Matthew McConaughey says he felt ‘immortal’ when he became a father: ‘A man is never more manly than when he had his first child’
He’s an Oscar-winning actor with three kids and a penchant for saying “Okay, okay, okay.” Who is: Matthew McConaughey.
The Texan joined newly minted Danger! hosts Mayim Bialik for the latest episode of her mental health podcast, The Failure of Mayim Bialik, which she co-hosts with friend Jonathan Cohen. One of the topics the trio discussed was parenting, with McConaughey revealing that he felt “immortal” by becoming a father.
“First child born — that was a biggie for me,” the 51-year-old, who shares two sons and a daughter with wife Camila Alves McConaughey, told Bialik and Cohen. “I remember [thinking] for myself i was like I just became immortal. Biologically yes, but more than that, this is it. This is what I’ve dreamed of all my life – not immortal, but a father.”
later, the Green light The author reflected on how his parenting style compares to how his parents—whose tumultuous, sometimes abusive relationship he has written about—raised him. According to McConaughey, his parents’ approach was “fear-based,” but he writes that he helped “keep me in line” because he understood there would be consequences.
“I’ve also tried to evolve as a parent,” he said. “I don’t judge my parents or how they did it as right or wrong or ‘oh, you can’t do it like this anymore’.” “I try to instill the same values that my parents tried to instill in us. I try to do it in different ways. Do we have much longer discussions with our children? Yes.”
He added that unlike his parents, he and Alves “don’t really do physical punishment,” but admitted that “it’s hard to figure out” how to implement consequences — such as taking away a child’s screen time — so that the child in question understands why they are being punished.
“Camila and I try to do it differently than my parents did, or even her parents did. Are we doing better? I don’t know,” he admitted. “We’ll see how the kids go out and negotiate. Me and my two brothers did well, and my older brothers had a harder time than me…”
McConaughey went on to say that his children are now 8, 11 and 13 years old and are “starting to become their own little people,” raising new parenting challenges as a one-size-fits-all rule system no longer works.
“You have to go, ‘Wait, I’m going to treat you fairly, but I’m not going to treat you all the same,'” he said, explaining that one child may have slipped intentionally while another did so unintentionally, and so are different consequences needed.
“We are big on the consequences,” he continued. “Consequences always get a bad reputation because they’re always the bad ones. Consequences have as much as being good, the fun, too. We’re a pretty disciplined family. I like the manners and graces my parents taught me – I love from gentlemen and madam and please and thank you.”
Bialik agreed, saying that her two sons should not call an adult by their first name.
“It’s a great thing of respect,” McConaughey agreed. “I even call my kids Mr. and Mrs. in the jargon of going back and forth…”
At the same time, he says he and his wife are trying to give their children “more freedom of choice.”
“We listen to more debates than my parents would have listened to,” he laughed.
He shared that another tactic they’ve been trying lately: a little silent treatment.
“One of the kids doesn’t listen to the rules. Okay. I’ll walk around ignoring you for a day. Why? Because you ignored me. It’s a quiet one but good one. ‘Why don’t I have a plate set?’ “Oh! I didn’t know you were eating here.”
The Dazed and confused star went on to explain how becoming a father shook his world.
“I don’t know about the mother, but for the father, a man is never more masculine than when he had his first child,” he said. “Again, to me I was like, ‘I’m immortal.’ Literally, biologically. I now live immediately, inherently, instinctively for the future, where I was not yesterday… My decisions are also based on consideration for them, and their future.”
He added that he initially thought raising a child was “a lot more environment than DNA was” — but now realizes that some things are out of control.
“They are who they are,” he said. “That was a big surprise for me as a parent…I came in and thought this is what we do as parents [that mattered].”
He said that as his children grow up, he now sees them as “three completely different individuals.”
When Bialik asked him if he has a “mini-me,” McConaughey admitted that his boys both imitate him in different ways, sometimes to the frustration of his wife Camila. (“That’s you!” she’ll point out if a son is in trouble.)
Eldest son Levi, 13, “is very much a perfectionist, very… clear about what he wants and has incredible discussions about it,” his father said. While Levi has the “sales side,” the youngest son Livingston is “delightfully stubborn,” a trait he tries to temper by encouraging empathy and acceptance of other points of view.
“I see a lot of myself in them and when I don’t, my wife reminds me,” he burst out. “‘Yes, that was you.”