Leave it to Jennifer Garner to get creative.
Like many parents, the actress, 48, had to adjust to sheltering at home in L.A. with her three kids, Violet, 15, Seraphina, 12, and Sam, 9, with ex-husband Ben Affleck, 48, during the pandemic.
That meant "putting a lot of gusto in when I can and creating adventures when there are none," she tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "Like we started shooting silly videos, which they got tired of before I did because I love the end result and having them forever. They started saying, 'Yeah, Mom. No.' "
The family also came up with different-themed restaurant nights. "First I was the American hostess and then I was the French waiter," Garner recalls. "And I kept changing clothes like Mrs. Doubtfire. We did a beach shack and a deli in New York. We did one roller-rink restaurant where the kids were in the car and I bought the little trays that hooked onto the windows and made burgers. You just want to have a night of fun every now and then."
For Garner, whose new family comedy Yes Day is now streaming on Netflix, such inspiration and fun ideas routinely come from her circle of mom friends. "If a mom friend says she's tried something and it worked, I try it," she says. "All the time. And I really do. That's what a mom network does for each other, right? We really do raise kids in community, not in a vacuum."
The time at home also taught Garner a little bit about herself. "I've learned that I'm pretty sturdy," she adds. "I'm okay when I'm in the house by myself. I'm okay when it's just the kids and me. I'm okay when they fall apart. I mean I have my moments, but pretty much, I'm really okay."
For more of Garner's exclusive interview, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
From balancing her busy acting career with her work for Save the Children and running her cold-pressed organic foods company, Once Upon a Farm, Garner has become a master of multi-tasking. "Like today, I saw an email from Once Upon a Farm's sales director… I emailed her back, 'Can we talk on the phone later? Because I need you to explain what this means,' " she says. "To me, it feels good to be learning something new. I learned this with Save the Children. Even if you feel stupid, and you're asking the same questions over and over. It feels good to be challenging myself."
As for the future, Garner hopes to continue acting as well and looks forward to traveling again for work. "I love being home with [my kids], and I've been so lucky to have the flexibility to be home a lot," says the actress, who will next be seen in the film The Adam Project. "But I miss the days of going on location and will be excited to just be like, 'Yeah, you want me in North Carolina? You want me in Budapest? You want me in Paris? Yes! I can do all those things.' I feel like I'll zip around a little."
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Jennifer Garner on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.
While she is quick to shoot down online commenters about having more children ("Yes, the shop is closed; there are no babies"), Garner says the idea of getting married again isn't an immediate thought.
"I don't know. I'm so far from it. And I don't know that marriage would need to be a part… I mean I definitely don't think that I'll be single forever," she says. "But this is not the time. I don't need to complicate it; I'm good."
As for her kids, the actress insists they don't even notice her life in Hollywood. "They're so much more used to Mom on Zooms with [Save the Children] coordinators helping kids in different states or Once Upon a Farm," Garner adds. "I do so many different things. Sometimes I feel like I work inside of a blender. I mean sometimes the lid of the blender flies off and you get a smoothie all over your kitchen. That happens too. It's not always pretty. But we get it done."
Yes Day is streaming now on Netflix.
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