Recently Sarah Jessica Parker jetted into Melbourne for a bit of race-day strutting and to promote her new film I Don’t Know How She Does It. From the trailer, it looks like a cheesed-up version of a very wry British novel which – when published eight years ago – captured the Zeitgeist of the “have it all” working mum.
Here’s the trailer for I Don’t Know How She Does It:
Many will relate to the movie’s scenes and themes; SJP’s character distressing a shop-bought pie for the school bake sale and confessing she has no idea if her son likes broccoli resonates with my own personal juggling triumph – throwing sultanas and, stupidly, a lipstick to my bored 18-month-old as I interviewed Todd McKenney over the phone. (The result was a carpet cleaning bill far in excess of the fee I earned for the story.)
In the years it’s taken to turn the book into a film, I’ve moved on from the unhelpful and stereotypical polarising upon which the story turns: the tension between working and stay-at-home mothers (called ‘Mumsters’); the housework divide; the resentment child-free women have towards their child-burdened counterparts. I’m not saying those issues don’t persist. Rather, 11 years into parenting, I choose not to make them issues.
What does trouble me, though, is that despite all the talk of work and motherhood and the attendant guilt, exhaustion and short-changing, we’re still afraid to speak the truth about many of the points this story raises. So here goes…
These are things I’ve learnt. (Feel free to disagree.)
1. It’s impossible to be a completely engaged parent to a child under five and a full-timer in a high-powered role. That doesn’t mean you can’t take the job – just that someone else will witness the milestones and you’ll make decisions that puncture your heart. For me, it was hearing my daughter needed hospitalising for bronchiolitis after I delegated someone else to take her to the doctor.