I Don't Know How She Does It

The day the movie version of Allison Pearson’s 2002 best-seller, I Don’t Know How She Does It hit our neighborhood theatre, I insisted my husband go with me.

 

He had 10 other movies on his list above this one.  But I was adamant.  The book had inspired my own anthology, Mommy Wars.  I wasn’t going to miss opening night. To my surprise, Saturday at 7 pm, the theatre was half full.  I couldn’t figure it out.  The book had been a bestseller.  Where were all the moms who’d made it one?

 

Then it hit me. Duh. The Muffia were busy. Putting toddlers to bed. Accomodating husbands who balked at a chic flick. Collapsed on the sofa after an intense week juggling work, babies, pets, laundry and “having it all.”

 

I missed my fellow moms. I laughed extra loud at every punch line to make up for their absence. I whispered a little thank you to the universe that I had managed to sneak away, that I had survived motherhood to this exquisite stage when my 14, 13 and 9 year old kids can stay home on Saturday nights without a sitter.

 

I loved the movie. Loved Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Allison Pearson’s maniacally stressed working mom heroine. Loved her messy, roots-showing hair, often crawling with lice. That’s what kids do to us moms; like the Velveteen Rabbit, our worn edges show how deeply we adore our charges.

 

I loved how much Kate Reddy loved her job, and how good at it she was. Loved her dishonesty - her lies to her boss about why she was late to the office, her distressed-pie deception of the stay-at-home moms at the school bake sale - and the disarming candor she shared with her dearest friends. I loved her kitchen, especially its huge butcher block island covered with kids’ art, rotten fruit, dull pencils, broken pens, and endless lists of stuff Kate needs to get done. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Kate was real.

 

The only thing I didn’t love?

 

The changes that Hollywood writers made to her husband.

 

In the book, he’s a sweet-on-the-surface, clueless-underneath “Darling Husband.” Richard is focused on his career, his self-esteem (he cringes when his wife is described as the “main breadwinner’), his need to leave early for week and stay late for client meetings, and his desire to maximize sex opportunities with his hygiene-deficient, sleep-deprived, stressball of a life partner. He’s a guy who could help his wife immeasurably by devoting an hour more a day to the kids and the household and her -- who just doesn’t.

 

I know five billion dads just like him. Including my own DH. Lovely men who do less than zero to help us working moms hold onto our hard-won dreams of combining careers and kids. Ambitious men who marry similarly ambitious women and feign bafflement when asked to split the late nights at work and daycare pick up.

 

PluralBates
12.05.11

I read the book and haven't seen the movie yet. I agree the book would make no sense with a supportive husband. . . which is why it did not resonate with me. Much in "working mom" media does not because I have a true co-parent who splits everything with me. This is key, ladies. We have to find a way to get this for more of us.

jaienvie
10.11.11

Amen, amen, amen, I hear you. My husband's sole fault is his warped view of his household contribution, no matter how much I try to show him things from my perspective. I would write more, but I've got to call the pediatrician and take the dog to the vet before my noon conference call. ;P

Shwanda
10.07.11

Having read this rant, I can't help but thank my lucky stars. I lucked out when I married a single dad because he knew what it was like to do it all and work. We have five kids together. Last year I worked full time and went to graduate school at night. I couldn't have done it without my husband's help. He cooked, cleaned, mopped floors, vacuumed and did the laundry. I'm too old and wise to tolerate the kind of self-absorbed, selfish DH you described. And I don't think you should either.

CarolShwanda
www.shwanda.com

lengeft1
10.04.11

"Disappointing then that the movie-dad is a sweet, impoverished, disheveled husband who helps with diapers, meals, school pick-up and grocery shopping; likes sex but doesn’t pressure Kate when she’s exhausted; and never complains about anything. The perfect man. I’ve never met one of those in real life."

Too bad for you. First of all, dear, no one is perfect. No one. Not these poor harried working moms...who also made the choice to marry whom they did, to have children, and to have a full time career (how about just a wee bit of accountability here, hmmm?), and not the men they married. And if said moms continually put up with these clueless, worthless but 0-so-beloved husbands' heinous behavior without voicing objections...how is the dynamic ever going to change?

You should really take a bit of time and research the concept of the "Superior Wife". It would be well worth your time. I played that with DH I and II. Working full time, mothering full time with Mr. Wonderful 2 as well. Which is why I and II are both exes.

There is No. Such. Thing. As a Perfect Man. But my husband, Rusty, changed diapers, picked up from daycare, cleaned up 2 am vomit, made meals, washed dishes and went grocery shopping with me...when we were both working...and when it was just his toddler stepson. When I stopped working after our son was born (my older son was having extreme difficulties in school that required constant attention...and Rusty's job paid a lot more than mine...which was just a "JOB"), he still got up for feedings, changed diapers, cleaned up puke, helped with shopping and meals, gave the baby baths, wore the baby carrier and toted our little guy around...and no, He. Is. Not. Perfect. But then, neither am I.

O, and sex? I had a very necessary c-section at the age of 38. Healing was a little slow. Then I spiraled down into severe post-partum depression that was exacerbated by my bi-polar disorder, OCD, and schizophrenia. Yes, I am medicated...and it was very heavy, and very debilitating back then. Those powerful anti-depressants and psychotropic drugs kill the libido. He waited. He was mostly patient...but I had to relearn a lot, and yield again too. We celebrated 17 years of marriage two weeks ago. I am lightly medicated now and fully functional. We have a wonderful, mutually delightful intimate life. We're still in love.

The book that the movie was based on sounds like one of those that misandrist women read in order to prove their point that all men suck. So sorry the movie didn't give you the opportunity for that same misandrist frisson. It's gotten a little cheap, hasn't it? Always blaming the "clueless" male...even if the female never really bothers to clue him in...because he's too stupid to learn. I was married to a moron...and I kicked him out, divorced him, and struggled along on my own rather than continue to be an Idiot Superior Wife and raise two children because I had something cliched to prove to womankind. O, and your attitude toward SAHM moms is clearly unpleasant. I can't bake worth a flip, and I despise field trips, and I do NOT belong to the PTA. I can cook like a fiend, but I could do that when I was working 50 hour and longer weeks...and I did.

I think YOU need to be enlightened. But hey, that's just my take. Reality bites back.