Michelle Williams on being a mum: “It’s at the center of everything that I do”

Michelle Williams for Louis Vuitton

Michelle Williams is not only an accomplished actor, she’s a lovely human who shares her views sparingly but thoughtfully.

Bespoke approach

Mum to 11-year-old Matilda (with former partner, the late Heath Ledger), Michelle was recently in Cannes promoting her new film Wonderstruck. The usually quite private actor spoke in uncharacteristically candid style about motherhood, Matilda and how being a parent impacts her work and it is super interesting to gain some insight into their life.

Michelle told reporters that honouring kids’ uniqueness and accepting them, no matter their strengths or weaknesses, was at the heart of doing a good job as a parent.

“Personally and professionally, the great (trick to) working with children and knowing children is listening to children, and responding to who they are. Not your idea of a perfect child, not who you want them to be, but who they really are,” she said.

“Letting me be me”

It seems her efforts are not going unnoticed, with Matilda cutely capturing them in a card she gave her mum for Mother’s Day.

“For Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a card that said, ‘Mom, thanks for letting me be me,’ and it was a picture with somebody in high heels on a skateboard,” Michelle explained. 

“That’s my ultimate [goal]; that’s what I want them to do.”

Kid-focused approach

The mum-of-one revealed that parenthood has transformed her approach to everything in her life, including the work she focused on. 

“Being a mother is not only who I am in my relationship with my daughter, but it’s a part of the kind of work that I want [to] make and the relationship with the person that I want to be for her, so there is really no area of my life that is untouched,” she said.

“It’s at the center of everything that I do.”

I am Heath Ledger

Matilda’s dad, Heath Ledger, is himself at the centre of the just-released documentary I Am Heath Ledger. The LA Times reports that the doco could only be made after Michelle gave it her blessing and now it seems to be focusing the spotlight firmly back on her – and life with Heath. 

Michelle spoke to The Wall Street Journal earlier this year about her thoughts on relationships, nine years after Ledger’s death. The pair met on the set of Brokeback Mountain in 2004. Matilda, born in late 2005, was just 2-years-old when her father died. (The couple had separated amicably in 2007).

“When you’ve been a parent for 11 years and you’ve done it alone, you don’t have romantic ideals, because you have a practical understanding that you can do it by yourself,” she admitted.


The fleeting glances we get of Michelle and Matilda strolling the streets of New York together, and this insight into their life via her chatter at Cannes, seem to be proof that she’s doing an ace job of it all.

“I watched [Matilda], warm in the sun, in her swimsuit, get on her bicycle and smile and wave as she rode off to go meet her friends. I went back into the house and sobbed because of this incredibly simple moment ― common, everyday happiness. I really felt like in that moment, like wow, we’ve done it,” Williams told Porter Magazine.

“Not only are we OK, she’s happy. Life has brought us to a place that’s not just surviving, but thriving.”

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