I Don't Know How She Does It is on at the movies.
While it should be kind of nice that our daily juggling act is the theme of a movie (though a mainstream movie would never be approving of "working mothers", would it?) this movie has, from what I am hearing, got it wrong.
I'm sure the book was really really good and timely when it was published, and I know it is loved by many. So if this includes you, or if you have seen the movie, please feel free to let me know if I have got any of this wrong.
But I have no interest at all in seeing this movie.
I normally try not to judge something without seeing it, but since I had kids I see, like, one cinema movie and one DVD movie every three or four months. And I've already seen The Eye of the Storm and Bridesmaids within the last 2 months. So I have to be choosy, and my movie quota has been filled for this quarter.
Here is why I won't be seeing the movie:
1. The idea is outdated. The book it is based on was published in 2002. Yup, back then everyone was wondering how on earth "those" women juggled working and parenting. Nine years later, more of us are working, more of us are juggling, and... it's no longer an oddity.
2. It won't be complimentary of working mothers. Movies never are. If it was, I would have heard that, because it would be so unusual.
3. It pitches just two extremes: high-flying careerist workaholics "versus" stay-at-home mums (because of course, it's a war between those two). Yes I know plenty of people live those lives, but more people don't. Aren't there many many other options in the middle? Full-time workers in simpler jobs? Workers with flexible hours? Shift workers? Part-time workers? Split and blended families? I suspect most mothers these days, and many fathers (hooray!) work differently during different stages of their kids' lives - sometimes working full-time, sometimes part-time, sometimes not doing paid work for a time - and changing hours and arrangements as they are able.
4. The movie has a scene where the mother is asked whether her son likes broccoli and she doesn't know the answer. Please. First of all, I know the answer: he doesn't. Second, when I was working full-time and running myself ragged juggling stress and responsibility at work and also parenting my kids, I was still fully engaged with my kids and knew them backwards just as I do now. Yes, when you work full-time and someone else cares for your kids sometimes, you do outsource some child-rearing. But this myth that persists in pop culture, that this means you lose touch with your kids or don't know what they need, like or want - so, so untrue. So tedious. So nine years ago. Can't we move on?
5. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people who loved the book talk of the scene where the mother bashes store-bought pies or biscuits or some such with some implement or utensil late at night, to make them look home-made for the next day's bake sale. I get what this scene means - the time pressures, the added pressures to do 'home making' (and prove it to others) as well as working a demanding full-time job, the desire to still be a 'good' mother and provide the same things for your kids as the other mothers, etc etc etc. I get it. I see why that touched a chord. But I can't get past the image. Bashing store-bought pastries is never going to make them look home-made - they won't look anything other than bashed.
6. The mother is 'saved' by giving up her career and devoting herself full-time to her family. I do get a bit sick of the idea that women with careers are not really happy or fulfilled. They're not usually - but neither is anyone else. And neither is giving up work a solution, in itself. Think back, people. 1950's, 60's, 70's - even 80's - vast histories of unhappiness and frustration are there for the remembering, if we ever get nostalgic for a "simpler" past. Of course it is wonderful to be able to "step off" for awhile, if resources permit. It is wonderful to be able to change your life if your life is making you unhappy. But neither are all mothers with paid work unhappy, and I get sick of pop culture (especially movies) pushing this barrow.
So, that's it from me. I like Sarah Jessica Parker and will await her next movie instead.
Meanwhile, here's a clip from I Don't Know How She Does It: