29+ Stars Who Sacrificed Their Careers for Their Families
| LAST UPDATE 02/20/2022
We've seen them grace countless red carpets and covers. But perhaps their hardest job comes when they get home. From Jamie Lynn Spears to Eva Mendes, here are some stars who swapped Hollywood for parenthood.
Mila Kunis has always dreamed of making it as an actress. So much so, that her 14-year-old self once lied her way onto our screens. Fast forward to today, though, and a whole lot has changed...
But don't take out word for it: "It is the most life-changing experience," the 38-year-old recalled of being a momma. Since welcoming 2 children, she's swapped the spotlight for some quality time with her little ones. "I am proud to be a stay-at-home mom. I have no desire to be in front of the camera." We love to hear it.
Jamie Lynn Spears
Are you ready? Back in 2007, Nickelodeon was changed forever after one of its biggest stars dropped a major bomb: "I was in complete and total shock," Jamie Lynn Spears confessed, while revealing her pregnancy to OK! Magazine. But the teen mom has no regrets about how things panned out.
Despite saying bye to PCA, the Zoey 101 star knew exactly what she had to do: "I got me a little house. I put a big gate up... I was like, 'I'm going to stay here, raise my baby, and figure this out,'" Spears recalled of raising her first child, Maddie. And while she's since rejoined the spotlight, we applaud her devotion to her family.
Back in 1998, the world fell in love with this soft-spoken girl next door. From her time starring in Dawson's Creek to every major role that soon followed, it almost seemed as if nothing could get in Katie Holmes's way. That was, until fate ran its course.
Sure enough, after the birth of her baby girl, nothing's been the same. "My child is the most important person to me, and her upbringing is paramount to my work," the actress explained of raising Suri Cruise. Whether it's their uncanny similarities or undeniable bond, it's safe to say this momma has got a best friend for life.
She might no longer be 30, but Jennifer Garner is certainly flirty and thriving. For decades now, the 13 Going on 30 beauty has been one of Hollywood's most adored sweethearts. And perhaps with good reason. From her undeniable charm to her unshakable values, the actress has welcomed every chapter with grace.
But that doesn't mean it's been easy. "He said, 'This is going to be a call about… you doing this little movie, or it's going to be a call about you retiring,'" she recalled after her agent came to question her long hiatus. Since then, Garner's learned to balance life as a movie star and mother. And we applaud it.
When 40-year-old Debra Winger decided to part ways with Hollywood, people were caught off guard. And perhaps with good reason. After all, the award-winning actress was just getting started. But according to the Oscar-winning star, her 1995 retirement was actually anything but random.
"I looked around and thought: It's time to go," she recalled. Instead of another red-carpet or blockbuster role, her days became occupied by her sons, Gideon and Noah. And while she eventually attempted to return to the big screen, her time raising a family seemed to be her ultimate calling in life.
Angelina Jolie's time in Hollywood has taken us on one whirlwind of a ride. From award-winning roles to her (seemingly) abrupt divorce from Brad Pitt, the beloved actress has welcomed lots of highs and lows. But it's her time at home that's truly left her caught off guard.
"I feel like I'm lacking in all the skills to be a traditional stay-at-home mom," she confessed of adjusting to life with her 6 children in recent years. "God, isn't that funny? There was a day I was an action star, and now the kids are telling me to get off the trampoline." We certainly applaud her efforts!
Let's face it - parenting is hard. Just ask this Hollywood beauty: "You're stretched thin kind of everywhere," Biel confessed. Ever since welcoming motherhood back in 2015, the hands-on parent has taken a step back to focus on her growing family. But as far as she sees it, "You don't have a choice."
"It's called get in the car, open the front door... be Mom, because... You have a 2-year-old who just wants to play with you, and that's what's most important," the actress noted. While she still makes the occasional red-carpet debut, the proud momma won't be starring on our screens anytime soon. But she's still a star in our eyes!
Back in 1988, fans had lots of questions after this thriving actress suddenly packed up her bags and headed for Hailey, Idaho. But her and Bruce Willis' decision to raise a family out of the spotlight is one she still applauds to this day. And so do their 3 daughters, Rumer, Tallulah, and Scout.
"I'm incredibly grateful that both of my parents have made such an effort my entire life," Demi's eldest, Rumer, gushed. And while her mother has since marked her return to Hollywood, the actress's special relationship with her family will clearly never fade.
She might know how to carry a tune, but it's her time raising a family that's truly captured our attention. Back in 2001, this country star was busy taking Nashville by storm when she decided to leave it all behind after the arrival of a special visitor: Her son, Eja.
