It’s so easy to mock Gwyneth Paltrow, but it seems wrong to kick her while she’s down. Sure, she’s impossibly pretentious — and yes, she’s seemingly oblivious to the expansive privilege that has allowed her to maintain the world’s most excruciatingly twee lifestyle. But she’s still got some genuine human feelings, and I assume it’s incredibly painful to separate from your husband and the father of your two children.
BUT GWYNETH. Why do you make it so hard for me to empathize with you? Here’s the notorious G.O.O.P. discussing her decision to take (even more of?) a sabbatical from acting, via E! Online:
“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.”
One moment, please, while I count backwards from ten. Now let’s take a series of deep breaths to cleanse some of the negative energy from our auras. And then maybe we should take a couple of hours out of our mornings to fit in an extensive workout with fitness guru Tracy Anderson. Finally, let’s put some kale chips in the oven to bake while I list all of the things that are deeply wrong with this statement.
- “I think it’s different when you have an office job” — Well, yeah. We’re starting off on solid footing here. Being an incredibly wealthy and highly paid actress who works on film sets is different than having an office job. Wholeheartedly agreed, Gwyneth!
- “because it’s routine” — I’ll forgive her naivete here, because I assume she really doesn’t know a thing about “office jobs.” And I’m sure that someone, somewhere has an office job where the hours and responsibilities are 100% predictable and do not change from day to day. Many of the rest of us, however, get stuck working overtime (whether paid or not), picking up odd weekend hours as needed, going in early and staying late to wrap up projects by deadline, checking emails on our phones at all hours to make sure we’re not missing anything, and logging in from home to tie up loose ends or respond to urgent emails. But, fine — those of us with office jobs are probably doing the same kind of work every day, the majority of which gets done during the same five or so days a week, which allows us to establish a routine of sorts around our work life. Half-credit on this one, GP.
- “and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning” — Yes, I can. I can do “all the stuff” in the morning, and I do. My alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. every day. After snoozing for ten or twenty minutes (depending on how well the baby slept that night), I wash my face, brush my teeth, fix my hair, put on some makeup, and get dressed. I pick out clothes for the boy, make my coffee, check the weather and traffic reports, gather up my breast pump accessories and cooler pack, and throw that day’s lunch into my purse. I then tote the breast pump, cooler, and purse out to my car, since I’ll have my hands full carrying the baby in his car seat when I finally leave for work. Usually, my husband gets the kiddo changed and dressed while I eat breakfast. Then, I drive across town to my mom’s house, since she’s our amazing daycare provider. There, I nurse the baby for about ten minutes, and feed him some fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. I kiss both my mom and my baby on the head, and then double back to my office (about fifteen minutes away) so I can arrive shortly before 8:00 a.m. Is that what you meant by “all the stuff,” Gwyneth? Or were you referring to moms who don’t have it nearly as easy as I do — the ones who get multiple kids ready to head to multiple locations, and who do so without the benefit of a helpful partner, private transportation, or a blessedly flexible childcare situation? Just wondering. Either way, yes — all of the stuff. In the morning. You nailed it!
- “and then you come home in the evening” — I do, eventually. I pick up the baby from my mom’s sometime after 5:00 p.m., depending on how busy my day is and how ugly traffic gets. I hang out, just for a bit, so we can talk about what my son did that day and whether I need to bring over any fresh supplies — a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, baby food, whatever. Then I head back home, where we usually arrive between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. — roughly 12 hours after we left that morning. (If he didn’t nap very well that day, I’ll drive around a bit to give him a chance to snooze in the car.) My husband usually feeds the baby dinner while I wash out my breast pump parts, pack my lunch for the next day, and change out of my work clothes. I nurse the boy again after he eats, and then one of us prepares dinner while the other enjoys some play time with the baby. We try to keep him entertained while we eat, but he’s usually getting sleepy and fussy by then. I let him nurse himself to sleep, and then — on a good night! — I can put him down after about half an hour. I take a quick shower, catch up on emails or chores, and then fall into bed as soon as possible. This is a standard evening, of course — if we have any kind of errand to run on a weeknight, God help us. At that point, it’s every man for himself.
