Friday, January 23, 2015

Girls Night Out Vs. Mr. Mom

A few months ago I watched the new movie, "Mom's Night Out" with my husband. There were definitely some comedic moments I enjoyed, but I actually thought the main point of the story was a bit pathetic...embarrassing...disconcerting. Why? This movie was made to represent modern mothers and how things really are at home for her. The mom in the movie with younger children clearly loved her husband and children. But her life was depicted as stressful, chaotic, disorganized, and at times, a little depressing. (She curls up in a ball at one point in numb disillusionment and despair.) There's no doubt about the fact that she was completely overwhelmed and for valid reasons.

But here's the thing: no one is asking why. What is the root cause for the sad state of affairs that this modern generation of mothers is experiencing and this movie represents? Why these moms needed a night out is the main point of the movie. Nothing wrong with a break from the routine and the kids and the dishes and all. But that wasn't what was happening.  For these moms, they were barely hanging on. Their home life was not abusive and I don't think they were living in the ghettos. They just had chaotic stress and mayhem. Kids are represented as little whirling cyclones with nonstop energy and needs. The mom of young ones did not know the first thing about bringing any order or peace to her home. In a nutshell she didn't know what she was doing. And this movie was simply depicting that this is the reality for most modern mothers today. So much so, that most mothers could relate to that overwhelmed mother.

Okay let's just take a step back from "Mom's Night Out" and contrast it with another movie.

It was made in 1983 (32 years ago) called "Mr. Mom" starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr. This movie depicts a housewife and mother of young children also. Three very young children.

The movie opens as the mother (Teri Garr) is waking up with an alarm. Love it. She promptly gets up, goes to the bathroom and pins her hair back. Next she gives her face a peppy splash of water and  smiles in the mirror.

Observation: This woman is happy and content. She is the confident manager of her home. AND let's take note of one of the secrets to her success - she's the first to wake up. ("She riseth also while it is yet night" Proverbs 31).

Next we see her wake up her husband with a kiss and softly tell him his shower is ready. Perhaps she ran the water so it would be hot when he stepped in? How cool is that? Then she pads into her sons room, stepping carefully over the mess and toys (realistic touch there), feeds their fish, and cheerfully wakes each boy up. She smiles into her baby's crib and greets him good morning. (The baby has a bottle that he was probably put to bed with which was a not a good trend of that time, but it's insignificant. We're focusing on the main point depicted - a happy, well ordered home.)

She then buzzes merrily, contentedly and confidently around her kitchen as her family eats a nutritious breakfast at the table. Her husband tells a clean joke to his boys during breakfast and then has to go to work. The wife stops what she's doing and walks him to the door, kisses him goodbye and watches him leave.

Observation: Everyone eating together is illustrated as a normal part of life. (Proverbs 31..."and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens"). She doesn't neglect her husband while taking care of her housework and the kids. She makes him feel loved and special.

Later, she gets herself and her kids all dolled up and greets her husband at the door as he comes home from work. She heard he'd been layed off work and wanted to cheer him up. She had a meal all set on the table (KFC) for a special dinner. (Proverbs 31 "She is like the merchants 'ships;
she bringeth her food from afar",) She diffuses her husband's annoyance and provocation to a bet to see who could get a job first.

Observation: Her gesture was offered to make sure her husband knew how much she supports and loves him. Her meals were planned in advance. She is not easily provoked. She asserts she doesn't bet, lets him know it's silly, but remains pretty refined and elegant. She does not let her feathers get ruffled at her husband's playful attempt to rile her. Very classy.

Next while she clears the table, she mentions to her husband that she put out the word for getting a job to help out while he's layoff. (Proverbs 31 "She considereth a field, and buyeth it:with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.")

Observation: She's not plopping on the couch after a meal. She calmly and routinely clears the table because she knows that the kitchen is her "office". She keeps it prepared for the next meal by cleaning up right after each meal. This was considered commonplace homemaking 101. Notice that her children are not running around creating mayhem and foolishness. Dinner is over and it is implied that they are off getting ready for bed or otherwise happily occupied.

So, per the title of the movie, now comes the fun part. She gets hired as an ad exec and as she's leaving for her first day of work she goes over "the list". Everything her husband needs to know to run the household smoothly while she's away. She knows everything about her children and has somewhat of a schedule for them, their naps, the needs, etc.

The comic part of the movie is when the husband tries to do his wife's job, which is completely foreign to him. Hilariously funny stuff. The chaos that ensues as he takes on the kids and the house reminded me of the chaos depicted in Mom's Night Out. Only in the latter, it was the mom wreaking the chaos. (This is what raised red flags for me in Mom's Night Out. They depicted household chaos as normal for today's mom to have a disorderly household and be overwhelmed by motherhood and homemaking. Overwhelmed by God's design. But 30 years ago, this was not the case.)