Since then, the former singer has remained relatively out of the spotlight - even making a major move to Switzerland. But she wouldn't want it any other way. "I really do love being a family person. I love cooking and packing lunches and making pancakes on Saturday mornings and all that sort of stuff," she gushed.
Candace Cameron Bure
We practically grew up keeping tabs on the Tanner household. But when it came time for Full House's eldest to start a family of her own, she decided to close those doors for good. Sure enough, after saying bye to Hollywood back in 2001, Candace Cameron Bure went on to raise a full house of her own.
Fast forward to today, though, and the formerly retired star has since returned to our screens for the 2016 Full House reboot. But make no mistake about it: "being a mom is my biggest priority," the proud mother of 3 assured. "We set firm boundaries, but there is always love and grace."
She might know how to lose a guy in 10 days, but that's not where her talents end. This Hollywood golden-girl has been the face of endless rom-coms over the years. But ever since starting a family of her own, the proud mother of 3 decided to do things differently.
Nowadays, the blonde bombshell has shied away from the big screen, instead founding a clothing line and running a blended household. "The only expectations I really have that are really high on my life is with my kids and with family stuff," Hudson explained. "Other than that? It's like, I just let it go."
She may have played a princess on our screen, but Robin Wright's happily ever after only came after saying bye to Hollywood. Back in the '90s, the Princess Bride star was well on her way to becoming America's Sweetheart when she decided to swap fame for family time.
"I knew by making that choice to be a full-time mom and turning down commercial movies took me out of the game… and I was absolutely fine with that," she recalled. But now that her 2 children are all grown up, she's decided to balance the two: "The kids are grown… so I'm a free bird."
All of our '90s babies probably remember our next face all too well: Leelee Sobieski was once the Hollywood it-girl, from The Glass House to Deep Impact to of course, Never Been Kissed. But by 2012, the blonde beauty decided to kiss it (had to) all goodbye as she embarked on her latest chapter.
"I am just focused on my kids... that's mainly why I stopped," Sobieski explained. Today, her days call for "baths, buying milk, cleaning something, making some decision, reading weird baby blogs, worrying I disciplined in the wrong way." Talk about a relatable queen...
Bible, we'll never forget when this momma decided to quit KUWTK for more quality time with her little ones. "I just decided to spend more time as a mom and put more of my energy there," she explained. And, well, in the wise words of Kris: You're doing amazing, sweetie!
Since her season 18 departure, the reality-star has shifted her focus completely onto her 3 children and providing them with a healthy lifestyle. From family outings to Disneyland to Poosh-approved dinners, it appears this Calabasas boss-lady can do it all.
No more GTL for this wild child: after a decade of fist-pumps, late nights at Karma, and lots of tears, the Jersey Shore sweetheart has officially said goodbye to Seaside Heights. Instead, the reality-star plans on pouring all her attention into her 3 children.
"It was really hard, but I had to think about... where I really wanted myself to be, & it's being a mom... [with my] kids," Snooki explained. Sure enough, after quitting Jersey Shore in 2019, this proud momma has been laying low at home. But make no mistake about it: "You're still going to see me - just not on Jersey Shore," she teased.
In the late '90s, Lauryn Hill was on her way to the top. From her time with the Fugees to her award-winning solo career, it seemed as if nothing could get in the artist's way. And then, it just... stopped. What happened? It was a question that long remained a mystery.
But in 2012, the famed singer took to Tumblr to answer exactly that: "I left a more mainstream and public life, in order to wean both myself, and my family, away from a lifestyle that required distortion and compromise," she revealed. "I did whatever needed to be done in order to insulate my family."
Kellie Shanygne Williams
Let our next star serve as living proof that family indeed does matter. The Family Matters actress first caught her big break after starring as Urkel's neighbor. But a whole lot has changed since then. Not only has the child star gone on to raise a family of her own, but it called for saying bye to the thing she once loved most.
Since welcoming her first child in 2010, Williams has focused her attention on her family, as well as philanthropy. But it appears her daughter has already picked up right where she left off. 11-year-old Hannah Belle is set to make her acting debut in upcoming Christmas movie Merry Little Switchmas - and we can't wait to tag along!
She's got the beauty, brains - and maternal instincts: back in the late '90s and early '00s, this supermodel was busy taking the runway by storm. But after marrying actor Mark Wahlberg and welcoming their first child together, nothing's ever been the same.
"I love my life… the traditions of family and home. Babies, kids, holidays — that's what I'm good at," Durham gushed. Since 2006, the mother of 4 has come to embrace life as a full-time mom. "It's hectic and stressful at times. But I'm really happy."
She might hail all the way from Britain, but this blue-eyed beauty certainly made her arrival in Hollywood known. From Austin Powers to Bedazzled to every blockbuster in between, the international actress was once one of the most talked about celebs. But in 2005, she decided to change that.
