I Don’t Know How She Does It

One day I will watch movies that I want to watch.  But until that day, I guess I will have to settle for critiquing the movies that I am actually watching.  To that end, I saw I Don’t Know How She Does It this weekend, and these are my thoughts.

First, some premise, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here, because just looking at the movie poster seen above, you can pretty much tell exactly what is going on: working mom, does it all, takes great care of adorable kids, wows at impressive and intensely demanding job, still keeps the sparks alive with her husband, has meaningful friendships, all while keeping that figure at a size Double-Zero.  Hence the obvious exclamation: “I don’t know how she does it!”

But if you’re looking for answers, you will not find them in this movie.  Unless the answer you are looking for is “I’m not sure, she just does” or perhaps more accurately, “well, she doesn’t.”

I found the movie kind of offensive, actually.  The cinematography was fine.  The casting was fine.  In fact, Sarah Jessica Parker makes about the most convincing frazzled mom I think I have ever seen.  Almost too convincing.  Throughout most of the movie, she comes out looking crazed and disheveled.

But the movie, for me anyway, ended up being critical of both working moms and non-working moms.  And it somehow managed to make dads look like crap, too.  Maybe I am just being hypersensitive here; but I don’t think so.

Sarah Jessica Parker has this high-power job, and of course she rocks at it and loves it.  I think she’s an investment banker or analyst or something.  I personally had to begin the suspension of reality here.  She loves her kids, and wishes she could spend more time with them, but work demands keep getting in the way, and her desire for success keeps letting them.  Her kids gently express desire for more of her time and attention, as does her husband.  Things escalate.  But in the end…well…I don’t want to spoil it completely.  But there are no surprises.

As I mentioned above, stay-at-home moms are represented as well, very negatively.  According to “I Don’t Know…,” SAHMs just ignore their kids and work out and bake and try to one-up each other all the time, all while looking down their rhinoplasty-enhanced noses at the working moms who can’t do anything right.  I know it is intentionally mocking, but still.  I know many stay-at-home moms, and they are not like this at all.

I also know a lot of working moms, and it’s not quite as simple as this movie makes it seem either.  I think it’s hard to be any kind of mom, and there are sacrifices for both categories of mothers.  Both sides are giving something up, and it is stressful and hard for everyone.  No one way is right or better.  The movie doesn’t give any closure on this issue.  Maybe this is because there is no closure to be had, but I think the movie just kind of danced around the issue and then punted.  Very unsatisfying.

Of course, because I am a guy, I have to include a comment on the husband angle.  He has a job too, but they don’t even identify what he does.  Of course it’s not as high-profile or awesome or demanding or important as what Sarah Jessica Parker does.  He is portrayed as kind of a dumb, emasculated, whining weenie, and I didn’t care for that at all.  Somehow he is always available to pick the kids up from school, see them out the door, and watch them at night when she has to work late or travel.  He doesn’t appear to have any real time constraints or responsibilities.  What is this job, and where do I sign up?

There is (of course) the mandatory bedroom scene where she returns from yet another important trip, and has just had to pretend to bake a pie, and is finally coming to bed, and has to be up at like 6 a.m. the next morning, and they show the clock and it is like 2:00 a.m., and (of course) he wants to get it on, and (of course) this wonder woman of a working wife/mom is game (yeah right), but then he goes to brush his teeth and she zonks out while he is gone, and he then smiles and tucks her in.  First of all, what kind of clueless schmuck goes for it under these circumstances?  And what kind of exhausted woman would actually even pretend to go along with his advances?  I know this is supposed to be a cute and endearing moment in the movie, but on behalf of all the non-clueless, non-dumb, actual-job-possessing husbands/dads out there, I am calling BS.

All that being said, it wasn’t a horrible movie.  Cute and entertaining enough, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.  I’d love some other perspectives.

8 thoughts on “I Don’t Know How She Does It

  1. Wow, you really had some strong feelings about this movie. I rented this a month or so ago and watched it by myself one night. I knew my husband wouldn’t be interested, so I watched it when he was already asleep. I actually laughed out loud a few times, which is rare for me (when watching a movie, that is).

    I am a “SAHM”, so I really couldn’t relate to her role in the film. But, I also did not relate the the SAHM’s that were portrayed in the movie either. Although I would bet there are real women out there who come close to being like that. I just don’t know any of them. And don’t care to.

    I was disappointed in the end. I thought she was going to tell her boss “screw you” and that she would quit so she could be the mom that she wanted to be, but she didn’t. The job was just too important. Ya can’t have it both ways! I thought it was kind of sad and kind of unrealistic (in my world anyway).

    And by the way, when you’ve been married for that long, who really rushes in to brush their teeth before getting in on? Seriously.

  2. Thank you! I was disappointed with the ending too. I didn’t need her to quit, but the ending came off feeling half-hearted and implausible to me as well. I think the ultimate question is “how can you do everything?” and the true answer is “you can’t!”

    I think the “teeth brushing” scene is a cinematic tool representing how the spark and spontaneity is gone, and everything, even sex, is rote. Like it’s just another part of the routine. I could write posts and posts on and around this subject. But for now I will leave it at “I hear you.”

  3. Also, DeAnne, I am curious about two things: (1) your husband going to bed before you do, and (2) you watching movies by yourself that he wouldn’t be interested in. I didn’t know either of these were options. As a husband. Tell me more.

  4. That’s easy. He’s on the day shift rotation right now and has to be up at 4:30am, so he often goes to bed before I do. I am a night owl and sometimes I just feel like watching a movie. If I know I am going to watch it alone, then I am more apt to pick out a chick flick that I assume he wouldn’t like (I secretly think he likes chick flicks though).

    I was actually curious what your wife thought of this movie, since I gather she chose it?

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