Throughout the rest of the Mr. Mom, we are introduced to his wife's friends who were also moms who come along and cheer on the fumbling husband who's "doing it wrong".  After a few months of housekeeping and homemaking, he grows accustomed to the chaos and lets himself go. He gets depressed (a man's natural domain is out fighting the dragons not playing house) but then he pulls himself up by the bootstraps and dives into the challenge with renewed vigor. He starts little remodeling projects, gets the routine down and does really well. Even learns to do a little cooking. (Disclaimer: there are some inappropriate parts to this movie, per the era. I'm not condoning those, but again, just focusing on the main point of the movie.)

Okay, so the husband in Mr. Mom who was thrown into a "mom" role, figures it all out fairly quickly. Contrast that to the sea of mothers today who are fumbling the ball. They are not keeping their homes. They are spending more time on Facebook and twitter than they are on housekeeping, meal planning and child training. They are raising self-willed-tyrants-in-the-making and it's all a big joke in Mom's Night Out. It's funny. Supposedly. Well, call me a Debbie Downer, but I think it's sad. Tragic even.

Please note: I'm focusing on the mothering/homemaking issues here and nothing else so please bear that in mind. Both are movies and not real life so there are obvious concessions made for the sake of comedy, story flow, etc. But the point is — they were both made to reflect the current status quo of mothering and homemaking.

The end of Mr. Mom eludes to the wife considering working part time which reflected the Feminist movement of that era. Mom's Night Out depicts stay home moms, reflecting an attempt at returning to homemaking roots of this era (a very good thing!). The reason I am contrasting them is because I feel that moms today need to retrieve something. They need to go back to the roots. They need to learn homemaking skills as they were once taught, known and lived many years ago. Homemaking and mothering require a multitude of skills. It's an art, a science, a joy and a challenge all rolled up into one.

I'm not disparaging a mom's bad days. We all have them. But in the old days, they were not the norm, but rather the exception. Today's wife and mother is unacquainted with child training. They are over-acquainted with arm chair and tv psychobabble though. They are are familiar with most all the trends in parenting. Time outs. And giving lengthy, bordering-on-whiny explanations to their little ones. Justifications for every little decision they make and indulging in emotional rants is not completely off limits. They are unfamiliar with running their household with confidence and with a firm but loving hand.

What can be done? Perhaps proficient successful mothers should give seminars and Godly parenting and homemaking classes? I know there are some reeeeaaallly good homemakers out there reading this and you may not be "perfect" but you've got a handle on things. Your home is loving, orderly, peaceful, vibrant, and somewhat (or very) organized. You have a plan and you are managing your home. I think those who are running smooth and happy homes should consider sharing that knowledge with a generation of mothers who are desperate in the local community.

Chime in! What do you think? Do you think that today's SAHM have more in common with the mother or the father in "Mr. Mom"? What do you think of the idea of giving classes on mothering, home management and housekeeping?


Courtney said...

I haven't seen either movie but I found this post to be very interesting. I can relate to the messy, chaotic household of this generation. I struggle to find a happy balance. My kids are 6, 4, 2 and 6mo. The 6 year old and 2 year old are boys and they're constantly running, jumping, etc... We live in Wisconsin where it's winter half the time so I can't send them outside. I crave peace in our home but can't achieve it because of their boy energy. My husband says this is just what kids do and he's ok with it. I'm happy to hear you say this doesn't have to be normal. Where do I go from here? I know you have boys.... When they were little did you let them run in the house and jump off furniture? Or did you give them another outlet for their energy? How did you balance this?

Simply Keeping Home said...

Courtney, Boyish energy isn't the problem, it's undisciplined behavior. Their energy needs to be channeled. My boys were not allowed to jump off the furniture, but they could use couch cushions to make forts. And they could run if they were careful.

Do you have house rules that they know and obey? Do they have daily chores? Do you structure your day so they know what to expect? Have you read No Greater Joy Volumes i, II and III? They are excellent and very inexpensive books that taught me a lot.
I will write a post about this to offer more ideas. :)

Courtney said...

Thank you for the response. I look forward to your future post on this. Yes I have created a schedule for us when we are home. It does include age appropriate chores for each child plus I homeschool so that takes up a portion of our day. I've always tried to give my kids plenty of free time to play because I've always thought this helps promote creativity and good sibling relationships but that's when they fight and run and trash the house. I know they're just little kids and I can't expect perfection, I'm just trying to find a happy, healthy balance. I appreciate you letting me pick your brain on this. I love talking to moms of older kids so I can learn!!!

Alyson said...

I have not watched these movies either, but I loved hearing your take on how motherhood is changing. I wonder what 30 more years will do to our young mothers. I definitely will be picking up the No Greater Joy volumes, I had no idea Mike Pearl had any books, I must've been living under a rock. I've watched him a lot on youtube though and always enjoy listening. Thank you for the encouragement today! I was starting to feel sluggish, a little motivation was all I needed :)

Anonymous said...

