Jane Fonda: ‘I was not the kind of mother I wished I had been’

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know anything about Jane Fonda’s children. Up until this article, if you’d wagered with me to guess how many she had, you would have won. Too late though, I have the answer now. Jane has three children: Vanessa Vadim, Troy Garity and Mary Williams. While speaking to Chris Wallace, Jane said she wasn’t the mom to her kids she wished she’s been but she’s trying to make up for it. She said she didn’t know how to be a mom back then, but she’s studied parenting since and is working on showing up for them now.

Jane Fonda is getting candid about motherhood.

The legendary actress, 85, has admitted she wasn’t the mom she wished she had been to her three children in a new interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace.

Fonda — who is mom to daughters Mary Williams, 55, and Vanessa Vadim, 54, plus son Troy Garity, 49 — said, “I was not the kind of mother that I wished that I had been to my children. I have great, great children — talented, smart. And I just didn’t know how to do it.”

“I’ve studied parenting, and I know what it’s supposed to be now. I didn’t know then. So I’m trying to show up now,” added the 80 for Brady star in the interview, which aired February 19 on CNN.

Fonda shares actor Troy with her late second husband Tom Hayden. The pair also adopted now-social activist and author Mary, who released a memoir called The Lost Daughter in 2013 about her upbringing. Fonda shares Vanessa with her late first husband, screenwriter and producer Roger Vadim.

[From People]

This is a really hard thing for a parent to admit, especially on national television. Jane has gone on record about her own relationship with her father, Henry Fonda. If she didn’t have a great example of loving parenting, it would have been hard for her to know how to model herself as a parent. Plus, I can’t imagine Vadim or Hayden were easy to co-parent with (or Ted Turner, for that matter). As Jane said, she wasn’t the mother she wished she was, not that she was a terrible mother. Her kids, from the brief look I did, are great, just as she said. Troy founded a gang prevention coalition and is the chairman for another gang prevention group. Vanessa is director and cinematographer (and random – I just realized I happen to know her husband). The article said Jane and Hayden adopted Mary, but Wiki said they never formerly did. They raised her from when she was an adolescent, though. Mary’s a fascinating woman and I want to read The Lost Daughter. In many ways Jane was the only one who showed up for her, which is how she came to live with the Haydens. But I’m sure it was more complicated than that.

The thing about Jane is she does study. She never assumes it’s too late for her and walks away. I love that she’s still evolving as a mother at 85. I have no idea what her kids would say about her. Maybe she has something to answer for, maybe she’s being too hard on herself. But I have to believe that if she’s still trying to make it right, make it better, she’s a better mom than she’s giving herself credit.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images and Instagram

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

23 Responses to “Jane Fonda: ‘I was not the kind of mother I wished I had been’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Ashley says:

    I think the culture around parenting today is way more into reading/learning how to parent than previous generations. I’m so glad I get to be a parent now as opposed to 30 years ago. My parents didn’t have access to as much parenting material as I do, and it shows.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    The woman in the photo with Jane Fonda, Vanessa Vadim, and Troy Garity is Troy’s wife, Simone Bent, not Mary Williams.

  3. BothSidesNow says:

    The mere fact that Jane is coming forward and acknowledging that she wasn’t the mother she wish she had been is an enormous step forward. I think that all parents wish that they had been better parents as I too wish I had been. But given that JF is speaking up and out about her shortcomings is an exceptional step in the right direction.

    If I remember correctly, he relationship with her father was always turbulent. The fact that her mother committed suicide and the lengths to which her father went to to keep her death a secret from her must have been an emotional roller coaster. I applaud JF for making a clear and public statement. It’s insightful as well as brave.

  4. Peanut Butter says:

    I love and admire Jane Fonda immensely. Women like Jane and Dolly Parton are treasures.

  5. HeyKay says:

    I hope she had talks with each of her children privately for years to clear and heal feelings.

  6. Salmonpuff says:

    As the child of deeply flawed parents, it would be a dream if they just acknowledged that any flaws in their parenting existed. That validation would be such an affirmation that my perspective about my own childhood is legit. What a gift to give her children. And to share that publicly…brave and inspirational.

