After a long week of juggling, I could not wait to see the new movie that I knew (after reading the book) I could relate to.
Allison Pearson’s 2002 novel, I Don’t Know How She Does It, was described by Oprah Winfrey as “the national anthem of working mothers.”
Kate Reddy, a sophisticated investment firm whiz in a competitive field played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is going through three especially chaotic months in her life that will exhaust you to watch as we “see Kate run!” She has a tightly packed work schedule but more importantly she has two kids, a nanny and a husband who just wants five minutes of her time.
Kate is a woman who loves her job and family and is trying to juggle the two while flying back and forth to New York from Boston where she works closely with the ultra debonair Pierce Brosnan. This adds to Kate’s stress as she carefully keeps her emails professional and vanilla. She is deeply fulfilled by her job and needs it more than just for financial reasons.
This frantic lifestyle wills Kate, who is a frazzled mom juggling family life and a demanding job, to try to have it all. I can relate to the desire to manage the chaos with two young children, I think a lot of mothers will resonate with Kate. We are the little engines that could (and can).
My friend Jen (who is also a working mom of two) and I went to see the movie together and we laughed so hard we cried several times, especially when Kate’s best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks) brings unset Jell-O to the bake sale. We found ourselves rooting for these working women and laughing with them.
Kate has the freeze frame commentary that we are familiar with from Sex and the City but also the likeability of Bridget Jones that can be seen in the way she can’t quite get it right while trying to balance life and love.
Sarah Jessica Parker says this about managing to do it all with her own family, “I’m proud that with lives that are somewhat complicated, we keep figuring it out.” That’s what you have to do, just jump in and swim!
It is true that there is a juggling act required of working moms. I know I feel extremely happy and proud when I see that I CAN successfully juggle both work and family. Women who make it work usually thrive on a full plate. Yes, tired we may be but as SJP says, “we keep figuring it out.”
As an elementary school teacher, I maintain high admiration for the stay-at-home moms who drop their kids off at school in their cute workout clothes and head straight to the gym for Pilates, yoga, the elliptical trainer... Allison Pearson refers to these women as “the Momsters.” Their nails are polished, hair highlighted, pies homemade and their children never get head lice unlike Kate who gets it from her daughter and frantically scratches her head during an important business meeting. These women have high expectations to meet, if for no other reason than that most people, including their husbands, sometimes think they have plenty of time for everything. Of course, that’s usually far from the truth.
Kate’s assistant, Momo (Olivia Munn), is more like a robot than a human. She states at the beginning she does not want to have children. Naturally, Momo gets pregnant at the end. Momo is in tears when she’s holding her newborn baby and says this about her feelings, “this does not compute.”
There have been many movies about working women. Some of my favorite include: Woman of the Year ’42 with Katherine Hepburn who plays a political columnist, The Apartment ’60 with Shirley MacLaine who is an elevator operator, 9 to 5 with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton were all secretaries and Working Girl ’88 with Melanie Griffith who plays a receptionist. Sarah Jessica Parker fits right it in I Don’t Know How She Does It because it’s relevant to today’s working mom.
Don’t we all have “the list” that mothers go to bed thinking of? Kate sinks back in her bath to let her thoughts flow freely when she says about her non-stop list and thoughts, “they feel stuck to my brain like barnacles.” I think most women have “the list” running through their heads at all times and there’s nothing we love better than to check something off of it.
Many working moms feel that pressure, worry, and guilt, guilt, guilt to be perfect. Kate has that working mom shame of buying a store bought pie for the bake sale, missing her son’s first haircut, singing her children to sleep by cell phone…I think most moms would jump at the chance to work part-time if they could, because then you’d have the best of both worlds.
Kate’s husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a struggling architect says the magic words, “Sometimes okay has to be good enough.” Richard refers to Kate as a juggler when asked what she does for a living. Kate says, “The secret is not how you catch but how you throw.”
My two favorite Allison Pearson quotes from I Don’t Know How She Does It:
“Even the moon gets to put its feet up once a month. Man in the Moon, of course. If it was a Woman in the Moon, she’d never sit down.”
“Trying to be a man is a waste of a good woman”