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An Open Letter to Ben Affleck on his Recent Statements About Parenting

Ben Affleck

At least he doesn't need to worry about a Father of the Year acceptance speech

Dear Ben,

Congratulations on birth of your newest baby! There’s a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding your film “Argo,” and your stock as a quality actor/director/screenwriter is certainly on a meteoric rise.

Oh, I’m sorry — did you think by “baby” I meant your newborn son Samuel? Well, of course, congratulations on his birth, too.

You’ll forgive me not mentioning him first, but based on the recent statements you gave in an interview about your position on parenting, it seems as if being a dad is kind of low on your priority list.

It’s enviable that you’re able to fulfill your career fantasies while your wife, actress Jennifer Garner tends to the parenting of your three children. There’s nothing Brad and Angelina about you guys, which is to say what they always say — one does a movie while the other watches the kids and then they switch. Nope, the Affleck/Garner household seems to be all about the Affleck and not much about the Garner. At least in terms of your film careers. Based on what you said, anyway.

It’s a bit of a head scratcher that your wife has also been quoted as saying you’re the one who wants to add a fourth baby to your brood when it seems like being home with the children you already have is the last place you ever want to be.

Or is that not what you meant when you said this:

I’m not very present in the rest of my life [beyond my career]. My wife’s very patient. She does everything. If I have time, I try to spend time with the kids, even if just to be a physical presence, the bath, whatever. But my mind’s always going, “How are we going to light that shot tomorrow? What’s the master shot for that scene? Is there even going to be a master?” Just ruminating endlessly.

Then there was this, too:

Anytime you think, “I’m wasting my time here [on a movie set],” the first thought you have is “I could go home and be with my kids.” Now, you may go home and be with your kids and very quickly start thinking, “I wonder what’s on the work front?” Because running around after three kids is very trying. Now everything has to compete with being with my family. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home dad. Work is very important to me. I like to work. So does my wife. But I need my work to mean something to me in order for me to not be home with them.

Here’s the thing: I kind of feel the same way you do sometimes, but I never say it out loud (apparently I just, um, write it), mostly because it sounds so shocking and wrong. You get that you just admitted that you’re not physically present very often, and when you are, you’re emotionally distant? Yikes. Right?

I mean, I’m physically present with my kids to a fault. Like, ugh, get me away from them every once in a while. Please? But even though I’m with them (all. the. freakin’. time.), believe me, I’m far from present in each and every moment. Maybe it’s a touch of ADD mixed with some OCD, but I’m forever doing nine things at once, and only one of those things is actually parenting, which deserves to be more 1:1, don’t you think?

Of course there’s only two of you in your marriage; I’ve never been invited into your breakfast nook when these discussions about balancing career and family have taken place, so maybe Jen is cool with you chasing your dreams, and maybe playing the part of the good wife and mom is the role she’s most coveted.

No parent is perfect (as my 1-year-old would surely attest right now as she’s begging in her toddler-ly way from her crib to be rescued while I’m ignoring her whines so I can finish writing this), and I happen to think parents with careers other than (in addition to?) parenting set fabulous examples for their children — I don’t want my entire life to be my kids. I want them to know I’m a whole person with interests and hobbies and skills and passions who is also a mom. That’s cool. It’s healthy. It’s all good.

Besides, I’ve never met a perfect parent who’s present at all moments with their children. I’ve just never really heard someone sound quite so cold about their home and family life as you did in this interview. For someone who is ostensibly pretty liberal and forward-thinking (or at least you pal around with people who are), you sound an awful lot like Fred Flinstone. Or every dad from 1950 mixed with a little Don Draper from the ’60s. I’m just saying.

But you’re probably not as bad as you sound though, right? Please? Because you know your kids will read this interview you gave one day, and I can’t imagine it will make them feel especially good about how you felt about them.

By the way, if you ever feel like doing a kind deed to try and earn back some good karma rewards points, feel free to invite me to spend a day on set with you. I could really use a break from my kids. Because I really get what you said. I just try not to make it a habit to say it out loud (quite as loudly as you did, anyway).

Love,

Meredith

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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