Mom-of-two Charlize Theron is an Academy Award–winning actress, but what she really wanted to do was adopt. “I had a strong need to be a mom,” she shares, and also cared deeply about giving back. “I was always aware that there are so many children in this world who don’t have families. This was always my first choice.”

Still the Monster actress found the process more fraught than she expected. Following her breakup with longtime boyfriend Stuart Townsend in 2010, she decided to pursue her dreams of motherhood. But, she reveals, “I struggled mentally through the adoption process.” When several situations failed to work out, the 42-year-old star says the letdown “crushed” her hopes. Says Charlize, “Some of the lowest points in my life were dealing with the first time I filed.”

charlize theron and kids splash

Charlize with her two children.

After a few setbacks, she successfully adopted her son, Jackson, 6, in 2012 and daughter August, 2, in 2015. And while she admits, “I have bad days. I make mistakes,” she gets a lot of help from her mom, Gerda Maritz. “I knew that I would [need] to have my mom help me if I was going to do this as a single parent,” admits the busy star. “To not acknowledge her in co-parenting would be a lie. I’m so lucky to have that.”

Now the actress, who plays a struggling mom-of-three in her new film, Tully — a role for which she gained 50 pounds! — is focused on raising her children right. “I’ve learned to balance things out more,” she says. And as a result, she’s happier than ever. “After six years of having my two nuggets,” she marvels, “there’s not a day when I wish I hadn’t done this!”

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