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Michelle Pfeiffer Shows Women How To Gracefully Re-Enter Careers After Kids


The Huffington Post has dubbed 2017 the year of Michelle Pfeiffer. With those piercing blue eyes, ageless sex appeal, and “that white gold,” Michelle Pfeiffer is making a comeback with three upcoming films and a television role after taking years off and reserving others for minor projects to raise her kids.

In an era when feminists are encouraging women to put off having children in pursuit of career, Pfeiffer has defied such advice and come out on top. Other women should feel free to follow suit.

In an interview with Interview Magazine, the gorgeous mom says, “I’ve never lost my love for acting. I feel really at home on the movie set. I’m a more balanced person honestly when I’m working. But I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids’ schedule. And I got so picky that I was unhirable. And then … I don’t know, time just went on. And now, you know, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I’m more open now, my frame of mind, because I really want to work now, because I can. And these last few years I’ve had some really interesting opportunities.”

Where Michelle Pfeiffer Went for 20 Years

Pfeiffer, who adopted a daughter and birthed a son back-to-back in 1993 and 1994, starred in a string of hits, but no more than three a year, until 2002’s acclaimed “White Oleander.” After that Pfeiffer took long breaks, doing only minimal work.

Some were hits, many were duds, but the last time we’ve seen her in anything was 2013’s “The Family.” I applaud her choice to be “pickier” about her work as an actress so she could be physically and emotionally present when her children were young, realizing there would be a time and opportunity to pick up work again when they got older.

Who can argue with Pfeiffer’s choice? Now, on the other side of her children’s youngest years, not only is it her and her family’s to make, it sounds—wait for it—perfectly reasonable and balanced. Huffington Post praised the actress’s choices, tweeting, “Roll out the Michelle Pfeiffer Welcome-Back Mat.”

They Applaud Michelle Pfeiffer, But Not You

As nuanced as Pfeiffer sounds and as much as liberals applaud her choices, this isn’t the typical path Hollywood elites or progressives (but I repeat myself) typically embrace for “average” women. The last five years have seen a slew of think pieces and studies showing women, particularly millennial women, are putting off having children in favor of pursuing their careers, and a large part of that is our cultural narratives pushing them to do so. In 2015, The Daily Mail ran a piece entitled “We Don’t Regret Having Our Babies At 50.”

Public opinion on when to have babies and start a career is split, too. A 2015 Pew Research poll said 36 percent think women will reach a top position at work if they have kids earlier while 40 percent said a woman’s chances at that are better if she puts career first and has kids later.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Sheryl Sandberg said four years after the publication of her book “Lean In” that women still aren’t better off primarily because they’re not in leadership positions: “In terms of women in leadership roles, we are not better off. We are stuck at less than 6% of the Fortune 500 CEO jobs and their equivalent in almost every country in the world. There were 19 countries run by women when Lean In was published. Today there are 11. Congressional numbers have inched up a tiny bit. And so, overall, we are not seeing a major increase in female leadership in any industry or in any government in the world, and I think that’s a shame.”

One could be generous and yield the point that there’s still some catching up for women to do in the workforce. After all, women have only been attempting to climb the corporate ladder since the late 1950’s at best. Still, women in America enjoy more gender parity in the workforce than women do in any other developed country. Might the reason be that women aren’t in “leadership roles” because they often don’t pursue them—on purpose? Perhaps, like Pfeiffer, they were “picky” in their career choice because they had dual interests and goals: Raise children and enjoy a particular calling.

It All Comes Down to What Women Want

There’s often a study to prove every viewpoint. The choice to embark on a career, put it on the back burner to raise and enjoy children, then resume said career again, as Pfeiffer has done, is not just the best of both worlds, but often a blend of what many mothers—and even fathers—want.

State Department honcho Anne-Marie Slaughter became a household name to every professional woman struggling to balance career and motherhood, due to her landmark yet controversial 2012 essay in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” She was tough on society’s role in what she thought amounted to holding women back from the equality they deserved. As her name recognition skyrocketed due to the essay and she ended up traveling to promote her ideas, however, gradually her mind changed.

In her subsequent book “Unfinished Business” and when I heard her speak at last year’s National Book Festival in Washington DC, she had clearly become much more nuanced and respectful of caregivers, not just full-time employees, saying the former is often dismissed. “One of the things we want to move past,” Slaughter said at the festival, “is the idea of having it all. It makes women sound selfish. We live in a time when people want to have enough.” Slaughter said instead of wondering how we can have it all, the question should be, “How can men and women live in a way we can fit the most important things together?”

In a Washington Post article on Slaughter, whose husband has always performed the lion’s share of parenting and household duties, she admits she would have given up some responsibilities of work to be with her children more. “Knowing what I know now, I wish I had taken one day a week when they were between 0 and 5 to be with them. I could have said, ‘Every Friday, instead of day care, every Friday is a mom day.’ We would have done fun things. It would have mattered. And it would have been a pleasure for me.”

Pausing or even halting a career to raise kids isn’t a sign that women can’t have a great career or that they’re giving up on feminism’s ultimate goal. Instead, it’s a more balanced approach to two things in life moms can’t have back: time and young children. Welcome back, Michelle Pfeiffer: Fans may have missed you, but your kids didn’t—and you are free to make that your priority.