My Gwynnie Epiphany

Gwyneth Paltrow and I have a history together on this here Internet. Basically, I’m not a fan, as I’ve detailed publicly on two very well-received occasions. Her acting is inoffensive, often pleasant.  It’s the other stuff — the cookbooks and GOOP and her singing and hanging with Beyonce and Jay-Z that get to me.  If she stuck to the acting, she would get a great big whatever from me. But she doesn’t stick to the acting, does she?

Like me and most women I know, Gwynnie (what I would call her if we were BFFs) is multi-faceted.  I mean, of course she is.  She is married to a rock star and Steven Spielberg is her godfather.  Gal’s got an Oscar, an Emmy and a Golden Globe.  She’s got it going on, clearly.

So why does she annoy me so much?

The answer to that question is immaterial and inconsequential.  Who cares why she annoys me?  I’ve detailed the whys in my previous two Gwynnie posts, that honestly, I have benefited from.  They are funny and passionate and great writing and clearly struck a nerve with a lot of youse.  But truth be told, the things I said with my keyboard are things I would never have said to Gwyneth’s face.

That is cowardly.

I am a lot of things I am not so proud of, but I am not a coward.

The posts were published in February and May, 2011.  I have not dedicated a post to Gwynnie since then.  There’s a reason for that.  It doesn’t feel good.  While the moments of typing on the keyboard felt good, like a rant that just needed to come out, the mirroring of hate and intense dislike for Gwyneth that I saw in the comment threads they generated never felt good. Full disclosure, I was ashamed that my words resulted in other words of hate and dislike.  I was the catalyst of a lot of yuck and I didn’t like it.

In February of this year, I got a taste of Internet hate and it was bitter.  And scary.  A group of strangers targeted me on Facebook for something I had posted in complete innocence.  What I had posted was twisted and manipulated, then circulated on several other Facebook pages to demonstrate what a horrible person I was.  It didn’t feel good.  Not one bit.

That experience was sort of a wake up call for me about the power of the Internet and social media.  It’s all fun and games until you see your kid’s photo, his innocent face, sweet and vulnerable, splashed on a bunch of pages with hateful things attached to it.  Yeah, that was no fun at all.

That experience taught me what cyber-bullying was all about.  It only lasted a day, really, my being on the receiving end of some mean girls’ hate, and then like most things in social media — POOF — it was gone.  The mean girls had moved on and found another target.  But there I was, shaken and sad and not quite so innocent.  Hadn’t I done the same thing to Gwyneth?

Gwyneth ecard
e-card I created in February 2012.

And then there was the dream I had last week (cue swirly camera work here).

Gwyneth had invited me over to her home.  It was a NYC apartment, big, but not garish.  It was interesting, with lots of books and art (a lot like a fancier version of my own home).  I got there early and was left alone to explore.  After a while other people started arriving — 5, 10, 20, 30 people. Hey!  There was Chris Martin!  And, OMG, is that Gwynnie?  It was.  We were in the living room and her kids were getting ready for bed just down the hall.

I was in Gwyneth Paltrow’s home and she was holding a salon.  A salon, people.

Gwyneth was lounged on a sofa, listening intently, and contributing sometimes.  At one point, she asked me what I thought about a topic.  I gladly jumped in to the conversational fray.  It was about working mothers, so you know I had some thoughts to share.  

A few minutes later, I got up to stretch my legs and ran into Chris Martin.  I started gushing about how one of his songs — I was embarrassed to realize I don’t know the names to any of them — was something I would listen to over and over when I was sad about my daughter dying of cancer. He seemed moved.  I was dream mortified that I didn’t know the name of his work.

Then I walked into the kitchen, and there she was:  Gwyneth.  My Internet nemesis in the dream flesh.  Except in my dream, she was just a lady in her kitchen, not so evil, and looking kind of fabulous.  My brain was going a mile a minute.  I was scared out of my skivvies that she might have read my rants about her.  Should I bring it up?  Should I play dumb?  In the end, this is what I said:

MTM:  Hi, I kind of can’t believe I am in your home.  

GP:  Here you are.

MTM:  Well, people are probably always wanting something from you, and I am no different.  I want you to know I am very sorry and ashamed that I have written about you in my blog.  And I want to know if you would let me tape you saying, “What’s your Good Thing?” for my charity.  

Cut to black when I woke up.  

Wow.  You know you are grappling with Catholic guilt when you dream about guilt.

So I think my Gwynnie days are over.  Truth is, she will probably continue to annoy me, just as I annoy some of you.  And as much as I like to rant and rave about how she is so out of touch with the average working mom, Gwyneth and I probably have more in common then I am comfortable admitting.  Two privileged white girls living the dream.