Dear SKH,
This is a great post! I have not watched either movie, just as the other commenters but I appreciate your informative descriptions. I chose not to watch Mom's Night Out after hearing a review that insinuates one of the mothers is infatuated with a motorcycle bad-boy and that the movie does not do ANYTHING to shame this sinful bahviour against her husband. Is this true? Did you notice that?

Anyway, on to your post: I have read here for a long time and I have learned so much from your blog. It is obvious that you are a peaceful lady with a peaceful home. I greatly admire you.

I keep a schedule for myself and our kids during the weekday. This is thanks to advice from you and other esteemed bloggers. It is chaulk full of daily chores, weekly chores, down time etc. Also, meal prep and kid's activities. I do not use this schedule rigidly but I love having it. It helps me remarkably to have a schedule. My boys are still young, 3, 2 and 8 months so we do Bible study and reading, music, counting, but no homeschooling yet.

I desire to homeschool my children but as of right now, my husband chooses that they will be in public school starting at kindergarten.

I have stressed out days and my boys {all boys} get crazy sometimes, but they know their boundaries and they get rewarded with a spanking each and every time they deliberately disobey.

I am very lenient on their activities, however. They're aloud to run, play in cupboards, ride little bikes around etc. but they have a clear understanding of right and wrong concerning their behaviour.

I have read Train up a child and it has helped significantly. God bless you, Crystal

Note: I have tried commenting here and you don't seem to publish them, what am I doing wrong? I stay on topic and don't stray away from the narrative, I am respectful and give you due credit. I have been reading this blog for almost three years and you used to approve my occasional comments, then you stopped. Please erase this portion of my comment.

Simply Keeping Home said...

Hi Younggodlywoman! This is the first comment I've ever seen from you. Perhaps the ones you've left in the past had some sort of technical error?? I don't know. I publish every comment I receive! I'm sorry I have been missing yours! I'm not able to edit comments, so your note came along with the rest of your comment. But it's a nice note so that should be okay! :-)
About the movie question: no, I don't remember a mom's infatuation with motorcycle bad boys...maybe that part went over my head. That's happened before :)

Crystal, you sound like you're doing very well! Flexibility in schedules are a must! So long as your kids are *allowed* to ride their little bikes, play in cupboards, etc in the house, and it doesn't wreak havoc, then that is fine. They are within the limits you've set and that's important for them to know.

You said two things that were HUGELY important and I just have to comment on them.
1) "we do Bible study and reading, music, counting, but no homeschooling yet".
My dear, you are already homeschooling!

2) "I desire to homeschool my children but as of right now, my husband chooses that they will be in public school starting at kindergarten."

Has your husband watched InDoctrination yet?? You must, MUST sit down and watch this movie with him. It is a game changer. It just might change his mind about public school. And if you could then continue to homeschool your precious children, it will make ALL the difference in their lives.
God bless!!

Simply Keeping Home said...

Allyson, I'm so glad I could encourage you! We can all get to feeling a little sluggish from time to time. It happens!
And I'm so glad you're going to read the No Greater Joy Volumes. You will love them! But I recommend reading To Train Up a Child first. :)
Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen either movie but as a member of the generation Mom's Night Out focuses on (I'll be 27 this year), I have a pretty good hunch as to why so many in my generation are like this! We weren't given any responsibilities! Our parents did everything for us. Most of us are from families of 1 or 2 children who each get their own bedroom and entire lifestyles, basically, where they don't have to share things like clothes, toys, etc. Most people in my age group left home not knowing how to do any chores like wash laundry, mop, or clean a toilet or cook anything beyond making a bowl of cereal or heating up a pre-made store-bought lasagna (a few years ago I was at a cooking class and there was a woman in her mid-30s that didn't know that beans came dry and had to be soaked and then cooked)! So then when people who grew up like this are given all these responsibilities--keeper of the home, mother, wife, and for most, work outside the home as well, after being spoiled and coddled for so long, with all the media messages saying you deserve everything they want, no matter what the cost (even getting into thousands of dollars in debt), and then reality hits and things aren't as pretty and perfect as Mom & Dad made it look (after a lifetime of hard work), it's overwhelming and they just break down. We're really doing a disservice to our kids by doing everything for them and teaching them that their mere existence means they deserve only the best of the best.


Simply Keeping Home said...

Jessica, thank you for sharing your valuable insights! It's such a shame that kids grow up feeling entitled. In some ways, parents who do things the way you described probably feel they are taking good care of their children by doing so much for them. It's the case of helping the butterfly out of the cocoon instead of letting it struggle. Scientists discovered that without the effort, the butterflies don't survive well. The same is entering adult life without life skills! It's a real problem, but definitely one that can be fixed with a willingness to learn, a little time, a lot of hard work. :-)

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