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?