Glamour Moms


Her gleaming grin caught my eye in the checkout aisle. There she was — Angelina Jolie. Newly pregnant, the headline told me, with her seventh child. 

The evidence of this latest “pregnancy” was helpfully highlighted for readers with the use of a yellow arrow marked with the words “baby bump.”

There, beneath a fitted dress, was Ms. Jolie’s abdomen, looking . . . rather smooth and toned for someone who gave birth to twins just four months ago. Heck, it was looking rather smooth and toned by any woman’s standards.

Why do media-invented Jolie “pregnancies” sell papers? Why are Americans obsessed with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and their growing brood of now six children? The obvious answer is that Americans have always been obsessed with wealthy, beautiful people.

 

But this particular celebrity couple is different. Not only because they have had so many children so quickly, but because they stubbornly refuse to apologize for their excesses.

“I’m really proud of my family,” Pitt said in a recent interview. “I look at my sons and daughters. . . . I feel rich being around them.”

And Jolie herself recently admitted, “Anything could happen, we’re open to anything, we love kids and we’re having a great time. . . . We’ll definitely have more.”

The nerve!

Of course I do not pretend that this unmarried couple is embracing a Catholic family lifestyle, but as a mom of many myself, I am intrigued by their unabashedly positive portrayal of large-family living.

Modern America doesn’t know exactly what to make of such enthusiasm for many children.

“I suppose they can afford a large family,” a commenter recently sneered on a celebrity “news” television show (not that I ever watch those). Children, we are left to conclude, are expensive accessories flaunted by the rich.

Or if they aren’t accessories, they might be the result of mental instability. Earlier this year, ABC news ran a report where various psychiatric “experts” weighed in on whether Jolie’s “compulsive mothering” might just be a sign of mental illness. Finding joy in motherhood, we learn, is psychologically suspect behavior.

Most remarkable to me was a column I once read where the author referred to the happy, large family lifestyle portrayed by Jolie as “mommy porn.” She argued that Jolie’s manufactured image as a contented mother of many children creates a false, unattainable ideal of parental perfection and damages real-life family relationships.

 

I’ll admit that the Jolie-Pitt family romance might be a bit of a show, but don’t we all put on a bit of a show? 

I am no Angelina, but when I head out with my own large family in tow, I am very much aware that we are going to be noticed and that we are presenting an “image” of large families that will be judged. I can’t afford to be the mother caught grousing at her bickering, sticky-faced children in the parking lot.

I do, however, see value in admitting that parenthood is hard, and that a life devoted to children is not always sugar-cookie kisses and maternal bliss. I clearly recall my feelings of frustration years ago, when, as a new mother of a colicky infant, I called my own mother and shouted, “You never told me it would be this hard!”

There is a big difference, though, between sharing some of the nitty-gritty and outright rejecting the notion that a woman can find contentment in nurturing her family.

If celebrity moms like Angelina Jolie revealed a little more of the reality of stretch marks and diaper rash, I would relish every word. And yet I feel only affirmed when these same celebrities give testament to the real contentment that real women can find in family life. Because that’s my reality, too.

The other day, when I stopped by the drugstore for a package of diapers, my five-year-old whined for Pretty Ponies while my three-year-old fingered the bottles of cough syrup. Older children enthusiastically suggested the purchase of 167 different forms of sugar. As we drew the attention of fellow shoppers, I felt myself begin to sweat.

When finally we paid for our purchases, little Daniel wiped his nose on my coat collar. The cashier winced, but I stubbornly clung to my dignity. After a quick sideways glance to check for paparazzi, I tossed my hair and flashed my very best celebrity smile.

Perfect motherhood might be a myth, but happy motherhood is real. As real as the warm weight of a baby in your arms and the peace that comes from knowing you are doing what God made you to do — not always perfectly, but with faith. And fervor.

Danielle Bean

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Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

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