Even among us common folk, it can be hard to find that balance between family and work obligations. While fame and fortune have arguable perks, it must be hard to raise a family when being on-set or world tour takes you away from home for months and months at a time. For some, celebrity just isn’t as important as providing a stable, nurturing home life. Here are some stars who chose family over fame.
He was at the height of fame when Garth Brooks decided to take a break from the spotlight back in 2000. Having being through a painful divorce and the death of his mother, the country crooner wanted to focus on raising his daughters, Taylor, August, and Allie, alongside his new wife, Trisha Yearwood.
It seems that his fans supported his decision to put his family first and welcomed him with open arms after a 14-year absence. When he embarked on his first tour back while simultaneously releasing his ninth album, Man Against Machine, the ticket sales were record-breaking. He was almost immediately nominated as Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards (for the seventh time!).
“People said, ‘How could you walk away from music?'” Brooks told People. “But being a dad — there’s nothing that can touch that. I’d just stare at them. I knew their sweet faces and their dispositions. But I didn’t know who they were.” He took the opportunity to be a hands-on father, even leaving handwritten notes in lunches he packed himself. “You start being a part of the community,” he explained. “The dads across the soccer field looked at me as a dad just like them. And I was very grateful.”
When it comes to Hollywood power couples, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel definitely make the list. With his long-time music and her television and film career, the pair are often spotted on the red carpet for major events. It would be easy for them to succumb to the LA lifestyle, but now that they have a son they seem to cherish a quieter existence.
After relocating to New York city where Biel says they have a stable home life, she admitted to Entertainment Tonight that, it might have some challenges, but she puts her responsibilities as a mother above all else.
“You don’t have a choice. It’s called get in the car, open the front door and you better be Mom, because nobody cares what you did all day,” she said. “My work, I leave it at work. I don’t bring it home. I mean, yes, I’m exhausted and sometimes I need like, a glass of wine and to just hang out. But you got to let it go. You have a 2-year-old who just wants to play with you and that’s what’s most important.”
Despite wowing audiences at the box-office for her amazing warrior skills in Wonder Woman as well as her performance in the Netflix series, House of Cards, Robin Wright has kept a relatively low profile since becoming a mother. It turns out that the woman who first won hearts in the cult-classic, The Princess Bride, wanted a slower pace of life for her family.
Married to Sean Penn for 20 tumultuous years, Wright chose to relocate to San Francisco for 12 years while she focused on raising daughter, Dylan, and son, Hopper. In reference to her decision to leave Hollywood behind, Wright told Entertainment Weekly, “I didn’t want to raise my kids in this weird, sycophantic society. If you have celebrity parents, it’s not a good recipe for the kids, or anyone at any age. Look at what Brad and Angelina go through.”
Back in 2005, Dave Chappelle’s comedy sketch show was at the height of its popularity when he abruptly walked away from the set — and a $50 million contract! Over the years, people have theorized over the reasons why he left us all hanging, but years later Chappelle set the record straight.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, the comedian said that, after stepping away and hiding out in South Africa while the press died down, “I go home and make the kids some integrity sandwiches… It makes no sense at all. There’s nothing anyone can say. It’s just you do what you feel like you need to do. It’s a very complicated answer, because I felt a variety of ways over the last years.”
Chappelle, a married father of three, echoed the comments in an interview with People when he explained, “I never stopped being on stage. What I did was step off of the main stage because those lights were hot, and I was trying to do other things with my life. That kind of attention wouldn’t have been conducive to raising a family.”
Jamie Lynn Spears
From a young age, Jamie Lynn Spears was in the spotlight first as Britney Spears’ little sister and then as an actress on Disney channel’s hit show, Zoey 101. It was a surprise to everyone, however, when at 16 years old she announced her pregnancy and gave birth to daughter, Maddie, in 2008.
“I put myself in an adult situation, so I needed to handle it like an adult. My age was never an excuse for me — because, you know what, my daughter didn’t ask for that,” Spears told People. “I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t have any pity for myself; I made a decision, and it was time for me to hold up my end of the bargain. I brought this little girl into this world, and it’s my job to make sure that she has the best life that she possibly can have — no one else’s. You’ve got to take responsibility for your actions and that’s what I try my best to do every single day.”
