Brooke Shields Recalls Her 'Innate Desire' for Motherhood

12/11/2009 at 06:00 PM ET
Courtesy Good Housekeeping for use on CBB

Although the relationship with her own mom has been filled with ups and downs, Brooke Shields says the strife never soured her perspective on motherhood.

“From the time I could speak, I knew I wanted to have children,” the 44-year-old actress reveals in the January issue of Good Housekeeping. “It was just an innate desire.”

Mission accomplished! Mom to two daughters — Rowan Francis, 6 ½, and Grier Hammond, 3 ½ — Brooke is candid in the interview about the girls’ less-than stellar moments, and how she chooses to deal with them.

“The other night Grier was just having a fit — screaming hysterically,” Brooke recalls, when Rowan shoved her sister. “I said to Rowan, ‘You know I love you, but when you do things like that repeatedly, it actually makes me not like you. I don’t know what to do with that, because I’m your mom. So can you help me out?'” She then asked Rowan, “Does it feel good in your stomach, when you’re doing that to your sister?”

When her elder daughter replied no, a teachable moment had arisen.

“I said, ‘So we know it doesn’t make me feel good; it doesn’t make you feel good. Is there an alternative? You know, I’m not asking you to be more mature than you should be. You are a kid. But there are some things you just can’t do.'”

Also high on that list are manners. “I think people let their kids express themselves a little too much these days, actually,” Brooke opines. “It’s all sort of, ‘Let them be!’ There are rules.” When Rowan and Grier are rude, for example, Brooke says “it’s over,” adding, “there is no place in the world for it.”

Although she is comfortable playing the role of “bad cop” to husband Chris Henchy‘s good cop, Brooke says that a role reversal was recently instituted after Rowan picked up an unsavory habit.

“I said to my husband, ‘You have to get her to stop rolling her eyes at me.’ If I can’t get her to stop at 6, how will I get her to not smoke crack and get pregnant at 13? If my word isn’t important to her now, my word won’t matter later.”

Click below to read about the girls’ Catholic faith, and how Brooke learned to embrace chaos.

With her mom — who suffers from dementia — now living in a nursing facility in New York City, Brooke is able to bring the girls along for visits, with varying results.

“The other day, we all had our nails done,” she reveals. Grier is particularly fond of her grandmother because, Brooke suspects, both are “entirely self-absorbed.” Rowan, by contrast, is more fearful of the situation. “She wants the world to make sense, and my mother doesn’t make sense,” Brooke explains. “And [Rowan] also sees me get stressed.”

The girls are being raised Catholic, and pray each night at bedtime — or at least try to! Grier has mistakenly substituted “give us this day our barely dead” for “give us this day our daily bread,” and Brooke has no plans to correct her. “I actually like it better,” she jokes. “I feel barely dead sometimes.”

There are other routines for dinnertime and the like, but Brooke has learned to let go when she needs to. “I would have thought that I would have become one of those parents — just because it’s my nature to be such a perfectionist — that anything falling short, I would have seen as a failure,” she notes.

“But something has happened to me over the past few years — it’s not Zen, believe me, I’m not at all Zen — but I’m so appreciative of even the chaos. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being engaged.”

Her efforts appear to be paying off.  Rowan is “really, really bright,” the proud mama reports, as evidenced during their family trip to Egypt last year.

“[She said] ‘You know, when these pyramids were made, we didn’t exist — New York didn’t exist, you didn’t exist, I didn’t exist,'” Brooke recalls. “I said, ‘No, we didn’t.’ She said, ‘I was swirling around in heaven. But don’t be sad, Mom, I had you with me.'” As for Grier, Brooke reveals,

“The other day she said to me, ‘Mama, you are my heaven.'”

Source: Good Housekeeping, January issue

— Missy

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Showing 44 comments

Court on

Interesting. I don;t know how I feel about a mother telling her child “I love you, but I don’t like you right now” but to each their own. Always loved Brooke!