- “When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks'” — Gwyneth, I hate to rock your worldview. But there are other jobs besides “professional actress” that involve taking business trips outside of one’s own city, state, and/or country of residence. Sometimes, yes, for weeks at a time. Frequently, your “regular” boss does not give you an option to decline said trip, nor is it generally possible to schedule these trips at one’s own convenience. As in your situation, this can create serious headaches in terms of childcare (particularly for nursing mothers and single parents). So I’m just … I don’t know. Still waiting for you to discuss one of the actual reasons why regular office =/= film set. Whenever you’re ready!
- “and then you work 14 hours a day” — Again, this is not valid supporting evidence for acting being terribly different than office-jobbing, since plenty of normal-ass moms with regular-ass jobs work about 14-hour days or longer. My usual day is supposed to be eight hours, but I worked a solid 13 just last Friday, and I’ll probably do about 11 hours today. Do I really enjoy it? No, not usually. Do I feel like a great mom when I’m still logged in and working at 9:00 p.m.? Quite the opposite, but I need the paycheck to keep a roof over my boy’s head. And I’m far from special; this is a very common scenario for mothers who work full-time “regular” jobs. Most of the nurses who cared for my son in the NICU last summer were moms, and their standard shift is 12 hours. With commutes included, that’s approaching 14 hours for an average workday — and that’s every week, not just two weeks out of the year when they get that random phone call from Steven Soderbergh.
- “and that part of it is very difficult” — OK! This statement gets a “fair enough” from me.
- “I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as” — Not as WHAT, Gwyneth? Not as difficult? Not as challenging? Not nearly as well-compensated, perhaps? Please, do tell — I’m all ears. I would love to hear what you think it’s like to be a normie.
- “of course there are challenges” — I would say “thank you” for this statement, but … you know, in context, it reads more like a begrudging concession than an actual acknowledgment that you are among the most privileged parents in the world. Am I imagining that?
- “but it’s not like being on set” — Again, you are correct in your basic theory: Being a regular person with a regular office job is nothing like being Gwyneth Paltrow on a film set. It’s apparently just the specifics of how that you can’t quite grasp. Having a “regular office job” probably means you weren’t born to wealthy parents with an extensive network of Hollywood connections, and are most likely not estimated to have a net worth of $140 million, and cannot necessarily afford top-notch household help and childcare to accommodate your fluctuating work schedule, and almost certainly do not have the flexibility to choose to work only a few weeks out of the year. In fact, it might mean that you struggle just to fit diapers and formula and gas money into your budget each month. And that’s not to mention the notoriously astronomical cost of childcare, which is so expensive that some parents leave the workforce to stay home with the kids — not by choice, but by economic necessity. Yep, NOT A SINGLE SIMILARITY TO BE FOUND.
To be perfectly clear, I know that I’m in a very comfortable position compared to most other working parents. I have a supportive partner who also works, and our two incomes mean that we can afford all of the baby-related necessities without falling behind on bills or relying on government assistance. Plus, I’m lucky enough to have my son’s grandma providing childcare for a fraction of the cost of a traditional facility, and my employer has been very accommodating with my pumping schedule, so we haven’t had to shell out for formula. Since I’m still relatively new to being a parent, I do get overwhelmed by the constant juggle sometimes — but when that happens, I stop and think about what a fortunate position I’m in, and remember all of the reasons why I should be grateful instead of stressed. (I also sometimes have a beer.)
So, because I don’t really know any other lifestyle than my own very manageable situation, I won’t presume to speak for moms and dads who struggle with conflicting work and school schedules on extremely tight budgets. And I also won’t pretend I know what it’s like to collect a seven-figure paycheck for a month’s work on a big-budget superhero franchise, and then take the rest of the year off to dither around with my “lifestyle brand.” How about you do me and my friends at “regular office jobs” the same favor, Gwyneth?
(P.S. Get a job.)