    • kerfuffles says:

      So.much.this. Just the acknowledgment from one or both of my parents that the things (even just some of things! Even one of the things!) they did to me and my siblings were wrong. The relief I would feel. But I know mine never will. The fact that Jane is doing so I think is probably very impactful on her children.

    • Christine says:

      I could not agree with you more if I tried. I have a toxic dad that I haven’t spoken to in a decade and a half. I would be shocked into death if he ever looked at his behavior towards his children and my Mom, and even recognized how much damage he has done, much less own up to it and try to do better. I admire Jane so much for this.

  7. Frippery says:

    Does anyone feel like they are the kind of mother they wanted to be or even a great mom? I think most people feel either like failures, that they do “okay” or that they are doing their best, but still falling short of the imaginary standards set by Mommy blogs and Instagram.

    • FhMom says:

      Yes, yes a hundreds times yes, although I wouldn’t blame any mommy blogs. I know my own inadequacies, thank you. The times I’ve tried my hardest are the times I’ve failed spectacularly. Parenting is a very humbling adventure.

    • MissMarirose says:

      I think probably only the narcissist mothers feel that way, and they’re the least likely to have been a good mother. I feel the same way as Salmonpuff wrote above, but because my mother is a narcissist who never believes she’s in the wrong, I’ll never get that kind of admission.

    • Yup, Me says:

      I am a great mother and I am not a narcissist. My mother was great for me (her mother was terrible so my mother consciously looked for ways to be a different parent than she had) and I’m applying what she learned and I also study and do the work, myself. I’m responsive to my kids and lines of communication are open for them to share with me/us what’s working and what’s not working for them so we can address it in the moment rather than having all the hard conversations decades from now. I also do not read mommy blogs (or fashion magazines) – it helps immensely.

      My MIL reminds me of Jane Fonda in a lot of ways and she has spoken about how she was not a great mother. Her daughter is now not a great mother and she likes to blame her mom. I’m like “You are 50 fucking years old. You’ve known that you were a bad mother for over a decade. You don’t want to be a good mother. You want to complain and you want to have had a good mother. Go to therapy.”

      • ama1977 says:

        My kids and my husband tell me I’m a great mom, and I know I am loving, supportive, understanding, patient, and I try really, REALLY hard, lol. I still judge myself and focus on the times when I’m not great, but I ultimately think that I’m doing a good job. I do like to remind my husband that the jury’s still out and we won’t *really* know until they’re in their 20’s/30’s (so like 10-15 years from now!)

        Edit to say that I really admire Jane for saying this out loud. She is committed to saying the things many women think and to living a life that is meaningful and authentic to her after no doing so for many years, and I applaud her. She’s a role model for sure.

    • Kate says:

      I think that feeling of not being a good enough parent is pretty universal, and I also don’t think that should preclude anyone from owning up to their mistakes and continuing to try to do better. It’s a great gift to give to your children to be able to say I’m sorry and I’ll keep trying to do better (and mean it and actually follow through).

  8. ElsaBug says:

    That’s not Mary Williams.

  9. Lina says:

    I thought that was Princess Mary on the left for a second!

  10. TwinFalls says:

    I think I read in an earlier interview that Jane herself was raised largely by nannies and did the same with her children so she could focus on her career. She acknowledged then that she wasn’t the best parent not having had great role models. There’s almost always room to say I’m sorry for what I didn’t know and try and do better when it comes to your children. I admire Jane Fonda a lot. She’s passionate and seems to truly want to keep growing and learning and bring people up with her.

  11. Steph says:

    I thought Jane Fonda was the one who said “some women are made to be moms and some are made to be aunts. I’m an aunt.” So now I’m confused as hell. Lol.

  12. j.ferber says:

    Poor Jane. Her own mother committed suicide when Jane was 12. She had three step-mothers and Henry Fonda, as much as I like him as an actor and as a Democrat, was really a negligent and sometimes nasty father (I read Peter’s autobiography).