Amity on

Court, it is perfectly normal to not like a brat. If its your child, of course you love them no matter what, but you would have to be made of stone and graced with the hand of Gods love, to like a brat. Loving and liking are 2 totally differnt things. There are times I don’t like the smell of sausage. So what, who cares. Its no big deal. As long as that child knows she is loved no matter what, its perfectly ok to not like her when she is acting like a brat. And it sounds to me like shoving her sister is a serious offence..Grier could have gotten seriously hurt! And Brooke is right about too many parents letting the kids off easy..its sick. And I love how she doesn’t tolerate rudeness either! This world needs more parents like her. You go Brooke!

Laura on

I agree Court. I am really not a fan of that particular wording. I completely understand what she is saying but to me that could be a very complicated idea for a child to comprehend and they may only understand the “I don’t like you part” and not get the entire message. Instead, I would say something like “I love you honey but I get very sad when you hit your sister” or something like that.

But she seems like a great Mom and everyone has their way of doing things.

megan on

Grier is particularly fond of her grandmother because, Brooke suspects, both are “entirely self-absorbed.”

Ouch. I wouldn’t share that publicly about my kid.

Colleen on

I believe “entirely self absorbed” had less to do with their, say, attitudes and more to do with their mentalities at their ages. Young children are very self absorbed by nature. People suffering from dementia are as well.

Jessicad on

Weird, I’m naming my next daughter Rowan Frances, and people have always said I look like Brooke! Didn’t know Rowan’s middle name was Francis.

That was quite an honest interview! Love it.

Diane on

Well said, Colleen. I would almost guarantee you that is what Brooke meant. And, I have to say, as a mother of two children under three, it is entirely possible to love your children with your whole heart but not “like” them at particular moments. Now, would I point that out on a regular basis, NO. I prefer to say “I don’t like how you’re behaving”, etc… but I think Brook’s children know their mom loves them. Good interview.

Kathryn on

My mom said the same thing to me when I was little, Court, and I turned out fine. I’m now in my 20s and we’re incredibly close.

Michelle on

My parents used the phrase “I will always love you, but when you do [unsavory behavior], I don’t like you.” We never, ever questioned how loved we were, and in my opinion, it was a very effective parenting tool. Moreover, it was great guidance on how to be a likable, friendly person. (Because honestly, if someone is perpetually rude or unkind, their peers will dislike them, above and beyond that specific behavior.) I will certainly employ similar tactics when I become a parent because I value that realistic (and ultimately child-serving) approach to getting along with others. On a semi-related note, I’m glad to see Brooke holding her children accountable for their actions in a loving manner. She seems like a great mom.

Ply on

I think it’s an awful thing to say, even though I understand why Brooke feels that way. But just because she feels that way doesn’t mean she has to tell her daughter that.

natalie on

did anyone else find that comment about “smoking crack and getting pregnant at 13” at bit off? i found several of her answers borderline rude and a bit crude. not judging her parenting style at all–to each her own–but the wording of her answers could have been better, in my opinion.

Sadie on

I think Brooke’s comments are spot on. Our job as parents is not just to love our children, but to teach them – Rowan needs to know that shoving other children at the age of 6 and a half is not on.
Brooke’s honesty is so refreshing.

Nicole on

I understand where Brooke is coming from though. My daughter is 4 years old and quite the sassy pants at times with me. She doesn’t display this behavior to her daddy, just her mommy. I have told her, “I love you very much, but I do not like the way you are acting right now. You are disappointing me when you ___.” She knows I love her but she also knows that I do not like when she behaves that way. It’s hard. You try to establish boundaries in your young child without being too harsh. I work in law enforcement and see kids that were never really disciplined or told about the right and wrong way to behave. I do everything possible to make sure my child knows I love her but that she cannot behave in whatever way she pleases.

Sarah K. on

Would I say “I love you but I don’t like you” to a 6 year old? No, probably not. I think it’s a hard concept for them to understand. But, if Rowan survived the comment without getting her feelings hurt, then I guess no harm done. Brooke knows better than I do about what her daughter can grasp.

