Unless you live on Mars, chances are you’ve read about the sudden breakup of A-list mega-stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie last September.
But what you might not expect to hear, is who Jolie turned to for support during such a difficult period. According to an interview she gave to The New York Times to promote her latest film, First They Killed My Father, her best friends are her kids: Maddox, 16, Pax, 13, Zahara 12, Shiloh, 11, and twins, Knox and Vivienne, 9. She revealed, “They really help me so much. We’re really such a unit. They’re the best friends I’ve ever had. Nobody in my life has ever stood by me more.”
While I sympathize with Angelina (going through a divorce is horrific enough without your every step documented by the press), I can’t help but wonder if it’s right for a mom to rely on her kids. After all, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
I’ve been told by older relatives and advice columns that I shouldn’t try to be best buddies with my kids; my role as a mom is to be a parent. I’ve been told that it’s unhealthy to try and be my kids’ best friend, as that’s a job for kids their age. Perhaps the goal in parenthood is to try and strike a balance between the role of parent and buddy.
My gut instinct is to say that kids need peers of a similar age to relate to and that my job as a mom is one of nurturing and protection. This sometimes means being the bad guy (and as far away from a buddy as you can get). If I’m trying to be this super-cool, best friend mom, where exactly do I draw the line? Where are the boundaries? Won’t they get confused if “buddy Mom” suddenly won’t let them do what they want?
Yet, try as I might to be the perfect parent, many times my kids have watched me weep from a job disappointment or simply because my PMS is taking me to dizzying heights of emotional distress. I’m pretty honest about what’s going on in my world because I value honesty with them. I am far from perfect and sometimes when life gets me down, I can’t pretend to be Mrs. Happy on the outside when I am reeling on the inside.
Without defending this behavior, part of me feels it’s important to let kids know that life isn’t perfect. We don’t always get the job, win the game, or solve every puzzle. In sharing all of my sides, my kids get to know me – warts and all. They perhaps understand a bit more about life as a result.
Yet, I get allowing your kids live in a blissful bubble, and only relying on your friends or partner to help you through your traumas. I have no idea how I would cope with life if I didn’t have a tribe of women I could call for advice, share a glass of wine with, or sob on their shoulders. While others turn to their own moms for support, it’s worth noting that Angelina lost her mom to cancer in 2007.
Jolie told Vanity Fair in her first interview after splitting with Pitt that she was trying to keep her emotions at bay:
“I was very worried about my mother, growing up — a lot. I do not want my children to be worried about me. I think it’s very important to cry in the shower and not in front of them. They need to know that everything’s going to be all right even when you’re not sure it is.”
That doesn’t sound like a mom treating her kids as confidants, so perhaps the “best friend” mention is purely about the fun times she has with her kids, rather than baring her heart wide open for them. As she also told Vanity Fair, she has taken a year off work to be around for her kids, “I’ve been trying for nine months to be really good at just being a homemaker and picking up dog poop and cleaning dishes and reading bedtime stories. And I’m getting better at all three.”
Jolie, 42, has had to witness Pitt open up to GQ about his failings in their marriage, thus, making his public perception more relatable. Yet, Jolie isn’t worried about how the public perceives her, telling The New York Times, “I never expect to be the one that everybody understands or likes. And that’s O.K., because I know who I am, and the kids know who I am.”
You have to admire her bravery as she also discusses how she feels about her new home – a $25 million pad in an exclusive part of Los Angeles. “It has a lot of moments,” Jolie said of the home. “It’s happy. Happy and light, and we needed that.” After enduring what she describes as a “very difficult, a very painful situation” she admitted, “I just want my family healthy.”
Jolie sounds like every other mom out there trying to raise a happy family amidst the chaos of life. If her kids really are her best friends, they seem like a perfect little unit to me.