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Breaking news: Ben Affleck finds running after his three kids “very tiring”

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.

(Deep breath.)

(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!

To wit:

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.

8 thoughts on “Breaking news: Ben Affleck finds running after his three kids “very tiring”

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  1. “I just wish that women could make the same statements publicly with no regrets or apologies, too.”

    Well, I don’t,

    I don’t think women should choose to have children if they don’t want to make them their #1 priority. As a person earned her college degree in Child Development and who has worked professionally with children for the past twelve years, I can tell you that children need their mothers to be present and involved. When they’re not, tragic things happen. Children grow up unattached and unhealthy and emotionally undeveloped. I work with these problems EVERY DAY. I also grew up with a narcissistic, distanced mother, so I have lived it.

    I AM a feminist, but just because you don’t want to believe something doesn’t make it untrue. Study child development and attachement theory. Talk to children whose parents are always out of the house. Talk to children who are being raised by distanced parents or by daycare providers or nannies. They’re not growing up healthy and happy. There is so much data out there on this. Please don’t pretend it doesn’t exist because you don’t like its implications.

    If you don’t want to spend all of your time being a parent, don’t have kids. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. This is not to say that parents shouldn’t have outside interests. But at the end of the day, your children should be your top priority.

    Also, Ben Affleck is one of the worst actors of our time. I’m sorry that you’re surprised that he’s a narcissistic jerk.

  2. I don’t think that Audrey is claiming that a parent shouldn’t make their children their #1 priority. I think her point is that it would be outrageous and unacceptable if a mother were to claim that taking care of her kids is exhausting, and that it’s somehow no big deal if it’s the father saying it. Mothers, especially those in the spotlight like celebrities, are expected to be all smiles, all the time about their children and their status as mothers, like Beyonce’s claim that she “loves changing diapers.” I’m not a parent myself, but I can definitely see that if there is ever anything “wrong” with a child, the mother is always to blame, and that people are always attacking moms about their parenting skills. I imagine if your life is always scrutinized by the public, it makes it even more exhausting when you’re a mom and have the whole world just waiting to tear you apart for any kind of mom slip-up.

  3. I first went to kindergarten when I was 17 months old because both my parents had to work, and I spent the biggest part of my summers until the age of 13 with my grandparents, so that I could enjoy the holidays while my parents worked. I was a very happy child.
    Children should know that their parents are regular people and that dealing with them can be on occasion tiring, otherwise they’re very likely to become brats and also have unrealistic visions of what it’s like being a parent, which will make it more difficult for them to understand and forgive their parents’ (inevitable) mistakes, and it will also make them feel bad about themselves when they’ve become adults and had their own kids. A fulfilled person makes a much better parent. An understanding person makes a much better parent.
    Developmental psychology was part of my Psychology studies, and the one thing that I remember repeatedly reading about and hearing about was the it’s the quality of time that matters, not the quantity.

  4. Hey all:

    I’m certainly not advocating for a culture where women shun their children and responsibilities, thereby leading to a generation of abandoned kids. That would be bad.

    The point that I hoped to make was that our pop culture narrative *loves* to play up women loving every minute with their kids (like the celebs I quoted above) and that when alternative view points get expressed, they end up getting packaged in something like the book “Sh**ty Mom: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us,” by Laurie Kilmartin et al (Ambrams Image, September 2012). But doesn’t the fact that that that book was a New York Times Bestseller substantiate that more than “the rest of us”… more like a whole lot of us!…identify with a narrative that paints parenting and child rearing in a way that’s not reflected in all the celeb gushing and mooning? And yet, these viewpoints are “sh**ty”, not normal, uppity etc….

    It’s also worth mentioning the obvious: that celebs are able to love love love all their time with their kids because they (most likely) aren’t drowning in the drudgery of domestic life. Sure J.LO has boasted that she’s never hired a nanny, and Gwyneth has talked about her sleepless nights in the early years with her kids, and Beyonce is gaga for diaper changing. But come on, none of those ladies are scrubbing their own floors, washing vomit off clothes every other minute or unable to catch a nap when they need to.

    Which is why I find it pretty offensive (or perhaps just naive on their parts) when celebs (I’m talking to you Reese Witherspoon) trash talk their own ticket to the Good Life (“I don’t live to make movies”). Really? Funny, that. Because it’s precisely the millions from movies (or record sales or whatever) that allow celebs to escape the yuckiest parts of child rearing/domestic life and “cultivate the highest life” for their families. Which is, of course, most likely what all women want: the time, financial ability and head space to create a great home life while still being able to fulfill their own dreams/goals.

    So yeah, I wish our culture gave voice to the struggle that most of us are facing rather than ramming down our throats the idea that it’s all so easy! And fun! All the time! And given that Ben Affleck usually seems like a pretty decent guy, I’m bummed that he doesn’t seem to get how being able to complain like he did to the national media–and not get crucified for it–is actually quite a privilege.

  5. Seriously—I’m with you. The feelings—bath time mind-wanderings, you name it—are so common, but seem to be verboten in celeb interviews. I wanted to hug Felicity Huffman through the phone when she admitted to me that she was incapable of mustering enthusiasm for make-believe games with her girls (and envied her husband’s nearly bottomless capacity for it), but also found herself wishing away bath times….It’s real, and true, and nearly impossible to find women to cop to these feelings, never mind copping to it in print. Loved your smart assessment, here, Audrey!

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