Hugh Jackman was just eight years old when his mother packed her bags and moved back to England, leaving him and his four siblings alone with their bewildered father in Sydney’s northern suburbs.
It’s been 35 years since that traumatic day, but Hugh, 44, still remembers how confused he was, and how he clung to the hope that his mother would one day return.
“At the time, it was difficult,” he tells the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly. “One of the main things I remember is that horrible feeling that people were talking about you and looking at you because it was odd for the mother to leave.
“For many years, I thought it was not going to be forever, so I clung on to that. Up until about the age of 12 or 13, I thought Mum and Dad would get back together.
“Finally realising it wasn’t going to happen was probably the toughest time to be honest.”
Despite his heartache, Hugh says he always felt loved and can understand why his mother decided to leave.
“The thing I never felt, and I know this might sound strange, I never felt that my mum didn’t love me,” he says.
“I’ve spoken about it at length with her since and I know she was struggling. She was in hospital after I was born suffering from post-natal depression.
“And then you add five kids into the mix and the fact she had emigrated from England and there wasn’t a support network for her here, plus the fact that Dad was at work all day — and you realise that as parents we make mistakes.”
Hugh is now close to his mother, and sees her three of four times a year. He and wife Deborra-lee Furness now have two children of their own — Oscar, 12, and Ava, seven, both adopted — and the actor thinks becoming a parent has allowed him to understand his mother better.
“I think having kids of your own just adds another level of empathy and understanding,” he says. “And there comes a certain point in life when you have to stop blaming other people for how you feel or the misfortunes in your life.
“You can’t go through life obsessing about what might have been — it stops you from being grateful for all the wonderful things you have in your life.”
Read more of this story in the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.