Helpful Advice for Working Moms

The benevolent and generous Gwyneth Paltrow has magnanimously dedicated the latest issue of her "GOOP" newsletter—a revoltingly indulgent project in which she explains to the average peasant how very easy it is to be beautiful, fashionable, cultured, thin, and healthy, if only you put in a little effort, geez—to bestow upon her grotty but fortunate readers precious knowledge about "finding a good balance between having a career and being a mom."

After passing on advice from her two friends, millionaire venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny and millionaire fashion designer Stella McCartney, two TOTALLY TYPICAL working moms, Gwyneth, another TOTALLY TYPICAL working mom, recounts "a random one of my more manic days from last November," followed by her own words of advice.

Listen and learn, Shakers. There's an expert about to drop some mad expertise on our asses.
Gwyneth’s day on November 4th, 2010:

When I got downstairs this morning at the crack of whenever, the coffee machine said “ERROR 8” and wouldn’t let me make the cup I had been dreaming about. This begs the question: is it odd to dream yourself to sleep thinking about the next morning’s coffee? Not a good beginning. Got Apple all fed and dressed in her uniform and ready to go but no sign nor sight of Moses at 8 am and we have to be out of the house by 8:20. I went up to arouse the little man from slumber and he quite happily got up and crawled into my arms. We got downstairs and I made him a quick breakfast of eggs and toast followed by a spoonful of lemon flavored flax oil that I try to remember to give them both every morning. Getting everyone into the car on time was a challenge; we’re going through a phase where no one seems to be responding to me (“Time to put on your shoes” … No response.) It is the school Christmas toy drive deadline today so before jumping into the car, we pack up and finish decorating the shoe boxes with toys, toothbrushes, hats, scarves, books, etc, for the school Christmas toy drive. Once the kids really understand that the toys go to children around the world who will not be as fortunate as they are this year, they very sweetly take trips to the playroom adding their own toys and books to the boxes. Somehow managed to get to school just as the old-fashioned bell rang. Moses was a bit teary today so I hung around and watched him through the window. Periodically he would check to make sure I was still there. When all was well I dodged off as fast as possible but was still late to the 9 am workout. Did dance aerobics for 45 minutes then all of the butt lifts and the like. Rushed upstairs to have a shower, doing my post workout stretch while the conditioner was doing its magic on my hair to combine activities/save time. Dressed quickly and rushed downstairs. On a less manic day, this would be my couple of hours in the office to work on GOOP, come up with ideas, write/edit and go over scheduling, travel, whatever else I have going but I have no time so I just pop the old cabeza in to see if there are any deadlines or fires that need putting out. When I am given the all clear I rush out the door, headed to rehearse with a band to prepare for the Country Music Awards which are just a week away. I’ve never performed live before so I’m preparing for this as if it were the Superbowl, which, in it’s own way, it is. I’ve been having voice lessons with my teacher, Carrie Grant, every day and rehearsing with an amazing London-based band. This will be my fourth and shortest rehearsal of the week, as the day is so full, but I am excited to get in there and see everyone. Had to do my vocal exercises/warmups in the car, sooo not a good look. Fellow drivers looked on a bit bewildered. Rehearsed with the band from 11:30 to 12:30 and then scooted back out to the car and had kind of a big interview on the phone while trying to subtly check/reply to well-overdue email. Got home and had a fitting with super stylist Elizabeth Saltzman for the upcoming Nashville trip (what to wear, what to wear?) from 1-2. This is my 4th out of 5 fittings for this trip. We tried on a myriad of dresses and outfits, and I had b.o. by the end of it from wrestling with all of those dresses. I have six looks I need to choose for the trip; there’s the radio press conference upon arrival, the red carpet for the Country Strong premier, press interviews, a Sony Music VIP dinner, the red carpet for the CMA’s and the outfit for my performance! We manage to finalize all of the looks for the (very nerve wracking) trip. At 2 pm I head into my office with a nice cup of tea for two hours of phone interviews. I am doing lots of these this week, but today’s session is only two hours. I call country radio station after country radio station speaking to some of the nicest and friendliest DJ’s on the planet. Thursday is the one day of the week that I do not pick my kids up after school. They go straight to an activity and I am able to really maximize work stuff. I always feel a bit guilty (obviously) about it, but it means I can focus fully on them when they get home instead of trying to do two things at once. At 4pm, my weekly owners' and managers' call takes place for the Tracy Anderson Method with our brilliant CEO Stephanie Stahl taking the lead. I basically listen and try to learn. Kiddies burst through the door and play in my office while I finish up, just drawing and hanging out and of course playing Plants vs Zombies on the iPad, their obsession that I have to limit like crazy! What up, gamers. Then downstairs to make cupcakes for tomorrow’s bake sale. It is ‘Bonfire night’ in the UK tomorrow and the bake sale is to celebrate and to raise money for charity. We decide on vanilla cupcakes with pink icing and green icing (from Tate’s Bakeshop cookbook with the icing from American Desserts cookbook). At 6:30 pm we all get in the bath and it’s hair washing night for the kids (every other night—never popular). Then back downstairs to check on cupcakes and have a visit from an auntie and uncle. The kids indulge in a super sugary cupcake before bed but I don’t feel too bad because they had a brown rice stir fry for dinner with baked sweet potato on the side. It’s all about balance! My night to lay with Mosey so I tuck Apple in, say a prayer and go into Mosey's room for a story, foot massage and quiet time. As soon as all was quiet, I rushed downstairs to grab a blazer and some blush and flung myself in the car for girls night. Lovely dinner and great conversation. 11:29 pm now, exhausted and ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Gwyneth’s time saving tips:

