Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kate Reddy: How Does She Do It?

Last weekend the Hubster and I went to see Sarah Jessica Parker's new movie, "I Don't Know How She Does It." I read the book by Allison Pearson when it came out in 2002.

I remember being enthralled and telling anyone that would listen what a good book it is/was. The main character is Kate Reddy, a successful working mother.  I wanted all of my friends to read it. --I thought it spoke to women in the career world regardless of the parental status.

Kate works as a manager of a hedge fund for an Investment Firm.  She is also happily married and the mother of two children. The first scene of the book shows Kate trying to wear her "Perfect Mother" hat. That's who Kate is, really. Perfect. Or at least striving for perfect. She is, at the very least, very very competent.

I hesitate to capsulize the "what the book is about" because it the book is so well done it surpasses the cliché. If I were to give a capsule, it would be: "Kate tries to balance her roles of wife, mother and career woman. She struggles with competing priorities as she tries to be successful in each of her roles. The goal? Be successful at everything at the same time".

I, too, am a wife, mother and career woman. --Surprise, right? My day job is banking. When my daughter was in 4th grade, I tried to balance being a good mother (and wife) while working full time at a large Commercial/Investment bank. I was also in MBA school full time. My Hubby had a high-stress job that required him to travel across the country a couple of weeks each month. It was wonderfully crazy.

Someone once said to me, "The key to 'balance' is to recognize that you must balance your roles over time". There is no such thing as perfect balance at any one point in time. I carried this like a mantra while I was going to school.

For me, the most important thing to keep in balance ALL OF THE TIME was my daughter. I wanted to make sure that she did not feel she was missing out on having her mother's attention. I wanted to make sure I DIDN'T MISS OUT on having my daughter's attention.  These are special moments that we don't get back.

I combined activities so that that D and I could have parallel time together as well as *Quality Time*. My nights were spent at the kitchen table doing homework while D was also at the kitchen table doing homework.  When D needed my help, my homework waited until she was in bed.  Weekends were about balancing play dates and activities with D and her friends while I continued to squeeze in study time.

One of my more creative combinations was taking D and her friend to the movies. While they watched "Babe" or "Toy Story" I was using my pocket flashlight to read my textbook assignments. --Yep, I carried a book bag everywhere. I'm pretty sure that D's memories are simply that "Mom took me and my friend to the movies".  I don't think she was aware that I wasn't watching the movie.

There's a line in the "I Don't Know How She Does It" movie that I really love.  I think it's also in the book. The line is something like: "I love you. I love our life and our kids. But I also love my work. I know you want more time with me. But, me without my work isn't me."

That is how I felt when I was working on the "fast track". (Side note: It turned out it wasn't so fast.)  This is what spoke to me when I read this book. Allison Pearson was able to create a world that I could point to and say: "See...this is what it's like".  And I pointed to it not to say, "Woe is me", but to say "These feelings are all genuine".

The movie? Well, some of the critics didn't like it so much. I think they saw it as Carrie Bradshaw does "Married with Kids and a REAL job". I liked it. Not love...but like. I actually didn't see Carrie Bradshaw.  But I did see someone that sort of stressed me out. I may have identified too closely when I watched it on the screen (versus reading). You know, when Kate is running from appointment to appointment and moving from crisis to my heart racing. 

The only down side of the movie:  I was feeling so much kinship to book Kate. But seeing movie Kate with her big lovely home? Not so much. And movie Kate's part time nanny crises...also annoying. (Although, in fairness, book Kate had a part time nanny too.) I guess I was ticked off because THIS "working to have it all mother" was also responsible for getting child to school on time and NOT being late for pickup from after school care. --If you've ever dealt with after school care, you know the threat of expulsion due to excessive tardiness is just as scary as the $1/minute charge for being late.  So, while I did not see movie Kate as a Carrie Bradshaw. I did see Kate, "I'm a working mother 'just like you'. Only I have Charlotte's house. You know, Carrie Bradshaw's friend Charlotte".

I'd love to hear what you think. I'd love to hear if anyone has pulled a "Kate Reddy" similar to the opening scene of the movie and book.

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