As for keeping Maddie grounded within such a famous family, Spears explains, “She was born into watching her aunt perform and she was born knowing her mom was on TV sometimes. So I think for her, that is her normal: ‘It’s not bizarre — this is what my family does for a job, this is how my mom provides for me.’ I think that’s how it registers it to her.”
If you were a fan of ’80s movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins, you are probably familiar with Phoebe Cates. The raven-haired beauty seemed to still be very early in her career when, suddenly, she seemed to vanish. It turns out, there was a pretty good reason why she left Hollywood.
During an audition for The Big Chill, she met Kevin Kline. Their paths crossed again at New York’s Public Theater and, in 1989, when she was just 25 and he was 41, they were quietly married. They welcomed children Owen and Greta a few years later and, together, they made the decision to put their family first. “We have agreed to alternate so that we’re never working at the same time,” Kline explained. “[But] whenever it’s been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.”
These days, Cates can be found in her Madison Avenue shop, Blue Tree, a chic boutique offering eclectic finds for collectors of all varieties.
With bold performances in films such as The Big Chill, Agnes of God, and Leaving Normal, Meg Tilly easily made an impression among audiences. Her absence was palpable, therefore, when she decided to give up her career to focus on raising her three children, Emily, David, and Will.
She told People that taking her children on-set worked well for a few years, but one time they came back after months on production to discover that her “daughter’s best friend was best friends with someone else. She was devastated.”
Tilly felt that she couldn’t be gone for months at a time and decided to take them home to her native Canada where she made sure that her kids “had the hot cookies after school and a hot breakfast every morning” and admits that she wanted to be “one of those Leave it to Beaver moms.” Now that they are all grown, she’s started making a return to the industry and even took on a role opposite Brad Pitt in Netflix’s War Machine.
After appearing in Circle of Friends, The Bachelor, and Batman and Robin, Chris O’Donnell’s status as a heartthrob was pretty solid. Still, despite being just 25 years old at the time, he started to pull away from the spotlight to focus on impending fatherhood.
Now the father of five — Lily, Christopher Jr., Charles, Finley, and Maeve — O’Donnell told Redbook that he wanted to be a family man more than a movie star saying, “I was being offered these huge films that would have taken my career to a different level, and I decided to put on the brakes. I knew if I continued on that track, I probably wouldn’t have gotten married.”
Once his children were a bit older, O’Donnell accepted his current role on NCIS: Los Angeles. The stability of shooting in one location has allowed him to bring his kids to the set and his youngest even filmed a small part on the show in honor of its 150th episode.
Long before Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner filed for divorce, they were just another Hollywood couple trying to raise kids in Tinseltown. Since they both had active, thriving careers when they started a family, Garner revealed that they had a plan for taking turns in order to be fair and supportive of each other’s dreams.
“You’d be amazed how we figure it out,” she once dished. “I’ve never been away for more than, I think, four days. Maybe once I was gone for my kids for five days… I sit down at the beginning of the movie and say to the people making the schedule, ‘Let’s look at this.’ Then I figure out where I’m going to take the kid and when I can get home.”
Despite an ugly split, Garner continues to make her kids the priority and works with Affleck to co-parent and give Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel as normal a childhood as possible. “We are definitely a modern family,” Garner explained on the Today show. “You don’t have a choice.” Her ex backed this up in statements to E! News saying, “Jen is a superhero mom. She is an amazing mother, and I’m really lucky to have her as a partner to co-parent these kids with. We try our best, we put them first and that’s what we do.”
Goofy and adorable, Rick Moranis was a mainstay in ’80s comedies such as Spaceballs, Ghostbusters, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! so it was particularly sad when he stepped away from acting all together. It turns out that his wife, Ann, lost her battle with breast cancer in 1997 and he committed himself to raising their two children alone.
In 2015, Moranis opened up to The Hollywood Reporter and said, “I was working with really interesting people, wonderful people. I went from that to being at home with a couple of little kids, which is a very different lifestyle. But it was important to me. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. My life is wonderful.”
Now that his kids are grown, Moranis lives alone in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and, while he’s not currently working on anything, he’s open to the possibility. “I took a break, which turned into a longer break,” he said. “But I’m interested in anything that I would find interesting. I still get the occasional query about a film or television role,” he continued, “and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I’ll probably do it.”
