Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Secret Life of a Soccer Mom: I Don't Know How to Feel

I like TV and here's why: It's interesting. I think the Oceanic 6 are very interesting. I especially think non-fiction TV is interesting. For instance, it is interesting that a dull show like How Its Made does more to inspire me to reduce, reuse, and recycle than pretty much anything else I've seen or heard [from movie stars] that is overtly "green." I also think it's interesting that Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe--a privileged, opera-singer-turned-handsome-actor-and-spokesman-for Ford is, in his heart of hearts, a Marxist. God bless him and his Carhartts!

This new show, Secret Life of a Soccer Mom has really got me thinking. Have you seen it? They let a stay at home mom do her dream job for a week and then she is always surprised at the end with a real full-time job offer. It's also a surprise to the husband who takes care of the kids for a week while the wife is supposedly at the spa. I've seen the show three times and the mom has never taken the job offer. Once I was rooting for the mom to stay home. Once I was rooting for the mom to take the job. And once I was just rooting against the husband because he seemed mean. Is this show undermining stay at home moms? I don't think so. Maybe? Does it diss working moms? Sort of, but not really?

The show's host, Tracey Gold, is pregnant with her fourth son. (While definitely on the trim side, she doesn't seem so anorexic anymore. God bless her!) Clearly she's a working mom. But she's clearly supportive when the women choose to stay home with their kids. They send a team to "cook and clean" for the moms on the first day so "no one will notice you are gone," which kind of reduces stay at home momness to drudgery (which it sort of is). When the moms refuse the jobs the producers edit the show with loving music so it seems like there's so much more to staying at home and you feel like the moms are making a good choice. Except in the episode where the dad told his excited wife (who had been in the police academy for a week), "Nope. There's no way you are doing this. Period." That seemed kind of sad--but who wants to be a lady cop! Talk about a crappy dream job.

In one episode a little boy said the F word while his mom was off doing her dream job. At first I thought, "Whoa! She better not take that job. Her kids obviously need her home." But then I considered, "Maybe they wouldn't have learned the F word in daycare." This got me thinking.

I should explain that I am currently what you'd call a stay-at-home-mom. Until I had my fourth baby I worked part time teaching Freshman English at BYU. I'll probably do this again at some point (or never!) I grew up with a mom who worked full time and I know and admire mothers of all sorts. I know mostly good moms and very few shabby moms. Let me also assert that for all the heated discussions among upper middle class moms about working versus staying at home, in many cases the points on either side are moot because you've got working moms with no choice financially and/or stay at home moms with no feasible job prospects. It's very personal. It's very specific. And I really don't judge (unless you are a shabby mom).

But I sometimes wonder how much good I really do my kids by staying home. I mean, honestly, it's not like we have quality time always. It's not all cuddling and cookie baking! Sometimes my kids see me braless in the morning when I drive them to school. That can't be good. And I'm sure I get mad at them more than I would if I worked simply because I'm around them more. Then again, maybe if I worked I'd be tired and stressed out and I would get mad at them even more. Then again, I'm tired and stressed out by not "working." I like staying home and I would say that my stay-at-home-mom skills rate in the medium range. I don't plan enchanting treasure hunts for my kids but they don't have a mouthful of silver teeth, either. I'm fairly confident they would manage if I worked full time. But who knows--It's a quandary!

It's a quandary for the women on Secret Life of a Soccer Mom, too. When the kids watch the footage of their moms doing dream jobs (a flight nurse, for example) they really think it's awesome. They can't even believe it's their mom! Which is kind of sad but sort of cool and surely there are benefits to having your mom fly in a helicopter really awesomely. That same kid whose mom wanted to be a flight nurse started bawling when they were discussing the job offer. "I don't want you to go to work. . . I want you!" I know it sounds really sweet and it's a lovely compliment to his mother. Then again, he sort of seemed like a boob. It made me think that my kids must benefit from me being constantly available to them--but what if it just makes them self-centered boobs?

In the show I saw where the mom wanted to be a chef they actually discussed having the dad stay at home (I am both drawn to and repelled by these intimate discussions among families I don't know.) I was excited about that option because I think dads can do a great job in this capacity. Just look at Sweet Juniper . . . and other examples from real life (now what's this "real life" thing again? Oh. Yeah--not TV shows or internet. Gotcha.) But in the end the mom turned down the full-time chef job because it didn't pay as much as her husband's full-time set-dressing job. I guess that's his dream job?

