Drew Barrymore is reflecting on life and parenthood after her divorce — and has no regrets
Drew Barrymore has been emotionally clawing her way through the pandemic much like the rest of us, and took some time with You Magazine to talk about the rollercoaster of the past few years, from her divorce from art consultant Will Kopelman in 2016 to her life as a single mom in her 40s with daughters Olive (9) and Frankie (7).
The two biggest takeaways? There’s nothing easy at all about being a single mom or even about parenting — but you also can’t move through life filled with regret.
“I’m unguarded because I don’t want to come across as someone who has their sh*t together,” she tells You. “I’m not a total clown but I don’t relate to people who glide through life or parenting. I relate to struggle, conquering it, the humor, the messiness of life. I can’t stand fakeness.”
This is far from the first time the 46-year-old actor and businessperson has been real about her life or her parenting — in the past, she’s spoken openly about everything from mom guilt as a working parent to relearning how to rest after kids to struggling with weight and diet culture. And let’s not forget how real she’s been about eyebrow grooming.
Barrymore has had two brief marriage in the distant past, but her third marriage to the father of her children is the one that landed her solidly on the struggle bus. As a child of divorce herself and someone with a famously tumultuous childhood, she was crushed.
“Divorce was my worst fear,” she says. “It was something I never wanted to put my own children through. I felt broken. Truly, honestly broken. I made some big, sweeping changes to my life and luckily I made them right before the pandemic because I fear the place I would have been in if I hadn’t. I just about managed to hold the nose of the plane up before it crashed and then the pandemic hit.”
Barrymore is used to drama — she’s had ups and downs in her personal life that have all been painfully public. But her divorce lead to a “breakdown” that had to be cured with a cross-country move.
“I think I had one, a nice long, juicy [breakdown],” she says. You have to believe during this rollercoaster of life that you will get back up, but there was something very high stakes about this as my children were involved. Being a parent is the most important thing, but raising babies is terrifying and exciting and very hard.”
But now she’s on the other side — as much as you can be while still admitting that life and parenting are works in progress. For one, she and her ex are on much better terms.
“Will and I have worked so hard over the years. I can’t tell you how hard it was. People who make co-parenting look easy… well, good for you. He and I really tried and it was messy and painful at times but we kept our eyes on the prize of our kids. It was always about what is best for the girls. It’s taken five years to function this way but I’m so glad we got there and didn’t give up. High road, baby. Less traffic.”
How high is the high road? It’s so high. Barrymore says she’s in a place where she can love her ex’s new wife, who he married this past summer.
“She’s a dream: sweet, kind and funny. I have to hold back from being overly friendly; I have to give her and Will their space,” she says. “I feel so lucky. I’ve got this woman who, thank god, embraces me and doesn’t want me out of the picture. She has wonderful parents and a lovely sister. I worship the ground she walks on.’
Like everything else, her approach to parenting is messy and real, and she has no problem talking about how she struggles to get it right, especially since she doesn’t have her own parents to act as role models.
“When people would talk to me about parenting I felt like an outcast,” she says. “It took years for me to finally pluck up the courage to say: ‘Can you speak to me as someone who is desperately trying to learn? Can you teach me?'”
What she is drawing from is her experience growing up in the spotlight as a child actor — mostly in the context of what she doesn’t want to repeat. Her kids aren’t involved in social media and she keeps them as far away as possible from the parts of Hollywood culture that left her hurt and lost growing up.
“I joke about being a doberman mom, but I hope my experience growing up in an industry toxically riddled with vanity can help me be better with my kids,” she says. “That’s why I have an anti-perfection thing. I realized I had to turn it [failure] into strength. I want them to be kids. We’re still in a world that talks a lot about age and body image. It sometimes feels so miserable. I had a lot of rejection when I was young — ‘You’re washed up’ or ‘You’re overweight.'”
One of the biggest things Barrymore has learned? That her struggles are going to help her be a better parent to her kids.
“I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m OK with that. But I hope that my experiences make me a better mom.”