Sunday, June 6, 2010

Film Appreciation

Last night, I re-watched a film that I had seen many years ago called "Baby Boom," starring Dianne Keaton. Set in the Reagan 80's, the basic premise presents a career driven woman who becomes a single parent by accident, and long story short, by the end of the movie realizes that her daughter is more important than earning huge amounts of money on Wall Street, and that she can find love in the most unlikely of places. The first time I watched the film, I remember liking the Happily Ever After ending, and thinking that it must have been hard to give up the status and success she had achieved in the business world.

Of course now that I am a parent, my reaction to the ending of the movie was completely different: once I stopped tearing at the scene of Keaton's character playing quietly with her daughter, I felt like applauding the choice, because it made perfect sense to me. For me, there is no feeling like the one I get when I see Raphaela after a day of work, when she smiles at me and comes crawling toward me to pick her up, it gives meaning to everything else.

Being a mother has also affected my reactions to other scenarios in my day-to-day life. Last Friday, when we arrived at the pool for Raphaela's swimming lesson, one of the other mothers of our group was sitting at her car, bawling. She had accidentally locked her son in the car (it was a rental, and her husband wasn't there to help), and was hysterical at the idea that her baby would suffer heat stroke, or worse. All the mothers from our swim group rallied around her, in the end someone "broke into" the car in order to open the door, and then we all cried with her when her son was healthy and happy.

I have always been one to volunteer to assist a stranger who seems to need the help, but this time I and the other parents could empathize; it was a completely different experience.

Yesterday at the park, I politely asked an Israeli man who was smoking right behind us, to please put out his cigarette while he was standing near other children at the swing set. I explained that the wind was sending the cigarette smoke toward me and my daughter, and that we were allergic. (Not to mention the known effects of second hand smoke...) His wife stomped over and started swearing at me - solid use of the F-word there - saying that Israel is a free country and that her husband had the right to smoke wherever he felt like and for as long as he felt like, and that I had the selfish "chutzpah" to ask him to stop.

Normally I am the so-called Smoking Police when I see people smoking in densely populated public areas, like the mall or in cafes and restaurants. As a Chiropractor, I believe that everyone should enjoy life to the fullest, and that smoking threatens that experience. This time, I was protecting my own child, and had no problem returning this woman's aggression, because the cause was just.

Children re-arrange all your priorities and challenge your value system to the core.


Amy Charles said...

The other read of that movie, of course, is that it's the dominant Hollywood ethic: Know your place, bee-otch. You can have career (and lotsa luck, because no man wants to get beat by a girl) or you can be Mom, but you're evil if you try to do both. See Murphy Brown.

You see the same thing in Kramer v. Kramer, where the woman is dreadful & appalling for doing the same thing men do routinely: She splits to go find herself, then comes back and wants to be Mom again; the Dustin Hoffman character is vindicated when he wins. Of course, when men split, we go tsk tsk, but they're heroes if they come back and want to disrupt everyone's life so they can try again.

I'm currently finding no conflict whatsoever between single motherhood and full engagement with career. Neither does the internal medicine doc down the street. That's because our daughters are school-aged and we've built large and supportive networks to help us raise these kids.

You have to be very careful, I think, not to lose sight of the fact that while now is very intense, children don't require this level of care for very long. If you're only having one, it's not going to take ten, fifteen years out of your career. It might take five. And for that you don't need to throw away a career.

As far as Wall Street and other high-powered places go, I think the movies tend to miss the women's side of the sexual politics. Can you have children? Of course. Can you be, visibly, a mother, deeply engaged in your kids' lives? Yes. All those guys subscribe to the cult of the mother. What you can't lose is your middle finger and your ability to win. You need to be able to do both jobs at once. But that's just another name for being female.

(I'm thinking now of Maria Bartiromo. She hasn't got any kids, but I cannot imagine her letting any of those guys use motherhood to trip her up. Nor can I imagine her neglecting her children.)

Breaking into the car (immediately) and asking the smoker to put it out were the right things to do, no reason to hesitate.

s5 said...

You seem to be quite a pain in the ass, according to what you wrote in this post and also in earlier posts (about your nephews and nieces in the US using too much water, etc...)

Ever thought of living and letting live?

If he smokes and you do not want your daughter to inhale the smoke, take her somewhere else.

This is spoken by a radical, determined non-smoker.

sara said...

Finally - someone says it! You must chill out, and let go of some of the self-righteousness. If someone is smoking, move away. If your babysitter has too many steps, choose someone else.

Doc said...

Whoa, I never saw myself as a pain in the ass or as self-righteous, but rather as an opinioniated woman who chooses to fight the battles in which I believe. And my daughter is a worthy cause.

Compared to the Type A person I was before I moved to Israel in 1997, I am actually much more mellow, and am proud of myself for being less of an hysterical parent than I could be, given my professional background and the fact that I am a first-time mother.

As far as the live and let live concept, I challenge anyone who has a smoker blowing ash into their child's face to sit there and be quiet, or to leave the park and let the smoking git win the day.

Sarah said...

What I'd *like* to think I would have said to that woman is "Yes, your husband absolutely has the legal right to be an Ass in this country. If he wants to be an Ass, fine, I'll leave so he can smoke. Are you OK with him being an Ass?"