I first saw the preview for the new movie called “I Don’t Know How She Does It” while my friendâ€”a fellow juggling, working momâ€”Jen and I were both celebrating some time without husbands and children. Here I thought, this is wonderful! A movie that talks about the goods and the bads of being a working mom. The ins and outs. The character of Kate Reddy seems upbeat and spunky, put-together and just lovely. She smiles a lot, and she looks fabulous in a suit. And she says things like, “Without work, I’m not me…but without you, my family, I’m NOTHING.” This, of course, is a complete and total paraphrase. She is, I’m guessing, supposed to be like all of us working moms. Jugglers.
Who scratch our heads at work when we receive messages from our nannies.
There’s a book too, my friend Jen told me. So, obviously, that night I downloaded it straight to my iphone for my commuting read. It made perfect sense, really.
But what I read was exactly the opposite of what I was expecting.
I know exactly how Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€”does it.
Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€”was not upbeat or spunky at all much past the opening scene. She was selfish and horrible to her husband. She was not representative of a typical working mom; she was not even close. Trust me, I know many working moms. You know what they look like? ME. They are constantly trying to find that perfect balance between work and family. They are trying to figure out how they can make it to ballet recitals and be on committees and school and yet still manage to be good at their jobs, because, admittedly, they like their jobs.
But here’s the difference.
Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€” didn’t just like her job. Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€”WAS HER JOB. She traveled several times a week, leaving London for different cities and states and countries at the last moment. She dropped everything for her work without giving a second thought to what it was doing to her children and her husband.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€”loved the hell out of her children. That much was very clear. And she was guilty of dealing with a lot of what I deal with on a daily basis. Embarrassingly having to tell theÂ pediatricianÂ that you aren’t sure how much your child weighed at the last check up. Embarrassingly having to bring something store-bought to a home-baked filled schoolÂ function.Â EmbarrassinglyÂ not knowing where anything in your own home resides because your kitchen really belongs to your nanny…and not you. Embarrassingly having to ask permission at workâ€”AGAINâ€”to attend yet another school play because there seems to be another one every single week.
Yes, these things happen to Kate Reddy. And they happen to me. And they happen to people I know.
But this book?
It was just so fundamentally wrong on so many levels.
Because at the end of the book, when Kate realizes that she has lost her husband and her family (because she always chooses work over them) and she doesn’t even know who she is anymore (because she always chooses work over herself), instead of trying to find some sort of compromise….she, just, gives it all up. She moves to the country and becomes a full-time stay-at-home mom (not that there’s anything wrong with that...).
The messaging here fills me with so much rage.
What is the author saying here?
This is the only answer for someone who is smart, talented and good at what she does? Give it all up and move to the country and become a full-time, stay-at-home mom (not that there’s anything wrong with that...). Perhaps this IS a good solution for lots of people. But it’s a terrible solution for lots too, including Kate Reddy. What about the women who work because they need the income? What about the women who work because they are smart, strong women and truly believe that women can be whatever they want to be and they want to do something great and not feel badly about andâ€”at the same timeâ€”send a message to their daughters that THEY TOO can be anything they want to be.
There is a balance. It IS attainable.
For example, I was feeling stressed about coming home every day at 6:10pm. Catching the 5pm subway was absolutely killing me. So, I asked my boss if I could work from 8-4 instead of 9-5. I willstill be working the same numbers of hours, but my commute times each way will be cut by at least 20 minutes and I will be walking in the door at around the same time my kids will be coming home from school.
You see, I like to work AND I DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR THIS. I’m good at my job. It makes me feel good about myself. I *would* stay home if that was what my family needed; I would make a great stay-at-home mom and I would certainly enjoy wearing yoga pants every day again and being able to catch up on my DVR during the day again and being able to go on class trips again and volunteer in the classroom again**. I would love it. I have loved it. But my family needs me to work right now, for the money and for the sanity of everyone in the family and for me. And so I work right now. And I try to makeÂ compromisesÂ to make everyone happyâ€”my children, my husband, my boss, me.
I would have liked to have seen a working mom movie and book that really focuses on THISÂ paraphrasedÂ statement
“Without work, I’m not me…but without you, my family, I’m NOTHING.”
Because I think this probably holds a lot more truth for a lot more people than Kate Reddyâ€”print versionâ€”does.
It certainly does for me.
**So as I don’t insult any more people I will clarify that I think all moms are amazing. I don’t believe in mommy wars; i believe in respecting everyone. And it’s not a “stereotype” I am creating by talking about yoga pants and dvrs and volunteering. When I worked from home I did all of these things. I barely put on pants, did carpool in pjs andÂ caughtÂ up on my shows while I folded laundry and answered emails. If it sounds like aÂ stereotype, I apologize. I am speaking for myself,Â becauseÂ I did those things. I loved doing those things; I miss doing those things. And I’m not saying stay-at-home moms HAVE IT EASY, because they 100% do not. The months I spent at home were not easy. They were challengingâ€”in different ways that working in an office are challengingâ€”but still challenging.Â