I like Ben. All that keepin’ it real with his Baahston roots and getting off the crazy train that was Bennifer before it was too late. Then I read the this month’s Details’ interview with him titled “Ben Affleck: No Apologies. No Regrets. No Bulls#*t” and as a mom with two small kids who dreams of being able to find more time for work, well, let’s just say it made me mad as a mother(you fill in the explicit second half of the word to complete the double entendre).
“I don’t want to be a Stay At Home Dad,” Ben tells the interviewer. “Work is very important to me. I like to work.” He even admitts to being “not very present in the rest of his life” because he’s “always always” thinking about the films he’s writing and directing.
Then he concludes by (wait for it. It gets better) saying that his wife “does everything.” And that if he has the time, he tries to just at least be a “physical presence” around the house… y’know at like bath time and stuff. But even then, his mind is “always going ‘how are we going to light that shot tomorrow? What’s the master shot for that scene’.” etc etc etc.
(Another deep breath.)
Okay. Right. Now that I’ve calmed down, I can’t help but wonder what the reaction to this article would be if the interviewee was, say, Ben’s wife, Jennifer Garner. How would it go down if she stated—in an article titled “Jennifer Garner: No Apologies. No Regrets. No Bulls#*t” no less!—that she doesn’t like staying at home. That she prefers work and that even when she manages to show up and be counted at bath time, she’s really just phoning it in cause her mind is still off in La La Land worrying about her gown for Oscars, what time her trainer is coming and how many scripts she has on her bedside table.
My guess is that if Jennifer—or any mom in the public eye—said the same things as Ben there would be some kind of serious Mommy War s#*tstorm all up in here. Because despite all the choices feminism has created for us, and despite the media attention that Mommy Issues (like work/life balance and how to achieve some personal fulfillment while having a family) have gotten, I don’t think our culture would support—or better yet: tolerate—a woman who says she loves her work so much that she doesn’t really pay that much attention to her kids when home. And that’s because even if in real life there are women who admit to struggling, or who admit that they love their work as much as their kids, in the alternate universe that is our pop culture, celebrity mommies gush non-stop about how totally awesome! all the time! all things related to child bearing and family life are!
Reese Witherspoon: “I don’t get up to make movies. I awaken to have an excellent family and to cultivate the highest life for all of us. Being a parent is such a great privilege; that I get to chaperone these beautiful little souls through life.”
Beyoncé: “I love changing diapers. I love it. I love every moment. I love it all.”
And reality star, Kendra Wilkinson: “My plan is not to go back to my original size [before having had a baby]. I want to keep the hips and I want to keep that hourglass shape. I think that’s so much sexier.”
Ultimately, I think it’s refreshing to hear a 30 or 40-something admit that full-time family life can be suffocating and mind-numblingly boring—especially given insane fetishization of baby bumps, yummy mummies, and happy days with toddlers that currently exists in our culture. I just wish that women could make the same statements publicly with no regrets or apologies, too.
Audrey D. Brashich is the author of All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty, a body image guide for teens.