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The Morning Show star, 45, reflected on her mother’s career, which started out with her becoming one of the youngest nurses in Memphis, Tennessee, during an appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show on Wednesday, where the entire audience was made up of nurses.
After Barrymore encouraged Witherspoon to tell her about her mom, the actor told the talk-show host she was “gonna make me cry,” before revealing that she and her mother had teared up when they learned the audience would be filled with nurses.
“I was talking to my mom on the phone when your producer called and said the whole audience was filled with nurses, and my mom and I both started to cry,” Witherspoon said. “Because being raised by a nurse, I think my mother has such infinite compassion.”
The Legally Blonde star then discussed what it was like to grow up with a nurse for a mother, with the actor fondly recalling her mom’s dedication to her patients.
“My mother worked night shifts, she worked weekends, so I had to kinda take care of myself, my brother and I would make dinner and everything. She was so tired, but she just loved her patients,” Witherspoon said. “She did labour and delivery, she did neonatal intensive care. I would bring her donuts, her and the other nurses.”
According to the Oscar winner, she has always been “in awe” of her mother’s “endless compassion for other people,” a feeling that she told Barrymore extends to other nurses she meets.
“And that’s how I feel whenever I see a nurse because I think to dedicate your life to caring for people is one of the most noble professions that exists,” she continued, before sharing her gratitude to the nurses in the audience for their “incredible hard work, taking care of people during this very difficult time”.
While reflecting on her mother’s compassion and career, Witherspoon also shared her belief that nurses and other frontline workers deserve more recognition and praise for their hard work.
After acknowledging that, as an actor, she gets “so much attention,” Witherspoon said that it is people like her father, who was a doctor, and her mother, who should get credit, as their important work saves lives.
“My mother and father - my dad was a doctor, my mom was a nurse - I’ve watched my mother save people’s lives,” the actor recalled. “Whether it was save a kid from drowning, she helped her very best friend who had a bad accident when we were very little, and I watched her resuscitate her on the side of a highway.
“We don’t focus and highlight the people who do that hard, difficult work of saving lives.”
Witherspoon concluded her tribute acknowledging that, even when her mother was tired, she had “purpose,” and that having purpose in your life is “such a big part of being a human being”.
The actor’s praise for her mother comes after she recently opened up about the struggles she faced when became a mother herself, with Witherspoon revealing that she did not have “a lot of support with my first baby,” daughter Ava Elizabeth Phillippe.
“I was lucky enough to have money saved and I didn’t have to work but it’s just not a one-person job. I would even say it’s not a two-person job,” Witherspoon said on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert.
In addition to her daughter, Witherspoon also shares son Deacon, 18, with ex Ryan Phillippe, and son Tennessee, nine, with husband Jim Toth.