In the same month that actress Gwyneth Paltrow gives us her annual Goop guide to detoxing, asking that we detox to “not only drop some accumulated weight, but to get rid of some of the heavy metals, fire retardants, and pesticides in our systems, too,” you might presume that this A-lister lives on a different planet than the rest of us. That she wouldn’t have any relevant advice to share with the average mom going about her day in a state of chaos — juggling work, kids, life, home, and marriage without stopping to think about the fire retardants she’s inhaling.
But you’d be wrong.
Because in the February edition of Harper’s Bazaar UK, Gwyneth has some very sane advice for us: “Women really need to examine why they’re so vitriolic to other women; why they want to twist words, why they want to read about someone else in a negative light and why that feels good to them …”
I couldn’t agree more! However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with this myself. I have to admit that I’ve read about celebrity breakups (even Gwyneth’s) and thought gleefully to myself, “Aha! At last! She doesn’t have the perfect life after all!” How uncharitable of me. And I don’t just do this with celebrities, either. How many times have we been secretly happy when a colleague, friend, or family member didn’t get the promotion they expected, or the sale fell through on their fabulous “to die for” house, or their expensive 5-star vacation got rained on? What is wrong with us that at times we’ve delighted in others’ misfortunes?
When I’m in a good place and happy in my own life, I only feel happiness for others: for their successes, their careers, their lives. It’s when I feel somehow cheated by the cards I’ve been dealt that I’m more likely to gain joy from others’ losses. I once wrote something very mean on Facebook that I have always regretted, mainly out of spite because I was jealous that a mom was there for her kids while I was working full-time and miserable. It wasn’t about the mom at all — it was about me feeling guilt and sadness about not being a better mom myself. If I’d looked inwards instead of judging this mom and her photos, I would have served myself better.
Gwyneth goes on to say:
“But I also know a huge tribe of women who are loving and supportive of other women, in ways that are completely transformative. I think we are a generation of women who are different in a lot of respects, and some of us want to be ambitious, and for it not to be a dirty word. We want to be feminine and soft, we want to be maternal, we want to be sexual, we want to be explorers – and we can be a combination of all of these archetypes. You can be powerful, but you can also be vulnerable… [I have] learnt the power of kindness and the importance of non-judgmental ways of looking at others.”
This may send some of us over the edge, thinking that saint Gwyneth has mastered the art of not being judgmental while we all sit and judge her. But think about what she’s really saying: Women want to be all things — and we can and should be! How great would it be if women supported one another instead of resorting to competition and judgment? When I left my job last year to become a writer, I became online friends with a group of other writers — all women — who shared the same job. Rather than compete, we all supported each other and tried to help each other keep our spirits up. To this day, it remains the most rewarding part of my job. When women help each other instead of tearing each other down, we’re a force to be reckoned with. Because really, aren’t we all just trying to make it through the mommy trenches in one piece? As Gwyneth says:
“I think we are all genuinely doing our best; it’s hard to have children and a career, and all some women seem to do is judge other women’s choices. I find that demoralizing and unhelpful. Where is the wisdom coming out of this situation? I don’t see where this is getting us anywhere in terms of a cultural discussion.”
Amen! Stay-at-home moms ranting that being at work isn’t being a “real mom” or working moms unhelpfully asking what SAHMs do all day — we need to stop all of this anger and judgment. Isn’t it time we all just said, “Do what works for you,” and stopped the bitchiness? No one gets it right 100 percent of the time. No one has a perfect life. We’re all just muddling through, trying to do the best we can — for us, our kids, our families, our partners, our friends.
I agree with Gwyneth: Where is the wisdom in having a go at someone else? Are we only trying to make ourselves feel better? If so, then shouldn’t we take a look at our own lives and ask why we are so angry and upset by what someone else is doing? Other peoples’ lives are theirs to live and we shouldn’t compare them.
It’s time for sisterhood to come to the forefront. I, for one, will be taking Gwynnie’s advice. Who’s with me?
Image source: @GwynethPaltrow via Twitter