Drew Barrymore – Putting Parenthood First

Posted on April 12, 2013


Drew Barrymore isn’t the first or last new mother to conclude that women “can’t have it all.”  But if a high-powered, successful woman married to a high-powered, successful husband can’t “have it all,” can anyone?

Drew Barrymore is a riches-to-rags-to-riches Hollywood story all her own.  The granddaughter of the famous John Barrymore, she had a successful career as  a child star, then a troubled “wild child” period which saw her opportunities stagnate, and she ultimately went on to found her own production company, to direct, to star, to model, to support various charities.

And then… to marry and have a child.

Now, Ms. Barrymore says that she has had to give up a lot to be a parent.  As she tells Allison Takeda for Us Weekly:

Things have to go and that’s unfortunate…  There’s sometimes things you’ve invested a lot of time into or cared so much about, and you get to the precipice and you’re like, ‘I can’t do it,’ because I won’t do everything else well or I will miss out on this or I need to be over here now…I think it’s a lot about sacrifice….  I know it seems like I do everything, but there’s so much I had to give up, and I’m glad I did…. Unfortunately, I was raised in this generation of, ‘Women can have it all,’ and I don’t think you can.  I think some things fall off the table.  The good news is, what does stay on the table becomes much more important.

Ms. Barrymore certainly is not lacking for financial resources; she and her husband could easily afford day care, nannies, the works.  But instead, she is choosing to cut back significantly on her professional life to focus on her child.  She went on to say that she’s not out for good; when her daughter is older, Ms. Barrymore plans to devote more time to her work.

This is such a typical pattern for women.  Ms. Barrymore’s comments emphasize that whether a woman is single or married or in a relationship, whether she is wealthy or middle-class or poor – that same basic truth emerges:  you can’t have it all.  Oh, sure, Ms. Barrymore could easily have paid for a live-in nanny while she devoted long hours and weekends and trips away from home to her career; but then all those hours and weekends and trips away wouldn’t be spent raising her daughter, and that’s the tradeoff.

I really think women were sold a false bill of goods with the “Women’s Lib” movement.  Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful that I live in 20th/21st-century America, where women actually have choices, but that’s just it:  Women’s Lib is about being able to choose, about having options other than a life of domestic drudgery and dependence on a man’s income.  It’s not literally doing everything all at once.  How is that a good deal?

“Having it all” – at least, all at once – is impossible because, as we have written previously, there is only one you and only 24 hours in a day.  Sure, you can keep your job as a new parent, but every hour at work is one not spent with Baby, and vice versa.  Every time a parent drops their work and rushes out the door to deal with a sick child, you can bet that their career takes a hit, even if only a subtle one.  And that’s not just a woman’s problem; I know my single-parent Dad’s career suffered because of his divided attention, too.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how single parents manage it at all.  Back to only having one you and 24 hours in a day… well… without a partner to take up some slack, the pressure is 100% on you.

I applaud our era of choices, and I know that many people end up as working parents or single parents due to unforeseen circumstance.  But personally – I feel the way Ms. Barrymore does.   I would not want to be an “absentee parent,” dropping my infant in day care every day to be raised by a rotating cast of institutional caregivers.   I don’t think that single parenthood, or two working parents, should be a goal in itself.

As Barrymore remarked:  “You know that you’re going to miss out on your child’s upbringing or you realize that your relationship is going to suffer if you work night and day and weekends.”

I completely agree.


Related articles:

I Never Wanted to Be a Mommy

On Single Parenthood