Jessicad on

I think we are way too worried about their feelings and how every little thing we say will affect them in the future. I don’t think she was too harsh at all.

Electra on

She sounds like a good parent to me, but maybe because my mom was very similar in style.She has said the I love you but right now I don’t like you because _____. I remember thinking “ouch. Wow what did must’ve been really bad let me see if i can fix it”. Kids want their parents to like them and want their approval so its a good tactic in my eyes and kids get their feelings hurt sometimes by their own parents..not the end of the world.

I actually agree with her, if your child doesn’t listen to you at 3-10 how do you expect them to listen to you when they’re a teenager when you want them to be receptive to your guidance. I like honesty and candor so i enjoyed this interview a lot.

Anna on

I agree with Jessicad, may people seem to think that every thing we tell our children will stay with them always and possible hurt them.

I don’t think what Brooke says to her children it is wrong. I do think that she is explaining too much. It’s modern parenting, never get angry always talk, talk, talk to children. Sometimes there’s too much talking/reasoning in parenting.

My parents never told me they loved me, we don’t really talk about feelings in our home but that doesn’t mean they don’t love me. Parenting is all about actions and children will feel and know that their parents love them it doesn’t depend on how you word every sentence.

Natasha on

Well Natalie, it’s the truth 😉

jessie on

i agree with brooke, i’m sure she loves her kids to death but sometimes you may not like your kids’ personality or behavior.

Missy on

How about, “I like you, but I don’t like your behavior.” The idea that a mother would tell their child that they don’t like them, I believe, is unnecessary and hurtful. And regarding Kathryn’s comment, that her mother said that to her as a child, tells us that kids remember those things. I’ve got three little ones and I wouldn’t dare sew that seed.

Erin on

I am just thankful this isnt an article on her post postpartum and how she wanted to kill herself after she had her daughter she tells she doesn’t like so much sometimes, I mean if anything is going to make the child smoke crack and get pregnant is reading all about how her birth almost made her mom kill herself, and I understand PP and all that, but just am happy to see something different from her, even if it is a bit off-

Riley on

Missy, I was thinking the same thing. My daughter has said, “You don’t love me!” and I reply, “Actually, I love you, I just don’t like your behavior.”

fuzibuni on

totally agree with Missy… was going to suggest that the emphasis be on the behavior, not the child herself. I think there are other, more effective, ways to deal with misbehavior then telling your child you don’t like them.

I remember my mom using this line on me as a kid and feeling really bereft when she said it… I remember thinking “Wow, my MOM doesn’t like me…” It probably stopped me from doing whatever it was that displeased her, but it was hurtful and made me angry when she said it.

An adult may have unconditional love for their child, but the child often tests the line because they want to make sure. They don’t necessarily differentiate between “like” and “love” as an adult does.

If parents start regularly adding qualifiers like “you know I love you, but…” it can start to undermine the relationship. There are just so many other ways to get the point across than resorting to these types of statements.

miaow on

I am going to scream with delight when a hollywood type JUST ONCE describes their kid as ANYTHING other than “really really bright”…I mean sure, maybe lots of them are highly VERBAL, their parents are actors, but I am not so convinced they are all fiture brain surgeons..

traxie on

Hi, can I just make a quick observation – Brooke is very funny, and from what I’ve seen on talk shows has a dry sense of humour, so I would assume that comments about her girls smoking crack at 13 would have been slightly tongue in cheek. I appreciate her refreshing honesty even if I wouldn’t choose to make some of those comments – she’s a great mother because she’s self-aware and doesn’t expect herself or any other parent to be perfect.

Having said that, the comment that most intrigued me was the “good cop-bad cop” one. I don’t think it’s fair for a guy to leave the bad cop role to the mother. My husband and I try hard to stay on the same page in terms of discipline. It can be challenging, and we don’t always agree 100%, but I think consistency is much more important than one parent getting to feel better about their relationship with the child than the other. What does everyone else think?

