Jennifer Ginsberg: I just watched an episode of "True Hollywood Story" that featured Kelly Ripa. After spending an hour listening to her friends and colleagues rave about her ambition, talent, and ability to balance 16-hour workdays with being a mom to three young children, my greatest question was not answered.
How much help do you really have, Ms. Ripa? How many nannies, night-nurses, doulas, chefs, assistants, dog walkers, stylists, and spiritual gurus does it take for you to get through a single, effing day? Because after watching the program last night, I was led to believe that you get up at 4 AM, spend the next 8 hours taping "Live," then hop in a car to get across town to tape your Sitcom/Soap Opera Du Jour, all while balancing three children in your two arms without any help.
The myth that you can somehow balance your extraordinarily hectic life with being a mom without batting an eye only makes all us other moms feel inadequate. You pride yourself on being able to connect to "regular folk," and you are marketed as a Jersey girl from a blue-collar family with old-fashioned values and a solid work ethic. How about getting honest with all of your fans and telling us the truth about what it really takes to make your life work? The idea that you are able to "do it all," while looking impossibly perfect and thin, only distances you from the women you are attempting to connect with.
So spill it, Kelly. Tell us the ugly truth. I want to know what it feels like to not see your children for days on end. How you cope with the guilt of not being able to tuck them in at night. How hard it is on your marriage. How scared and conflicted you are about the choices you made. I think you are brave enough to drop the "perfect woman" act and let your fans catch a glimpse of the real you.
Or perhaps, Ms. Ripa shouldn't fess up to her fans. Maybe we need her image of perfection to inspire us to be our most vivacious, ambitious, and skinniest selves. If Kelly would occasionally act grumpy and look like a schlep, we would have to acknowledge her for the mere mortal she really is. Our culture seems to need a Super Woman Archetype in order to give us something to aspire toward. Is Kelly Ripa our measuring stick -- our means of assessing our progress -- as we strive toward achieving feminine utopia? She is so accomplished, so upbeat, so beautiful, so thin. And a loving wife and devoted mom to boot! Maybe, just maybe, if we were more disciplined, focused, and positive, then we could be one fraction of what the flawless Kelly Ripa is so effortlessly.
But whenever I look at Kelly, I think "the brighter the light the darker the shadow," a concept developed by Jung in his work as a psychologist. As young children, we are taught what parts of ourselves are safe to express to the outside world, and what parts of ourselves we need to hide. As women and moms, we believe we need to hide our fears, insecurities, ambivalence, and struggles. We are terrified that we may come across as ungrateful for our children or selfish if we dare express an authentic emotion.
The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. The more I need to present a persona of perfection and control to the world, the more anxious and conflicted I become. The more I need to show you what a great mom I am, how "OK" I am, how unaffected I am by fear, insecurity, and sadness, the more likely that these very emotions will isolate and overwhelm me.
What does all this have to do with Kelly Ripa? I am concerned about her maniacally running around all day, from activity to activity, without taking a break to adequately rest and feed her body. But I am more concerned that this is the female that we have chosen to deify. A woman who is deeply invested in looking perfect to the outside world, no matter what the cost. A woman who so clearly subjugates her own basic needs so she can always appear in control.
Perhaps it is time for us to find some new female role models who truly balance caring for their own needs while caring for their children. Women who look like real women, not misogynistic caricatures of what a woman should look like.
As Jung said, "I would rather be whole than good."
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles writer and mother to three, surprisingly angst-free children. As a former actress/waitress, turned clinical social worker specializing in addiction, turned full-time mother/part-time psychotherapist/writer, Jennifer is particularly well-versed on the topic of angst.|
Find out more about her life at angstmom.com