After Nicole Kidman gave birth to her daughter Sunday in 2008, she thought about retiring from acting. The plan was “to have my baby and sit on a farm,” she recalls. “I was quite convinced I could grow vegetables and be at home and be very satisfied.”

Fortunately, Nicole, 54, who is winning raves for her portrayal of Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos, changed her mind after speaking with her mother, Janelle, 81. “My mum said to me, ‘I don’t think you should just give up,’” she recalls. “A lot of times I’m relying heavily on the people around to say, ‘You’ve got more in you.’”

Nicole admits that she most often leans on her mom and younger sister, Antonia, 51. When she arrived in her native Australia last year to film Nine Perfect Strangers, she and daughters Sunday, 13, and Faith, 11, moved in with her sister’s family. “I don’t have that help in Nashville, so that’s been incredible,” said the star, who called living with her extended family “special.”

While family remains the center of her life, Nicole, who began acting at age 14, is proud of her work, too. At an age where many women have trouble finding quality roles, Nicole has been able to portray an array of fascinating characters on the big and small screens. “Television gives you a much stronger connection with an audience, because you’re in their homes,” she explains.

She admits she owes a great debt to Janelle, who encouraged her as a child by taking her to women’s rights meetings. “[I remember] a hundred women, sitting around talking and smoking … I remember eating a lot of biscuits,” Nicole says.

The actress is raising Sunday and Faith to also have confidence in themselves. “I have a 13-year-old who wants to be a director,” Nicole confides. “She’s really interested in comedy.”