Every one wants to feel understood, even celebrities. The rich and famous get little sympathy from the average Joe and Jane. Your first world problems will understandably get little empathy from those in the third. But, for the sake of just being human, could there be space for everyone to lament and say life is hard sometimes?
On March 27th, Gwyneth Paltrow announced “conscious uncoupling” from her husband, Chris Martin. This press release about a difficult family issue had her terminology questioned and her presentation mocked and viewed as smug. The internet became flooded with a lot of schadenfreude and a myriad of jokes. Kat Inokai, on the other hand, supports the term and, frankly, likes appreciates the distance from traditional terminology when splits are anything but.
A week before this announcement, there was a previous round of irritation and mockery when Gwyneth Paltrow her an interview on E! News. Her comments incensed many working moms when she said, “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.” Adding, “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.”
In Mackenzie Dawson's tongue-in-cheek open letter, she challenged Gwyneth, stating that she is so glad she doesn't have to make millions shooting one movie a year with staff to help with the care of her children, like Gwyneth does. Poor little rich girl was the flavour of the piece—an understandable perspective, considering Gwyneth's means and affluence.
Why does Gwyneth's perspective, even if it is one from a privileged and famous existence, bother us? Her perspective is her own. Can she be afforded that without us getting bothered? Perhaps her comment was the usual "the grass is always greener," where she wished for a “regular life,” with predictability and routine. Yes, she has alienated some with her comments where she refers to herself as a “normal mother with the same struggles as any other mother who’s trying to do everything . . . nothing perfect about my life, but I just try hard.” It might be a little less about trying, as financially her life is worlds away from a regular life in the US. In 2012, it was recorded that the normal average everyday working woman in the United States makes $37,791. Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly makes millions per movie and that doesn't include the money she makes from brand endorsements. The “normal mother” doesn't have a staff at the ready, luxurious vacations, and money to spare. But, whether she puts it out there or not, she has intense global scrutiny on everything from her weight, her children's names, and her eating choices. And that's not even mentioning being hassled by the paparazzi. We wouldn't wish for any of this.
The truth is this—parenting is hard, relationships are a lot of work, balancing a career while parenting is challenging, and separations are painful no matter what you call them. There are many commonalities that we as parents can get together on no matter what our socio-economic status. We have interrupted schedules, face disobedience, fear for our kids, our hearts break for them, and the list goes on.
We all have times when others appear to have it better than us. Friends or acquaintances have made out of touch comments, no doubt we have also. And we can learn from this, being careful how we speak about the ease in which others live, confident in our place in life, and our abilities to face challenges. And, perhaps most importantly, show empathy on the things that connect us and make us human.
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