Emily Blunt is taking a year off acting because of the "emotional cost" to her and her children - and mothers everywhere feel her pain.
Citing 'mum guilt' as her main reason for taking a break, it's a situation that women everywhere, myself included, will sadly be all too familiar with. Emily decided to take a year off "because of the emotional cost on me, on the kids - I’m very prone to guilt and I think maybe all mothers are," she said in Bruce Bozzi's Table for Two podcast.
"This year I'm not working. I worked quite a bit last year and my oldest baby is nine, we’re in the last year or single digits.
"And I just feel there are cornerstones to their day that are so important: and it's 'will you wake me up?', 'will you take me to school?', 'will you pick me up?', 'will you put me to bed?' And I just need to be there for all of them for a good stretch and I just felt that in my bones."
Mum guilt can hit us all, regardless of whether we are in paid employment or not. Motherhood itself is a full-time job, unpaid I might add, and it starts from the minute you wake up to the second you close your eyes. A survey by Salary.com said being a mum was equal to 10 jobs in one, with roles including teacher, counsellor, cleaner, housekeeper, caretaker, IT expert, cook and a taxi driver.
In a Goodto survey, a staggering 78% of mums revealed that they feel guilty, with 68% saying this occurred once or twice a day. The majority said 'not spending enough time with the kids' was the main cause, and another 35% said 'not trying enough activities with the kids' was the reason for their guilt. It's no wonder Emily wants to slow down the pace a bit and have more time with her children without the added pressure of work.
Emily, whose latest movie Oppenheimer is out now, has daughters Violet, seven, and Hazel, nine, and is married to John Krasinski. She said when people asked how her she balanced work and motherhood, she was often overwhelmed with mum guilt. She told the Table for Two podcast: "I never feel like I’m doing it right, you know. I had a beautiful time on the projects I did last year. Some were more intense than others, some were harder than others, some were more time consuming than others.
"The ones that were time consuming I think for me are coming fewer and further between because of the emotional cost on me, on the kids, on balance, and I’m very prone to guilt and I think maybe all mothers are."
But she said despite feeling guilty, she would always pursue her dreams and encourage her daughters to do the same. She told the Table for Two podcast: "You’re just prone to feeling bad for, God forbid, wanting something outside being a mother.
"I am a huge advocate for it. I’m a huge advocate for women being ambitious. I love the word ambition – it’s just dreams with purpose. That’s all it is, it’s not an ugly word. That’s what it means. I want my kids to grow up and find something that they grow up and adore doing.”
Emily said it was important for her to role model to her children to work hard, but she also admitted she sometimes found it difficult to strike the right balance. She currently has three movies coming out: Oppenheimer, Pain Hustlers, and Fall Guy.
She told the Table for Two podcast: "Usually it sways in extremes, so I’ll work too much and then I’ll have a complete reaction against it, and an aversion to being on a film set for a long time. And then I’ll want to desperately work again so I don’t know if I do it moderately, I think I just have these pulls to it and against it.”
The actress said making the formal decision to take a year off had triggered a positive effect on her mental health and wellbeing, saying: "You wake up peaceful. I sleep great. Because when I work, which I also love, I find it a heart-racing experience. There’s clearly this fire in me which I need to give room to.
"But I race with it for months leading up, and then during so when I finish a project, and once it’s expelled from me, I sleep again. I don’t know if I sleep great or I think straight when I’m working.”
When Table for Two podcast host Bruce pointed out that guilt is part of being a parent, Emily agreed, joking: "You're self-flagellating the moment they come out of your body!"
Despite wanting to use her year off to slow down, Emily admitted she'd given into pressure to get a puppy. "We got a puppy, and I knew this was the year to get it because I’m home, and it always falls on mum – let’s be real – and I wasn’t wanting to get a dog but the kids were pushing for it and John was up for it.
“I don’t mind getting up early with this puppy as it means John and I can talk before the kids get up, because the day gets away from you so quickly once the tornado [of parenting] starts.”
It's not the first time Emily has spoken candidly about mum guilt and the juggle of motherhood and work. She told Porter Magazine: "It is interesting that women are still made to feel defensive of their choices to work, and men are not. And you just normalise it… but I find myself overexplaining or compensating."
And she spoke about how mothers are often judged for their parenting choices: "When I was on set in Atlanta, which was challenging because I was racing back home every weekend — and then the kids would come to me for five, six days — it was amazing how many people asked where my kids were," she said.
"I thought 'I bet Chris Evans isn’t being asked that question, or Andy Garcia, or Jay Duplass'".
Emily said she found it a constant struggle trying to balance work and motherhood, especially when it was often their mother that children called for first when they woke in the night or hurt themselves.
She told Porter magazine: "That’s symbolic of everything a mother feels when they want to have a career as well as being there and being available. And that’s what weighs you down with guilt sometimes."
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Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specialising in lifestyle and family-focused content. With 25 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK and US. As a mum of two art-obsessed daughters, Daphne and Esther, Maddy is always looking for parenting hacks to make life easier. She is also a Level 3 personal trainer, and creates energising workouts for busy mums who need some me time.
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