Forgive me, Gwyneth.  Mea culpa.  Truly.  I am sorry to have targeted you with my snark.  I am sorry to have made fun of your lifestyle, your children’s names, your right to live your life the way you see fit.  That was wrong.  And mean.  And it won’t happen again.

Rosen v. Romney: The Mommy Wars Continue

Last night, Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen referred to Ann Romney, wife of Mitt and mother of five sons, as, “never having worked a day in her life.”  For a political strategist, that was an incredibly impolitic thing to say.  I understand what her point was, but because of Rosen’s unfortunate language, her point is not really the point anymore, is it?  

I’m going to leave the politics aside, and focus on this decades long debate of the so called “Mommy Wars,” the tension, spoken and unspoken, between stay-at-home moms and working moms.  Technically speaking, though, I am already stepping in the Mommy Wars myself by referring to “working moms.”  To be clear — I know that ALL MOMS WORK.  Okay?  For the purposes of this post, Imma keep it simple and refer to these two camps with this language.

And the sad truth is that it does feel like two separate camps much of the time.  Mary Tyler Mom was started as a blog about “working and mothering simultaneously.”  It’s evolved a bit, but being a woman who works outside the home absolutely influences my perspective of mothering.  Just as being a stay-at-home mom influences others.

I am grateful to have a strong following on facebook (join the fun here, yo), with an active page of 5,300 plus followers, 96% of whom are women.  My facebook community is an anthropologist’s dream — a slice of life of today’s woman.  Most are moms, some are not.  Some of us work outside the home, some do not. 

With those demographics, one can glean quite a bit about how the Mommy Wars play out.  The ladies are often ready to rumble.  If I unthinkingly refer to myself as a “working mom,” I will quickly be reminded that all moms work.  My bad.  Mea culpa, SAHMS.  If I post about an interesting article I read looking at young Queen Elizabeth II as a working mom, some will quickly point out that QEII, with her army of nannies, was not a working mom. 

It’s a tight rope sometimes. 

What seems to be the common denominator is that women closely identify with their employment/mothering status and are quickly ready to defend it.  I often hear, “I wish I could clock out at 5 PM!” Or this one, “When does the stay-at-home mom get a weekend?” 

Really, guys?  Really?  Does anyone actually think that the working mom clocks out at 5 PM and her work is done?  Not a chance in dinner and bedtime hell.  Working moms clock out, race home to reunite with their kids, cook dinner, do laundry, shop for groceries, and clean their homes.  And weekends?  Forget weekends when you’re a working mom.  Those are reserved for all the things you were supposed to do after 5 PM, but chose to ignore so that you could read those books, drive to lessons, and snuggle at bed time.  The household duties claim much of the weekend for many a working mom.  It sucks. 

Alternately, there is some confusion from the working mom, too.  A fellow blogger wrote a humorous piece this week about being a “house frau.”  She talked about drinking wine in her yoga pants and organizing activities for her kids.  This gal got slammed and labeled a, “princess.”  Staying at home with the responsibility for two young kids under 5 is nothing that a princess would engage in.  As the QEII thread established, royals have nannies.  Most SAHMs do not. 

When I read divisive comments like that, flung from one woman to another, I cringe.  There is such a profound lack of empathy towards our fellow moms.  Ultimately, I think it relates to our own feelings about whatever circumstance we find ourself in. 

Who among us that is a SAHM does not fantasize, or at least wonder, what it might be like to leave the little ones with someone else for a bit and go out into the world.  Alone.  Untethered.  Inversely, don’t many of us working moms want to live in a wardrobe of yoga pants and enjoy the quiet of a napping child from time to time?  Of course, I generalize, but my point is that its human nature to wonder how green another’s grass is.

A better approach would be to understand and empathize that no matter what your responsibilities are and where they play out, a mother’s kids are most likely the center of her universe.  Not always, but that’s another post entirely.

Stay-at-Home Moms:  I challenge you to think about everything that you do over the course of your day.  It’s a lot, right?  You are one freakishly busy gal.  Now think about trying to squeeze that in after a long day outside the home.  Think about that working mom that wants more than anything to help her kid bring homemade cupcakes for the school fundraiser, and will be doing it alone, at midnight, rather than with their kid as a bonding activity, missing those cute patches of flour in one another’s hair.  Think about a child falling on their knees and crying for their Daddy when their Mommy is right there.  That working mom is going to feel intense stabbing pangs of guilt, thinking (illogical as it is) that a child is supposed to cry for the mother, not their father when they need comfort.  “Why doesn’t my child cry for me?,” she wonders, feeling inadequate.   

