Imagine how it would feel if a news website ran an online poll asking readers whether you should be a working mom or an at-home mom.
Imagine what it would be like to have your choices of work projects dissected and condemned in national magazines, while a so-called relationship expert you've never met tells a reporter: "Either you want to build a stable family or you want to be a woman with a career who's flying off here, flying there . . . But you can't
have it both ways." [Emphasis added.]
Imagine learning that rumors about how you and your romantic partner divvy up your parenting duties are widely publicized, and that you, the working mom, are lambasted because some people think your partner, a working dad, is doing more.
Imagine that your working dad partner is just as busy promoting and completing his work projects as you are, yet he is portrayed as the patient father of the year while you, the critics say, basically, suck.
You can have your own opinions about actress Angelina Jolie and her partner, actor Brad Pitt, who are raising four children together. You can hate their movies. You can still think it was creepy that Jolie used to carry her ex-husband's blood in a vial around her neck. Criticism about their work and their conduct while promoting their work is all fair game. But when it comes to their private, parenting lives, one cannot help but be struck by the volume of the overzealous media attention and accompanying venomous attacks directed at just one half of that duo: Jolie.
Google Jolie's name with the word "mom" in the news section and you'll hit a jackpot of stories many of which peddle in the character assassination. Sure, it might seem unusual for the average American parent to watch Jolie jet off to international locales and adopt children, give birth to heartthrob Brad Pitt's kid and publicly muse about adopting a fourth child this summer. It's not your typical suburban parent's existence. It's not even your typical Hollywood parent's existence. And if all these articles, rumors and tidbits were simply observing the fact that Jolie and Pitt live a life that might be different from the norm, then all the attention wouldn't seem so startling.
But that's not the only reason the media are paying attention. A large portion of these stories assess Jolie's fitness as a mother. Because she's flying around the globe. Because she continues to work. Because she wants a large family comprised mostly of adopted children. People don't understand her behavior so they choose to attack her, but not him. When you peruse the online material which mostly frames the story as Jolie being the only one who is adopting -- even though she's in a committed relationship with Pitt who adopts these children and is the biological father of their daughter - you won't see Pitt harassed by the media
 for his workload or for his jaunts to promote causes, like relief for the New Orleans area.
A recent New York Post
 article -- which claimed that many publications have ripped into Jolie because they're angry that she's given People Magazine exclusives about her family - detailed Jolie's current projects, her filming "Wanted" in Chicago, and her plan to star in two other films. It also mentioned that Pitt is promoting "Ocean's Thirteen" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," and is working on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Yet it was Jolie who was in the crosshairs for having four full-time nannies AND taking up three slots in a Warner Brothers studio preschool/day care causing other parents to reportedly complain that she's getting special treatment. Meanwhile Us Weekly
 ran a cover story skewering Jolie for leading a "twisted double life" and breaking her "promise to be a stay-at-home mom" and using "her kids to manipulate the media."
Jolie did bring a bit of this on herself by giving an interview to a Vietnamese newspaper, a translation of which was given to the Associated Press
: "I will stay at home to help Pax [her newly adopted son] adjust to his new life. I have four children and caring for them is the most important thing for me at the moment." Whether the translation and interpretation of her remarks was proper is an open question. And yes, it does look bad to take fly halfway across the country to work, only eight days after adopting your third child, if you said you were going to stay home. But who knows what exactly Jolie meant? Maybe eight days in one place to IS her idea of staying home.
Overall, the criticism at Jolie as a mother boils down to her decision to keep working while adding more children to her family. Something about that unhinges people, while Pitt is awarded gold stars for diaper changing. Considering that he's as much of a working dad as she is a working mom, considering that the two obviously have to work out childcare arrangements as well as decide how many children they should have, would it be pushing the envelope too far to suggest that there's sexism at play here?