Speaking via telephone from Nashville, there is tenderness in Kidman’s voice. We are a world away from the more familiar machinery of Hollywood and press junkets. Instead, Kidman says, “we’re in a position where we just have to relinquish control right now and go day by day.”
Not seeing her extended family on a day like Mother’s Day will be felt deeply. “I have my immediate family here, but I don’t have my extended family, who are so much a part of me. I can’t touch them,” Kidman says. “So many people are in exactly the same position. So many people right now are going, ‘When do I see my family again?'”
The sense of disconnection will be most acutely felt by nurses, doctors, first responders and essential workers, Kidman says. “People that are away from their families, quarantined from their families, because they’re actually of service to saving lives,” she says.
“They can’t go near their children and it’s important to recognise that. I don’t like to speak for other people, or tell people what they should feel or think, [but] we’re all just in that place of extreme awareness and gratitude for what other people are giving up.”
After the global coronavirus lockdown took effect in late February, Kidman was unable to attend her mother’s 80th birthday in Australia in March.
“Talk about just gut-wrenching,” Kidman says. “At least there’s FaceTime and technology because that’s been a saving grace. But for our family, not to have that [physical connection], it’s been really hard.
“And I know everybody’s in the same boat, so many people are,” she adds. “That’s sort of why I wanted to [talk about] this, I wanted to acknowledge that so many of us cannot go and hug our mothers and say thank you, and happy Mother’s Day.”
While their extended families are here in Australia, Kidman, her husband and the couple’s two daughters are at their US home in Nashville. Kidman’s two older children, Isabella, 27, and Connor, 25, are in London and Florida respectively.
As a mother, Kidman says worrying about her children is an inescapable part of the gig. “But I try not to have it be contagious in terms of worry, it’s more like a 3am worry,” she says. “I’m sure a lot of people are waking up at 3am right now.”
Like many families, the Kidman-Urbans are keeping in touch using technology.
“I FaceTime them, mum’s still not a Zoomer, she’s like, ‘No, no Zoom’,” Kidman says, laughing. “But she’ll FaceTime. I’ve given her the right angle on the phone now. She’s like, I don’t like this angle on the phone [so] I said, you’ve got to hold it up, mama. Hold it up high so you’re looking up.”
Her own mum Janelle looms large in the lives of Nicole and her young daughters, and Antonia and her children Lucia, Sybella, Hamish, James, Nicholas and Alexander.
“She’s given me the fire to pursue the career I have because I’ve always wanted to please her,” Kidman says of her mum. “But she also carved her own path and wanted her daughters to have the same opportunity to carve their own paths.
“Mum didn’t necessarily get the career that she wanted, but she was determined that her daughters would have opportunities that were equal,” Kidman adds. “That’s given me my life. And she gave me my life, she and my dad.”
Like many families in lockdown, the Kidman-Urbans are also tackling homeschooling with their two younger daughters.
“I remember my mum always said to me, children are resilient and also, because this is their reality now, they go, ‘OK, this is it’,” Kidman says. “Do they want to know when it’s going to end? Yes. But they [understand] social distancing and washing hands and wearing masks.”
Kidman also credits her daughters’ teachers who are leading the charge. “They have been fantastic,” she says. “They’re managing to somehow give the children structure and keep them connected.
“We travel, so a lot of times our children do home school so this has been less of a jolt for them,” Kidman adds. “But they go to a school, they’re still very much a part of the school and so much of it is social. They’re pining for the social part of school right now, which I get.
“I have a little one who’s about to be 12, and part of that rite of passage is you’re with your friends in your bedroom talking, right? And so that breaks my heart. Many things break my heart.”
Michael Idato is the culture editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.