Sarah K. on

My thoughts exactly, Missy and Fuzibuni. I think it would be hard for a six year old to really understand the difference between like and love. Maybe Rowan does, but I don’t think I would choose Brooke’s words.

g!na on

It’s funny becuase everytime i hear an interview with Brooke about her girls,especially Rowan, she tells about her bad behavior.LOL. Last time Rowan was in trouble for calling Brooke something bad! I feel Rowan is a handful. he he.

Jessica on

My lord, 6 year-olds are not babies. I highly doubt that Rowan went into the bathroom and cried for a week because her mom said that she didn’t like her at that exact moment. Parents need to stop worrying so much about hurting their precious child’s feelings and discipline them. I’m sure they’ll turn out much better.

noam on

i, personally, think that there are better ways to discipline a young child than to tell them you don’t like them. the average six year old cannot distinguish between “like” and “love” very well. that’s why, generally, the two words are interchanged by children. degrees of expressed emotion only start to emerge when a child is around eight or nine. that’s when they able to say “i am furious,” “i am angry,” or “i am upset.” etc.

it’s not so much whether or not telling a child that you love them but don’t like them will scar them forever. it’s more a matter of being aware of the mental and emotional capacity for your child’s age. while a child should be disciplined at every age for acting inappropriately, the form of discipline should fit the age.

because most six year olds understand fully cause and effect, a more age-appropriate comment could have been “i am disappointed in you because you hit your sister.” the same message is conveyed, but it’s easier for the child to understand.

gaias mom on

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I find it sad how earnestly and eagerly some of you have criticized Brooke. For once a celebrity is honest about how she raises her children and doesn’t give a phony by the books response. Its fine to disgree with her, but some of you sound downright gleeful.

My mom said similar things to me, but I recall being much older in my teens and it involved me doing typical teenager stuff cutting class, lying about where I was, missing curfew etc etc.. My own child isn’t old enough to see use this parenting tactic and it may not be necessary. however when it comes to my chosen parenting style I’m not here to coddle my child or her feelings, just as I’m not out to intentionally hurt them.

Mrs. R. on

#24 –
Brooke went to Yale, and graduated with honors from there. I would say that she’s probably very bright herself… so it follows that her children may be very bright as well.
I think if a dingbat celeb called their kid bright it would be one thing, but when an intelligent one says their child is bright… it’s a little more credible (albeit still a subjective brag on the part of the parent).

Electra on


What parent doesn’t think their child is bright? I don’t think her comment is exclusive to celebrities and there are very bright people in every sector of a community homeless to brain surgeons.

Jaz on

How stupid are most of your six year olds? My six year old knows how to express his feelings. He knows that people will not like him if he behaves badly. He’s not a genius but a regular six year old and yet capable of so much more than most of the posters here think possible. So I assume you all have stupid six year olds and maybe need to get them tested.

I’m glad Brooke is standing up to her kid. I teach elementary and often wonder why so many kids are selfish, arrogant, and lazy? I always assumed it was the fault of the parents. Based on many of the comments here, I suspect I’m right. Worst of all, these kids aren’t well liked by their peers or teachers, but their parents think they’ve raised superstars who will woo over the world just like they did their mommies and daddies. What a disservice to these children.

Eliana on

I agree, there’s a better way to discipline children than tell your kid you don’t like them. There’s no need to predict or say your child might become a 13 year-old pregnant crack-head either. Has anyone ever heard of self-fulfilling prophecy? The power of positive thinking also comes with positive words. You give a negative, 99.9% of the time you’re going to get a negative back. Also, to Jaz, lots of the elementary kids you see are so bad, because most are verbally, physically and emotionally abused at home.

Cheryl on

Wow, wouldn’t you like to have Jaz as your child’s teacher???

Jessicad on

I think of Brooke as a great role model for women. She’s smart, gorgeous, and she seems to have found a good balance between work and motherhood. We all have different parenting styles and go with what works for us.

