Friday, August 06, 2010

A Bit of a Rant on the Secret Lives of a Soccer Mom

Cross-posted and archived from DC Metro Moms. Original post date March 6, 2008.  Does anyone even remember this show from TLC? 

Maybe I am looking into it too deep. Maybe I want more information and I should just relax because after all it is only television and it is a reality show. However, I recently watched TLC's newest venture, The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom (SLSM), and found that the show left me with a bunch questions. Questions that were left unanswered.

The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom is the latest in reality shows. It takes one stay at home mom and gives her a week to secretly see what her life would have been like if she had chosen to go back to work instead of staying home with the kids full time. OK, first off? You can't go back. There is no ramping off the career path and magically going back on and knowing where your career would have gone. That does not jive with me. No one knows where their career would have gone or what might have been. That is the real reality of life.

The first episode took a woman who had been home ten years. That is a long time out of the loop. Her pre-baby job was as a recent graduate from fashion school. She also worked for Chanel. In Beverly Hills. My guess is that it was the store not the design house. Fashion is one tough business! There are too many 'what if's' here. How does TLC know where her career would be? I know what you are saying, "Relax. It's a reality show based on a dream. Just go with it." Fine. I did. I watched the episode play out and found myself cheering this mother and family on largely because they cheered each other on continuously. Her family finds out her "secret" at the end of the show and the family must make a decision and fast. Should Mom go back to work or should she continue to stay at home with the kids? In this episode Mom chooses work. It was all very touching, there were tears shed. The kids were proud of their mother and the Dad couldn't have been happier to see his wife finally complete as he put it. In that respect I thought, "Well done TLC! That is a great example of family."

Then the ever practical side of me took over with more questions. The woman has to start work immediately. That is where I'm left hanging. What about child care? Isn't there a waiting list at most day-cares that are months long? That is how it was for me anyway. What about salary and benefits? None of that is discussed. In fact, the woman actually says, "I don't even know what full time hours are..." Is there travel? Nothing is mentioned. Just, "TA DA! Television Magic!" I suppose I should just have fun with it but it annoyed me in the sense that they never even dealt with these very real issues. Issues that could make or break a family. What if her salary is too low and child care is not an affordable option? There are three kids of varying ages which means that after-school options must be considered as well as full time help. Does TLC help with that? The woman doesn't even know what her actual position at this new job would be.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer and rain all over TLC's and SLSM's parade but this just trivialized parenting and family life to me. It is also extreme. While part-time work is certainly a challenge and often does not offer the benefits and pay to make it worth while for many Moms (who can afford the child care on a part-time salary?!) it is never mentioned. The premise of the show is very Cinderella-like and once again pits stay at home mothers against working mothers. When the first mother finds out that the design house has other working mothers employed there she is in awe. It is as if the idea never crossed her mind until TLC came knocking at her door.

There is also the lying factor. The women must lie to their family for a whole week! Dad then comes to the realization (who are these people?!) of what his wife's every day life is really like. Maybe, my family is just wildly different, but my husband knows what to do with our child when I'm gone. He does not need a list and knows the reality that the daily in's and out's of staying at home and working from home is actually like. Why does this whole thing need to be a secret anyway? Would the family object if they knew Mom was working away from the home suddenly?

Lastly, what really got me about this show is the sheer fact that no working mother can be 100% focused on her job like the women are in that first week back at work. The reality of this show is completely unfounded. That first week back at work would be a logistical nightmare for most families. The family would be trying to find its way through a new schedule and dealing with a whole new reality now that Mom is back to work. Mom would most likely be exhausted and stressed out dealing with the commute, new schedule, on the job pressures and such. Both parents would have to adjust to their new roles as co-caretakers of the family too. Or would Mom just be expected to pick up where she left off and do all the cleaning, laundry, cooking and shopping too effectively giving her two jobs now instead of just the one? TLC does not show this part of the story and to me that would be one of the most engrossing and compelling parts of a show like this. A show based on that I would watch.


Becky said...

Yeah, I was struck by the glossing over of details ... like child care, etc. And all the tears aside, how much WORK was the guy willing to do at home to facilitate his newly full-time-working wife? Or could they just afford to hire someone to clean the house and pick up the kids from school? Those kinds of things ... but, yeah, it's television, not reality.

Reply March 08, 2008 at 08:09 AM Amy@UWM said...

I don't know. I liked the show. It was definitely contrived (you just gotta suspend belief -- they have to make things dramatic for TV), but I didn't see it as unrealistic as you did. The mom looked pretty stressed out to me during those days on the job. My husband would DEFINITELY need thorough instructions even though he's been left with our kids a million times. And although it left me wondering what she was going to do about childcare too, I figured they'd work it out somehow. Maybe the producers offered temporary care until they could find a permanent solution.

I thought the show did one thing well -- highlight what a horribly difficult decision it is to either defer your dreams for the sake of your family or to actually pursue your dreams while your heart is torn about leaving your family. We're a generation of women that were told we could have it all, worked hard to at least get a head start on our dreams before we had kids and then found that mixing the two just isn't what we thought it would be. Somehow that doesn't seem fair. Neither decision is easy and I for one am glad this dilemma for us moms is getting some more national recognition.

Reply March 08, 2008 at 09:40 AM Dawn said...

Who would want to know? You can't go back so what difference does it make. And you can't have it all. No matter what THEY say. There are choices to be made, you have to try to make the best ones for your family.

Reply March 08, 2008 at 05:06 PM selfmademom said...

I hear ya on this one. I actually got to speak to and interview Tracey Gold, the host of the show for my blog so I felt like I got a different perspective. I think you make some great points. Maybe they should have carried out each mom's story over like a 3-episode time period. That may allow for more insight into the transition, etc. I'm actually trying to get the producers to talk to us bloggers about our rants about the show, because I think there could be some things to improve it. We'll see if that happens.

Reply March 10, 2008 at 04:44 AM J. Fergie said...

i love this post. i haven't seen the show yet, but i've been wanting to. i agree with what selfmademom said and think that maybe they need to follow the mom for longer than the course of one episode. also - you should send in your comments to TLC! i'm sure they want to hear from their viewers about the show.

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