Sunday, September 25, 2011

How Anyone Does It...

One of the most interesting things about reading Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode column a few weeks ago, and Stephen Holden’s review, both in The New York Times and both in one way or the other about the movie, I Don’t Know How She Does it, was their discussion of what’s changed in the ten years since the book was a best seller.

Belkin notes the adaptations the movie has made to be more current, especially with regard to parenting. There are the changes in technology (the instant communication provided by a BlackBerry); the “kinder” portrayal of men (whose roles and desires in the work/family balance have evolved she suggests) and then the new ending –spoiler alert--in which the main character creates a version of having it all that is, arguably, more reflective of 2011.

Stephen Holden’s film review, in contrast, is about how the movie “seems stuck in the past.” The film’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, in his description, embodies both Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and the movie’s main character, Kate Reddy, in a case of what he calls “Parkeritis”.

The condition is fatal only to a film, evidently, and means the star brings with her the ethos of an era in which “Ms. Parker was in her early 30’s, and well before Sept. 11, two wars and a major recession dampened American exuberance.”

We are, Holden makes clear, no longer in the glory years.

But, by Belkin’s account, as mothers and wives and women with jobs, perhaps we finally are.

What has happened in the past ten years?

I can’t speak to the book or the movie, but I was interested in hearing the marriage historian Stephanie Coontz interviewed last May. Looking at what she described as longitudinal studies of women, both working and stay-at-home, she says the mommy wars are over.

What really matters is that a woman is doing what she really wants to do, and that her employment is one that is “high quality.” Kids are happier if a mother is happier, and those two standards were seen as protecting a mother from unhappiness or depression.

Over the past five weeks, I’ve moved from stay-at-home mom to full-time working-outside-the-house mom.

My husband takes the kids to school, a seminary student walks our dog, teachers fill our girls’ days with purpose, and a college baby sitter rounds out dinner and bath time on evenings when I take my night class.

I Don’t Know How She, or for that matter anyone does it.

Right now, it takes a team.

In Holden’s review of  I Don’t Know How She Does it, he criticized Parker for bringing too much of her former character and spirit to her current role. It’s probably a fair critique for him to make of an actor.

But I felt bad for the person, mother, and working woman behind the critique.

Throughout our transformations, we, unlike a Hollywood actress, don’t have to completely reinvent ourselves, or pretend that whatever we’ve been doing for the past ten years (staying at home, working outside of it) never happened.

Maybe that, in keeping with Belkin’s more optimistic view of the way things are now, is another good thing about being a parent in 2011.

1 comment:

Tim Morrissey said...

Good to see a post from you again - although with your incredibly busy schedule I don't know how you manage it! But then - that's the theme here (on multiple levels) - and I wish you and your entire team the best! (FWIW: I can't imagine viewing the movie without thinking of SJP's role as Carrie Bradshaw...although that's MY shortcoming.)