With her phenomenally successful film career and settled home life, Sarah Jessica Parker is the last person you'd associate with chronic self-doubt. Here, she shares her hang-ups, as well as her thoughts on marriage and ageing.

Sarah Jessica Parker has to say is 'How are you?' and you feel she is your friend - she exudes empathy.

There is a hint of tiredness as she throws off her black and white patent-leather Giuseppe Zanotti shoes in a New York hotel room, joking that her red Oscar de la Renta dress will be returned tomorrow. 'You can wear it next,' she offers. In real life, her wardrobe is 'anything I can put on quickly and not embarrass my son in'. She does not share Carrie's insatiable appetite for shoes, nor her pursuit of material possessions in general.

Description: Sarah Jessica Parker

Parker recently charmed audiences as a working mother juggling endless commitments (and temptations, in the form of Pierce Brosnan) in the film adaptation of Allison Pearson's novel I Don't Know How She Does It. The question to Sarah Jessica Parker - who, at 46, has been working almost non-stop since her early teens - is not so much how she does it, but why. if one doesn't have to juggle a career and children and husband for financial reasons, why do it? 'For me it has been hard to say no [to work]. I wanted a family, but before I had a family I was a career person. I've tried to marry those two things; sometimes it's successful, and sometimes it's not.'

She and Matthew Broderick have been together for two decades, and married in May 1997. Broderick seems to be the ultimate domesticated father. 'He does lots in the house,' she agrees. 'He shops for me a lot and he cooks for all of us. There are a lot of things he does better than I do, so it balances itself out. I don't feel taken advantage of. We take care of each other.'

A few years ago she described Broderick as a complicated person and said that they had 'treacherous train rides' in their marriage. Is that true? 'We've been together for 20 years and you have good days and bad days. That's a marriage. That's a relationship. If you're in it for the long haul and you want meaningful relationships, you are going to go through lots of different periods.'

Description: Sarah Jessica and Parker Matthew Broderick

Sarah Jessica and Parker Matthew Broderick

She and Broderick have a son, James, eight, and two-year-old twins, Marion and Tabitha, known as Kitty and Babe. The twins were conceived using eggs that Parker had previously frozen and Broderick's sperm, and carried by a surrogate. She says that she 'tried and tried and tried' to get pregnant, 'but it just wasn't meant to be in the conventional way'. Was it very different meeting her children rather than giving birth to them? 'Yes, definitely. You don't know them as well immediately as you do a child you've given birth to. But you do have an immediate love and affection for them.'

Did she know that she'd be having twins? 'No, we understood that it was a possibility, but we didn't spend a lot of time on the science of it. We were just hopeful that we'd have one healthy child. It was a wonderful shock getting two; the cherry on the sundae.'

Nonetheless, 'going from one to three children is a much bigger adjustment than becoming a mother in the first place. One child in retrospect seems a cake walk compared to where I stand today.' Did it change her marriage? 'Kids can distract you from your relationship. It's something you have to pay attention to. But you figure it out.'

Was she ever a rebellious teenager? 'No. I was already independent. I was already working.' Indeed, she first appeared on Broadway as one of the orphans in Annie, and took over the title role in 1979 when she was 14. Her work ethic is very much rooted in her humble past. She was born in the coal-mining town of Nelsonville, Ohio. Her father was an aspiring writer who divorced her mother when Sarah was a toddler. Her mother, a nursery school teacher, then married a lorry driver, with whom she had three more children. With a total of eight children to feed and clothe, her family was often forced to be frugal. I've heard stories that their electricity was constantly turned off.

'That's definitely exaggerated, although there were some Christmases where we went without presents. But my parents gave us so much love. We didn't have everything we wanted but we had everything we needed.' She pauses with just a tiny ache in her pause.

'My mother was a master juggler. If you ask her she'll say she was a wreck. There's plenty of screaming that went on in that house, but I think it was necessary just to be heard. There were eight children!'

Description: Sarah Jessica Parker and her mom, Barbara Keck Forste, in 1973

Sarah Jessica Parker and her mom, Barbara Keck Forste, in 1973

When she was growing up was this how she imagined her life would be? 'No. I would never have imagined this life. From a young age I imagined becoming an actor. And that's probably as much as I would have dreamt of. Everything else has been surprising and miraculous.'

Did she instantly know Broderick was the person she would marry? 'I don't know that I thought about that right away. I met this wonderful person and we wanted to be together. And after a while it became apparent that I wanted to be with him longer than temporarily.'

I tell her that women found Carrie easy to relate to because she had so many insecurities. She nods. 'I think insecurities change and evolve as time marches on and new concerns creep up. Children provide a whole new set of concerns. Who knows what I'll be insecure about next week? I always have insecurities. A lot of them about work and how it will be received.'

Does she have insecurities about her looks and ageing? 'I try to dress appropriately for my age and I'm a realist about what I look like. But if those physical things were my insecurities I'd be thrilled. What wonderful problems. My insecurities are more substantial than that. I worry first and foremost about my children and their health. My husband and his. I worry about what work opportunities will come up. My own creative satisfaction. How will I pursue things and will the work be good?'

Her face is Botox- and filler-free. She looks like most women her age, only tinier. 'There are women who feel that Botox is necessary, but more and more I don't think it is important for the industry. People want to make movies that are successful, and sometimes they include women and sometimes they don't. I think it's less and less about exterior. At least I hope so.' She smiles. 'I'm an eternal optimist.'

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