Boston-based Kate Reddy is a dedicated mother of two young children, wife to an aspiring entrepreneur, and a hard working member of a high powered investment firm who is up for a promotion that will require long days, nights, and travel. Adapted from the 2002 novel of the same name by Allison Pearson, I Don’t Know How She Does It is the story of a woman (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) who “has it all,” meaning she has (seemingly) hit the jackpot when it comes to succeeding in both her career and family life.
Continuously climbing up the corporate ladder, Kate is up for a significant promotion: leading a project that would accelerate her career, yet with its demanding travel commitments, would also keep her away from her husband and kids. The pitch for the project alone has her jetting off to NYC in a panic, for a series of meetings with head of the project, Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan).
While this comedic take on the busy life of a working mom doesn’t exactly replicate the workings of the modern day office, it does provide the viewer with some relevant topics to explore, including: work-life balance; balancing home life and your partner; and setting boundaries at work.
Kate’s bedtime ritual consists of her frazzled state of obsessing over things like her kids’ playdates, exercise, party themes, her in-laws, her budding career, food, and even personal hygiene—revealing that the “inside of a working woman’s head is like the control tower at O’Hare International Airport.”
Kate calls these “to-do” items “The List,” and notes that it’s the reason that 64 percent of mothers with young children don’t sleep through the night.
Also keeping Kate up at night are the “Momsters” at her childrens’ school—a group of in-shape, exercise-loving, field-trip-chaperoning model moms. Convinced that these moms love, and live, to terrify working mothers with their “domestic prowess,” Kate will do anything to show the Momsters that on top of everything else, she still finds the time to excel in her homelife duties as well.
Kate’s family life is filled with just as many elements—her husband (Greg Kinnear), whose own career is about take off; her two children, who are increasingly noticing and negatively reacting to her frequent work commitments; and of course the nanny—whom Kate views both as a threat and also as a necessity. Kate’s husband feels believes that their money could be better spent—but Kate says that frankly it would be easier if her husband left rather than the nanny.
At work, Kate’s colleagues keep her on her toes. Momo (Olivia Munn) is Kate’s Harvard-educated, junior research analyst who possesses the warmth and work ethic of a robot. Chris (Seth Meyers), Kate’s contemporary and father of four, constantly taunts her over her own time-consuming kids, and somehow finds the time to schmooze clients by taking them out for late night dinners and the like.
These “ideal worker” pressures push Kate to vie harder for the promotion, even though she knows that while it might be the best thing for her career, it’s coming at the worst possible time. Despite incidents with lice, pressure from her own mother to scale back her career, and an overall sense that life is moving in fast-forward, she presses on.
All in all, I Don’t Know How She Does It provides viewers with three main points for balancing work and personal obligations:
- Ask for what you need. Kate realizes that she’s never going to get the schedule she wants unless she asks for it. If you need to make some changes at work, talk with your supervisor. Suggest scaling back your travel, or limiting it to just a couple days a month. Open the conversation about time off around holidays months before they hit to ensure proper time off with your family and loved ones.
- Embrace your dedication to work. Kate recognizes that her although her life might be easier without her demanding job, without her job she just wouldn’t be herself. Recognizing that our work is a vital part of our lives is an important step in finding work-life balance.
- Open the dialogue with your family and partner. Pretending as though you can juggle it all on your own is going to set you up for failure rather than success. Have an open and honest conversation with your partner and family members about your roles and responsibilities and be sure to check in often about how they are going. If a promotion or job change is on the table, that’s definitely a great time to revisit this conversation.
Readers, did you watch the film? How do you see the challenges of balancing work/home life played out in this movie?
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