Working Moms: I challenge you to think about the sisyphean nature of child, child, child all the time.  The unending need to fill their time, keep them safe, teach them well, feed them, comfort them, clothe them, diaper them, entertain them, ALL THE TIME.  No lunch hour (or often even 15 minutes).  No commute home to clear your head for a few minutes as you shift gears.  No shifting gears most of the time.  Think about the 45 minutes it takes to get a toddler dressed, pottied, and out the door.  Now think about doing that 3-5 times daily.  Oy.  Think about not talking to another adult between the hours of 8 AM and 6 PM, and when you do talk, all you talk about are child issues or household issues that the other adult might not be very interested in.  That hurts.

We are all mothers.  Some of us made choices to stay at home and mother.  Some of us made choices to work outside the home in addition to working in the home.  For others of us, choice is a luxury reserved for mothers like Gwyneth Paltrow.  You work because you have to, not because you want to.  You stay-at-home because it is what was expected of you, or what you thought you should do, not what you wanted to do.  We are all guilty.  We all think we could be doing it better.  We are all mothers.

Oh, Gwyneth, My Gwyneth

Another archive hit from Mary Tyler Mom.  And if you’ve read Donna’s Cancer Story, now you know why I feel a moral superiority to Ms. Paltrow.  Hope you enjoy!

Last week I wrote about the cruelty of mothering and working, the judgment that goes on, the thanklessness of it all.  This week?  Sorry, but I’ve got to judge.  I can’t stop myself.  Huff Post did a piece on Gwyneth Paltrow a few days ago, I can’t even remember what it was about, but there was a link to Goop, her weekly online “newsletter” about “lifestyle.”  Specifically, a link to her posting about “A Day in the Life” of busy working mothers.  I’m a busy working mother, I says to myself.  I write about working mothers, too, I says to myself.  So I clicked on the link.  I laughed.  I cried.  I wretched. 

At reader request, Gwyneth, or Gwynnie as I like to call her, thought she would solicit a slice of life, day in the life guest blog from two “extremely busy working mothers.”  To best relate to her readers, she chose Juliet, a partner in a California venture capital firm, and Stella, daughter of a Beatle and famed fashion designer.  You know, just two average working Joannas.  The intent was to have the three working moms, Gwynnie included, detail a day in their “manic” lives to see how they fit it all in, how they do it all, if you will, and to share working mom tips for the rest of us.  Ugh. 

How Wealthy White Women Who Work Make It Work:

  • get up b/w 5:30 to 6 am daily to exercise as it will “make you happy”
  • have a personal trainer come to your home on Monday mornings to ensure a healthy start to your work week
  • “curate” your social media and personal web
  • get an amazing assistant
  • commit to a weekly blow out to save time in mornings
  • enjoy 90 minutes of “family time” from 6 to 7:30 pm, as “many nights of the week as you can make it”
  • schedule your acupuncture at 9:30 at night
  • spend your time “impacting the highest upside situations”
  • have dinner with your kids at least 3x/week; read to kids 5x/week
  • find a “great alteration person” to help you “review your looks, sort out closet, and plan key looks for travel, weekend, evenings, holidays”
  • ingest copious amounts of flax seed oil and make your children do the same
  • devise lists and spreadsheets and lists of spreadsheets
  • organize “one or two key moments” during school year so your kids can see you “interacting as ‘Mummy'”
  • take meetings in cabs

I honestly thought I was reading a piece from The Onion.  Alas, I wasn’t.  These three gals go on and on about the difficulties of doing it all and something about it all being worth it.  At one point Gwynnie describes the conundrum of needing to leave the house by 8:20am and having one of her two adorably named kids still asleep at 8am.  In just 20 minutes time, that Gwynnie managed to gently awake her son, dress him, feed him eggs and toast she prepared herself, administer the aforementioned flax seed oil (lemon flavored, she’s not stupid!), finish decorating the Christmas toy drive shoe boxes for those less fortunate, explain the significance and reality of children having less around the world, then wait for her two adorably named kids to go to their playroom and pick personal toys and books to contribute to now completely decorated shoe boxes as they have been sufficiently enlightened about the plight of others and feel for Angelina Jolie’s soon to be adopted children. 

Fuck that.  I reject that is humanly possible.  Gwynnie has lost all credibility, awesome gLee appearance be damned. 

The three gals each very briefly mention their nannies.  Who come to them.  And apparently stay til the kids are in bed.  And probably live with the family.  Fuck that, too.  I can’t stand this need to perpetuate the myth that women can do it all.  We can’t.  Something always suffers.  Always.  It’s work or it’s family or most commonly a bit of both.  And my honest guess is that something suffers for these gals too, even though they are Oscar winners and rock and roll scions and venture capitalists.  What is a venture capitalist, anyway?