Television viewers are likely very familiar with Poppy Montgomery who has appeared in several shows, including a seven-year stint on Without a Trace. When it came to an end, however, the Australian actress who now calls Los Angeles home decided to focus on being a mother to her son, Jackson.
“I had just had my son. I had been away so much for the first year of his life,” Montgomery told USA Today. “I needed to take the time and actually be like mommy for a minute… I worried about every little thing being perfect with Jackson,” she says about when he was born. “I tried to make sure everything was just right. I read all the books.”
One thing she learned during her time as a stay-at-home mother is that it’s definitely not easy. The star said that those two years were “more challenging than anything I’ve ever done at work. It’s intense. I can do a 20-hour day on set easier than I can do a full mommy day without a break; at work it’s your thing, and when you’re with your kids it’s all about them. But I loved it.”
Candace Cameron Bure
If you watched Full House in the ’80s and ’90s, you know Candace Cameron Bure. More than two decades ago, however, her entire life changed when she married retired hockey player, Valeri Bure. Together the pair share three children, Natasha, Lev, and Maksim.
After the show ended, we really didn’t hear a lot from the actress until she reemerged for the Netflix reunion series, Fuller House. Fans of the original sitcom went crazy and, before long, Bure joined The View as a co-host. Ultimately, though, her calling as a mother won out again and she decided to return to domestic bliss.
In a televised announcement on the daytime talk show, Bure explained, “the commute of going West Coast to East Coast every single week for me has been tough on me and hard for my family as well and I want to make sure that I’m able to spend as much time with my children and invest in all the projects that I do to the fullest extent.”
When Bruce Willis and Demi Moore got married, they were possibly the biggest power couple in the world. They both had huge movie careers at the time but that didn’t stop them from wanting to start a family and settle down. While a nude portrait gracing the cover of Vanity Fair made Moore’s first pregnancy a public experience, the mother of three eventually chose to raise her daughters, Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah far from Beverly Hills.
Opting for a quieter existence, the family relocated to Hailey, Idaho. Moore explained to InStyle magazine (via People), “One of my goals is to build a loving relationship so that my children, as adults, will want to share their lives with me. The foundation I lay — if it’s not there now, it won’t be later.”
Moore’s investment in her family paid off. Rumer won the Mirror Ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars and couldn’t help but reflect on her upbringing. She explained that she and her sisters “have been very, very blessed with not having stage parents” and that her mother always told her “just to really be yourself.” As an adult, Rumer has also been able to appreciate the sacrifices Moore made saying, “because my mom had me when she was 25 and I’m 28 now and just to even imagine myself three years ago starting to have children and be married and have my career, it’s pretty trippy and I’m so proud and kind of in awe of her.”
After Pretty Woman became a smash hit, Julia Roberts became one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood. Having been engaged to Kiefer Sutherland and divorced from country singer Lyle Lovett, it was a surprise when she tied the knot with cameraman Danny Moder. It was even more shocking when she basically disappeared from the public eye after becoming a mother to son, Henry, and twins, Hazel and Phinnaeus. As Roberts told Mario Lopez, “I’ve been a soccer mom for a while, but [it’s] soccer, basketball, aerial yoga.”
She’s done such a good job of separating her career from her family life, that her kids don’t fully grasp the fact that she’s famous. Roberts recounted a very telling story to Vanity Fair saying, “it was on a crowded street, and somebody noticed me, and then another person noticed. Somebody said as we were walking past, ‘Oh, that’s Julia Roberts.’ We all just kind of kept going, and then Finn said, ‘Yeah, my mom’s Julia Robinson.’ That’s what gives you perspective. It could be Robinson, it could be Johnson, because it has nothing to do with me as a person.”
Roberts credits her lack of social media for helping her have the privacy to take her kids to Disneyland undetected telling USA Today, “the strange culture of celebrity and the Internet age — I kind of am too old for that silly mess that goes on. I’m glad about that. It’s helped that I’m definitely of a particular age.”
Finding the elusive balance between your professional life and home life can feel next to impossible. Whether you work outside the home or spend your days inside the home, it’s never easy to make what feels like enough time for family. These stars show us that while it may feel impossible at times, it is possible to put family first, but you may have to make some sacrifices. While they may have given up fame (or put it on the back burner), their decision to put family first is inspiration to us all.