Single Mothers Get A Fair Shake In ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’
I Don’t Know How She Does It isn’t just all about the tribulations of being a partnered woman with a marriage, as well as a job, to keep intact. Single mothers occupy a good chunk of the film too, with actresses Christina Hendricks and Olivia Munn representing women go the road of motherhood alone.
Kate Reddy, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, is BFF with Christina Hendricks’ character, Allison Henderson. Although we regrettably never see Christina with her kid, she still occupies the other half of the working mother narrative. The Mad Men star also delivers some of the best one-liners from the film, offering up zingers about workplace treatment of mothers.
When chatting into the camera about her experiences being a mother with a job to maintain, Hendricks speaks candidly about how many offices handle motherhood. She points out that when appearing austere in the workplace, despite having kids, female employees are treated as “abrasive and difficult.” Yet when stressing about children during meetings or checking in at home from the desk, they often come across as “emotional and difficult.”
“Difficult is the word for anything that is not a man,” the redhead points out in her office chair.
Olivia Munn’s character, Momo Hahn, plays SJP’s single and childless colleague. Gorgeous, well-dressed, and annoyed with Sarah Jessica’s religious check-ins with her husband and kids, Munn plays a woman horrified by parenthood and all its chaos. The perfect antithesis to SJP’s messy long hair and rice crispy treat stained blazer, Munn sports a sophisticated bob, clear skin, and stain-free clothes. She begrundgingly watches SJP fish through her purse for a phone number, holding baby toys and snack bowls in the moments before Sarah Jessica discovers that her son has been sent home with lice. It doesn’t take more than a few scenes to discern that SJP functions as walking birth control for the childless by choice professional woman.
But some unforeseen circumstances put Munn in a position to consider being a mother and, despite Kate Reddy’s messy life, Munn decides to give parenthood a shot despite being unpartnered. As an aside to SJP’s squabbles with her husband and her daughter’s disappointments, we see the usually together Munn handle morning sickness in a restaurant, trailing toilet paper out from a restroom in her expensive heels.
These single mothers are not at the core of this meditation on modern motherhood, as we rarely see either woman with a baby on her hip. Nor do we see the more unique challenges that single mothers confront both at home or at work. But the inclusion of their trajectories in such a conventional illustration of motherhood conveys that they are at least part of the picture.