I don’t know who Joe Jonas’s publicist is, but whoever they are, they deserve a raise. In the wake of the singer’s divorce from Sophie Turner, the coverage of the split in gossip outlets like TMZ and the New York Post’s Page Six describes has made quite clear who the good guy is (Jonas), and who the fall guy is (Turner).
In the wake of the split, tabloids explain that Jonas is caring for their children “pretty much all of the time” and that he is in “dad mode” while on tour.
In the pages of the gossip outlets, the divorce is explained by the fact that Turner “likes to party” while Jonas “likes to stay home.” Sophie Turner, according to the narrative being peddled, is an immature and freewheeling young mother who has forsaken her sacred duty as a mother in order to party. One Daily Mail headline read, “Sophie Turner, 27, ‘felt trapped in her marriage to Joe Jonas and wants to relive her youth’ after marrying and having children young, friends say — as she’s seen downing shots and £6.50 cocktails in Birmingham days before singer, 34, filed for divorce.”
Turner began dating Jonas, seven years her senior, when she was nineteen years old, got engaged the next year and was married when she was twenty-one. Despite the stories being leaked to the press, we have no idea why the couple split, nor will anyone outside of their four walls. But the coverage of the break-up offers an interesting commentary on motherhood in 2023.
The tabloid tale around Jonas’s superior fathering credits his being a full-time caretaker of the children while their mother is out of town working on a new film. Have you ever seen a celebrity mother lauded and praised for mothering while her husband was on a business trip? That’s just what mothers are expected to do.
Mothers are also expected to stop existing as individuals; they are to live solely as caregivers, for the exclusive benefit of their children. Turner can’t take a few shots at a wrap party without being dragged through the mud for letting loose alongside other actors and actresses also in their twenties.
In almost every country around the world, women are having babies later in life, if they have them at all. The plummeting birth rate in the Western world is becoming a concerning trend, and one that those in policy and commentary have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to reverse.
The modern depiction of motherhood is, in my opinion, a significant factor in the decision making of millions of American women deciding to put off motherhood or forgo it completely. Consider the Sophie Turner example: she did everything “right” according to pro-natalists. She married young and gave birth to two children while still young herself. But she didn’t want to just settle down and become a tradwife; she didn’t want to totally erase her life from before she had children. Turner still wanted to enjoy professional success and socialize with people her age, even those who didn’t make the same life choices she did. She didn’t want to just get her socializing out at toddler birthday parties between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m.; but actually get out and talk to people without her little people climbing all over her. Honestly, it would probably do me some good (as a homeschooling mother of six kids, age nine and under) to do some of the same.
Motherhood is a gift and a delight, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all-consuming. Mothers need not live entirely for their children in order to be good mothers. One of my favorite sayings about marriage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.” The same can be said for motherhood. “Happy mom, happy kids” doesn’t have quite the same rhyme to it, but it’s true.
Research released in September of 2020 about maternal depression on childhood development was instructive and entirely unsurprising. Pediatrics reported, “Researchers have found that children whose mothers have high levels of depressive symptoms are characterized by significantly poorer cognitive development than children whose mothers have few or no depressive symptoms.”
A fair amount of commentary has pushed back on the notion that Turner is the at-fault party in the split, noting that the anti-Turner messaging is likely coming from the Jonas camp. If we’re talking about appropriate behavior, I would also note that railroading the mother of your children in the court of public opinion is more damaging to your kids long term than their mom going out to a bar one night while being cared for by their father.
Kids don’t need mothers who live and breathe for them; and young women aren’t served by being told that is what is required of them if they decide to become mothers. What kids do need, especially in the case of a divorce, is for parents to hold each other up and support one another; both emotionally and with childcare. Here’s hoping the next time Jonas and Turner start dating someone, they have a conversation about what they want their home life to look like before they bring kids into the mix.