Monday, September 19, 2011

Yea, I Kinda "Know How She Does It"

SPOILER ALERT: This contains some details from the movie, including the ending. If you don't want to know, don't read on!

This weekend the movie version of the book "I Don't Know How She Does It," by Allison Pearson, was released, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. The film depicted SJP as a married financial analyst living in Boston with a young daughter and son, and her struggles to keep up with all of the demands (sometimes self-imposed) that those roles entail.

Gee, I just don't have any clue at all *how* she does it.

Or as my friend Jenny said, perhaps I was the inspiration for it all.

But no, the book came out in 2002 - two years before Hannah was born. It appears that I read the book then too, since I own the hardcover copy, and had started my MBA in January of 2003 (and got pregnant in May of 2003), so chances are I wasn't reading anything for pleasure at that time.

I remember reading it, and being a bit scared about how I would some day balance it all myself. The book takes place in London, and harried doesn't begin to describe lead character Kate Reddy's existence. There is never enough time for her marriage, she frets about not knowing the extensive details of her children's lives, has a complicated relationship with her nanny, and fights to be taken seriously in the office. Each chapter ends with her list of things to remember, which keep her up late at night.

But without yet having children myself, well, I couldn't possibly know just how much I would come to identify with Kate. Keeping track of the treasured comfort item, planning birthday parties, Power Point slides on daily average liquidity, kids obsessed with Mary Poppins - none of that had happened to me yet. But boy, has it happened. In an episode of the book I'd forgotten, Kate's daughter pushes her to read the book "Little Miss Busy" to her one evening at bedtime, and that book influenced my chat screen name being LilMisBusy when Marc and I met back in 1999, it's a theme I've kept up with for a long time now, and must have laughed at reading it at the time.

Having the movie set in Boston took all of the coincidences to another level. Of course there were many landmarks I recognized (and I think the entire audience snickered at the very fake "Boston Children's Hospital" edifice), though we never once saw SJP descend into the T on those stiletto heels. Near the start of the movie, her toddler son crawls in bed with her in the morning, and she sings "I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck" to him, and that was sung to me, and I have often sung it to Hannah and Max. Before the movie began, I had discussed a recent work issue with Stephanie, and an incredibly similar one was mentioned in the film. So yea, it was a lot like my own life, but with fewer high heels, and bosses who look nothing like Pierce Brosnan (sorry, guys).

So being a book and a movie, neat and tidy endings are required. In the book, Kate eventually quits her job, sells her house in the city, and spends a lot more time with her husband and kids, but shows an inkling towards going back to work in some capacity. In the movie (and perhaps owing to today's economic realities), Kate keeps her job but seems to get a bit more flexibility after having a major office success. She basically admits that life will always be crazy, but says she'll try harder to slow down.

With so many similarities, I can't help but compare where I'm at with the book and film. I may be kidding myself, but I don't think my life is as chaotic as Kate's, particularly because I don't have to travel for my job. I did get the flexibility I needed this year with my one day a week working at home, and it has had a profound impact on my stress level. As the kids are getting a little older, some things are easier. And I recognize how fortunate we are that we're not dealing with some of the major issues that affect so many and can completely derail what you had expected out of life. But at times I am truly overwhelmed and feel like I'm drowning.

And yet there are entire spheres of life that I just don't handle. Marc is completely responsible for all things car and landscaping-related. Anything needing fixing or building is also his domain. I am house-blind to a certain degree as well. If you calculate the number of drop-offs and pick-ups as 10 per week per kid, Marc generally does 13 out of 20. He is largely responsible for all food-related activities too, and the list goes on. So in my mind, that's not me "doing it all." That's having a very committed partner who makes it possible to do the rest of it. Hopefully he'd say the same about me.

But I do feel like I successfully juggle an awful lot of things, and manage to keep my husband, children, extended family and bosses reasonably happy with the job I do. Often, I'm happy with multiple pieces of the juggle at the same time! Every day is different, and there are some days where "doing it all" works out a lot better than others, but I'm not sure I could do it any other way. I know that giving up any of the pieces wouldn't make me a better person. So the challenge in life continues to be adding more pieces to the puzzle - time to exercise, more time with friends, even more time writing here - while still keeping the other pieces together.

Does anyone have a book on that?

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