The XX Factor

Maybe Angelina Jolie Is Just Another Working Mom Tired of the Second Shift

She’s got this.


The #Brangelexit has already yielded a number of steamy theories: tales of on-set lust, substance-abuse, and totally unrelated discussions of French person Marion Cotillard. But what if the explanation is less tabloid cover and more just-like-us? What if Angelina Jolie isn’t so much a scorned wife as she is just another working mom, sick and tired of the second shift. A look at old interviews with the couple yields a fair amount of evidence that Brad Pitt’s co-parenting skills leave much to be desired.

In 2008, Pitt told Oprah about the laborious process of getting all their children in the car. “It’s like a half-an-hour just to get everyone buckled in and make sure they’ve got their snacks, and Z.Z. [Zahara, 3] has got a blanket and Shiloh’s got her silky … Angie’s militant about it. She’s right on top of it. Thank God, because I’m always forgetting something.” Thank God? Or thank Jolie and/or the patriarchy?

In 2012, Jolie explained to OK! Magazine that until the birth of her twins in 2008, she was the chief disciplinarian for their four children. “I used to be the tougher parent but since the birth of the twins, Brad’s had to play bad cop more often,” she said. “It also depends on which of the children we’re talking about. … I think I’m a little closer to the girls, maybe, but he’s always making them laugh.” Mom feels like the taskmaster while dad gets to be the fun one? I’ve definitely heard that one before.

In 2014, Jolie told the Mirror that “Brad is always encouraging me and willing to assume a lot of the parental duties.” Now this one is subtle, and perhaps entirely a result of poor word choice. But the combination of “encouraging” and “willing” sure makes it sound like Jolie was the primary caretaker and designated worrier, and that Pitt assumed hero status whenever he temporarily relieved her of these duties.

And in 2015, Pitt praised Jolie in the WSJ Magazine for her indefatigability and maternal dedication. “When Angie has a day off, the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out. This is the most important ‘to do’ of the day. No matter how tired she might be, she plans outings for each and all. She has an incredible knack for inventing crazy experiences for them, something new, something fresh,” he says. “I may be the bigger goof of the pair, but she invents the stage.” Did you know that the biggest difference in tiredness between the sexes occurs during the child-rearing years, and the gender gap in fatigue decreases substantially as people, and their children, grow older? I suspect that Jolie would have loved to occasionally sleep in on her days off, but there’s no rest for the weary when the wearys’ husbands rely on them to “invent the stage.”

While it’s indisputable that Jolie’s wealth eases the burden of domestic and care work—something she’s acknowledged before—ultimately neither her fortune nor fame shield her from the unremitting emotional and logistical demands of parenting. Anyone committed to providing love and structure for their family will, at some point, be overwhelmed by what that entails. What convinced me of Jolie’s deep sense of responsibility to her children, and her reluctance to outsource all aspects of caretaking, was her praise for what my friends and I call the “mom workcation” in a 2010 interview. “You get spoiled on a film set and in some ways it’s easier to be working long hours on a movie than taking care of a large family just because you do get very tired at the end of the day,” she said.

Jolie’s fight for full custody (with visitation for Brad) implies that no matter how exhausting she finds parenting, she believes she would be better off doing it more-or-less alone. And if she’s already been doing much of it on her own anyway, and, importantly, can afford babysitters for whenever she can’t, then what’s the difference? It will be much easier to just figure out the summer camp schedule and book pediatrician appointments herself than to have to continually check-in with her allegedly stoner bro husband to see if he has managed to get around to it yet.

Read more in Slate about #Brangelexit.