Viola Davis on Parenting Mistakes: ‘You Don’t Want to Be Judged by Your Worst Mistakes’

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The actress speaks out on being a "perfect" mother.

It’s not easy living up to the “Best Mom” coffee mug. Not even for Viola Davis.

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“When you have a child, you want to be a perfect mother. You feel like you have the absolute plan to be a perfect mother — and then you make a mistake, and we all make mistakes,” Davis tells PEOPLE at the world premiere of Custody at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Sunday.

In Custody, Davis stars as a judge presiding over a case brought on when a teacher notices cuts and bruises on the kids of a single mother.

“We all at some point lock our kid in a car by accident or lose our kid in the mall for 30 seconds or more,” says Davis. “I know one girl who’s a fantastic mother, [but] she lost her daughter in an aquarium for 30 minutes.”

Davis—who is mother to 4 year-old daughter Genesis, whom she adopted as a newborn in 2011, and stepmom to two children from husband Juilan Tennon’s previous relationship—has experienced first hand that there’s no such thing as the perfect parent.

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“You have those moments: exhaustion, the stress of having an exuberant child, and you don’t want to be judged by your worst mistakes,” she says. “It’s a part of life, and it’s a part of what makes us who we are.”

Both Davis and her husband are producers of the film. She was sent the script a couple of years ago by writer and director James Lapine and was hooked.

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“I did the movie because it’s an indictment and also an exposing of a big issue in our culture,” adds Davis. “I wanted to be a part of that.”

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