Gwyneth Paltrow Says Being a Stepmom Has Been One of Her ‘Biggest Learnings as a Human Being’

The actress spoke about parenting and the legacy of Nicole Avant's mother, philanthropist Jacqueline Avant, at the Visionary Women’s International Women’s Day Summit

<p>DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty</p> Gwyneth Paltrow


Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Avant are getting candid about parenting.

On Wednesday, PEOPLE was in attendance as the pair spoke at the Visionary Women's International Women’s Day Summit at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

During their conversation, the Goop founder, 51, asked the former United States ambassador to the Bahamas, 56, how she navigates being a “stepmother to two amazing human beings, Tony and Sarah.”

<p>Araya Doheny/Getty</p> Nicole Avant and Gwyneth Paltrow; March 2024

Araya Doheny/Getty

Nicole Avant and Gwyneth Paltrow; March 2024

Before Avant responded, Paltrow asked if there were any other stepmothers in the audience.

After a brief applause from the crowd, the actress playfully quipped, “Yeah, it's a bitch, right, guys? No, I actually, I really like to talk about this because it's one of my biggest learnings as a human being. And my area of growth personally came from the initial difficult relationship I had with my step kids and now they're like my kids.”

Paltrow shares two children with her ex husband, Chris Martin, as well as two stepchildren with American Horror Story co-creator Brad Falchuk, who she married in 2018.

<p>Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images</p> Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk

Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk

Paltrow said while she loves her bonus babies, “the path to here was really rough.”

Related: Dakota Johnson Opens Up About Being Stepmom to Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's Teenagers: 'Love Those Kids'

The actress said when it comes to raising stepchildren, “it's almost like you have to embody the spirit of the sun and just give and not expect anything back.”

She added, “I just learned to try to just keep shining like the sun and never keeping score.”

Avant is married to Ted Sarandos. The Netflix co-CEOhas two children from a previous relationship, and Avant shared her coparenting journey.

“It was extremely difficult. Sarah was 14 and Tony was 12,” Avant said in response to getting “halfway developed kids.”

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“It was constantly me having to find and own my identity over and over and over again. I kept feeling that my identity was being challenged every single day and I wasn't trying to be their mom, but all of a sudden I was the girlfriend that they loved and they wanted their father to marry,” she said.

She added that, at times, it could be “heartbreaking.”

Avant recalled phoning her late mother, Jacqueline Avant, for parenting advice when things got tough.

<p>Araya Doheny/Getty</p> Nicole Avant and Gwyneth Paltrow; March 2024

Araya Doheny/Getty

Nicole Avant and Gwyneth Paltrow; March 2024

“I remember calling my mom and she said, ‘The only advice I can give you is you better reclaim your power and you better reclaim the energy of your home. Because if you do not control the energy of your home, someone else is going to. And they are young and they do not know how to run a home and it's your home and you have to set boundaries.’”

Nicole admitted that sometimes she was met with, “I don't like you even more."

Although things may have started off rough while finding a way to set boundaries with Sarah and Tony, Nicole assured the audience that after taking her mother’s advice, she is “closer to them than ever.”

Related: Clarence Avant, 'Godfather of Black Entertainment,' Remembered as a 'Visionary and a Transcendent Spirit'

Nicole told PEOPLE before the event why she wanted Paltrow to be at the summit with her to discuss mothers and daughters.

“I wanted to have somebody who is focused and honest and obviously a very dear friend to have the conversation with me, especially on my mom’s birthday,” Nicole said.

Her mother would have been 84 on March 6.

Jacqueline died on Dec. 1, 2021 after she was shot and killed in her Beverly Hills home during a robbery. She was 81 years old.

The Los Angeles philanthropist was married to prominent music executive Clarence Avant, who had recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

<p>Courtesy of Nicole Avant</p> Nicole Avant with father and friends

Courtesy of Nicole Avant

Nicole Avant with father and friends

Paltrow was one of the first friends who rushed to Nicole’s side after the fatal home invasion.

“My dad always said, ‘I don’t have problems. I have friends.’ And now I know what he meant when he said that because I lived it,” Nicole later told PEOPLE in 2023. “Because, without my friends showing up without me having to ask them to, I really don’t know if I’d be sitting here the way I am.”

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