Not even famous Hollywood moms like Jennifer Garner are free from the physical and emotional difficulty of going back to work with young kids. In a recent interview for the PBS series Tell Me More, she talked about how she almost quit Dallas Buyers Club, one of her most acclaimed roles, because it was so hard to pump milk and be away from her children.
“My agent called me and said, ‘We’re either having a conversation about you taking this movie or about your retirement,’ because I had taken so much time,” Garner told host Kelly Corrigan of how she wound up taking the role of Dr. Eve Saks shortly after having third child Samuel.
She had worked while breastfeeding “millions of times” before, she explained. And she had always been able to tell the assistant director when she need a break to pump. But Dallas Buyers Club was shot at an accelerated pace, partly because of the extreme diet stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto were on to play people dying of AIDS. That meant she couldn’t find even 10 minutes in which to pump between takes.
“That first night on set, at the time when I was supposed to be putting my kids to bed, my breasts filled up,” Garner said. “My boobs were freaking out. It was bedtime, and we were doing some scene that was supposed to be light, and I started crying. And I was like, ‘I have to quit. I have to go home and be with my kids. I just can’t do this anymore.'”
It’s so unfair that we still live in a society where it was fine for the whole shoot to accommodate men’s physical difficulties, but a woman felt she couldn’t speak up about her own discomfort. My boobs hurt in solidarity.
But it was McConaughey, quickly becoming our fave Hollywood dad, who noticed something troubling Garner.
“Sweet Matthew McConaughey pulled me aside and said, ‘What is going on with you?'” she recalled. “And from then on, whenever I needed to, I would give him a hi sign, and I would go take care of it. He said, ‘You can do both. You’ve got it. You can do it. How much do I love that guy?”
It’s maddening that a man needed to step in for her, but it’s also heartening to hear that he did. This is why we need more women in positions of power behind the scenes — and in all industries — so that no one thinks twice about speaking up for her own needs like this anymore.
Many celebrity moms juggle work and family life, but they also acknowledge that they need help to do it all.