Once again, my life as a New York City mother has been portrayed on the silver screen. This time it is called Motherhood. I feel that I owe it to myself to see movies about women who live in Manhattan so that I can gauge how I am being portrayed to the world.
To date, I have been represented as the wealthy socialite Mrs. X in The Nanny Diaries, where I lived in luxury on Park Avenue, ignored my child and abused my staff.
In Sex and the City, I was depicted as the brusque career woman Miranda Hobbs, whose priorities are her friends, her job, her child and her husband—oh yeah, him.
Now in this new movie, I am disorganized, disheveled and disgruntled, as well as in desperate need of a hairbrush.
Uma Thurman’s Eliza Welsh has two (count ’em two) rent-stabilized apartments in a West Village walkup. “One’s a studio,” she whines, as though it is more of a burden than coveted extra space. She also uses her car to store things.
Early on in the movie, a pulled together mother (which, of course, equals mean), shakes her head, not so much at Eliza’s choices, but at how she can’t seem to handle or enjoy them.
Together Mother looks quizzically at Eliza and reels off: the two kids, the dog, the car, the walkup. Oh, and Eliza, are you still in your nightgown as you take your daughter to school?
Quite frankly, I had the same reaction. This is a hectic, never-stop, crowded city where things can get complicated by simply missing a bus. Watching people make things even more difficult for themselves is distressing.
But it got downright depressing observing Eliza prepare for her child’s birthday party. Granted, it was a simple 10-kids-in-the-apartment-fete, but still, she went shopping for it that day !? Mere hours before the party was supposed to start.
To make things worse, Eliza first did food shopping, and because apparently the supermarkets in the West Village don’t deliver (?), she schleps her grocery bags to the party supply store then carries it all home—let’s add another element to complicate life—on her bike, which has a flat.
Any NYC mom worth her salt would have had the goody bags created days before; the cake would already have been in the fridge; and the balloons, plates and cutlery would have also been purchased previously.
FYI: She’s also miserable because, although she has a blog (that people actually read), Eliza claims that she’s had to put her once promising writing career on hold, no thanks to her children.
For the record, the day I switched from staff writer to freelancer who worked from home so I could take care of my baby was the day my writing career changed for the better.
I’m not alone. There are mothers who’ve used their stay-at-home status to launch new businesses or change careers. I’ve yet to meet anyone who introduces herself as “just a stay-at-home mom.” People lay claim to their professions—editor, lawyer, etc.—then say, “But I’ve taken time off to be home with the kids while they’re little.”
NYC mothers also use their professional skills to volunteer at their children’s schools and raise—not pennies via bake sales—but thousands of dollars with fundraising events that boost school revenues sky-high.
As infuriating as it is to have so many cartoonish characterizations of my Manhattan motherness out there, Park Slope mothers now have it worse. If you don’t believe me, read Amy Sohn’s new novel, Prospect Park West.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, by The Vineyard Press, is coming soon.
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