As an actress, Lucy Liu has kicked butt as a Charlie's Angel, squared off against Uma Thurman's The Bride in a sword fight and fired Samantha Jones over a Birkin bag. On-screen, her life was thrilling. Off-screen, she wanted more.
"I think I was just tired of my own dialogue," Liu tells Yahoo Life's So Mini Ways of making the leap to motherhood in her 40s. "I was like, what's next? ... I'm tired of my own thought process. It was more than I needed change."
Given that her work meant never really knowing where the next role might take her, the Elementary star wasn't one to fixate on the future. Over time, however, she reached a turning point in which she realized that it "was time to really look at myself in a very different way, and take my life in a different direction."
For the past six years, that direction has been raising son Rockwell. Liu was 47 when she welcomed the baby boy via a gestational surrogate — a process she says was a "very big step in terms of trust."
Introducing the new little man in my life, my son Rockwell Lloyd Liu. In ❤️! pic.twitter.com/6pxLPL6QX1
— Lucy Liu (@LucyLiu) August 27, 2015
"This other person is taking a big step for you, regardless of your relationship with them, and they are creating something for you and your life that is very special," she says. "That appreciation and that gratitude for that process and that person, it never goes away. This gift that they've given you is so important."
Raising Rockwell, who will soon turn 7, as a single mom, Liu is a big believer in building family traditions. Currently, that includes getting up early to make her son breakfast before he heads to summer camp and starting the day with a conversation about his dreams, his schedule and what he is most excited about for the day.
"And then when he comes back, our routine is to talk about what his favorite part of his day was and what one thing he was grateful for during the day. It's a nice way to kind of build in routine with just dialogue," she says, noting that it can be tricky "sometimes to get them to talk about anything at all. When he says, 'Oh, this was my favorite part of my day' and I say 'Why?' it kind of opens up a story."
The Charlie's Angels star and her son have also spent the summer making new memories. Liu recently took Rockwell to see his first movie in a theater: Minions: The Rise of Gru. Having hosted American Express's "Win the Weekday" event in New York City last week, the busy mom used her American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card to buy the movie tickets and popcorn online in advance so could "make the most of that time in the movie theater with him" rather than get caught up in the hassle of last-minute logistics. As a time-strapped parent during the pandemic, Liu says having the option to plan ahead and make contact-free purchases with her card — which offers 3% cash back on groceries, gas and online shopping and 1% cash back on everything else — has been crucial.
"They understand that parents provide for their family, and so they are providing for us by giving us cash back on groceries, on gas, on online purchases," she says. "All I've been doing is online purchases; it's very rare for me to actually go into a store. And I think that that gives my quality of life a big boost because I'm able to spend more time with my son."
What is she spending her money on these days? Thanks to a recent growth spurt, it's new clothes for Rockwell, says Liu, who can be found sorting through her son's closet while he's at camp, weeding out too-small outfits to donate to others. But while she's not afraid to roll up her sleeves and dig into whatever task motherhood throws her way, the single mom also knows when to ask for help ("you can't do everything on your own — it's impossible," she notes), and when to carve out time for herself.
She cites one of the best pieces of parenting advice she's been given, one that supports parents having time on their own to "refresh" and teaches children more independence as well as the understanding that Mommy can step away and come back and it'll be OK.
"Be kind to yourself, and understand that you need breaks and that children need breaks from their parents too," Liu says. "You go away from each other, you come back and you're going to be a stronger and better person."
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