I Don’t Know How She Does It – a review

‘Do you want to go and see this film and then bitch about it after?’ I typed to Victoria

”Yes, I would watch that then bitch’ she pinged back a few moments later.

So off we went to the 9pm showing at the Greenwich Picturehouse last night, fully expecting to see the GOOP version of life as a working mother.

Now don’t get me wrong, I HEART Gwyneth.  In the interviews I have seen with her, I think she comes across as smart and funny and obviously adores being a mum and looking after her family, all of which I am sure she is brilliant and amazing at juggling.  However, she’s just not representative of most working mums I know.   Unless we can all list dance aerobics, dress fittings and voice lessons in our ‘Day in the life of…’

‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ is not like that at all.

I could relate to many of the challenges that Kate Reddy faces in the film.   The guilt over feeling you are missing so much of your children growing up is one.  Having to make to-do lists in your head at 4am as that is the only time when there is absolute quiet, is another.

I also understood the parent/nanny dynamic as we too went down the nanny route for the first year after I returned to work.

I think it is really difficult to find the right balance when you work full-time.  Any spare moment not spent at work, or with your child, or with your husband… is inevitably spent in the laundry, blogging (ahem) or sleeping.  The demands on your time just pile up and up and the pressure not to let anyone down can sometimes feel completely overwhelming.

I rush out of the office around 5.30pm and still only see Zachy for probably 45 minutes before he goes to bed.  I feel trapped in a vicious circle of guilt for not being at work enough and guilt for not being at home enough.

Unlike SJP’s character in the film, I am lucky in that I am not required to travel for work, or to come in to the office on weekends.  But, I know plenty of working mothers to whom that is a requirement and it’s tough for them to be away from home.

My sister recently took a 3-week job in Malta and missed her family so much that she cried in the toilets during a filming break.  She’s now in Manchester for a couple of months on a different set, but this time she has taken her 2 year old son and a nanny with her.  How very Brangelina!

However, the way the film referred to mums at home as ‘The Momsters’ and as perfectly manicured, cake baking, gym junkies whose mission in life is to terrify working mothers with their domestic prowess, I did not think was a very realistic or particularly flattering portrayal at all.

My friend, Noo, made the choice to leave her all consuming, high powered  job in advertising when her daughter was born 4 years ago.  She is beautifully groomed (when I see her she is, anyway), bakes delicious brownies and yes she makes time for the gym, but that is where her likeness to ‘The Momsters’ ends.  The idea that stay-at-home mums drop their kids off at school and then hit the crosstrainer for the rest of the day is a tad insulting.

However, this aside, Noo still found lots to relate to in the film.

“Even though I’m not a working mum, guilt seemed to be a theme – that is one emotion I don’t seem to be able to shake!  Constant worry, expert juggling, and the dreaded middle of the night ‘list’ obsession whilst desperately trying to coax sleep also rang a bell.   Also that husbands generally, even in a household where both parents work, NEVER seem to take responsibility for the little things that can tip you over the edge.  How many husbands make up the lunchboxes, check that the uniform is clean (and ironed), or think to make breakfast for their child while getting their own (ditto take responsibility for their offspring cleaning their teeth while they do their own)?”

The character’s husband in the film is played by Greg Kinnear.  He is gorgeous in it.  Very smoochable.  Maybe this is why I ‘overlooked’ the parts that Noo mentions above, where he is being less than hands on.

I actually thought he did his bit… his wife was jetting off on overnight business trips throughout the film, which I assume meant he was left in sole charge of the two kids (outside of the nanny’s working hours, that is).

There were some real laugh out loud moments in the film and I’ll probably watch it again when it appears on Sky Anytime… but I know what you are all really dying to know is, did we bitch about it after….?


Yes, we did actually.

We bitched about one scene near the end of the film between SJP and Pierce Brosnan where we did not think she reacted or responded appropriately.

It will ruin the film for you if I tell you anymore than that, so you will just have to go and see it and then come back and let me know if you agree…


  1. Noo
    September 23, 2011 / 8:52 PM

    Thank you lovely Smudge – I did hate the Momsters and was consumed with dread when I considered I might be like them, or that people might perceive me to be. Truth is, I feel unworthy next to working mums, and worry that people might think of me as a total airhead because I haven’t gone back to work. I would LOVE to work, and miss it dreadfully, but as you know, my job was all consuming, involved very long days, weekend overtime and lots of foreign travel. As you also know, I waited a long time for my precious girl, and didn’t want to miss her childhood. I know I was lucky to have the choice. But she started school 2 weeks ago, so now I can start looking for something to do that will fulfill me again and allow me to engage my brain! Watch this space!

    • Grenglish
      September 25, 2011 / 8:54 AM

      I am watching!!! You are nothing like the Momsters, Noodle and as for feeling unworthy – well that is just ridiculous and we will talk more about this when I see you!
      Love you lots lovely lady xx

  2. September 23, 2011 / 9:20 PM

    Oh I feel surprisingly keen to see it now. Was thinking it wouldn’t be as good as the book – love that opening scene, and I do know a Mum who does exactly that on cake sale day!

    • Grenglish
      September 25, 2011 / 8:51 AM

      Haha, I am just sorry I did not think of it first!

  3. September 24, 2011 / 7:20 AM

    Mmmm… “perfectly manicured, cake baking, gym junkies whose mission in life is to terrify working mothers with their domestic prowess”… if only!!! *wonders how long it will be before it hits SKY*. Great review 😀

    • Grenglish
      September 25, 2011 / 8:52 AM

      If only indeed! Great film though, I’ll definitely watch it again 🙂

  4. September 25, 2011 / 6:41 AM

    Great review! I’ve just gone from being a stay at home Mum to working again now that Sadie is in school 5 days a week. I’m very fortunate that I also work in a school so I have the same hours as Sadie. Although I’m struggling a little at the moment as I’m not the one that takes Sadie to school or picks her up. I”m still there in the afternoons to take her to her activities but I’m struggling with not being able to see her in the classroom each day and the fact that even though we are apart for about 45 minutes in the afternoon as we both make our way home she’s become extremely close to her nanny and now I’m feeling guilty and jealous! I take my hat off to all those working Mums they are true heros! I’m so over the working mum versus the stay at home Mum. All Mums are hard working and sacrifice so much in their life and I admire each Mother for the work they do when they do!

    • Grenglish
      September 25, 2011 / 8:53 AM

      I agree! Tell me more about your new job… sounds very exciting!
      Also – happy to chat more about the nanny/mummy dynamic if you want to xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.