When I first heard about Gwyneth Paltrow’s remark that moms with “office jobs” have it easier than she does, I didn't have any reaction. Whatever, an actor with an opinion…
However, as the fervor grew around her comment and sarcastic responses were published, I felt compelled to bring a new perspective to the conversation: empathy from one working mom to another.
All moms are just doing their best
I believe every mom can also stipulate that being someone’s mom, anyone's mom is difficult - period, full stop. And just like the Anna Karenina quote about every unhappy family being unhappy in its own way; there are the big and small stresses that are part of every mother’s experience which are unique to them. As outsiders, we just can’t know or fully understand it.
We romanticize what we want, but don’t have
Unless she's struggling with mental illness, it’s been my experience that all moms are all trying to do the right thing by their kid(s) all the time. This is true whether she manages the home, works 9-5, works 80+ hour a week 50 weeks a year or is a wildly successful movie star that has to be away on location for weeks at a time. Every mom is always, actively figuring it all out for her kids.
It's easy to demonize the "other" and assume the worst about them. And it's especially tempting when the "other" has things in her life we have idealized or romanticized...like 24 hour nanny support, cooks and maid service or making millions in just a few weeks of hard work a year.
From what Gwyneth said, my suspicion is that she is, on some level, idealizing and romanticizing MY life. My normal, routine, professional + wife + mother life with an almost 8 year old son. One where I commute an hour to an office every day, take work home every night & weekend, and continually try to achieve that elusive work-life balance.
Of course, the day to day stress, drama and ups and downs in my life are things she can’t and doesn’t know. And that’s the point -- she’s romanticized the generic trappings of my "office job" life because it’s something she doesn't have in hers.
So let’s call a truce: one mom to another
Absolutely, she shouldn't have said what she said. She was having a little pity party about her life and said something insensitive. Maybe she was tired from working all day and was missing her children? I can relate to that.
Let's all remember that lesson from our mothers: the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. No matter which side you are standing on.
So for whatever it's worth: Gwyneth - no harm, no foul.