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Image / Living / Culture

Angelina Jolie is right when it comes to speaking about work/life ‘balance’ for women


by Jennifer McShane
24th Apr 2021
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She may live a life of privilege, but Angelina Jolie's post-divorce comments about her home and work-life balance are striking in that they are not surprising at all.

Separations and breakups are never easy and if you’re a Hollywood superstar, they are frequently messy. There likely wasn’t a person in the world who did not read the tabloid reports detailing the split of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in 2016. Their divorce has been ongoing for five years, obviously made more complicated due to the fact that the couple has six children together.

There was a he said/she said scenario in the media, both gave interviews soon after. Jolie remained dignified and tight-lipped (even to Vanity Fair) and Pitt’s GQ profile depicted a struggling loner abandoned by a family he adored. There were reports of behaviour on Pitt’s part which prompted  Jolie to make the break, and yet Pitt garnered much of the sympathy by media.

It’s only now that Jolie is sharing more details of her life without Pitt, suitably devoted to raising her family (it’s unclear, but it doesn’t sound like a co-parenting set up), in which she had to forgo her career ambitions to put her children first.

Uneven

From remembering birthdays to offering service with a smile, life has a layer of daily responsibility that is hardly discussed – one which falls disproportionately on women – that of emotional labour. And that’s before we talk about the actual labour of child-raising, which in a separation situation, is usually (though not always) left to the woman as well.

She revealed that a “change” in her family forced her to return to acting. The Oscar-winning actor and director will soon be seen in the action-thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, which marks one of Jolie’s rare starring roles in a movie.

Other than 2014’s Maleficent and its 2019 sequel, Jolie has largely worked behind the camera in the past decade, having directed films such as UnbrokenFirst They Killed My Father and By the Sea, having frequently made it known that she wanted to continue to pursue work behind the camera, as opposed to in front of it.

Pitt had more freedom to go and reinvent his own career, which worked well for him even with the allegations which reportedly led to the separation; he was able to tackle a challenging role with director Quentin Tarantino in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, and the take on a hectic, fairly relentless award show campaign to ultimately win his first acting Oscar.

Things for Jolie have been different in these five years. She’s stayed out of the spotlight, by and large, because she really had no choice but to be.

“I love directing, but I had a change in my family situation that’s not made it possible for me to direct for a few years,” Jolie told Entertainment Weekly.

“I needed to just do shorter jobs and be home more, so I kind of went back to doing a few acting jobs. That’s really the truth of it.”

“The past few years have been pretty hard,” Jolie previously told British Vogue. “I’ve been focusing on healing our family. It’s slowly coming back, like the ice melting and the blood returning to my body.”

Jolie’s words are an all-too-familiar reminder that, if you’re a woman, generally speaking, a work/life balance is almost always impossible to achieve. You are sacrificing for the greater good and wellbeing of your family, but it’s a decision that men do not have to grapple with in the same way.

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