A couple of weeks ago I went to see the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, the movie based on the book of the same name by Allison Pearson. It was cute, somewhat trite, yet entirely perfect for a girls’ night out. Despite it’s forgetability, something about it stuck with me, some voice in my head said something wasn’t quite right. I listened to the audiobook of this title when it first came out in the U.S. sometime in 2003 and I haven’t carried the best impression of the book with me. If you had asked I would have said it was just an OK book, but I couldn’t tell you why exactly. After seeing the movie, I was pretty sure the moviemakers had either missed something or not quite gotten the story right. No surprise in that happening in a movie adaptation, but I couldn’t remember the book well enough to recall the problem.
Luckily Audible saves your purchased library for all time so I was able to download the book and give it another listen and alas I was able to discover what was missing. In the book (SPOILER ALERT) Momo, Kate’s (the protagonist) protégé, is subjected to sexual harassment in a particular nasty way. The slimy Chris Bunce (played right on target by Seth Meyers in the movie) puts her head on pictures of naked women performing lewd acts. This spurs Kate into action setting up the evil Bunce to get fired and then resigning herself (this does not occur at all in the movie and Kate does not resign). Second, her husband actually leaves her, instead of just implying that he might.
Lastly, and most important, the overarching message of the book seems to be that working too hard and succeeding is not a good thing for a woman – or at least not for her family. Kate and all the other likeable women characters eventually end up either as stay-at-home Moms or working at much less demanding (high-paying) careers. Kate, smart, powerful, highly paid woman, gives up her job so her husband doesn’t leave her and so her kids don’t hate her. This is what brings happiness to husbands and children.
The movie, on the other hands, ends on a note that says women can do it all (except an affair, of course, even if it is Pierce Brosnan), it is just a careful balancing act. I guess I subscribe more with that version of reality for obvious reasons.
In reality I suppose both conclusions are true, depending on who you ask and when. In this current economic climate, I don’t think a story about a woman giving up a high-paying job to spend more time at home would go over well since most don’t even have an option. And while I know for a fact that most stay-at-home moms actually work much harder than I do, I don’t think that staying at home necessarily makes a better mother as the book seems to imply. That’s my gamble, anyway.
At least now I know why my recollection of the book was iffy and I have a new appreciation for the movie rendition.
The one good thing that the book and movie share is how annoying that statement really is, "I don't know how you do it." I do know. It's not magic, it's not really anything special. It's just living.