All together now, please, ladies: “Motherhood is my greatest role. My children are the center of my life.” Last night, at the Oscars, it was Natalie Portman spouting the party line so often offered by everyone from, well, Natalie Portman to Michelle Obama . I’ve complained about this before , and I stand by it-every time a powerful woman downplays her other achievements as inferior to her maternal status, she feeds the doubt that still pursue working mothers at every end of the spectrum: Will she really take her work seriously or will she put her children first? Children are wonderful, family fantastic, but, as Salon ‘s Mary Elizabeth Williams asks, “Is reproduction automatically the greatest thing Natalie Portman will do with her life? ”
But I find myself wanting to cut Natalie some slack. She’s pregnant, after all. It was an Oscar speech. It was a cute way to slide her fiance and baby-father into her list of those being thanked, and if a few grinch-y celebrity watchers doubt the permanency of the star’s commitment to her choreographer, well, they’re just a bunch of meanies, that’s all. As for impending motherhood, the “greatest role” of her life? Let her have her babymoon. Soon enough, she’ll be frantically trying to figure out exactly what “putting your kids first” really means in the context of a career, just like thousands of women before her (only, of course, as HuffPo pointed out in including “Movie Star” on its tongue-in-cheek list of the 100 Best Jobs for Moms , with a trainer and a crack team of nannies at her call). Maybe she’ll always feel like motherhood is her greatest role. But it probably won’t be her last.