Leighton Meester on the 'Ultimate Guilt' of Being a Working Mom and Her 'Weekend Away' Role (Exclusive)

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Leighton Meester is getting real about being a working mom. ET's Will Marfuggi spoke with the 35-year-old actress about the challenges of being away from her family when she's on set for work. Meester and her husband, Adam Brody, share two kids, Arlo, 6, and a son, who was born in 2020.

"It doesn't seem like it gets better," Meester told ET of being away from her kids. "I've been thinking maybe it would, but it doesn't. And now I've really doubled up on this kid thing. So it's kind of, it's a double whammy of like, 'Well, there's a baby now and he seems like he needs me.'" 

"Working is the ultimate guilt [because] I want to be here, I'm having fun," she added. "Of course, I think it's good all around, but this world, our society, everything, it doesn't really give us a lot of space for feeling whole on either end, and feeling good about going to work, or leaving our kids, or being with them. We can't do that either."

Meester experienced the conflicting emotions when she was filming her new Netflix movie, The Weekend Away, in Croatia, and her family could only join her for some of that time. 

"The first two weeks I had my whole family there. If I didn't have them there, I would lose it," she admitted. "My daughter, my older kid, left with my husband, because... my husband was working in the States. I was separated from both of them for a month, which was longer than I'd ever been away from them. It wasn't OK. It was not cool."

Even though Meester's son, whose name she's yet to publicly share, stayed with her in Croatia, she didn't get to spend much time with him amid her busy work schedule.

"I was with my baby, but he is a baby and he couldn't be separated. We couldn't be separated from each other," she explained. "It was hard to leave him for the better part of most days. There's never an easy way of doing it."

Despite the challenges of being away from her family, Meester decided to sign on to the project after relating to the character, Beth, a new mom on an ill-fated vacation, in a "sort of uncanny" way.

"She's a new mom. She's kind of gone through a very recent and insane transformation, as all mothers typically do. Where your marriage has changed, your body's changed, your friendships, your life, your career," Meester said. "And so she's like, 'I'm going to go on this nice little vacation.' And it doesn't exactly happen as she wants it to happen."

That's an understatement, as Meester's character wakes up after a night of partying to find that her friend never returned to their hotel room, thus setting up a series of dramatic, thrill-inducing events, that Meester was easily able to tap into due to her conflicting feelings of being away from her family.

"I definitely was able to express it while I was at work, plenty," she told ET. "If anything, I think it did help to an extent to have that sort of desperate feeling of a panic, where your kid isn't here."

Those six weeks away resulted in a film that Meester said is "riveting."

"It's a murder mystery, thriller suspense, which is a genre that I really enjoy reading, watching, listening to," she said, "and now I can say that I love to be part of it in the acting realm as well."

The Weekend Away is now streaming on Netflix.

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