The last thing I think about when I watch this show is that I don't really know what these moms are going through because as much as we have in common, reality shows are by their very nature self-selecting for extroverted freaks. There is not a single reality show I would ever try out for: not What Not to Wear, not Project Runway, not Clean Sweep or Top Model or Top Chef or Trading Spaces--not even for the free stuff. I think I can even say with some certainty (I've thought about this a lot, mind you!) that even if they approached me and begged me to do a reality show (like maybe about blogging or something) I would have to turn it down. So in the end I can't relate to these people, and that's interesting too.


  1. I would comment, but I am laughing way too hard.

  2. Are these women already trained for their dream jobs? Cause some of my dream jobs would require a LOT of training. I don't judge moms unless they give their two year olds pacifiers. That is just irresponsible!!!!

  3. I live across the street from a stay-at-home dad whose wife is a Lt.Col. in the Air Force. He does work some evenings at the base theater and he teaches piano. I feel for him though, at many of the shindigs we have to go to the other men launch sarcastic yet demeaning comments his way. Men who follow their wives around in the military might make an interesting reality show. I am a stay-at-home mom who loves all the freedom it gives me to really catch up on my TV watching now that my kids are teens.

  4. Anonymous5:35 AM

    How do you figure out your dream job? That is what I'd like to know.

  5. Did you know that Billy is a stay at home dad to 3 kids and his wife is the CEO of her own company? Isn't that bizzarre? He's a fun dad, because he's still pretty much a child himself.

    On the other hand, I cannot wait to escape my crappy NON dream job and just stay home. But then, I'm a homebody. Is reading books a job?
    That is my dream.

  6. It wouldn't be my dream job unless there were some way for me to not feel any guilt that I wasn't home with my kids.
    My husband is always begging me to get a job so he can stay home and raise the kids. I've toyed with the idea but he is way too attached to the TV as babysitter and he thinks cereal twice a day is fine. Plus I have no marketable skills. Guess I'll be staying home!

  7. This may be possibly one of the best working vs. SAHM posts ever - and you've got me intrigued. I've got to watch the show now. I am an LDS, full-time working mommy from Utah. I work because I have to, but I think even if I didn't have to, I'd at least have a part-time job. I know that doesn't make me popular amongst my SAHM peers, but its who I am. And I don't even work my dream job (which BTW would be either ER doc or L&D nurse).

  8. Their "dream job" is something they used to do, but gave up to have kids. The chef was a former chef at a fancy restaurant before having kids and the flight nurse was already a nurse and had just gotten her "papers for flight training" when she found out she was pregnant. So they don't just pick a dream job out of the blue.

  9. I like your definition of "real life." Its helped focus me. I'll have to remember that. . .

    The idea of that show still really makes me uncomfortable. I don't like to see women put in such unbearably difficult positions --especially on the spot in front of viewers! We define ourselves too much by what we "do" on our resume, full-time or not. I think we should judge each other more by what we watch on tv. That's a barometer you can count on!

  10. I don't know how to feel either.

    I am a stay-at-home mom that works (for pay) part-time from home. I thought it was the perfect arrangement. It still stresses me out.

    My husband wouldn't make a great stay-at-home job--he loves his job too much and he thinks cereal is an everymeal feast.

  11. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Big LOST fan too, :)

    As much as I love reality TV, the whole point is to get an emotional reaction out of people. It may be that the dad that was nasty had other things going on that we would never see.

    That's how media is, one sided.

    Its an interesting show, but I'm with you. Its hard to figure out how to emotionally respond.

    Personally, staying home with my kids, homeschooling them, running my biz, and writing ARE my dream jobs. I too grew up in a family where mommy worked full time.....

  12. The thing that bugs me about that show is, in the previews, Tracey Gold says something like they will show the mom's what they are "missing" by staying at home.
    I wish they would do an episode where they take a working mom (maybe one who doesn't work out of necessity but by choice) and let her stay home to show her what SHE'S missing. Then again, I bet she wouldn't make it to lunch before she'd be running for her life back to the office.

  13. I mostly don't like that they lie to the dads about where they are all week. Of course the dads are freaking out. They just found out that their wife has been leading a double life for a week.

    All reality shows make me uncomfortable. I feel like I am spying on my neighbors.

