I used to admire Gwyneth Paltrow, mostly because she grew up in a Hollywood family — whose matriarch is the smart and talented Blythe Danner — and yet seemed to be intelligent, compassionate, and relatively grounded. But lately, she has shown how out of touch she is with the real struggles of working parents as she compared the challenges of her film career to those of women working in an “office job.” (Read some quotes from her interview with E! via the Huffington Post.)
Ms. Paltrow claims that those of us who are not blessed with her 6- and 7-figure salaries have it much easier as parents than she does, working 14-hour days on a film set. I invite her to walk a week or two in one of our shoes.
I’m not sure how Ms. Paltrow spends her time in the make-up chair in the early mornings, but those of us with “routine jobs” spend the first moments of our days trying to simultaneously drink our coffee, feed our children, and make their lunches (forget about eating breakfast ourselves), before getting them dressed, throwing clothes on our often-unshowered bodies, and rushing out the door to drop them at carpools so we can tackle the stress of being chronically behind schedule on our morning commute. My first glance in the mirror is in the rearview as I back out of my parking space. I keep a brush in my glove compartment, but rarely have a chance to use it.
We work all day — routinely nine or ten hours or more, as the 9 to 5 job has become an urban myth — and then race across town to fetch our children from childcare before the overtime fees go into effect (or worse, an aftercare worker is waiting on the sidewalk with our kids). We stop at the store on the way home to get food for dinner before making said dinner, washing the dishes, helping with homework, getting kids ready for bed, putting them to bed, perhaps falling asleep from exhaustion for a half hour or so, then awakening to the sharp realization that we haven’t washed our hair in 48 hours, but still have an hour or two of emails to return or homework to grade or laundry to do, so maybe if we wake up a half an hour earlier the next day we can squeeze in some time for personal hygiene. The half-consumed coffee from the morning is still sitting on the counter, neglected in the a.m. rush.
Forget about Pilates. Only people who can afford at home childcare or part-time work can fit personal fitness into the equation. Yet I’m told by a beautiful celebrity that my life is much easier as a parent.
The fact is, NOBODY’s working life is easy for parenting, but it sure helps if you have wealth to hire people to do some of the work for you. For a woman of Ms. Paltrow’s level of entitlement to play the grass-is-greener game is not only ignorant, it’s infuriating, and hugely disrespectful to the droves of working parents out there who are barely holding it together.
Rather than point fingers at who has it better, Ms. Paltrow could use her highly publishable persona to promote a living wage, universal childcare, single-payer healthcare, flexible work hours, job sharing, paid sick leave, and other “radical” notions already in action in developed nations across the globe.
In any case, women should not compare themselves to others whose lives they have not experienced and clearly, in Ms. Paltrow’s case, know nothing about.