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Charlize Theron’s motherhood journey began in 2012 when she adopted her daughter Jackson, 11. Three years later, the Mad Max: Fury Road actress expanded her family again, adopting her younger daughter August, 7, in 2015.
The star opened up to PEOPLE in 2018 about her decision to adopt and shared that adoption was always a top priority for her. She explained that she was largely inspired by her own upbringing in South Africa, which exposed her to orphanages and children in need in her community at a young age.
“Even when I was in relationships, I was always honest with my partners, that adoption was how my family would look one day,” Theron said. “This was definitely not a second option for me. It was always my first.”
Theron has also been candid about her role as a mother to two Black daughters. During an April 2018 interview for ELLE, the actress said that growing up during the apartheid era in South Africa made her “hyperaware of equality and human rights.”
“I want them to know who they are, and I want them to be so f—ing proud of who they are,” she said. “Building confidence for them right now is an oath I made to myself when I brought them home. They need to know where they come from and be proud of that. But they’re going to have to know that it’s a different climate for them than it is for me, and how unfair that is. If I can do something about that, of course I’m going to.”
During a December 2022 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress spoke more about her kids’ opinion of her job. “In their heads, they’re like, ‘We know you work, but we’re not 100 percent sure what you do,’ ” Theron said. “My younger one goes, ‘Oh my God, Mom, it feels like you can’t hold a job.’ ”
Meanwhile, Theron said that Jackson has been critical of her Dior ads. “My older one, she’s a pre-teen now, so there are moments, like, we’re walking through an airport and [she sees me on a Dior billboard] and she’s just like, ‘Oh my God, you’re on a f—— wall with no shirt, Mom. This is so embarrassing. Put a shirt on!’ ” she shared.
In November 2023, Theron spoke candidly with PEOPLE about being a single mom.
“[Being] a parent in general is a nice hard,” she said. “When you’re in it, you’re like, ‘I’m never going to survive this.’ And then you get to the other side, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing. I can’t believe I did that.’ ”
Keep reading to learn more about Charlize Theron’s two daughters.
Jackson Theron, 11
Theron adopted her first child, Jackson, in 2012. The adoption took place right before the actress started filming her action flick Mad Max: Fury Road. She reflected on her first year as a mom in May 2020, posting a rare throwback shot of her and baby Jackson on set. In the photo, Jackson laid on the actress’s chest.
“I became a mom right before we started shooting,” she wrote in the caption. “At least my child will forever have the fun fact of ‘I spent most of the first year of my life in a war rig.’ ”
The Atomic Blonde star discussed her adoption experience during a December 2019 interview with NPR, sharing that she “cast a very wide net” when it came to the early stages of the process.
“I wanted to believe that somehow my child would find me in the way that we were just meant to be,” she said. “So I wasn’t specific with anything … In whatever country they would allow me as a single woman to adopt, that’s where I filed. And it just happened to be that both my children ended up being American. They were born in the United States and they both happened to be African American.”
Jackson is very close with her younger sister, but they have still had their fair share of sibling tension. During a 2018 appearance on The Ellen DeDeneres Show, Theron explained that her daughters’ relationship has evolved as they have gotten older.
She explained to DeGeneres that when her daughters were one and a half and 5, they would play nicely together and their relationship “made [her] every single day.”
“Now I cry, but not because it’s peaceful and loving anymore … The 1-year-old is now almost 3, and she’s like, ‘No.’ The older one is like, ‘What? What do you mean no? I said let’s do this!’ It’s like war in our house every single day,” Theron said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Theron began homeschooling her kids like many other parents around the world, although she found the experience to be “incredibly stressful.” While the movie star is a woman of many talents, she joked during an interview with PEOPLE in July 2020 that math is not her strong suit and that she is a “terrible math teacher.” At least, according to her daughter Jackson.
“I [thought] I [was doing] a great job until my 8-year-old was like, ‘Mom, I don’t think you’re very good at this. I don’t think you’re a good teacher,’ ” Theron recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! Why?’ And she goes, ‘Because you’re not really explaining why this problem is solved.’ ”
In September 2023, Theron opened up to PEOPLE about Jackson starting middle school.
“My oldest just went to middle school and it was literally, it was so sad. I was like, ‘Where’s my baby?’ ” the actress said.
To make the change even harder for the mom of two, Theron said her daughter wouldn’t accept a hug on the big day. “I was like, ‘Can I hug you?’ She’s like, ‘No, no.’ Oh my god. It’s like a whole different game,” she said.
August Theron, 7
Three years after adopting Jackson, Theron adopted her younger daughter, August, in July 2015.
Theron rarely posts about Jackson or August on social media. However, she made an exception in January 2022 just after the start of the new year. On Instagram, Theron shared a photo of herself and August napping alongside their dog. In the caption, she wrote in part, “New year, same energy.”
During an appearance on The Tonight Show, the mother of two told host Jimmy Fallon that August had picked up martial arts, a skill that surprised Theron.
“I think a stranger comes into my house at 3 a.m. because none of us use any of the words [my kids use],” she said. “The little one learned technical martial arts, like full technical wrestling grips. I don’t know where she learned it … I came in the other day and she literally had my assistant in like, a back lock and a full grip and she wouldn’t let go.”
While the Bombshell star is a proud single mother, she’s trying to instill the sentiment in her daughters that they do not need a romantic partner in their life to feel fulfilled. On a 2020 episode of Diane vön Furstenberg’s podcast InCharge, Theron recalled a moment when August had told her that her mom needed to get a boyfriend.
“I said, ‘Actually, I don’t. Right now, I feel really good,’ and she’s like, ‘But, you know what, Mom? … You need a boyfriend, you need a relationship,’ ” Theron told the designer. “And I was like, ‘I am in a relationship. I’m in a relationship with myself right now.’ ”
Theron also expressed that she wanted to help raise a “generation of young girls who realize that there is absolutely no shame in that game to be in relationship with yourself — to not fall into what society kind of predicts for us as what is socially acceptable: If you are not in a relationship, somehow you’re a failure.”
“Those are all constructs that we need to change,” she later added. “I remember two days ago just looking back in the rearview mirror and seeing my little 5-year-old’s face; her mind was blown. But I know that that was the day that she realized there’s a different possibility.”
Both August and her older sister are social activists in the making and have already participated in Black Lives Matter protests.
“They were so wanting to be proactive in, ‘Mom, what do we do? How do we change this?’ ” Theron told PEOPLE during a 2020 interview. “And just their willingness to make signs and to want to go protest, and they still have their signs in the car.”
“And when they see protesters on the side of the road, they’ll say, ‘Mom, honk. Honk, Mom, honk,’ ” the proud mom added. “There’s a real sense of pride.”