Originally appeared on E! Online
As the youngest of five, a big family was the norm for Blake Lively.
She admittedly wasn’t the one doing the babysitting while growing up in Burbank, Calif., but as the devoted aunt told E! News in 2014 ahead of the birth of her first child, “I’m always the person who’s taking everyone else’s kid and putting them on my hip, so I’ve kinda always been a mama. So, we’ll see.”
Turned out, she was just getting started.
Now she’s a mother of four with husband Ryan Reynolds, the relentlessly entertaining couple having presented daughters James, 8, Inez, 6,and Betty, 3, with a little sibling (name still TBA, or featured in a Taylor Swift song, whichever comes first) earlier this year.
Reynolds, who has three older brothers, said he was “kind of hoping” they’d have another girl, not least because he’d gotten the hang of being a girl dad. But of course, the actor who had a touch of mental frostbite from seeing Frozen too many times to count was quick to note on TODAY, they’d be “ready for whatever happens.”
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And everyone knows by now not to hold their breath for more details. While Lively’s not too precious to share a pic of her breast pump, she has certain unbendable rules when it comes to what she and Reynolds post on social media—and No. 1 is no shots of their kids.
Leaving Reynolds to paint a vivid picture of their home life with his special brand of parenting anecdotes.
In 2015, he recalled telling Lively that he loved her more than anything, so much he would take a bullet for her. And once they had James, he said on the Late Show With David Letterman, “the second I looked in that baby’s eyes, I knew in that exact moment that if we were ever under attack, I would use my wife as a human shield to protect that baby.”
Even waking up in the middle of the night, the new dad rhapsodized to E! at the time, “you got a big stupid smile on your face. Anything else that woke you up every 45 minutes, you’d kill it. But when it’s a baby, it’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”
And it’s in these quiet moments that he continued to have real epiphanies.
“You worry about really stupid stuff,” he told TODAY‘s Willie Geist about the possibility of then-3-month-old James becoming an actor one day. “And you sorta sit there and go, ‘Oh gosh, is she gonna wanna do this?’ I like to whisper in her ear, like, really normal everyday jobs…’You’re going to be a flight attendant…a barista…Just normal, wonderful jobs that you can have a nice, normal life.'”
James and her siblings will one day grasp just how unusual it is that their mom is an alum of one of the most zeitgeisty shows of the ’00s and their dad was once deemed “Sexiest Man Alive.” But Lively—a prolific holiday baker who grew up in a family that was so good at gift-wrapping they almost didn’t want to open presents—and Reynolds have been doing their best to crank up the normalcy quotient at home.
Though their cover may have been blown when they took their kids to a concert and “Aunt Taylor” was the main act.
Still, home is in Bedford, N.Y., the couple having chosen to plant roots in the Lower Hudson Valley—not exactly in humble surroundings, but with an expanse of land for their family tree to grow and more privacy than if they lived smack in the middle of Manhattan or L.A.
Not that it stopped photographers from lurking outside during Lively’s latest pregnancy, the 36-year-old handily clapping back on Instagram with a slideshow of pics taken on her terms, “so the 11 guys waiting outside my home for a [unicorn emoji] sighting will leave me alone. You freak me and my kids out.”
But for the most part, country living (as in, the likes of Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren have estates nearby) has served them well.
“I think it’s keeping a boundary that there’s this world that is the job and the world that is the home,” Reynolds explained to The Project in 2015. And, since he and Lively didn’t lead “a wild and crazy life,” he added, “it’s not that hard. It’s not a big deal.”
No one outside their carefully vetted orbit saw a trace of James (minus her feet) or Inez until Reynolds and Lively brought them to his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in December 2016—and still, the wider world didn’t even know their second child’s name yet.
Thanking his wife for being the best thing that had ever happened to him, Reynolds said, “You’ve given us two of the most incredible children that I could ever hope to have. You’ve made me the father of my dreams when I thought I only had fun uncle potential.”
A deftly landed joke, yes, but the droll 46-year-old has talked about developing his sense of humor at an early age as a defense mechanism.
“My father was a very funny man,” he told Geist on Sunday Sitdown in 2018. “He was a very smart man, but he was a very scary, tough guy. He was a huge presence—you know, when he walked into a room, the oxygen could leave like that…I used to refer to him as a skin-covered landmine. He was the guy that could just go off, so I learned to kind of defuse that with jokes, with ways to make him laugh. It sounds more dramatic than it is, but I was singing for my supper in a way.”
