Jennifer Garner was recently voted Celebrity Mother of the Year by Today’s Parent Magazine. We can now vote on good parenting, as if it’s a singing competition or best dressed list. Motherhood has become such an intricate part of celebrity culture that it should be commoditized, like a beauty contract or perfume, packaged as an extension of an actress’s career.
The magazine says that Garner won by a landslide, then goes on to list the reasons why Jennifer Garner has hit the sweet spot of being both aspirational and relatable. In a time when people cry for “the good old days,” Jen is a very simple, Kennedy-esque idealization of a devoted wife and mother.
Here are a few key standouts from the list of why Jen is top mom:
She had a Baby Boy: Um… is that all it takes? Giving birth to a male? I don’t know if anyone should get credit for the gender of their baby and 99.9% of parents will say they don’t care what the gender is (one of the few parenting clichés that is actually heartfelt and true) but ok, let’s applaud her for making that happen.
Handsome Hubby/In Love: A husband who is totally devoted and definitely has never ever had an affair with a co-star in her early 20s. Oh, and Ben should actually be grateful to Jennifer helping him reshape his career.
Best Dressed: I think Lainey has covered this extensively. And what does how you dress have to do with how good of a mother you are?
Inspiring: Because she shops at farmer’s markets. Do you buy your food at a grocery store, you loser?
Fabulous at 40: Ugh.
Real Motherhood: She admits to being exhausted at times (as opposed to all the non-famous fake mothers out there, who are well-rested).
Star Mom: However fantastic her personal life is, Jen’s career is not white hot right now, and that’s probably because she’s helping her husband’s campaign. I wish they would have given her points for being shrewd.
She’s crafty: Because we are all supposed to be able to whip up a beautiful bouquet with peonies plucked from our garden and hand-stiched gingham ribbon. If you didn’t curate it, monogram it and pin it, it doesn’t count.
Family girl: Being photographed with your family is undeniable proof that you spend time with your family.
Loves motherhood: As opposed to hating motherhood?
I would definitely not make a mother of the year list. I took my kid to see Santa too late in the month, and the line was really long, and when Santa walked by my son wasn’t the least bit interested, so we left. In 20 years will he be like, “Where is my 2012 Santa photo?! I hate you! You ruined my life!” Maybe, but I will calmly explain that the line was three hours long. And then I’ll probably say something really insensitive like “get over it” because he’s 20 and crying over a photo of Santa.
So I’m no Jennifer Garner. But as much as she cultivates this image, it only works because there is a hunger for moms to see someone like Jen as a beacon of having it all. You don’t ever get the feeling that Jennifer Garner hides in the bathroom with her laptop or calls her friend and says “These sh-theads are driving me crazy today.”
Is Jen obligated to show us anything other than a happy face when she’s being photographed? No, she’s made it part of her job to play the role of doting wife and mother – but we also shouldn’t ascribe sainthood to her based on photo assumption. We are doing a huge disservice to ourselves – and other moms – when we do that.
Instead of being like, wow, my single-mother neighbor spends hours teaching her son to ride a bike in the freezing cold, she’s a great mom, we swoon over photos of Jennifer Garner at the farmer’s market with her kids. I met a friend of Lainey’s at her Christmas party who was so concerned with her kids’ media intake that she completely cut it off in her household. They have no TV, no video games, nothing. For months. I think every parent would threaten this, but how many have the wherewithal to go through with it? That’s a mom of the year candidate.
The runners up on the list (like it’s a beauty pageant) include Reese Witherspoon, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson (because of her weight loss “struggle,” which has nothing to do with what kind of parent she is) and Jessica Alba, because she’s showing you an enlightened way to wipe your kid’s ass.
Interesting that all but Alba have had children this year (man, her pimp game is tight) and there are NO single moms or families with adoption on that list (both prominent in Hollywood). Way to promote diversity, Today’s Parent Magazine.
Also interesting who is left off: Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock, Katie Holmes, Katherine Heigl, Megan Fox, Hilary Duff, Posh, Sienna Miller, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few.
Are they all good mothers? Sure, probably. Who knows? How is that something that can be judged by an interview or a photo-op at the pumpkin patch? And who can be deemed a judge of this? Is just having a uterus sufficient, or do you have to have a kid? Is one enough, or do you need minimum two, like the car pool lane?
At least they make it easy for us to decide who is worthy of adoration; when it comes to captivating the mom demographic, celebrities have become downright formulaic in their approach. You can do it too: Be photographed with your kids doing fun things (gymnastics, dance class, soccer games) and looking put together but never dressed up; tell people that motherhood is the mostamazingfulfilingsublimeincredible thing to ever happen to you but sometimes you are sleep deprived – just be sure not to complain too much or talk about anything too serious because nobody likes a downer; say that you want to keep working but you will always put your family first; volunteer with a child and/or mother-friendly charity (not mandatory); always have a “relatable” antidote at the ready to show how real you are (poo or pee stories go over well), and of course never, ever talk about your childcare.
For good measure, feed your kid an organic diet (and feel free to talk about it incessantly), schedule regular blowouts, manicures and facials (but remember the aim is to look like you never get manicures, facials or blowouts), meet with a stylist to pick out your “school run” clothes, and work out so that you have a nice post-baby body but don’t get so skinny that you alienate other women. See, it’s easy. When in doubt, consult the blueprint Hollywood has so generously laid out for us and you’ll be fine.
Attached -- Jennifer Garner with Violet Affleck doing some last minute shopping yesterday at Fred Segal.