The Early Years

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 18: Uma Thurman attends the Opening Night Gala and 30th Anniversary Sc...
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From The White House, Uma Thurman Talks About Helping All Kids Thrive And The Joy Of Seeing Her Own Grow Up

Thurman visited the White House recently with Room To Grow, a non-profit dedicated to helping vulnerable moms and babies. Here's what they want everyone to know.

It was during her first pregnancy that actress Uma Thurman realized how vulnerable mothers were who did not have the economic security she enjoyed. She was thrilled at the prospect of welcoming her daughter, Maya Hawke, but felt instinctively that her responsibility to help extended beyond her own little family. “That really, deeply resonated with me,” Thurman tells Romper. “It's a beautiful opportunity, but also truly daunting... You can't really bring your child in isolation into a world happily. You have to bring their generation with them.”

At the time, Thurman was neighbors with Julie Burns, the founder of Room To Grow, a program that provides critical support — essential items, support, and community resources — to low-income families raising babies from the third trimester to 3 years old. Baby Maya is now 25, and Thurman has been working with the organization ever since (you may recall she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon sporting the org’s t-shirt). She recently attended a White House Mother’s Day event with the nonprofit’s CEO Akilah King to discuss the Biden-Harris administration’s policy priorities around mothers and families, such as paid leave, maternal health, the economy, and the vital services Room to Grow provides for families in need.

“What's happening in those early stages [of child development] is profound,” King tells me. “Eighty percent of all human brain development is happening in those critical zero to three years. And also at the same time, the children are just absorbing and learning as much as they can from the adults in their lives particularly. If there are delays that are caught in those first couple of years, we truly have a chance to close those gaps, whether it's social, emotional, or physical.”

Obviously no one thing — even at a federal level — will solve the myriad social and economic challenges that make life harder for low-income families. But King highlighted policies that can move the needle, including making SNAP benefits and other food benefits more accessible and easier to navigate, and investing in quality early-education programs like Head Start.

“I feel very lucky in my children, just because I am. That's the part of my life in which I've been the luckiest.” —Uma Thurman

“There are some subsidies that have been rolled out to really support families and make healthcare more affordable,” King says. “So continuing that and continuing to address the maternal health crisis and a well-thought-out implementation plan to make sure all women of color feel like they get the care.”

Thurman adds that affordable childcare is another area where policy changes can make a big impact. “Having to work and having small children for anybody in any situation is difficult,” she says. “But trying to do that without resources is nearly impossible.”

(And this is coming from the woman who trained for Kill Bill with kung fu masters mere months after giving birth to her second child, Levon, so...)

There are those who say parenting never gets easier. Certainly, older children come with their own unique set of challenges for parents. But for many families, the struggles in those first three years can have an impact throughout children’s lives. Addressing them early — with compassion and dignity — can make an invaluable difference, not just in the lives of those accessing care.

And according to Thurman, there is tremendous joy in getting beyond that early-childhood stage to the “big kid” marker.

“I feel very lucky in my children, just because I am,” she says. “That's the part of my life in which I've been the luckiest. But I think as a friend of mine said to me, ‘Parenting is not a sprint, it's a marathon.’ I think they knew I was desperately, anxiously trying to do best job I could. I really came into parenting with a sprinter mentality, and over time, I've definitely gotten to see the marathon and to see things add up into strong, brave, independent adults. And nothing is perfect. No parent is perfect. You just do your best.”

As someone who needs to hear that probably every day: thanks, Uma.