Skip to comments.When men turn clucky
Posted on 01/15/2005 12:00:08 PM PST by qam1
It reportedly split Brad and Jennifer - he wanted a baby and she didn't. Cosima Marriner reports on the male push for parenthood.
If you believe the pages and pages of newsprint that have been devoted to the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston split, it would seem their marriage crumbled in the face of the career-versus-kids dilemma. The way the gossip magazines tell it, the 41-year-old Hollywood hunk just wanted to be a dad, but his glamorous 35-year-old wife was more interested in being a movie star.
Of course no outsider knows what causes a relationship to end - least of all when it involves a celebrity couple - but the Brad and Jen bust-up has opened up a new frontier in the work and family debate.
Is Pitt the poster boy for a new generation of clucky men who are keen to start a family, but can't convince their partner to press pause on her career for babies? Or is the pitter-patter of little feet still heard loudest by women?
Men today want to be more involved fathers than previous generations, and develop close bonds with their children like those women have traditionally enjoyed.
"More men these days define fatherhood in terms of being involved, care-taking, a nurturing father - rather than just bringing home the bacon," says Michael Flood, a research fellow at the Australia Institute. "Gone are the days of fathers being emotionally remote, the disciplinarian."
Neer Korn, a director of the social trends research company Heartbeat Trends, believes men have realised the folly of devoting themselves to their employer at the expense of their family. They've watched their own fathers invest all their time and energy in a job, only to find themselves retrenched at 50 and a stranger to their families.
"Loyalty to work is dead," Korn says. "Increasingly people are recognising what's really important is having children."
The editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Mia Freedman, agrees, noting that many men are reassessing what makes a successful life. She is aware of an expanding group of men married to high-powered career women and happy to be the partner who stays home and looks after the babies.
"There is definitely a new breed of men who do want to step off the career track and experience a different lifestyle," she says.
But at the same time, women are growing more attached to their careers. As the former Microsoft Australia boss and author of Fathertime, Daniel Petre, puts it: "The man is saying, 'I feel like having kids', and the woman is saying: 'Yeah, and who is going to give up their career?' "
Although most women still want to have children, it's not the priority it once was. Parenting often now comes second to personal aspirations, according to Anne Hollonds, from Relationships Australia.
"In the past you would find a relationship and build your life around that," she says. "Relationships now need to enhance whatever your chosen goals are for yourself."
Not every woman dreams of having a child. "Not every woman wants to give up her life and drop everything when the man decides his sperm is ready for action," Freedman says..
Women are increasingly wary of the sacrifices and compromises having a family entails. A 2003 survey of university students in Melbourne revealed women feared becoming a mother would limit their career, income and lifestyle.
"They were worried about being the housekeeper like their mother was," Flood explains. "The traditional trade-off where the man is the breadwinner and the woman stays at home with the kids is less attractive to a growing number of women."
Petre blames employers for the perception that work and family don't mix. "Most companies don't allow women to have careers and have children."
He tells the story of the chief executive who didn't want to let women returning from maternity leave work part-time. Petre spent some time trying to convince this person such a move would benefit the firm, to which the executive eventually responded: "If we let women do that, then men might want to do it as well."
The Sydney MP and Labor's spokeswoman on work and family issues, Tanya Plibersek, says companies need to strive to provide extra maternity leave and flexible working conditions.
"I certainly do think women have children with the assumption that there will be negative consequences in their professional lives," says Plibersek, who is expecting her second child next month.
Meanwhile, men are prone to starry-eyed visions of parenthood. Research has shown they tend to overestimate the positive aspects of having children and underestimate the negative.
"Among young men there are certain kinds of idealised notions of pregnancy and parenthood," Flood says. "Lots of men do face a very real shock when they become fathers in the sense it is very hard work."
And women doubt the burden will be shared equally. Generation X men (those born between 1965 and 1979) surveyed last year described themselves as willing helpers, but still considered domestic management the province of their partners.
"Most men talk about their commitment to shared parenting and domestic work, but when it comes to the crunch, they're still doing less than their partners," Flood says.
Hollonds is certain there are men out there who, like Pitt, are having difficulty finding a woman with whom they can start a family. Career issues aside, she says this is partly due to the unrealistic expectations of both sexes.
Women, particularly, have become more picky when choosing a mate, as they no longer need to rely on a man to support them. There is a tendency for women to want to "marry up" - which cuts out many men who may make good fathers. "There is more selectivity and higher expectations, so this means some men and women may miss out on having a child," Hollonds says.
Remaining childless is not often a conscious choice, Hollonds believes. "Some women find it hard to find the right time to have children ... They put it off, put it off, until they find they've left it too long. It's not making a decision, it's circumstances."
But for every Jennifer Aniston who holds off starting a family, there are a thousand Gwyneth Paltrows - women who decide that the career must take a back seat for a while. The 32-year-old Paltrow - Pitt's ex-girlfriend - is taking only minor roles to spend time with her daughter, Apple, who was born in May.
Korn argues that having children remains a mutual desire of both sexes. He says that by 30, men and women want to have achieved at least two out of three things - a home, a career, a partner. The assumption is that children will follow. "For people in their mid-to-late 30s, having children really is their priority," Korn says.
And despite all the agonising over sacrifices and timing, it is still women who instigate starting a family.
"I've never met a man who's said 'I'm absolutely ready, let's go,' " Freedman says. "It's usually the woman. Women generally push life to its next stage - moving in, getting engaged, marriage, having kids. Men are much more cruisy."
Flood agrees. "Women are more socialised to reflect on parenting relationships and their future in terms of being a mother. Young men reflect much more on work and having sex with as many supermodels as possible."