"Looking after my son became my number-one task," Hurley recalled of welcoming Damian Hurley in 2002. Sure enough, she didn't take on another project until 2010. "And I don't regret it for a moment. I always put him first." Recently, Hurley was busy starring in The Royals, but her reign as a loyal mother is just as evident.
To put it simply, nothing about Mayim Bialik is ordinary: She's a Hollywood actress with a Ph.D. in neuroscience and her very own children's book. But while the Big Bang Theory star might know a thing or two about turning heads, she hasn't always opted for life in the spotlight.
"That's right! I chose to stay home with my kids when they were young," she recalled of becoming a stay-at-home mom back in 2005. "I was there for every bath, every boo-boo... and everything in between." After a long hiatus, Bialik has since returned to the screen and made juggling motherhood and Hollywood look like a breeze.
When this Hollywood bombshell welcomed her first baby with Ryan Gosling back in 2014, she had no idea what awaited her. Or at least that's how she remembers it. "Nobody told me it was gonna really be a job... A chauffeur, a cook, a personal assistant to an abusive boss," she joked.
Sure enough, since becoming a mother of 2, the former actress has swapped red carpets for rulemaking. "The stakes are really high, so yeah, I'm a helicopter parent," Mendes confessed of her new reality as a stay-at-home mom. We'd love to get her little ones' take on things…
When this blonde beauty announced she was taking a step back from the big-screen, people had lots to say. In fact, to this day, Paltrow still feels the criticism from leaving Hollywood for parenthood. "I think some people, they don't understand the choice that I've made," she confessed. But that's okay.
In fact, since retiring from acting, the proud mother of 2 has continued to do things her way. From becoming a full-time mother to running Goop - her very own wellness company - in recent years, Gwyneth has no regrets about the way things panned out. "I've learned so much about myself through the process."
Jessica Simpson has seen it all: a thriving movie career, several albums, a fashion empire. But as far as she's concerned? Motherhood makes for the most challenging job of all. Perhaps that's why she's taken a step back from the limelight since welcoming her 3 little ones.
"We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she explained of her and her husband, Eric Johnson. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is." From country barbie to confident boss-lady, we love to see how far this momma's come.
Sure, she hasn't quite said goodbye to the runway just yet. But make no mistake about it: this supermodel's time becoming a parent called for lots of sacrifices. But don't quote us on that one. "I kind of lost myself. It was like a part of me died," the Victoria's Secret goddess confessed.
How did she explain it? "I'd been this very independent person. It was all about me. But now I had this little being, and I suddenly felt l couldn't do other things." While the mother of 2 has since taken on less projects, Gisele will continue to balance life at home and on the move.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
This Hollywood beauty is full of love - in every sense of the word. Jennifer Love Hewitt was busy building a thriving career in Hollywood when she decided to turn her entire life around. "They were like, 'You're in the middle of a career; you can't do that,'" the actress recalled.
Sure enough, after taking a sudden hiatus post-second pregnancy, everything fell right into place."I needed to work on myself, get into a different place." From returning to our screens in 2018's 9-1-1 to the admiration it called for, this hardworking momma knows exactly how to get things done.
It was the "breakup" of the
year decade: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were going to be leaving the Royal Family - for good. But forget the outcry and speculation Meghan Markle's 2020 "Royal Exit" called for. As far as she was concerned? There was only one thing that truly mattered: baby Archie.
As she explained at the time, she and Prince Harry left Britain for America, "to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter." Surely, the decision wasn't easy. But we applaud the loyal mother for putting her family first.
When Izzie Stevens left Grey's Anatomy back in 2010, fans (us included) had lots of questions. But according to the actress behind the infamous oncologist, the departure was actually anything but random: "I started a family, and it changed everything," Heigl confessed.
After becoming a first-time mother, the actress's life suddenly changed. "It changed my desire to work full-time," she explained. "I went on family leave and just got to be a [mom], and it changed my whole perspective." Since then, she's gone on to welcome 2 other children, several milestones, and a whole lot of respect in our eyes.
In 2008, as The Love Guru hit theaters, the star behind the famed comedy already had her sights set on her next adventure: motherhood. "I had this real moment of, I want to live, and thrive, and spend as much time with this little person that I'm bringing into the world as possible," Alba recalled.
Despite being at the height of her career, her first child's birth changed her entire perspective on things. From that point forward, the beloved actress decided to pivot her focus into raising a family, and later, her own clean beauty line, The Honest Company. "I couldn't go back to what I was doing before."
She might be the easygoing actress we know and love, but when it comes to parenting? There are many things this strict momma won't be letting go. ''I want to be very hands-on," the Frozen star explained. "I want to cook for my family and feel present for them."
But while the hardworking mother of 2 has since returned to the spotlight, don't think it's been rainbow and butterflies juggling both: "All of us [working moms] are wearing yogurt, and all of our hands smell like urine," Bell joked. We love to see her keeping it real.
Her days getting into trouble on the Upper East Side might be behind her, but this blonde bombshell is still a woman on the move. While her approach to parenting might look slightly different than our other A-list mommas, the Gossip Girl star hopes to send a message in the process.
"I want to be as present of a mother as humanly possible... but I also think the best way to be the best mother is to show them that you can have a life and have a passion and have an identity outside of just being a mother," Lively explained. As for how she does it all? That's one secret she'll never tell...
Charlize Theron moved to America from South Africa so that she could chase her dream of being an actress. She was successful, and in 1997, she had her breakthrough role starring in the movie The Devil's Advocate. Another dream Theron always had was to become a mom, so she adopted two girls.
Despite being married 4 times, the actress raises her daughters alone. August and Jackson get her full attention since she never hired a nanny to help her out, although occasionally, her mom lends a hand. "I have two beautiful daughters who, just like any parent, I want to protect, and I want to see thrive," Theron gushed.
Jenna Fisher is arguably best known for her character Pam Beasley on the hit sitcom, The Office. In 2011, the actress took a step back from the spotlight when she gave birth to her baby boy, Weston. To notify her fans of her retirement, she posted a tweet on Twitter with the caption "#andlotsoftimewithmybaby."
It didn't last too long because once Weston was a bit older, Fisher was back to work. In 2015 she made her comeback with her lead role as Rhona on You, Me, and the Apocalypse. Although we're happy she got to spend quality time with her son, we're also glad to see her back on our screens.
This iconic actress might have starred in many award-winning movies, but when it came to being a mother, Julia Roberts put everything aside. The Pretty Woman star wanted to give her 3 children, Hazel, Henry, and Phinnaeus, as much as an ordinary childhood as she could. So she took a break from acting to raise her kids.
While she didn't fully leave Hollywood, she did take on fewer projects, especially since raising kids is a whole project in itself. Roberts explained, "I get everybody out the door to school on time, clean, fed, happy. That's directing a whole production right there."
When her second son, Orson Handel, was born, Lauren Ambrose decided it was time to take a break from acting and put her focus on her family. So in 2012, the Six Feet Under star announced her temporary goodbye. And after a few years, in 2016, she was seen in The X Files as Agent Einstein.
Although she fully returned to Hollywood once the kids were older, motherhood was the role that helped her career the most. She confessed, "Having my son, I mean, I feel already that it makes me a better actress. Just the feeling and the love that expands in my… being is more than I ever thought possible."
As the lead role on Without a Trace, Poppy Montgomery, had a hard time managing motherhood and being a full-time actress. This led her to miss out on many moments of her son, Jackson's first years. "My children and my work are the things that fuel my soul. Finding the balance... is the dilemma women face every day," she confessed.
Eventually, she decided to trade in the 20-hour workdays on set for a full 24-hour mommy role. While the actress has stated that it's hard work raising two kids, it's something she loved to do. After her four-year break, Montgomery was ready to return to her career in full swing.
This 1980's star was probably most recognized for her roles in Gremlins and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But after many years in the industry, Phoebe Cates took a step back in 1994. With all the free time, she could focus more on raising her kids, Owen and Frankie.
She never planned to go back to acting - instead, she focused on a new career plan. Cates started her own boutique where she had more flexibility to work and be with her kids. The only role she ever accepted after leaving was in 2001 as a favor for her pal Jennifer Jason Leigh.
When Meg Tilly first had her kids, she continued working as an actress. She had many successful roles in films, including The Big Chill and Agnes of God. But after moving her three children so much due to her line of work, she decided it was time to take a break from acting. Today, she spends all her days with Emily, David, and Will.
The decision to step away from her job was prompted after her all the traveling was putting a strain on her daughter's friendships. "I don't know if I did my son's wives a disservice now, because the boys are like, 'Oh moms, they make all the food and do all the laundry and all that,'" Tilly quipped.
In 2007, Salma Hayek and her husband François Pinault welcomed their daughter, Valentina, into the world. After that, she decided to slow down with how many acting jobs she took on. She, later on, explained to Marie Claire that it was an easy decision.
"I think if you are young and you have children, you still have so much to prove. When you have children later in life, you lose a bit of that urge for working," Hayek said. "At the time, I was thinking, I can do another movie that may or may not work, or I can be with my child… and not miss a moment of this precious time."