I am not going to go full smelly English major on the topic of the working mom, but I cannot pass up the opportunity to comment on a few gut-reaction observations to the cultural themes present in I Don't Know How She Does It.
I'm a little peevish and I can't put my finger on why that is, exactly. So, I am going to sort it all out in this post with two interrogatories and two narratives:
1) Is This Really Something New? Is the shock and awe spurred on by a working mom who seemingly has her shit together a new thing? It's relatively new to me, so I am truly wondering. It's tough to be committed to my work, and have amazing kids, and be an awesome wife and manage my clients and remember to brush the dog's teeth and throw birthday parties and breastfeed six times a day and pay the bills and sow a garden and procure all necessities for the household and blog and make dinner and put my fantasy team in for the week and take the kids to the zoo, but that's my life. I suspect this type of motherhood has existed for some time. Chicks rule. Duh.
Why this book? Why this movie? Why now?
2) And, why SJP? I have spent the past four years mouring the passing of my inner Carrie Bradshaw. "She was a cheating, self-indulgent bitch," my husband will tell you. He's intent on this because he fancies himself my Aiden, but no matter. I identified with her on a number of levels. His reaction is annoyingly caveman, and I fastidiously defend the iconic character accordingly to this day.
Four years of marriage, two kids, one suburb and one minivan later, I am no longer Carrie Bradshaw worshipping skinny jean girl. I have made my peace with the woman I was a decade ago. I was fun and thin and hot and knew the best restaurants in Chicago and stayed out too late and smoked cigarettes and spent my money on shoes. I also dated my Mr. Big - a cheating, self-indulgent bitch in his own right. There was a tumultuous time and place for all of that. Where I am now is so much blissfully better, and there is no reason to look back at all of that drama with anything other than a very distant fondness of personal growth.
3) I don't know why I would want to see this movie. In I Don't Know How She Does It, Sarah Jessica Parker resurfaces as Kate Reddy, a finance executive desperately trying to balance her job, husband and two kids. It's the classic ultra-thin working mom with high-stakes career (SJP) wins huge, new account while husband (Greg Kinnear) finally lands his dream job, type of story. Throw in the similarly situated best friend (Christina Hendricks) child-hating assistant (Olivia Munn) and adulterous temptation (Pierce Brosnan) and you have the recipe for one movie I don't want to see.
4) Working Mothers Have Varying Degrees of Tolerance. People (mostly women) love to comment on the busy-ness of other women. I'm guessing we have all heard "I don't know how you do it" on several occasions. I think it's something women say as a compliment of sorts. I have come to realize that the number activites a working mom can juggle at any given time is more akin to a fluctuating pain tolerance. Sometimes we're firing on all cylindars. We are amazing. Everything is working. You could tear off a limb and we wouldn't flinch. Other days, a mere sliver is enough to shut down the works - there is no food in the fridge, no clean underpants, the dog peed on the carpet and the one bill not on autopay is late.
5) I Know How I Do It. There are no secrets to maintaining a successful life as a working mom, and no measure of that success other than personal happiness and satisfaction. I am happily satisfied, so I am doing well by my standard.
How does this working mom do it? With help, of course. I outsource a few things and increase efficiencies wherever possible:
I have a full-time nanny, who also handles laundry duties. I have a cleaning lady. I have my hair professionally cut and colored. I keep my nails short. I have some groceries delivered. I work from home. I do 90% of my shopping online. Our bills (wherever possible) are on autopay. I send our taxes (and a giant stack of papers) to the accountant. I make big batches of soup, lasagna etc. and freeze portions in containers so there is always something to eat in a pinch. We watch all tv shows after 8pm on the DVR and skip commercials. I blog at night. My family members watch the girls from time to time so Ryan and I can do grown-up stuff.
Under this scheme, I pick up enough extra time to teach my children to be intelligent and compassionate citizens, make party invitations, take the car to the shop, share a glass of wine with my husband, pick and preserve tomatoes, balance the checkbooks, call the roofer and spend a bit of time here and there with friends. I realize not everyone can afford some of the help listed above, but without the help, I couldn't keep my job and without my job, I couldn't afford the help. That, in and of itself is a balancing act.
Putting my obvious reservations aside, I will eventually see this movie and compare myself to Kate Reddy and say "Oh yeah right - that would never happen in real life," in much the same way I pick apart every objection made during trial on Law and Order. And, I will identify with Kate in a way that will cost me another four years of reconciliation with my inner self.