Women are acutely aware their breeding years are limited, whereas men feel no such sense of urgency. "We're on a deadline," Freedman says. "Look at Rupert Murdoch - men can have three different families in their life. Some women miss out on having one."
Without the same biological pressure, Flood says men generally become fathers by default.
Paul Wade is a case in point. About to become a father for the first time, Wade, 34, had not thought a lot about having children until his wife, Greta, pushed the point.
"The interest in having kids was more with Greta. It's not something I specifically did or did not want to do. It's something I never thought about in my life," he admits. "Blokes tend to be distracted by other things."
But having spent a lot of time with his wife's child from a previous relationship, Wade feels ready to become a father. "I found I could actually build a relationship with someone of that age."
The strength of his relationship with his wife also convinced Wade he could throw children into the mix. "I was confident we'd spent enough time together to bring kids up without the relationship falling apart."
A confidence which maybe Brad and Jen lacked.
It's 5 o'clock somewhere!
I saw the news about the Pitt-Anniston split at the Wal-mart yesterday. I feel sorry for them both. It's funny ... I noticed in this article that Brad Pitt is 41: my husband turned 41 a few weeks before our 7th baby was born!
I'm sure there are more quality men out there than we realize, since we're not "looking" :-).
That could break up a whole lotta marriages.
Nah, as I aged fewer supermodels wanted to sleep with me. Cheryl Teigs quit calling, she didn't write. Christy Brinkley wouldn't return my calls. That Porizkova broad went and married that geeky singer...sigh...turning 25 was a bitch.
You're right. Once I hit 40, I cut it down to 3 supermodels a week. Had to make more time for the jet-setting heiresses.
Amen, Sister! I hope I never have to re-enter the Dating Pool again in this lifetime. My poor Dad is re-entering it at age 68. He's clueless in many ways, but a "good catch" in his own estimation, because he's not broke and has good teeth, LOL! It's not a pretty thing to watch.
He won't take my advice to hang out at the Senior Center. He'd have his pick of the women there...they outnumber him 10 to 1. It would do his ego some good. :)
"Also, I bet Brad Pitt could find 100,000 women that would immediately roll over on their back and put their feet in the air if he said he wanted to have a baby."
Make that 100,001!
Or as Jolie herself has done. I think the attraction to Jolie is not in the babies she's borne --- she's given childbirth no more often as his wife has. Anyhow if you want to start a family you'd think it would be the time to look for a nice mentally stable family type woman. I wonder if they wear each others' blood in a vial on a necklace --- or was that just for her last lover?
68 is too young to hang out at senior centers, where people consider themselves old. Really. If he lived in FL or other place where retired citizens congregate to live happy active lives, he'd just naturally become popular overnight with ladies who want to stay active and involved in life.
As a senior unwilling to act like one, I know this from personal experience. About five minutes after moving into a non-senior "gated community" in FL that had a clubhouse, pool, golf course, I had invitations to everything from everyone, met dozens of people within weeks, had a great deal of fun. And I'm a grrrrrl! Men have an even easier time.
I've been single for ages, lived all over the country. Believe me, those sunny places where you're outside much of the time present opportunities for meeting people that you just cannot imagine in snowy or rainy spots where people stay indoors. It just happens.
Yes --- somehow wanting kids doesn't justify and adulterous affair with Billy Bob Thornton's ex. I guess with her own dad questioning her sanity and the fear of having her Cambodian kids taken from her might make her turn to something more boring and normal seeming like Pitt.
I'll pass on that advice to Dear Old Dad. And yes, he's a very "young" 68 to say the least. If I have to hear about his sex life one more time, I'll scream! He gets more than I do, and I'm a functional, sexy, 44 year old Soccer Mom, LOL!
We are leaving for a trip to PV, Mexico on the 20th. He is testing out warmer climes, and I wouldn't doubt that a move to the Sunny South isn't in his future.
People have responded by not marrying or by putting marriage off. In some states, a good number of people have simply married the same sex.
The lower fertility might point to a higher level of freedom, yes, but of course the long-run result is a demographic disaster...
Some love springs eternal.
What an awful statement. Perhaps, this woman should remember that when decrying the lack of committment-ready men.
That's the statement that really got me going the most in this whole article. Ugh.
I also thought that was the key sentence. What's going on behind this article is that you can have a successful career and still feel empty. It's all about feeling empty. Maybe having a kid would make you feel better. But I don't know how hopeful this attitude really is. If you want a kid purely for self-gratification, it probably won't help much. In building a family you need to give in order to receive, and I don't know if many Hollywood types are capable of that.
LOL. Your sexpot dad is going to be fine. Especially in warmer climes where, I must admit, everyone feels sexier. Maybe you should try moving too!
chickens cluck, so I was thinking that it meant chicken$hit men.
Also, there is nothing like a woman standing there expecting her a$$ to get kissed, with the man just turning around and walking away forever.
Boy, your tagline is certainly spot-on Sister, LOL! But I feel my sexiest at 11 degrees below zero, which is where we're headed to tonight!
And what's not sexy about flannel nighties and woolen knee socks? It's the suspenseful "unwrapping of the package" that keeps our Northern Boys happy. Every sub-zero winter night is as exciting as Christmas Morning.
Am I right, fellas? ;)
Brrrrrrrrrr and sex are two words I cannot get into the same paragraph. But I hope you enjoy the unwrapping, dear grrrrrrl.
For moi, it's languid barefoot strolls in warm shallow water on a beach under a full tropical moon, whiffs of night-blooming jasmine mixing with the gentle ocean breeze. Humidity melts my resistance too. So does jewelry, for that matter.
And on a more mundane level, I love the rush of heat on my hands when I first get into the car and grab the steering wheel on a 100-degree day. Maybe "being in heat" is my deal. LOL
We have to stop this or we'll get banned.
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