September 5 11

I first saw the preview for the new movie called “I Don’t Know How She Does It” while my friend—a fellow juggling, working mom—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 Reddy—print version—does it.

She doesn’t. 

Kate Reddy—print version—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 Reddy—print version— didn’t just like her job. Kate Reddy—print version—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 Reddy—print version—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 the pediatrician 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 school function. Embarrassingly 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 work—AGAIN—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 and—at the same time—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 make compromises to make everyone happy—my children, my husband, my boss, me.

I would have liked to have seen a working mom movie and book that really focuses on THIS paraphrased 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 Reddy—print version—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 and caught up on my shows while I folded laundry and answered emails. If it sounds like a stereotype, I apologize. I am speaking for myself, because 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 challenging—in different ways that working in an office are challenging—but still challenging. 

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  1. Believe me, stay at home moms have less time to “catch up on their dvrs” than you might think!

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    ali replied on

    I’m 100% NOT trying to say that stay-at-home moms have it easy. I have done it. and I have worked at home, and while it was challenging in different ways that working, I was able to – in fact – catch up on my dvr while working from home, which is something that’s impossible to do in an office.

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    Comment by Jujubeejenny on September 5, 2011
  2. I read the book ages ago…even though I didn’t agree with many parts, I enjoyed the fact that it did question, very reasonably and eloquently – the mind-field of work vs.stay at home motherhood.
    I did not mind the ending, though I think there could have been a better one..I always believe that authors are simply letting their characters lead the way, and in this case, with such a strong protagonist, this is simply where she went…for now…
    I do kind of take issue with your description of stay at home moms..with *the* yoga pants and dvr recordings though..that stereotype has been reduced to a caricature and is simply not true of *most* moms (not that there is anything wrong with wearing yoga pants and watching dvr, of course). I think that if a person has a strong ethical compass whether she stays at home or goes to work, there is much to be respected beyond the cliches of both those roles.

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    ali replied on

    Marci. stereotype or not, when I worked from home, I wore yoga pants every single day and caught up on my dvr while I worked.

    It’s a truth for me that would be a truth for me if I was working from home again.

    I respect ALL moms. I don’t believe in judgment. I believe each mom should make a decision for herself. And I’m speaking FOR ME. If i was at home, you can sure as hell know that i would be wearing yoga pants. BECAUSE I DID. and i loved it.

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    marci replied on

    But then I wouldn’t get to admire your *closet* roundup each week ;)

    It’s decided – we must meet before I reply to any more of your posts. I realize that *tone* can be misunderstood online. I was not trying to be harsh, just adding my two cents…which are reflections of My truths.

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    Comment by marci on September 5, 2011
  3. When I was a stay at home mom, I also lived in yoga pants and was able to be caught up on my dvr. Course, both of my kids were at school so Mama could watch four seasons of Mad Men in 3 weeks before my free Netflix wore out. ;)

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    ali replied on

    Yes. Having kids at school all day changes the game considerably.

    SIGH. I miss Mad Men.

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    Jen replied on

    So it’s not wrong that I’m a little looking forward to my kids being in “school” (be it actual school or preschool) so I can have a little kid-free time?

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    Comment by Karen Sugarpants on September 5, 2011
  4. You work because you HAVE to and because you WANT to. Me too. And YES I feel like I’m on the edge of a nervous breakdown most days. And I don’t even commute. And I work in my yoga pants. But I’ve never NOT done paid work. And I would go crazy if I didn’t. No need to justify this to anyone. Luckily for me, my kids are finally at school full-time (finally) and I’m managing without a nanny. But I do have a PA who comes once a week and a cleaner. I would be lying if I didn’t say it was a struggle at some level on most days but worth it in the end. I really don’t know why they don’t make a movie about a MAN having to pack it all in and stay-at-home. I can’t believe in 2011, we are still having this so-called moral debate about SAHM vs WAHM. :(

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    Comment by Heidi on September 5, 2011
  5. As a postscript: I take my kids to school EVER?Y DAY in my pj’s. My struggle is with the fact that I occasionally actually have to get DRESSED to go to a meeting. The not-so-great tradeoff: working on deadlines past midnight every night.

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    Comment by Heidi on September 5, 2011
  6. It’s a struggle. I’ve done it all – and in their own special ways, they all suck ass – WAHM, SAHM, work outside the home mom (is there an acronym for that?). There is never a happily ever after. One doesn’t leave their job and find complete fulfillment in being a SAHM. One doesn’t thrust themselves back into the working world and magically balance it all. There is a give and take and there’s a good reason that book was fiction :)

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    Comment by Sharon on September 5, 2011
  7. I object! I wear mumus while i watch my DVR.

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    Comment by heather... on September 5, 2011
  8. I’m never *not* in yoga pants. Unless I’m in pajamas.

