Unless you’re new here (and if you are, welcome, please stay), then you know I don’t believe work-life balance is a real thing and I definitely think it just perpetuates guilt.
And what do I think of mommy guilt?
It’s a colossal waste of time and energy…at a point in life when you have pretty much no time and very little energy.
On Friday, those of you on the WM Facebook page, know I posted a link to an article about the new first lady of France, Valerie Trierweiler because she seems like a colorful personality who will be fun to watch emerge onto the world’s stage. She caught my attention when she spoke of not working on Wednesdays to instead stay home with her boys and “make crepes.” Fabulous.
Reading about her inspired me to kick off the first ever WM Working Mom Hero Award series.
What is that, you ask?
Obviously the most sought-after award among the world’s leading ladies. Should I roll my eyes at you for not knowing this?
Seriously – it’s my attempt to quell working mom guilt by offering perspective from some awesome ladies. And in the year of Moi Loves Moi, not only do we pat ourselves on the back for being awesome, we gain from reading about other women who manage successful careers and raise children because they also do it by making sacrifices, by making choices and they do it with confidence. In short: they are awesome. And have some perspective that just might brighten your day when you need it. To round out the debut of the award series, I’ve selected women from all walks of life: business, politics and popular culture/celebrity. My plan is to continue the series as I stumble upon another woman worthy of this esteemed award. If you see any articles about such a woman, by all means, let me know because one of my favorite topics to write about is work-life
balance choices. Without further adue….let us begin.
WM Working Mom Hero in the Category of Pop Culture/Celebrity: Meryl Streep
As the most nominated actress in American history, I felt she needed another nod to add to the list. Actually, for some reason last night 60 Minutes was on later than usual, so I caught the last half hour and happily watched an interview with Meryl Streep. I’d been mulling this award series all weekend in my head but hadn’t really considered the celebrity category until I watched the beloved Meryl. Suddenly I realized I knew very little about her private life. And after quite a bit of research on her this morning, I know realize that is by design, on her part. Starting at the beginning, I actually had no idea that she has four children and her husband, her one and only husband, was a stay-at-home dad. Because Meryl is in her 60s, she’s certainly blazed many trails, one of them being the unconventional division of labor at home – how many SAHDs were there in the 90s? I tried several Google searches with various terms and really couldn’t find specific articles where she spoke about being a working mother exclusively. Part of the reason I am awarding her today is because she so carefully protected her private life for the duration of her career, which honestly flies in the face of what so many celebrities are doing today. In a 1990 Seattle Times article she boldly stated: “My private life is not for sale,” and when asked about how she attacked a photographer in July 1988 for trying to photograph her two older kids, she said “I’m sorry I didn’t break his face.”
What a refreshing perspective from today’s current trend of selling images of newborns to People Magazine (can’t even list just one guilty of that), signing diet deals with Jenny Craig when pregnant (Jessica Simpson) or putting your kids in reality series before they have a chance to decide that’s what they want (Tori and Dean).
Not only is Meryl fiercely private about her children and her private life, she’s very poetic when speaking about it, another nod to her and reason for the WM Award: elegance and grace. In the same Seattle Times piece, she was asked about difficult times in her life, starting with the sudden death of her first love to bone cancer. She said “I feel that’s my palette, that’s what I keep in my studio. You don’t get to see that. You get to see the painting.” In a similar vein, in a 1994 interview with US Weekly, she said “I don’t parade those really meaningful things and I don’t really trust people who do. Then everything’s for sale.”
What does this have to do with working motherhood, you ask, instead of just plain motherhood? Well, they aren’t mutually exclusive but I think she offers guidance for us in today’s world of social media, Facebook, Twitter, where we all live our lives out loud (ahemm..guilty), whether you are a celebrity or not. Before we post it on Facebook, I think Meryl offers some really important perspective – differentiating between what’s our palette and in our studio and what painting of ourselves others need to see.
When talking about being a working mom, again, I could find very little on this topic specifically except in this same US Weekly 1994 interview, she said “When I’m engaged in a film, I’m in la-la land, it’s practically vacation compared to being home with four kids – that’s working.” And much like the rest of us, she noted the only time of day she has for herself to pursue her own interests is between 5-7am.
In an interview in 2008 with Britain’s Telegraph, she spoke about her life with a longer term perspective than the earlier interviews I found and noted her life is measured “more by family than work” – which for me personally – has always been a perspective I appreciate hearing from successful working women – this idea of always taking the longer-term perspective instead of being so caught up in the moment.
On women’s leadership and women in film, we all expect Meryl to have strong opinions. She’s had this long career path of playing powerful females, most recently Margaret Thatcher. In this same Telegraph interview from 2008, the reporter references a speech Meryl gave to the Screen Actors Guild in 1990 where she described the male Hollywood establishment as “full of stupid, greedy people…and half-joked that if the trend continued women would be eliminated from the movies by 2010. Executives didn’t like to cast women who ‘remind them of their first wives.”
And that right there, is the coup de grace, the final reason why she receives the WM Working Mom award today – not just for blazing innumerable trails, for raising four kids and protecting them fiercely from the spotlight instead of parading them around for her own narcissist needs, for altering the division of labor at home, for having a wildly successful career that had ebbs and flows, including failures, that included a three-year break (she didn’t make a movie between 1999-2002), for refusing to play women whose purpose in a movie was to prop up a man or act as the moral conscience, for consistently portraying strong women and finally for being a strong woman in real life – for speaking candidly about sexism in the work place.
In short: Meryl Streep is bad ass.
I was actually going to write about my other WM Working Mom Hero Award recipients today but this post is already sooo long…..so now I’ll just keep you on pins and needles…who will be next…when will she post again?? Ahh…the suspense, the mystery, “Like” WM on FB for more fun and frolic until then……and of course, nominate someone you think should be awarded!