Jennifer Garner: A Mom On and Off the Screen

Looking enviably good in a green dress (as if to flaunt it) after just five short months of giving birth to her little boy Samuel, Jennifer Garner is showing no signs of sleeplessness as she powers through promoting her latest film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green. This friendly, gracious, down-to-earth mom instantly makes you want her in your park play-date circle.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a whimsical story for the whole family about a couple who get the devastating news that they cannot conceive and spend an evening dreaming up what their kid would be like if he were to exist. Burying their thoughts, written on mini note-pad paper, in a memory box in the vegetable garden, they awake to discover that the boy of their dreams has grown from the spot where the box was buried and are thrown right into parenting—mistakes, bullies, love interests and all.  Here, the actress discusses her latest movie, parenting, and her post-baby fitness routine. —Gaia Guidi Filippi

What drew you to this project in particular?
First of all, it’s so original and there are just so few original movies out there. Another thing I loved was that after the screenings, I discovered that all the kids thought it was a movie for them and all the adults thought it was a movie for them. I also think that the writer, Peter Hedges, really hits parenthood on the nose: The shock of having a new baby, how judgmental we all are of our friends. Most of all, I just love how the couple in this movie is so real and believable.

Did you ever bring your kids to the set during filming?

Yes, but they think being on set is sooo boring! Ben brought them every day for lunch to my trailer while we were filming in Atlanta. This was the first movie where I was really the lead role and he was like, “ok, you need to be there 100 percent,” which I was, so he totally took over and did everything, shuttling the kids around all day.

This is the second time  you play a woman who has had trouble conceiving [the first being Juno]. How much did your role as a mom help in relating to your character, Cindy?
If I hadn’t been a mom, I still think I could tap into this. Your whole life you imagine this—it’s part of the way you see yourself as a little girl and it’s heartbreaking. I have known so many women with this issue and always feel so much for them.

Well, you are very lucky to have your growing family. Congratulations on your newest arrival! What is it that you expect to be different or to do differently this time around with a boy?
I don’t know, I’m still in shock every time I change his diaper! We’ll see, he’s still so little, but he sure is cute!

You look fantastic, what’s your secret for getting in shape post-baby? Do you have some tips for other new moms?
I’ve been training with Valerie Waters for 12 years now and she has such a great approach. She is really flexible with me and constantly reminds me that every bit of exercise counts. So when I have to cancel last minute, or if I can’t run because for example, I haven’t breastfed yet, she comes up with something different for me to do. And I think the thing is that it’s ok to take it slow, you don’t have to be in the best shape by tomorrow. I’ve lost much of the weight, but I still have a ways to go and I’m wearing, like, six pairs of Spanx right now!

Did you always want a big family?

I’m not sure. I am one of three, so I guess that after the first two there was maybe something that was still not totally complete—but it is now!

What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?

The first time I had to leave my first daughter (for an extended period), I had such anxiety about it, my mother said to me, “You’re going to be her mom for a long time. You don’t have to be there every single day.” That made me feel better, and it’s true. She didn’t work and she says that she would have been better off if she did. And I feel that way too now. I am so glad to have my work to go to.