Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied appeared in photos on the first day of school, both without their rings. After their reported split last month, after allegations in June that Benjamin had an affair with climate activist Camille Etienne, which Lainey touched on here, the pair appears to be estranged and have not been seen with their rings in recent weeks.


It didn’t stop them from joining forces to accompany their children, Aleph and Amalia, on their morning walk to school in Paris, taking their phones out and snapping first day photos before being pictured walking back to an apartment they are still thought to be sharing. You can see those photos here. Despite being all smiles when the kids were around, the photos of the pair’s walk back home tell a different story. 

As someone who just navigated the first day of school with an ex for the third year in a row, I can relate. I know the awkwardness, the tension, and perhaps most of all, the pressure - the pressure to appear cool as a cucumber so as to not disrupt your kid’s first day, when inside, you’re feeling a lot of things.

That being said, the part I can’t relate to is the pressure celebrities in particular face when they have to navigate coparenting in the public eye. Especially when you’re a person who has been as quiet and private as Natalie has been, even more so after becoming a mom. 


We’ve seen great successes when it comes to celebrity coparenting from former couples including Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon, Will Kopelman and Drew Barrymore, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs, Zooey Deschanel and Jacob Pechenik, and of course, the very couple that coined the famous term “conscious uncoupling”, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

I think what makes Natalie’s case different is the reason for the split. An affair is a betrayal like no other. An affair with a much younger woman that you’ve reportedly been meeting with at your office, though, well that adds an extra layer. And having to swallow your true feelings about it, or at least mask them to not be the “messy” celebrity family can be stifling. Being amicable with someone who did you dirty is incredibly difficult, especially when you have to do it under pressure and in a public setting.


One thing I’ve learned through my coparenting journey is that it’s not for the weak. It requires a sense of maturity that I didn’t know I had. But more than maturity, coparenting requires the ability to forgive. And though Natalie may very well have not forgiven him just yet, she is doing the noble thing of putting on a brave face and appearing as unbothered as possible knowing that all eyes are on them.

Given the newness of their apparent split (like, it’s so new that they haven’t even figured out their living arrangements), I can’t imagine the difficulty of all of this. But I can absolutely understand where she draws her power from – and it’s her kids.

Lately, I’ve been documenting my coparenting experience on TikTok, where I have found a community of incredibly supportive women experiencing difficulty coparenting with exes. My loose discovery, based solely on the comment sections of these videos, is that women tend to be more likely than men to have a willingness to separate their personal issues for the sake of their child, which is what we see Natalie doing here.


I’ve written before about the importance of decentering men, and how empowering it can be to throw caution to the wind and just do your own thing without thinking about how any given man in your life will respond, feel or react. And while I hope that sometime in the near future, Natalie decenters her husband, right now, she’s doing what so many moms have to do sometimes, and that’s decenter themselves. She’s ensuring that whatever feelings she may have about her husband’s alleged discretions do not overshadow her responsibility to her children as their mom. And so many women can relate to this.

Despite the fact that her children will have access to the details about their marriage, because, you know, the internet, I hope they’ll understand the magnitude of her sacrifice. And the power that it takes to put your kids first, and decenter yourself.

Attached - Natalie speaking at the IAA Conference a few days ago in Germany.