Though the Vancouver native was grateful that his childhood experience helped him cultivate the wit that factored so crucially into to his success, that environment also inspired his efforts to foster a different experience for his own children.
“Part of my job as a parent is to model behaviors and model what it’s like to be sad, and model what it’s like to be anxious or angry,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2021. “That there’s space for all these things. The home that I grew in, that wasn’t modeled for me really. And that’s not to say that my parents were neglectful, but they come from a different generation.”
He always wanted to have a big family but, as he once cracked to Details, he was also a bit terrified that he was “genetically predisposed to only having boys.” In Lively, Reynolds found the perfect partner and soon found out that was decidedly not the case.
“All my eggs are in one basket, and that’s my family,” she told Marie Claire in 2016. “That’s where my heart is. That’s where my everything is.”
She knew Reynolds was the one, she shared, because “I knew he would always be my best friend for my whole life. That was the biggest thing to me. I’d never known anything like the friendship that I had with him. I could like him as much as I loved him.”
Reynolds backed up her assessment of their potential, telling Extra in 2021 that the secret of their success was, “We really liked each other before as friends beforehand. We like each other even more so now.”
They famously met while making 2011’s The Green Lantern—the “darkest crease on the anus of the universe,” Reynolds described the otherwise unmemorable movie—and about a year later (following Reynolds’ split from first wife Scarlett Johansson and Lively’s whirlwind romance with Leonardo DiCaprio) were on a double date with other people when they realized they should be sitting next to each other.
They married in September 2012, months after Gossip Girl ended its six-season run. Lively launched her own short-lived lifestyle brand, Preserve (where she announced her first pregnancy in 2014) and continued to star in movies such as The Shallows and A Simple Favor after becoming a mom. And, of course, the Met Gala eagerly awaited her presence every year.
But acting has been on the back burner lately while she focuses on her family—”I’m just obsessed with my kids,” she told E! in pre-quarantine 2020 about taking on roles, “so it’s got to really be worth it to take me away”—and business ventures like her Betty Buzz line of non-alcoholic mixers.
Which, though she doesn’t drink, pair nicely with Aviation American Gin, the brand Reynolds bought into after discovering it at a bar in Portland, Ore., and then sold for a reported $610 million in 2020. Lively acknowledged to Forbes that the idea for her beverages “came from our partnership. I mean, everything we do, we do together, for better or worse.”
(She isn’t technically a co-owner of Wrexham A.F.C., the Cinderella-story Welsh soccer team Reynolds purchased with Rob McElhenney, but she’s obviously one of their biggest fans as well as a top-notch CTO, or chief trolling officer.)
Lively also drew a direct line from becoming a mom to her burgeoning confidence as a business owner, explaining that she had grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of creative input she was able to have as an actress.
“Once I had children, that just became even more profound because my time was even more precious,” she said, “but also I think having children for me made me feel so much more in my skin. I never felt more myself or at ease in my own body or more confident—not to say that there aren’t a bevy of insecurities coming at me a million times a day, but I just feel incredibly settled. I just think that growing up, having kids, all of those things made me feel like I only want to do things where I can have really meaningful collaborations and have authorship.”
And “that also goes into the types of films I want to be a part of,” Lively continued. “I want to be in films, I want to make films, I want to author films that I would be proud for my children to see. Even the gowns I wear—I just want my kids to be proud. Family is at the root of everything I do and it’s why I feel good about what I’m doing because it has a real meaning and heart behind it all.”
She may have to wait, however, for her iconic style to be appreciated accordingly at home.
Flipping through photos of herself from Met Galas past for a Vogue “Life in Looks” segment, Lively stopped at one from 2018, the year she wore an intricately detailed crimson Versace gown and carried a bejeweled clutch with “Reynolds” and her husband and daughters’ first initials studded in crystals.
“When my kids are giving me attitude, I’m like, ‘This is your mom,'” Lively quipped, gesturing to the picture. “I mean, come on! I try to tell them that I’m real-life royalty and that they’re lucky that I’m raising them. They don’t buy it.”
Sounds like she and Reynolds just may be raising a few chips off the old block.
“We’re people that don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he told Geist, explaining that his and Lively’s de facto Instagram personalities—wry and wryer—are fairly reflective of how they actually are. “The only people I really love to make fun of is us. We love it.”
But Lively always knows just what to say when the going gets serious, such as when her husband decided to pour money into a gin company.
“She was into it,” Reynolds recalled. “She always says, ‘I don’t drink, but if I did it wouldn’t be Aviation Gin.'”
(Originally published May 13, 2023, at 7 p.m. PT)
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