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    Comment by Allison Zapata on September 5, 2011
  9. Do you know what? I remember reading the book long before I ever became a mom and I actually did not hate Kate Reddy. Now that I am a mom I am going to have to give it a re-read. And yes the ending definitely sucked because the author did seem to be saying there was no good way of being a halfway competent mom unless you gave the career up. But, I will NOT see the movie, Sara Jessica Parker, NO THANK YOU.

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    Comment by Jen on September 5, 2011
  10. Virtual high 5.

    I HATED the book when I read it. The wife was horrible. I can clearly remember a section where she is so angry at her husband because he made home made pesto & she is so pissed about it. Boo hoo that your husband cooks for you.
    Another part where she has to clean up after her housekeeper/cleaner as she is doing a crappy job. I could not believe such a powerful woman (in her professional life) couldn’t ask her employee to actually do what she was paying her for. Don’t get me started on the copious amounts of shoes etc she buys to make herself feel better. She was just not a very nice character.

    Am not sure if am going to see the movie- possibly because I would love to see how it translates to the screen.

    [Reply]

    alimartell replied on

    THE PESTO.

    That was the very worst part of the book, I think.
    I cannot believe that she was angry about the pesto!

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    Comment by Aneets on September 6, 2011
  11. Let me just start by saying I love the look of your blog. As for the movie, you know how what you read can be translated into something different when in a movie, so let’s just hope that the movie version has a kinder take to the story. Are you still going to watch it? Coz if you would, I’d wait for your review before I would,hehe.

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    alimartell replied on

    I think the movie versions is going to be a lot different, and they will make her really likable.

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    Comment by Venice McCullick on September 6, 2011
  12. This post they are constantly trying to find that perfect balance between work and family, anyway thank for sharing your story…

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    Comment by Dainara on September 6, 2011
  13. I don’t remember hating the book when I read it years and years ago, but I do remember an excellent book club discussion afterwards about “juggling” and “trying to find balance”. What was great was that the book club was made up of a group of moms who were all trying to find that balance in different and individual ways. There was a bit of Kate Reddy in each of us, but as you pointed out, I think we were all willing to compromise a little more to find the shades of grey that make up a busy family life (there’s just no room for black and white anymore).

    Ten years down the road, I thought I’d found my balance, and have just had the rug pulled out from under me, shaking me up, tossing the balance out the window and forcing me to reassess once again what works for me and my family. Sigh.

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    Comment by Jennifer on September 6, 2011
  14. I haven’t read the book, but was about to download it. Thanks for saving me the money.

    I will, however, see the book. Because I *swear* it was made after my life.

    xo

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    Comment by Shauna on September 6, 2011
  15. I AM a work-from-home mom, and while I don’t live in yoga pants and eat bon-bons all day, I do have the DVR buzzing while I work and I don’t apologize for it. Luckily for me, I’m able to do this, and I’m not sorry that I can.

    There are times when work comes before family, but there are more times when family comes before work. That’s the balance, and tho it’s hard to find, if you’re working towards it, the balance can be attained.

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    alimartell replied on

    That’s the thing. For Kate, in the book, her family NEVER came first. EVER.

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    Comment by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on September 6, 2011
  16. I read this book years ago and enjoyed it. When I saw the previews of the movie, they didn’t have the same feel that I remember from the book. I’m going purely on those reviews when I say that it seems they may have changed up the whole point of view the book was coming from. I read the book before kids and while I didn’t hate the character, I couldn’t relate to how much she loved her job and neglected her family. There was no doubt about the neglect throughout the book. The reviews tell me the movie is going to show a mom trying to balance more, while I don’t think she had any balance in the book.

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    Comment by Laura on September 7, 2011
  17. There is never a happily ever after. One doesn’t leave their job and find complete fulfillment in being a SAHM.& Don’t get me started on the copious amounts of shoes etc she buys to make herself feel better.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Laura on September 7, 2011
  18. I HATED that book. Didn’t even finish it. Couldn’t! I’m still on maternity leave and am nervous about the balance when I return to work, but I want and need to go back. I have great role models of women who prioritize family and also rock at their jobs, like my boss and several colleagues, not to mention my own mother. I’m so grateful!

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    Comment by Lisaleh on September 7, 2011
  19. Damn, I wish I had time to read a book. It seems to slip for smaller time , kill-time-to-let-the-melatonin-kick-in commitments like words with friends.

    I struggle every day with the balance and when the news airs those segments, as they like to do about every 6 weeks, about how working moms can’t have it all, I seethe. I suppose we can’t, but I think the truth is that no one is quite prepared for how thin the slices of pie get as you add marriage, kids, increased desire for some sort of self and, well, a little bit of, “I’m too old for this shit” attitude sets in.

    Then I kick ass at work between morning and bedtime kisses from my kids, with a little post work puzzle doing and realize I have it all.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Amanda on September 9, 2011
  20. i wanna see that book, i’m too curious why others agree and others hate it.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kim on November 8, 2011
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