i don’t know how she does it

I had to get the oil changed today, so after dropping off the car at the Sears Auto shop, I parked myself in the food court with my cup of McDonald’s coffee and got some work done. As a freelance editor, I sometimes have the ability to take my work with me and so my errand was partially paid for by my flexible career (although the fee for just that one oil change surpassed the amount of money earned from my hour or so of work).

Still, I’m fortunate to have the option to be able to do not only this (working just about anywhere, although not all my assignments are so pack and go and days so free on time), but also to work my schedule around my kids’ school drop off, pick ups, and other events in their lives. In fact, while at the mall and after finishing with the work I had brought with me, I was able to take in a movie (or most of a movie) before rushing out the theater door and down the mall corridor to pay for the maintenance and retrieve my car before picking up my son from school. If only the pay I receive for the work I do were as desirable as the flexibility, but this is the dilemma a lot of working parents face.

In fact, the movie I saw, I Don’t Know How She Does It, hits upon this dilemma of balance. The movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker as the harried working mom, Greg Kinnear as her usually understanding husband, and Pierce Brosnan as a business cohort whom Kate (SJP’s character) works with and nearly falls for.  The topic drew me in–in fact, I remember having checked this book out of the library some time ago, although I couldn’t find the time to finish reading it–so I thought I’d check out the movie.

On some levels I could relate to Kate in that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I also could relate to the lists she draws up in her mind. What mom/working woman/wife doesn’t lie awake at night ruminating on, hyperventilating over, dreading the events of the upcoming days and the shortcomings of her life?

On other levels, however, I couldn’t relate . . . at all. I’m referring to things like having a nanny, living in a Pottery Barn-inspired home, having a career that is so satisfying and fulfilling that you just know that if she were to take it down a notch or maybe even ten, she would indeed be able to juggle her high-paying working life with mothering and being a wife. She’d still stay busy, but she’d be more present for everyone, including herself, which (forgive me, but as I explained, I had to run out before the closing credits), I believe is what she ultimately decides to do. I think every woman would love that dilemma–being a loving mom and wife and having a fulfilling career that allows for all the good things in life. But nothing is perfect. Something’s gotta give. Either you are present for your kids’ first haircuts, first steps and first smiles and are actually able to bake a pie from scratch for the school bake sale, or you’re out cornering a lucrative deal while making incredible pay, wearing sharp clothes, and padding your 401(k) for what will obviously be an amazing retirement. Either way, there are tradeoffs.  In the grand scheme of things, I guess we should all be thankful for the little things that do go right–the work that comes in, the home that is comfortable enough, and the family that is usually happy to see you. Oh yeah, and being able to occasionally sit through most of the show.

hard not to hate kate plus 8

Would someone please get this woman some help? And no, I’m not talking about nannies and bodyguards here. Kate Gosselin, that mother who started out on TV as someone to admire as she juggled raising two sets of multiples, the younger ones being just infants, but who on the path to stardom transformed into a bleached blonde, fake-tanned version of Mommy Dearest, definitely could use some help–the psychotherapeutic variety. And I don’t say that to put the woman down.  There are plenty of people who do things impusively and compulsively who aren’t bad people. There are even entire TV shows devoted to them (Hoarding: Buried Alive comes to mind, as does Celebrity Rehab).

But when someone is loathed even by the people who once loved her, there’s something wrong here. On the last couple episodes of Kate Plus 8, the TV series on TLC that morphed from the original Jon & Kate Plus 8 featuring Kate when she was still married to the docile husband who eventually escaped servitude, Kate “takes her family camping” in two RVs to the West and southwestern United States. Along for the ride are Ashley, the babysitter/nanny;  Jamie, Kate’s best (and, I assume, only) friend; and Jamie’s three normal kids. Oh, and there’s also Steve, the bodyguard, an entire film crew, and two drivers for the RVs. See? Just a normal family vacation.

The concept is fun, but the smiles soon melt like butter on hot pavement because . . . did I mention Kate Gosselin is along on the trip? Needless to say, the number of cringe-worthy moments in these episodes is enough to make your face stay that way. The final episodes were titled “RV Breakdown,” and even though three RVs need replacing or repairing along the way, I think the producers were going for the double-entendre with that one, for here are some of Kate’s breakdowns:

 1) Kate throws a foot-stomping, whiny fit when her bodyguard is handed a slice of pizza barehanded (OMG!) by one of Kate’s own daughters (the one who usually throws the foot-stomping, whiny fits. Hmmm, wonder where she gets that from.).

2) Kate throws a second foot-stomping, whiny fit just seconds later when Jamie suggests that the bodyguard eat mac and cheese or salad instead of the pizza. “He DOESN’T EAT macaroni and cheese or salad. That’s for the kids.” (Seriously, Ashley and Jamie, do you expect a grown man to eat adult food?)

3) She throws a fit when bodyguard Steve agrees with the nanny, Kate’s friend, and eleven of the eleven children present that pizza is a fantastic idea for dinner after pulling into a campground late in the evening and having no grills to cook the “hundred dollars’ worth of chicken” (her words) Kate had planned for dinner. (One of the production assistants eventually assembles two small grills to no avail.)

4) Kate throws a fit when she finds out that the best friend and the nanny hadn’t followed her exact orders by putting the kids’ swimsuits in two mesh bags instead of in their duffle bags, because damp, brightly colored, patterned clothing is so difficult to find when mixed in with the other stuff.

5) Kate throws a hissy fit when she enters a raft and refuses to sit on the hot seat in her hotpants/denim shorts, even though all the kids are already seated on those same hot seats while wearing thin trunks or swimsuits. She then throws a second fit when the raft guide douses the seat Kate will be sitting on with river water to cool it. She ends up not sitting down until the seat is dry. She also refuses to get wet on the raft. (Apparently bright-yellow river rafts and camouflaged submarines look too much alike to assume both are not watertight.)

6) Before the RVs even hit the road and while Kate is trying to load the duffle bags and suitcases in the luggage compartment, she says to the cameramen/producers/assistants something to the effect of, “OK, there comes a time when we have to stop playing filming a TV show and help.” (Huh? Since when is it their jobs to do anything other than film a TV show?)

7) Kate throws a fit when she goes over to the “party bus,” which is what Ashley and Jamie have labeled the RV they are riding in with the older kids, and chastises the women for not doing whatever it was she had asked them to do this time.

8 ) Ashley, the nanny (although Kate never uses that word; she prefers “babysitter,” because it sounds like mommy’s helper and not actually the woman responsible for raising the kids), walks off the show and flies home, but instead of taking the blame for causing Ashley’s uncharacteristic reaction, Kate instead turns it inward in a typical poor-me moment: “Eventually, everyone leaves me.” (Geez, I wonder why.)

9) Kate complains that she is the one “masterminding” (aka “controlling) the entire trip while Ashley and Jamie sit back and watch a movie with the children in their air-conditioned RV.  I’m sorry, but I thought part of the job of a “babysitter,” was tending to the children, but I may be wrong.

OK, enough examples. I could go on and on, but the point has been made. If those eight children turn out without therapy bills up the wazoo or without having robbed a convenience store by age 14, I’ll be surprised, because it’s become evident that Kate isn’t the only one who needs help.