Parenthood is having a cultural moment. It’s striking, because in our materially oriented society, we’ve recently seen a number of celebrities speak out publicly not only about the joy of children, but also acknowledging that their professionally successful lives feel incomplete without children. Indeed, it has become cool to publicly praise family.
Should we credit actress Natalie Portman with sowing the seeds and starting the trend? After all, when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2011, then-pregnant Portman described motherhood as “the most important role of my life” and was widely booed online for it. However, recent developments hint that the cultural pendulum may be swinging in her direction.
When Regina King recently won this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, she thanked her mother and grandmother before praising her son: “This is just absolutely amazing. My son, Ian, the fact that I get to share this night with you, the best date in the house. You make being a mother my greatest accomplishment.’” During the moment King was recognized by her industry for outstanding work, the people most on her mind were members of her family, especially the son she has raised.
It is interesting that King’s comment wasn’t picked over in the media like Portman’s. It’s possible that part of the difference is that the Oscars are more scrutinized. It might be that Portman was pregnant, whereas King’s son is already a teenager, so she is credited with having already done the work of motherhood. Or it could be that views on such comments are changing, that more people are comfortable with the notion that a woman can be both professionally successful and fulfilled by a family life.
Babies Matter More than Fame
Ivanka Trump is certainly an example of that. The daughter of presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ivanka is a successful businesswoman in her own right. She’s also a wife and mother, who recently announced the impending arrival of her third child with a sweet video. It was endearing precisely because it reminds many of us of the short smartphone videos we send family of our own little ones.
Ivanka’s comment accompanying the video was also charming: “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a career that I am deeply passionate about, but, at the end of the day, it’s my family that is at the center of my life—and to be adding another baby to our family is a tremendous blessing.”
This is a woman who has power, money, and fame. Yet she writes that it’s her growing, young family that is most meaningful to her. Not only does she call her developing child “a tremendous blessing,” but she also notes, “Jared and I are so thankful, and so excited!” As they deserve to be. Parenthood can, and should, be a source of joy and unexpected wonderment.
Openly Sharing Conception Disappointment
Perhaps no one is more cognizant of that joy—and how it often appears to be just beyond reach—than those struggling with infertility or the pain of miscarriages. Increasingly, celebrities are publicly sharing their personal stories about struggling with pregnancy. Kim Kardashian West, for example, has spoken publicly about turning to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to jump-start her second pregnancy.
Models and “FABLife” co-hosts Chrissy Teigen and Tyra Banks also recently made news when they both opened up on air about their own fertility struggles. The 29-year-old Teigen revealed that she and musician husband John Legend had hoped to have children already. She shared that the pair has visited fertility doctors and described pregnancy as “a process.” Banks, who at 41 has undergone “traumatic” IVF experiences herself, recently told People magazine, “It’s difficult as you get older. It’s not something that can just happen.’”
Indeed, pregnancy can be a challenge. For couples who are struggling, there is nothing more painful than being quizzed about why they haven’t yet procreated. Teigen was right to take busybodies to task on her show, because, as she rightly notes, “who knows what somebody’s going through.”
A prime example of someone with things going on behind the scene, as we now know, is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg took to his social network this summer to gleefully announce the anticipated arrival of his first daughter with wife Priscilla Chan. Zuckerberg shared that he and his wife had tried for years to start a family and suffered three miscarriages. His post was heartwarming; his words, and the accompanying picture, clearly conveyed that he and his wife were ecstatic to begin their parenting journey. As awesome as having billions of dollars must be, it’s infinitely more meaningful to have people—including little ones—with whom to share it.
We strive for many things in this life. We want work that is fulfilling and pays us enough to support a family. We want leisure time and creature comforts. But, as a number of celebrities have recently reminded us, along with food and shelter, what we really need if we want to feel fulfilled is a happy home life, including the opportunity to be parents. Family may not always be as glamorous as a night at the Oscars, but it’s a whole lot more meaningful in the long run.