For the last twenty-five years, Angelina Jolie’s career and personal life have been subject to immense media attention — more so than any other celebrity from her generation. She’s never been a standard A-list actress; her public image in recent years has ascended to that of a globally-recognized philanthropist, director, and icon. She goes beyond Hollywood and its offerings of glitz and glamour. 

Nowadays, if you’re paying attention to the media cycle, you’ll notice that headlines featuring Angelina don’t talk about her movies as much as they refer to her broken marriage with fellow A-lister Brad Pitt. Everything that could possibly be said about their relationship has already been said a hundred times over.  

Why they got together, why they broke up, why they ended up with six kids — these are some of the most common questions discussed at length by commentators. But what people have to realize is that Angelina has been navigating her life as a single mom for quite a while now. To understand how she approaches this role, we need to go back and examine how her own upbringing affected her expectations of motherhood. 

Angelina’s been divorced thrice now, but that’s never affected her love for her children. As they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” But in Angelina’s case, her six children require not a village but a superhuman willing to walk the ends of the earth for her children. 

Angelina’s father cheated on her mom and then abandoned the family 

Though Angelina herself is reluctant to delve into the complexities of her relationship with her father Jon Voight, it’s believed that his infidelity and subsequent abandonment created a rift within the family. Jon, who is a famous actor himself, met Angelina’s mom, Marcheline, on a blind date and they went on to have two kids: Angelina and her older brother, James. 

Jon has admitted that his affair led to a divorce. The Express reported that Angelina was merely a year old when her father left the family. She blamed Jon for depriving her of a normal childhood and remained estranged from him for nearly three decades. In 2002, Jon said he thinks the divorce may have been hard on Angelina to the extent that it may have worsened her mental health issues. 

Jon’s said that he’s tried his best to reach out to Angelina and her brother over the years but Angelina wouldn’t have it.  On one such occasion, Jon said he tried to talk to his daughter at an industry event but said that her representatives stepped in and told him to get back.

Angelina also dropped her last name ‘Voight’ in 2020, not only because she didn’t feel that close to him but also because she didn’t want to establish her career as a famous actor’s daughter. She wanted to be known for her body of work and talent. 

I don’t want to make public the reasons for my bad relationship with my father. I will only say that like every child, [James] and I would have loved to have had a warm and loving relationship with our dad. After all these years, I have determined that it is not healthy for me to be around my father, especially now that I am responsible for my own child

Angelina Jolie to Access Hollywood 

Jon left them financially struggling and abused their mom

Not only did Jon abandon his family in the wake of his divorce but it’s reported that he didn’t even support them financially. Jon may have been a famous actor making millions at the box officer but the family’s nanny alleged that he didn’t pay Marcheline any child support.

Instead, he was a “deadbeat dad” who’d left his ex-wife and children fending for themselves for most of their childhood. Angelina herself has acknowledged that one of the factors that pushed her to take up acting roles was needing to help her mother pay the bills. 

Abuse may have also taken place in the household. Angelina’s brother alleged the marriage was ridden with “hurt and anger” and that he put his mom through years of mental abuse. A longtime family friend also confirmed this to Express

Angelina has also said that her relationship with her father for the longest time just wasn’t healthy. Despite their many efforts at talking things out, they just weren’t able to make progress. Each time Angeline was reminded of the pain, the screaming matches, the shedding of tears that took place in their household. 

We were back to where we always were, not a place where I felt healthy or good when I was around him. And it’s simply that. There’s no anger. I feel for him. I feel if he’s got problems, maybe he thinks I do. We all do, maybe, but the amount of tears shed growing up, and the amount of screaming matches and the amount of insecurities seen [impacting] on my mother and my brother because of fights and things said is simply not healthy.

Angelina Jolie to Premiere 

Angelina looked to her mother for parenting inspiration 

Despite the issues she had with her father, Angelina has always been on good terms with her mother and modelled her parenting after her. Angelina’s said that Marcheline had always tried to be her daughter’s friend first and foremost, and that’s the sort of approach she wants to take with her own children. She said that Marcheline was always interested in hearing what her daughter had to say, and that’s something Angelina encourages in her own children. 

[My mother] gave up her dreams…I am my mother’s daughter. My love of children, my values, caring about what goes on in the world, all of that comes from her…I miss her terribly every day. I try to raise my children the way that my mother raised me. I didn’t ­really have a father around

Angelina Jolie to The Times 

Sadly Marcheline died due to complications from ovarian cancer at the age of 56 in 2007. Her death has shaken Angelina to the core and she’s said that she still has conversations with her mother in her head. Angelina also said her decision to get a preventive double mastectomy was inspired by her mom’s health struggles.

Marcheline was fortunate enough to meet the first of her grandchildren but Angelina said she wants more than anything to have her mother back and watch her be a grandmother to her children. 

Angelina chose to reconcile with her father after her mother died 

Angelina said she had first begun reconciling with her dad following her mother’s death but her relationship with him has gotten even stronger in recent years since her divorce. Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie were spotted having dinner together with her children in 2017 and she even lets him babysit every now and then. 

However, she’s made it a rule that they don’t discuss the past or politics. She believes that it’s important for her children to have a relationship with their granddad. Angelina said she and her father themselves are able to build a new relationship over the grandchildren, and although it’s a slow process, they’re on track to having more of a bond now than they’ve ever had. 

Jon and I have gotten to know each other—through grandchildren now. We’re finding a new relationship…We’ve had some difficulties, [but] through art we’ve been able to talk. It’s the common language. 

Angelina Jolie to the Hollywood Reporter 

You can succeed because — not despite — your upbringing 

Angelina’s motherhood achievements go far beyond her own children. Through her philanthropic and awareness campaigns, she’s helped to bring a lot of support and attention to underprivileged all around the around. Her adoption endeavors alone provide that Angelina knows that being a mother is about love rather than blood. As a single mother, she has to not only fend of judgments but also determine how she can best raise her children on her own terms. 

Although the divorce hasn’t been the most pleasant, she’s said that she and Brad do care for each other and try their best to make the transition easier for the children.  

It is a lovely thing to discover that your children don’t want you perfect. They just want you honest. And doing your best. In fact, the more room they have to be great where you are weak, the stronger they may become. They love you. They want to help you. So in the end, it’s the team you build. And in a way, they are raising you up too. You grow together

Angeline Jolie to Times Magazine

Despite everything that’s occurred in her past, Angelina refuses to back down from parenthood struggles. Being a single mother to six kids is undoubtedly an intimidating challenge and with the kind of upbringing she’s had, it would quite difficult for her to approach this with positivity. Yet she does it with aplomb.

From her father Jon, she learned what she should not do with her children, and from her mother, she learned what she should. Her upbringing didn’t put her off children but instead compelled her to undertake parenthood with a point to prove. And as a result, her upbringing, as messy as it may have been, is also one of the main reasons why she succeeds so well as a single mother. 

Just like Angelina, we can’t turn away from our upbringing. Our parents may have wronged us as well in many different ways but it’s important to know that we’re not like our parents and that we won’t make their mistakes.

We might make our mistakes of our own, and we can’t punish ourselves for that too much. Angelina eventually forgave her dad because she knows that her kids being able to know their grandfather will be more rewarding at the end of the day. So we need to acknowledge that mistakes were made but also they shouldn’t have the power to destroy anything in your life. 

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