With the ruckus raised last week by celebrity mom Gwyneth Paltrow E! interview and the Open Letter by Mackenzie Dawson in response — it’s clear a nerve was hit anew of the challenges mothers (and also fathers) face in juggling work-parenting demands.
(For refreshing practical parenting solutions for raising healthy Respectful, Responsible & Resilient kids and on how to Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! Dr. G’s Guide to Effective Parenting click here for more from my guest, Deborah Gilboa, MD of AskDoctorG.com on Tamara Leigh’s Trend On on the Linked Local Network.)
Gwyneth should’ve stopped at a respectable place in the interview about her split from Chris Martin, but she didn’t. She had to add:
“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”
The best part of that — Wisconsin got a shout out, to boot. If I knew there was all that filming going on and that actresses were beckoned here to the Badger State on a regular basis, I’d gladly throw my name in the hat as a fill-in for the no-show when mother duty demanded the attention of the A-listers to stay home! I jest. Kind of.
As out of touch with most women’s reality as Paltrow’s comments were and how spot on NYPost’s Dawson’s truthful zingers were in rebuttal, at the heart of both points of view from these two moms are the 3 challenges most all mothers face — balancing Parenting, Work, & Marriage/Significant Other relationships.
In a hint of desperation, you can almost hear Paltrow saying, “I’m on break to be with my kids” like Ross in Friends famous “We were on a break” episode. (Still one of the best tv moments ever!)
Taking a break to be with your kids is a almost always a wise decision, especially if you or your children are going through a particularly rough patch like Gwyneth is in the “uncoupling” of her marriage to Coldplays’ front man and father of her children . For most moms, however, unlike Paltrow, making this decision to shift commitments to a more primary focus on parenting weighs heavier because of the loss of income, or the set-back it may mean to a career track. Working moms, married or single, and Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHMs) (&/or dads) need to decide what best suits individual circumstances as a parent and a person.
For my first decade+ of parenting (of 30 years at it) I was primarily an at-home mom devoted to supporting my (ex-)husband’s career, raising our 5 children (yes, 5 meaning I was pregnant or nursing for about a stretch of 11 years), and building a solid foundation for our homelife. Then life changed irreversibly in 2000 and I found myself a single-mother of 5 children (ages 6-16 at the time) with a non-present ex-husband (across the country in L.A.), buried under the rubble of our imploded dream.
I dug out and became a single-working mother for the next decade+, including going back to night school for a few years to finish the college degree I abandoned as a young bride. 14 hour days would’ve been a blessing. But like many other women when faced with adversity — I pushed myself relentlessly. I spread myself as thinly as possible to the point of nonexistence, making more than my share of mistakes.
And my kids suffered.
That’s the nerve for most every mother — the source of the knee-jerk reaction to Paltrow’s perceived whining. But rather than be a judger, all mom’s can listen to what is the meaning behind her words. She’s honest in saying, “I need to hunker down on the homefront and heal.”
Does Gwyneth have a greater luxury to do so without feeling the financial pain? Of course. The economic impact is also at the heart of the issue and rather than women beating each other up (articulated well by HuffPost’s Liz O’Donnell here) — we need to keep looking, insisting,and finding ways to make the work and home life balance better.
And we make choices.
In 2011, after all but one of my children had grown and were gone (kids grow way too fast even when days seem so long), I quit my job to go to Germany and teach. As a bonus, my youngest daughter was able to attend an International high school — a game changing experience for her future education and career. Since she was 6 yrs. old in 2000, all she ever knew was a stressed, struggling, single-working mom. But in Europe, even though we were even more financially strained because I only received a small stipended & the euro exchange was a killer, we had the most precious time together that I wouldn’t trade for a fraction of Paltrow’s celebrity salary.
My mom soul rested, re-invested in my child, and was restored. My body caught up on a decade of lost sleep. My youngest is now off to college, and I’m an empty-nester. For the first time since I turned 20 yrs old, I have to figure out what I’m going to be as a grown-up other than “just mom”. It’s simultaneously scary, exciting, and challenging, but I’m bolstered by the return on my mom investment every time I check in with my young adult kids who turned out pretty darn amazing.
So maybe, give Gwyneth a break.
On the other hand… When it comes to parenting, most mom’s are hard pressed to be sympathetic to celebrity mom’s “challenges” — after all, it’s comes with the territory for which they’re well paid and afforded luxuries most mommies can only wish for. That’s never more true than when it’s a Kardashian — masters at creating a media circus to serve their purpose, but have a problem with it if it’s not on their terms. Doesn’t, nor should it, work that way—- you can’t have both!
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