Excerpt of PARADE Magazine's interview with Jen Garner

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In this week's issue of PARADE, Jennifer Garner talks to Jeanne Wolf about striking the right balance between box-office stardom and raising daughters Violet, 4, and Seraphina, 1. Plus, how she and husband Ben Affleck keep their love alive.

Check out the excerpts below, then visit Parade.com on Friday (Jan. 22) for the full interview.

Admitting it's an emotional struggle.
"I adore going to movie sets and being part of a team trying to create something. And yet, I hate to miss even one bedtime with my girls."

Understanding that the push-pull she faces is hardly unique.
"My sisters both are working mothers. I understand that my being an actress as well as being at home isn't some heroic thing. That doesn't mean it isn't confusing or difficult--especially that question of how you find a balance."

She knows how lucky she is.
"I'm privileged, because I have a lot of freedom. I want to use it to make as warm and normal a life as I can for our daughters."

On co-starring opposite Patrick Dempsey and Ashton Kutcher in the romantic comedy "Valentine's Day."
"I go home and say to Ben, 'Do you know what I've been doing at work all day?'"

Her own romance with Ben Affleck.
"Ben is sexy and kind, but he's also a riot. We can be very goofy together."

Finding the time to be romantic.
"You steal the time. You steal a date, you steal a kiss, you steal a whisper. You sit next to each other on the couch with computers on your laps. After the kids are asleep you...well, you know. Whatever it is. You slip away for a night, which we've only just now done for the first time. Of course, I call home while we're away. Ben would be surprised if I didn't."

Crediting her own parents with putting her on the path to stardom.
"I was the most independent of the three of us. My mother and father always supported my passion for acting. I think they just kind of expected me to move to New York and become an actress and have all these adventures. When I switched my major from chemistry to theater in college, my father never batted an eye. That was impressive when you think how hard they worked to save and put us all through school."

Why her divorce from actor Scott Foley in 2004 was a turning point.
"I had a lot of growing up to do. I'm still conflict-averse. I don't like to argue. But back then I couldn't have a fight. I couldn't work things out because I wasn't able to say what I needed to say. I didn't have a voice. I didn't dare to express myself. It was a huge heartbreak for me to have something fail like that. I knew that this was either an opportunity for growth or I would sink. It's easy when you're hurt and angry to just say, 'Oh, it's them.' But I had to come into my own. I thought, 'Why did this relationship not work? What part of the failure is my responsibility?' So I went to work on it. I started therapy."

Gaining a powerful self-awareness.
"It's not like I didn't realize I had any issues until I got a divorce. But I had this professional confidence that wasn't equaled by my own personal confidence in any relationship, not just with men. There was a disconnect. I realized I needed to be more like my character in 'Alias,' who was so powerful and confident and an inspiration to me. I understood very well how to be nice and how to take care of people. I didn't know how to ask for anything that I needed. It was important to balance it out."

Finding a new relationship with friend Ben Affleck.
"Well, it helped that we were both single at the time. He's a very good writer."

So did he woo her with letters?
"Don't make assumptions. I didn't say that! Okay...e-mail. He's a very persuasive writer."

Counting on friends and family for support.
"I will tell you what I can't abide--and I think the Internet has really created a space for it--women criticizing other women and mothers criticizing other mothers. It just makes me crazy, whether it's between staying at home, going to work, how long you breast-feed, if you use formula. I feel like we should just assume everyone is doing the best they can. Women should take care of each other, not tear each other down.
I would just like to see a mother who really believes that she has done it all so right, you know what I mean?"

Did Affleck have to work hard to win over Garner's mom and sisters?
"He doesn't have trouble wiggling his way in anywhere. Ben is charm personified when he wants to be. He's not easily threatened or made uncomfortable--he's very secure in that way. Maybe he just knows I'm nuts about him, and he doesn't have anything to worry about. Don't forget we were friends first for a long time."

There's nothing wrong with being "nice."
 "I can't complain. This mix is perfect for me. I am the model middle child. I am patient and I like to take care of everyone. Being called nice is a compliment. It's not a boring way to describe me."

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