Mommy Track’d has a feature called “Celebrity Soundbites” in which celebrity mothers talk about the tough job of combining work with motherhood. What struck me the most was how like “normal” working mothers they sound. One of the celebrities said that “Motherhood is the great equalizer.” Once you become a mother you’re automatically a part of a group of like-minded women. All mothers can relate to the issues of not being there for your children as much as you think you should be, of feeling that you’re doing everything wrong, of the compunction you feel to do everything right.
The one difference between the celebrity moms and other working mothers is the flexibility celebrities have when it comes to balancing work and motherhood. If only we all had the freedom of refusing to work when we didn’t want to or of being able to take our children to work with us. But then most of us don’t have to deal with the media. Celebrities are raising their children in the public eye and the children themselves have to learn to handle their parents’ fame. There are a lot of horror stories out there about how hard it was for the children of celebrities to follow in their parents’ footsteps and to deal with their parents’ not being there for them.
I think things are a little easier now that it’s more accepted that a woman can be a mother and have a career. It must have been incredibly difficult for the Joan Crawfords and Bette Davises to be mothers while under contract to the movie studios who didn’t want the fact that they were mothers to be part of their personae. But isn’t that what the average working mother faces today? Most employers don’t want to hear that a female employee has to leave a little early to pick up her child from school or has to take a day off here and there because her child is ill. They want their employees to be workers first and mothers second, but for most mothers their priorities are exactly the opposite.
Things are changing. Some employers have on-site day care, accommodate women who are breast-feeding, even allow women to bring their children to work. (I read a story recently about companies that actually allow parents to care for their children in the workplace, but I can’t find the link now–sorry.) The Family Medical Leave Act (see my post about the FMLA) has made it much easier for women to care for ill children. More companies are offering flex-time, telecommuting or part-time work with benefits. The workplace is becoming more mother-friendly, but these accommodating companies are still in the minority.
It would be nice if we all had the kind of flexibility (and the money) that most celebrity mothers have. But those perks don’t make being a working mother any easier, even for them. Motherhood is a country from which there is no escape and only the “survivors” know how rough the terrain is. I venture to say that mothers who are “mere mortals” could sit down with any celebrity mom and immediately establish a bond, just by sharing motherhood stories. And one thing I think they could all agree on is that being a mother is worth all the guilt and the hassles (except for on those “bad days”, when you just want to throw in the towel–and they could agree on that, too!).