe area. My yard’s boundaries are secure. My pool is fenced, so they don’t have to worry about that. The kids know that if they go down the slope at the end of the backyard, there’s a beehive there — they might get stung, but hey, if you want to, go for it.”

Adding that “they climb trees, they swing and hang,” Rachel says that playing in their backyard — complete with playhouse, rope swings and a surfboard-like plank on springs — will often send Banjo and Adelaide “into an imaginary world.”

The couple like to expand their kids’ real world horizons with trips and vacations abroad as often as their schedules permit, however. “We have fervent periods of work,” Rachel, 40, explains, “and then we have gorgeous periods of being together and relaxed.”

Defining “downtime” as a “holiday so long that the kids grow out of their shoes,” Rachel adds,

“The kids understand the rhythm and the creative process; they know Dad goes a little nutty before [an art] show. I’ll say, ‘I can’t be with you right now, but I’ve got three days off coming up. What should we do?'”

Click below to read about Rachel’s take on motherhood in the U.S. vs. motherhood in Australia.

When she returned from maternity leave, Rachel — who is nursing Clem — says she was forgiving of herself. “If I burst into tears during a fitting because I’d been up all night, that was fine,” she explains. “I just gave myself permission to not be fully integrated.”

Her laid-back approach extends to the kids, as evidenced when Banjo cut a hole in his bedroom curtain in order to see people approaching their home. Rachel’s take? “Brilliant. All curtains should have peepholes.”

Noting that “motherhood is defined differently” in the United States than in her native Australia, Rachel says “child-rearing reaches a different level of stress and self-immolation” here. She elaborates,

“In Australia, I don’t think women stay up all night baking cupcakes for their kids’ bake sales when they’re a lawyer working an 80-hour work week, just to prove they’re a good mommy. You just stop at the 7-Eleven and buy the cupcakes. And no one would judge you for it.”

At the same time, Rachel reveals that she makes her kids Halloween costumes by hand, prefers to buy fish at a local farmer’s market and uses glass bottles and cloth diapers with Clem. “I’m a bit greener this time around,” she says.

Predicting that for the immediate future family life will remain “super-simple,” Rachel says “it’s all about staying relaxed.” “So what if the kids have a really boring life for two years?” she asks. “That’s fine by me. I’d like to keep things puttering on the way they are.” For good reason; When asked about her proudest parenting moment, Rachel replies,

“Seeing my three children together for the first time, and seeing how open numbers one and two were to loving their new little sister.”

Source: Cookie, November issue

— Missy

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Fern on

Great parenting philosophy. Rachel rocks!

UggaMugga.com on

LOVE this interview…she’s a breath of fresh air and inspiration!

Sam and Freya's mum on

Ditto the first two comments!

Rye on

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her parenting philosophies. Definitely a refreshing POV in an age where kids are practically RAISED by computers, video games and reality tv. It’s scary thinking that I grew up in a completely different manner that kids today are raised and I was a kid in the 80’s/early 90’s. Feels like it was just yesterday but it’s really ages ago! ahhhh!!

Suze on

what a wonderful philosophy…loved the part about a “holiday so long that the kids grow out of their shoes,” and also the story of her son cutting holes in the curtains! i too try to raise my kids with a certain sense of freedom (within safe boundaries). i actually let them walk home from school on their own (gasp!), which raises some eyebrows from my friends. the sense of confidence that kids gain from being outside with siblings and friends and without the watchful eye of an adult is so important. fantastic job, rachel!

Christine on

what a great read!

Devon on

Reading this had to make me laugh! A girlfriend and I were just talking about this today. When I grew up, I lived 15 minutes (by car) to the nearest town and 45 minutes (by car) to the city. We lived a block from the beach, on all 4 sides of our house, we had forests and we lived for the outdoors all year long. Kids need that sort of life growing up. We didn’t watch TV, only came in for meals and were dragged in when it was dark. My mum was lucky that she only worked part time and had whole summers off to play and be kids. Kids need to be kids and scrape their knees, cut their hands and only have their imaginations to stop them.

I live in a major city now, but as soon as I have my own children, we are moving to the boonies. I cringe when I see kids living in my neighbourhood. The biggest “house” where I live (and by house I mean townhouse since there are no single family homes in my area) is 1240 sqft and maybe 100 sqft of outdoor space. That is no place to raise kids. I love Rachel’s philosophy.

Liliana on

Great article.

I love city living and my children benefit from the experiences and diversity they encounter but I know the importance of letting kids be kids. They love running around, getting dirty, and kicking a ball.

I also like her comment about motherhood in the U.S. vs Australia. Compared to other parts of the world, it seems like more people here see parenting as a competition rather than each family doing exactly what’s right for them.

Megan on

“My pool is fenced, so they don’t have to worry about that”

Hopefully she has a pool alarm. Not to sound like a worry wart ; ), it’s just that little ones have a way of getting around pool fences & safety latches when you least expect it!

Baby Carriers on

Oh what I wouldn’t give for a big yard for my kids! I live in one of those townhouses that Devon mentioned – 1400sq.ft. and maybe 200sqft yard – it sucks. On the other hand, my husband is self employed and his customer base is here, so unless he wants to build his business up from scratch again, we’re kinda stuck. At least until we can afford a bigger house, but this economy sucks!

mochababe73 on

I love it. I remember when we had to be home when the street lights came on. We could only go inside to use the restroom. My grandmother would put a cooler of ice water and cups on the front porch for us to drink.
I try to raise my children the same way. My boys own an X-Box360, PS2, and a WII, but they would rather play outside or football (they’re on a team) than those games. Two of those systems were brought by their grandparents. What helps is that they are not able to always get the latest and greatest games because they are waaaay too expensive. I really feel for children who are inside all day instead of being outside having fun.
Do children even know how to ride bikes anymore?

Kim from Australia on

I had exactly that childhood f running round being a kid I was a kid in the 80s and we lived in a surburban beachside town til I was 9 and we’d go riding bikes and getting up to mischief with neighbours and get into scrapes and then I moved to a farm and we’d go on picnics along the border of our property and chase the cows and get all dirty with my brothers, it was great fun and I miss that, my own kids prob wont have that same experience now as they were born in the burbs and stranger danger etc is more prevelent now then it was back when I was a kid.