I Dont Know How She Does It
Release Date: November 3, 2011
I think it’s hard to be a woman – I’m a man, so the closest I can really come to understanding is talking to my wife. But it seems to me that audiences that go to see I Dont Know How She Does It will contain women of two types: those who feel guilty for working and those who feel guilty for being full time mums. As the heroine demonstrates, it’s hard for a modern mother to make any decision without feeling like she’s failing someone.
Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, a financial fund manager who balances her high responsibility job with the even higher responsibility of mothering two children. Her husband Richard is an architect attempting to establish his own practice. Their already crowded life becomes even more hectic when one of Kate’s financial proposals gets the go-ahead from her New York office just as Richard’s business takes off. Kate is quickly caught between the divergent priorities of progressing her career, supporting her husband and parenting her children. I Dont Know How She Does It quickly resolves into the question facing every woman in a world encouraging them to be all they can be, all of the time: ‘How can she do it?’
I Dont Know How She Does It is filled with just the sort of observational comedy that women in general and mothers in particular will recognize. I personally loved it when Kate had to hand her business associate a spare nappy, board book and plastic container of snacks before she could dig her Blackberry out of her purse. Then of course there are the more relational jokes that mums and dads will also appreciate. Richard is feeling amorous after several days away from his wife and Kate tells the audience, “I’m not one of those wives who doesn’t want to have sex with their husbands. I think he’s still the cutest guy I know. There’s just one problem…” – and Richard walks into the room to discover a negligee-clad Parker snoring on the bed. Romance often falls victim to real life when every ounce of energy is directed towards taking care of others.
Hollywood has often used plots like this one to promote the myth of the superwoman. Out there, somewhere, are certain special individuals who have managed to pursue the benefits of both career and family without either one suffering. Kate’s friend Allison describes her as the sort of person who can, “Do it [all] without mixing vodka and Zanex.” Kate also touches on the myth when she assures her pregnant business assistant that children won’t kill her career:
“There is so much joy! And I could teach you some tricks so that family and work don’t miss out – oh my God! What time is it?!”
– just as she realizes she’s late for yet another home commitment. But neither does the film suggest that being a mum is all there is. Kate clearly gets a great deal out of her success, and it is a source of pride to her husband that she can do so well.
I Dont Know How She Does It is an easy watch, but not the Sex and the City sort of fluff that Sarah Jessica Parker has been known for. Kate’s character could just as easily be a dad with too much to do as an overloaded mother. She’s a comic reminder that no parent – mother or father – can fool themselves into thinking that they can ‘do it all’ without consequences for their relationships. In fact, fulfilling all of your personal goals can lead to losing more than you gain. Kate tells the audience, “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman,” and “There will always be another deal to make but there will never be another first haircut.”
Now there are some very negative reflections on Kate’s attempts to satisfy both her family and her fund by some women who’ve chosen to stay at home to raise their children. As two dimensional as their characters are, I think Christians have probably provided some of the material the writers have drawn on by assuming a unwarranted superiority for that decision. It’s curious given that one of the Bible’s most celebrated female images is in fact a working mum, the ‘Woman of Noble Character’ from Proverbs 31. And I think if Kate had ever met her they might have been good friends. Clearly you can be the woman who ‘considers and buys a field’, whose ‘children call her blessed’ and whose husband ‘praises her. The key to happiness is not your goals but your priorities. How does Kate do it? Well she begins by deciding who should come first.