  14. I haven't watched the show because it made me feel bad. Kinda like they were purposely throwing this bone of contention into a couple's relationship. Whether the gal takes the job or not, don't you think there cold be some trouble down the road for even considering it in the first place?
    Oh, it just makes my heart hurt, thinking of the havoc it may pose in some relationships, esp the precarious ones. And it is SO not okay to be keeping the husband in the dark for the week.
    Again, this is my opinion NOT having seen the show.

  15. Oh, it's horrible. I really can't believe anyone would sign up for it. I hate how they lie to the husbands and they are almost always mad,but they're stuck on camera so what can they do--awkward! And yet, I'm drawn to it. . .

  16. I haven't seen this show, but have a feeling I would be totally addicted! To stay or not to stay is definitely a heated topic. The statistics don't escape me that 60% of Mormon women at some point in their lives will be the main breadwinner in the family. So even if we're at the SAHM stage of life, we need to keep our minds and abilities as active and current as we can.

  17. I don't have any input on soccer mom's because I'm not a mom. I DO however want to comment that I can watch How It's Made for hours straight (and have on many occasions). Some of my favorites were jaw breakers and oxygen tanks.

    Also, Dirty Jobs is up there in one of my favorite shows. Mike Rowe never ceases to make me laugh. I had no clue he was an opera singer.

  18. I have yet to watch the show for the very fact that, well...I don't want to. Oddly enough, my husband inadvertently watched the police mommy episode and he even commented about how the dad was a jerk. Again, I didn't see the episode, but since dad was a policeman himself and knows the perils of the job, had been lied to for a week, and was grumpy from taking care of children who missed their mother, I'm not surprised he was a disgruntled husband. Not that he should have flat out told her no...but I think that I might be a bit miffed if my husband lied to me for a week while doing his dream job. You know, especially if his dream job was a policeman...or photographer of swim-suit models...whatever.

  19. Kacy,

    I think that these sentences are so well put:

    "Let me also assert that for all the heated discussions among upper middle class moms about working versus staying at home, in many cases the points on either side are moot because you've got working moms with no choice financially and/or stay at home moms with no feasible job prospects. It's very personal. It's very specific."

    I know it seems like I'm bragging since you are my wife, but I love the way you wrote that.

  20. I wrote about this show today- although my post is not near as great as yours!!
    I've been kinda bummed ever since my son said about me: 1)My "hobbies" are cooking and vacuuming. 2) I get paid for being a mom because I do blog ads.

    Um, ok?! That's what he sees. Apparently I have no life or desire to do cool things. Dad's a cop- so he has the cool life and mom gets paid for writing stupid ads and she vacuums for fun. *sigh*

    But what dream job would I do for a week? I guess I am doing my "dream" job being a SAHM.

  21. Great post. I'm a work out of the house mom and I don't like the idea of the show. I don't get to choose right now, so it kind of bugs that it's a game to the producers; either way you look at it the show is a little patronizing.

  22. I've never seen the show, but I love your commentary. I stay-at-home (I feel obligated to hyphenate it, why is that?) right now, but you know what? I always look at working moms with a little bit of envy.

    I like staying at home, but I loved working, too. So thanks for seeing it both ways and leaving the dogma at home!

  23. My eight year-old brother was listing all of the talents in our family. He labeled himself, my mom and my two sisters as artists and my brother as a photographer. When my mom asked, "What's Hailey's talent?" "Making babies," was his reply. And in some ways, he's sort of right. I'm not real sure where I'm going with this comment--I just thought it was funny that he has no clue about my "secret life" doing "stand-up comedy," as people call it.

  24. You don't know me, but I followed my friend's (cjane) link to your blog. I think that stay-at-home moms are underrated. The reason I say this is that there are so many days I see parents who do not have time for their kids and it really shows in school. Keep up the good work and know that what you are doing is really making a difference...even if it is only in little ways.

    P.S. The Oceanic 6 have got me hooked as do even older shows like, "Star Trek, Voyager." And no, I do not have a costume nor do I attend the conventions.

  25. I've been thinking about what you said about auditioning for reality shows. I mostly agree, but would do ANYTHING to get on What Not To Wear. I could suffer some humiliation for 5,000.smackers to spend on clothes in New York. The way those people whine about it? crazy! Come get me Stacy and Clinton...


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