Janina on

The other day we went to a pizza joint, very casual place, not even an upscale restaurant. The couple next to us had 2 kids, a 4 yr-old and a 1yr-old. The kids were pretty well-behaved weren’t disruptive at all, but the father totally lost it because the 4 yr-old girl didn’t want to eat her salad. She picked at her pizza but refused to eat the salad. The father got totally enraged, began making a scene and scolding the child. He was speaking to her like an adult, telling her things like “Look, I don’t work and pay for this food for you to waste it. Don’t be unnappreciative. Eat your salad and quit acting like a spoiled brat!” The man was so upset and the mother just sat there quietly. He propositioned the 4 year-old, “You have 2 choices, eat that salad and we stay or don’t eat the salad and me and you are going to sit in the car while mommy finishes her food alone. You make the choice.” The man ended up leaving the table with the kid, leaving the wife behind, all the while belitting the child about how ‘wasteful’, ‘unappreciate’ and ‘spoiled’ she was. Thru others’ eyes, she was a well behaved kid, she just didn’t want to eat the darn salad! The one with the problem wasn’t the kid, it was the parent! This article on Brooke Shields reminds me of this man. Parents with short fuses galore, there are many of them.

Jess on

When I was 13 my mom said she loved me but didn’t like me because of poor choices I had made. It hurt but it also made me think if my own mom doesn’t like me then maybe I am actually doing something wrong. As a mom to 3 daughters of my own now I still look at that day as a very valuable lesson and am greatful my mom had the courage to finally tell me that. I am extremely greatful she said it now because I did hear what she said and it did change the direction I was on and now my mom is absolutly my very best friend. That 1 statement didn’t solve all our issues but it certainly opened my eyes and made me think about the choices I was making in a completely different light.

Janina on

To the above poster, Jess, with all due respect, you were 13 yrs-old, a teenager in junior high or middle school. The mental capacity you have at that age is eons ahead of children who are 3 and 6 yrs old. Big, big difference.

CelebBabyLover on

Janina- I see your point, but in Brooke’s case, her child clearly WAS mis-behaving. Brooke says in the interview that she was scolding her for shoving her sister. As another poster pointed out, Grier could have been seriously injured. I would actually be more concerned if Brooke had said that she HADN’T discplined Rowan for that!

Sarah K. on

Jaz, since you’re a teacher I assume you’ve read a high school level psychology textbook, right? If you have, you may know that it’s only around age 12 that kids can think abstractly enough to understand love as adults do. Before then, love is more of an attachment. They are attached to someone and they “love” that person. And to small kids “like” is a lower degree of “love”.

I don’t doubt your son knows that if he’s bad people won’t like him – most kids get that. But, that’s not what people are debating. It’s about whether kids his age can differentiate between “like” and “love.” Can he fully explain to you how and why it is someone can love you but not like you?

Also, how did it further your point to call other people’s children stupid and suggest testing? Needless to say, I’m not surprised the children in your class act out towards you.

Ely on

This article is disturbing. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we read about Brooke’s daughters. Seems like she often complains about them (and their behavior) in the media. Imagine, they haven’t even hit the teenage years yet! She’ll really have a mouthful to say then.

Patrice on

God bless her for being so forthright and honest! Parents need to step up and actually not be afraid to RAISE their children. You know, you shouldn’t bring peole into the world because you want some new friends! Not only is it ok to say “no” and discipline, it is your responsibility from the day they arrive. Koodos Brooke, keep up the good work : )

Shanni on

She seems to focus on the bad nature of her daughter. She sounds incredibly arrogant when retelling the entire conversation she had with her daughter, it definitely did not need to be retold verbatim. And although I personally feel that my son is very, very bright, I have never once said that out loud to another human being other than my husband! Maybe I just don’t like her much, but there was just something about the tone of that article that I found really irritating. And I do not mean this to be disrespectful, but I think us working mothers should not look to stars as role models. I think the struggles working mothers face in the real world make the ‘real woman’ a much better role model.