1. Schedule your time well. When I know what I am doing from hour to hour I get more done. Write it all in the day’s calendar, what you want to accomplish and in what time frame.
2. Focus on the task at hand. Be thorough.
3. I cook a lot, especially on the weekends, so I like to plan a rough menu for the whole weekend and get the food in on Friday. Obviously stores and websites that deliver make this a dream. In London I use Ocado. Also James Knight, my favorite fishmonger, will deliver. Having all of the ingredients means I'm prepared even when I don't think I am.
4. I always lay the kids uniforms and school things out the night before once they are asleep. When it’s quiet I can check the "kid list" for show and tell items to bring in, consent forms, ballet kit, etc, so that the morning is less of a scramble.
5. The school run is a great time to return calls (in whichever direction that the kids are not in the car) so don't forget your hands-free device.
6. DO NOT waste time hitting the return bar. Ever. Added up over a lifetime, the time the average working mother spends hitting the return bar can mean nearly six hours that could have been spent doing butt lifts and the like.

7. If you don't have a hands-free device, a good alternative is a personal driver.

8. Be rich. I can't recommend this enough. It also helps if you are very, very famous. I strongly advise against working a job with a rigid schedule or making less money than allows you to be able to quit working for the rest of your life at any time.

9. Be white and straight and cisgender and able-bodied and beautiful. THIS SAVES SO MUCH TIME! People who are not these things have to spend ridiculous amounts of time convincing people they are even human! Definitely not advisable for a mom on the go.

10. If your favorite fishmonger doesn't deliver, send one of your servants to pick up the fish.


Seriously, all I could do while reading this is laugh and laugh and laugh. It's literally the best satire on privilege that I have ever read, the only catch being that it's not actually satire.

Look, I don't begrudge Gwyneth Paltrow treating going to the gym and getting fitted for dresses as a necessity, given the industry in which she works, which makes demands on her to maintain her appearance that I couldn't be arsed to oblige even if I'd been born looking like Gwyneth Paltrow in the first place. It's not what she's doing that I find hilarious: It's the fact that she reports all of this shit without seemingly even the tiniest, infinitesimal speck of awareness about what a ludicrously privileged lady she is.

And she thinks that she's laying some real solid advice on the working moms of the hoi polloi.

If she thinks getting b.o. from wrestling with dresses is terrible, she ought to talk to the women who sit in sweatshops stitching them together. Is all I'm saying.

And this sort of aspirational garbage that disappears the reality of the vast majority of women in this country, not to mention the rest of the world, isn't just insufferable; it's part and parcel of reinforcing the narratives of marginalization. Martha Stewart, Oprah, Gwyneth...there's this whole industry of women with relative privilege exhorting less privileged women to aspire to opulence and indulgence, to consume and achieve and reach for this very specific idea of a very specific kind of perfection, which will naturally always remain out of reach, taunting its pursuers with the incessant reminder that they don't measure up, that they aren't good enough.

There's nothing revolutionary, or particularly helpful, about privileged women telling less privileged women, "You should be just like ME!" If Gwyneth wants to do something to help women, she could try listening to women who don't have lives like hers and finding a way to convey from her vast platform that their voices and experiences are valuable, too.

[H/T to Gabe.]

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