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Jane Fonda Admits She Wasn’t the Mom She Wanted to Be

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images for AFI / Cropped
Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images for AFI / Cropped

Jane Fonda is good at many things, namely acting, and activism. One thing that she revealed she wasn’t so good at, however, was being a mother. In a recent interview, she disclosed that mothering didn’t always come easily to her as she navigated the waters of raising her children.

The Fonda children

Jane Fonda has three children – two biological and one adopted. She married her first husband, Roger Vadim, in 1965, giving birth to their daughter, Vanessa Vadim, three years later. The pair later divorced, and Fonda married her second husband, Tom Hayden, in 1973. She gave birth to their son, Troy Garity, only six months after the wedding. The couple decided years later to adopt the 14-year-old Mary Luana Williams in 1982.

Jane Fonda, in a red coat, holding newborn daughter Vanessa in front of the hospital
Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim leave the Belvedere Hospital in Paris with their newborn baby Vanessa, October 7, 1968. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella/ Ron Galella Collection/ Getty Images)

Not only is she a mother, but Fonda is now a grandmother to Vanessa’s two children, Viva and Malcolm. Her family is extremely important to her, and is often what she credits as her motivation for being an activist. She told PEOPLE, “I just want my young grandchildren to know that grandma did her best. It’s going to be rough for young people, and I just want my kids to know and my grandkids to know that I did my best.”

Getting candid about motherhood

This relationship, however, wasn’t always what it is today. She alluded to this in a previous interview, saying that she’s trying to make up for things that she didn’t know when she was a young mother. She has also noted that she has some regrets about that time in her life. Fonda said, “When I die, I want my family to be around me. I want them to love me and I have to earn that. I’m still working on it.”

Jane Fonda with her husband Tom Hayden and their two children sit on the front porch in a black and white picture
Jane Fonda sits on the veranda of her home with her husband, Tom Hayden, son Troy Garity, and daughter Vanessa Vadim (hiding), 1975. (Photo Credit: George Rose/ Getty Images)

She elaborated on this in an interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace. She told him, “I was not the kind of mother that I wished that I had been to my children. I have great, great children — talented, smart. And I just didn’t know how to do it. I’ve studied parenting, and I know what it’s supposed to be now. I didn’t know then. So I’m trying to show up now.”

‘Trying to show up now’

Part of how she is doing this is by being an involved grandmother. Not only are her grandkids a big inspiration for her activism, but she feels like they are another chance for her. “I don’t think I was that good of a mother. But I did always tell them the truth, and I hope they can always learn from my mistakes. That’s what’s so great about being a grandmother: It gives you a second chance.” 

Jane and her son Troy walking arm in arm on the red carpet
Jane Fonda and her son Troy Garity attend the screening of Our Souls at Night at the Venice Film Festival, September 1, 2017. (Photo Credit: Franco Origlia/ Getty Images)

“When my first grandchild was born and I held him in my arms, I really understood intimacy,” she said. “I felt a love I had never felt before. It broke me open, and I needed to be broken open.”

More from us: Why Marie Osmond Isn’t Leaving Anything to Her Kids

Fonda’s outspokenness about motherhood and making amends with her children comes in the wake of being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She told Wallace during their interview that she isn’t afraid of dying, but of having regrets when she does pass away. 

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.