Yesterday I wrote how I didn’t think stay-at-home dads are the answer to the issues that plague working parents. I still don’t understand why anyone — man or woman — should have to completely or severely give up their career because there’s no room for two ambitious and hard-working people in one relationship. Unless, of course, it works for them — like it does with Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck.
Garner has mastered what so many stay-at-home mothers (and the stay-at-home dads of those Wall Street mothers) struggle with — falling into a supporting role to allow her husband to shine while not fading into the background completely. She’s shared some of her techniques: she doesn’t pretend to be perfect and she knows the importance of putting forth an image that’s more than just Mrs. Affleck. In their more traditional roles, they could easily come off like a 1950s anti-feminism Mad Men-type couple, but it’s their mutual respect and adoration that makes me fall in love with them in every interview.
“She is by leaps and bounds the most important person to me in that respect,” Affleck said of Garner’s resolute support. “Over the past 10 years she has allowed me to have a stable home life while accomplishing my professional goals.”
He also praises Garner for pulling him out of his Bennifer/Gigli/rehab funk:
“My wife was definitely around then,” says Affleck. “Getting to know her, falling in love with her and being connected with her gave me a foundation to reach out and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to do Hollywoodland. I’m going to direct Gone Baby Gone,’ ” Affleck said. “Those were the steps forward I needed to put positive stuff on the board.”
There’s nothing remotely condescending about what he says. He credits her with the kind of support anyone in a relationship wants. He doesn’t talk about her domestic abilities and he never talks about how hard he works to bring home the bacon. Instead he talks about how much she means to him and how she brings to his life what he needs, just by being her.
The soon-to-be Batman added: “Once I’d made it, the most critical thing was that she said, ‘If you’re going to work 24 hours a day, that’s cool. I’m going to be here.’ That allowed me to think, Okay, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to kill myself over this next period of time.”
I didn’t realize it until I was perusing People, but this was exactly what the NY Times piece about Wall Street mothers was missing. There was no recognition for the ones who made their uber-success possible. Maybe it goes on at home (although I will note there was a LOT of complaining in that piece), maybe it doesn’t – I don’t know. I do know that gender reversal isn’t gender equality and if stay-at-home dads are being ignored and minimized the way the housewives of the pre-women’s liberation movement, I see no progress at all. If you are going to take on “traditional roles” clearly the Garner-Affleck family has the best modern spin. And those brilliant Wall Street mothers could take a lesson from this Hollywood couple.