Dixie’s got an interesting post over on her blog, regarding the first 2 minutes of this clip from the film Mona Lisa Smile:
According to IMDB, here’s the dialogue:
Katherine Watson: There are seven law schools within 45 minutes of Philadelphia. You can study and get dinner on the table by 5:00.
Joan Brandwyn: It’s too late.
Katherine Watson: No, some of them accept late admissions! Now, I was upset at first, I can tell you that. When Tommy came to me at the dance and told me he was accepted to Penn, I thought, ‘Oh God, her fate is sealed! She’s worked so hard, how can she throw it all away?’ But then I realized you won’t have to! You can bake your cake and eat it too! It’s just wonderful!
Joan Brandwyn: We’re married. We eloped over the weekend. Turned out he was petrified of a big ceremony, so we did a sort of spur-of-the-moment thing. Very romantic.
[Katherine is stunned]
Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice, not to go. He would have supported it.
Katherine Watson: But you don’t have to choose!
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That’s not something I’ll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn’t say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but after watching the clip above, I re-watched it tonight.
Dixie‘s take on the scene above got me thinking — here’s part of what she wrote:
I just felt like Julia Robert’s line “You can do both” was too simple — it made it sound too easy. I tried talking about it with Marc before bed last night, but all I really got from him (he was trying to read a book at the time) was that she may not be saying it’s easy, just that it’s possible to do both.
A couple things to say, I guess. First of all, it depends on what your definition of “both” is. To some people “both” is having a job/career and having your children in daycare until they are school-aged (and possibly even then in those work hours before and after school as well). “Both” may be working part-time and being home when your children are home. […]
When I think of what “both” is: having a career and raising kids, I just don’t see how you can really do both fully. And that’s simply a matter of the logistics of time. Both take time.
After watching the film again, I disagree with Dixie’s “easy-peasy” characterization of the line of “you can do both.” For one, the theme “you can do both” doesn’t just appear in that one scene — there’s at least 2 or 3 other places in the film where that line is used, and I don’t think it’s ever said thoughtlessly.
But beyond the film’s reiterated theme of “you can do both,” in the scene excerpted above, it’s the married student who was more flippant and arrogant about the roles of women. Did you catch how quick she was to make a woman fit into a prescribed dichotomy? As if the only options then (and now?) are to be either to be a career woman OR family woman. Oy, I wanted to hurl things at the screen when she said that as a career woman she would “regret not having a family, not being there to raise them” — especially when it does NOT have to be a choice of one or the other!
My original comment I left on Dixie’s post was about how difficult it is to juggle two careers — one outside the home and the other within. And y’know, it is difficult. Exhausting. Frustrating. Lonely. Exasperating. Many other negative adjectives could be used here to describe the struggles we working mamas face, negotiating two very different worlds.
But you know what’s even more frustrating? Reading comments from other mamas that imply that working outside the home forces you to sacrifice your abilities to be fully present as a parent — because, after all, how can you work full time and be a full time parent?
Granted, over at Dixie’s blog, the discussion is still quite civil in tone — but within most of the comments, you can’t help but notice the unavoidable inference that the better mom is the one who’s there 24/7 for her kids.
And when I think of it, it’s easier to take the sanctimonious route when you are on the stay-at-home side of this issue. Of course it sounds noble (and to some, ideal) to be the one who makes sacrifices and chooses to have your life revolve solely around your family responsibilities. That said, I’m a little wary of women who complain that stay-at-home-mothering doesn’t get the credit it deserves — when for most of humankind, mothering was the ONLY career available to women.
So, now it’s my turn to be sanctimonious when it comes to this issue.
While the stay-at-home moms can brag that they never miss a moment of their child’s life, I can brag that I’m showing my daughter the importance of being self-reliant. When Emma is an adult, I never want her to be in a place where she feels vulnerable and indebted to someone else’s income. When she’s older, I hope she sees my choice of working outside the home as one where I was able to use my talents in spheres beyond domestic ones, and I hope she’ll also appreciate that I gave her the opportunities to learn from adults other than me.
Because that’s the trick when you’re a working mama — you have to find the right people to help you in your parenting journey. I don’t have extended family to call upon to play a major role in Emma’s life — but I do have great people/friends/and services that have filled that familial void quite well.
For instance, the daycare worker that Emma saw three days a week, Carol. Carol is the mama to 2 boys, and she loved Emma as one of her own, too. I never had to worry about Emma when she was in Carol’s care, and in fact, I think Emma is a better girl because of the time she spent with Carol.
Starting next week, Emma will be in the CASA program at Allegro Montessori School. Jerry and I deliberately chose this style of schooling because we wanted Emma to have the best. As harassed as I am by others (hi Mom!) about my choice of only having one child, I take pride that my choice means that I can afford to give Emma options that I would not be able to if we had more children in our lives.
So I know I’ve ended this post a bit snarky (and maybe even a little nasty), and it’s not necessarily directed to anyone (not you, Dixie) — but I’m just tired of having to feel lesser-than when it comes to the choices I’ve made as a parent. I’m also tired of the presumption that the better parent is the stay-at-home parent.