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We moms deserve a little time to get the hubby to watch the kids (pizza for dinner, natch) and meet up with the girls for drinks, convo…and maybe a movie, if the movie is Bad Moms. I wonder if the film’s creators had this in mind when they came up with the idea: a movie about moms coming together, inspiring real-life moms to come together. That’s one way to rack up box-office sales.
This summer, women across the country had their own Bad Moms Night Out. Not since Fifty Shades of Grey has a movie gotten so many mothers out of the house. And this time, it’s not an S&M (and possibly anti-feminist) fantasy. Nope, this is a movie about what, for many moms, is reality: an impossible balancing act of kids’ soccer practices, jobs with clueless bosses, man-child husbands, all while trying to feed your children organic lunches, make it to work without anything spilled on you, and come up with a nut-free, gluten-free, sugar-free treat for the PTA bake sale.
I wanted to jump on the bandwagon to see what all the fuss was all about, and soon enough I had my chance. One of my Facebook mommy groups was organizing a Bad Moms Night Out, complete with dinner at the Olive Garden. (Don’t laugh. It’s the suburbs.)
After salad, breadsticks and scintillating conversation about our kids (it’s ironic that we arrange these “adult evenings” and then spend the whole time talking about our children, amirite?), we headed to the movie theater. The room was packed, mostly with groups of women. A few uncomfortable-looking husbands took their seats next to their wives. “They have wine!” one of my fellow moms whispered about the women behind us. I turned around to see a full bottle of vino, the entire thing hidden inside an extra-large soda cup, being poured out between them. “Why didn’t we think of that?” my companion asked.
The movie started, and almost immediately we were laughing in recognition. Mila Kunis is a 32-year-old mom of two tweens (how is she old enough?) who constantly feels as if she is failing as a mother, and spends periods of time crying in her car. Her husband has been having an online affair. Her entitled hipster boss doesn’t realize how hard she works, and the bitchy PTA lady (Christina Applegate) constantly badgers her.
Finally, she snaps. Will she go to this evening’s PTA meeting? No.
That’s it, I realize. That’s the word that’s missing from our mom vocabularly (well, except when it comes to yelling at our kids). We overextend ourselves, taking on everything we possibly can, and then some more. We feel like we should be able to do everything, because hasn’t everyone been telling us forever that we can have it all? And if we don’t, doesn’t that make us horrible, selfish, bad moms secretly riddled with guilt?
Faced with this realization, Kunis is joined by goody-two-shoes mom of four (yes, four) Kristen Bell and bad-ass single mom Kathryn Hahn. Together, they get drunk and slow-mo walk into their neighborhood grocery store, making a mess of Fruit Loops, milk and vodka, in one of the movie’s funniest scenes. Later in the film, they slow-mo walk into a cool bar in the city; and after that they host a rager (over by 11 on the dot—they are still moms, duh).
All this drinking was exactly what was missing from 2014’s similarly-themed Moms Night Out, a funny but oddly religious movie that included no drinking (what??), although it also featured the requisite slow-motion walk, which ended with one mom hilariously tripping on her high heels (not a problem for Kunis, who spends this movie tottering around in five-inch stilettos).
But this brings up another point: Why do the moms in this movie, and in real life, need alcohol? Are our kids driving us to drink? (Don’t answer that.) Between all the “mommy needs wine” memes, onscreen mom imbibing and actual wine being passed around the movie theater, it made me wonder: Why do we seem to take pride in needing a drink to get through being a mom?
Maybe it’s that we miss our carefree, kid-free days of hardcore partying. Or maybe there is something deeper going on. We do need to escape—not necessarily from our kids, but rather from the expectations society has placed upon modern motherhood. Drinking is good, old-fashioned rebellion. Because newsflash: We can’t do it all. No one can. Even if you have lots of help, you are still going to have to make impossible choices as a mom, like whether to stay late at the office to make your boss happy, or miss your kid’s soccer game. You’re going to have to deal with critics who say you aren’t doing enough for your kids; or that you get to “leave early” (aka on time) to tend to you children.
And if you don’t work outside the home, you are going to have to answer to those who say you aren’t giving your daughters good role models, or that you’re too dependent financially, or that you don’t “have a real job.”
We still feel the need to criticize women’s choices, no matter what they are, because we don’t allow for the varied aspects of a woman’s existence: She can be committed to her kids and be a hard worker. She can stay at home and still have a fulfilled life. Instead, we pigeonhole a woman into what we feel she is supposed to be, labelling her and creating benchmarks to judge her by (does she make homemade treats for the bake sale, or are they store bought?).
At the end of the movie, Kunis stands up to say we are all “bad moms” (you know, not the kind who beat their kids, but the kind we refer to when we say, “I’m a bad mom”). “I have no idea what I’m doing,” she says. This is the secret you don’t realize until you have kids: You are going to be clueless AF. Yet because no one talks about it, you think everyone else has it all together. They don’t.
Being a mom, at least the kind of mom you expect yourself to be, is “impossible,” Kunis says. And she’s right. This revelation is the reason why mom culture has latched on to this movie — well, that and its hilarious script and its hot stars. But this flick does what others (including Bravo’s series Odd Mom Out and Sarah Jessica Parker’s 2011 starring vehicle I Don’t Know How She Does It) have failed to do: Tell the whole truth about what it’s like to be a mom in the modern world.
So what to we do? Take a line from this movie and start saying no. No to bosses who don’t respect your work/life balance. No to husbands who aren’t pulling their weight. No to mean-girl moms who make your kids’ school like, well, high school. Even no to your kids (they can make their own breakfast and do their own homework, dammit). Once women start demanding more for themselves, society will start demanding less. Eventually—hopefully—women will have the societal support they need in order to be better moms.
As the movie ended (with tearjerking interviews of the stars with their real-life moms), the theater erupted in applause. We all left smiling to ourselves, feeling the solidarity in the room, doing our own slow-mo walk.
Did you see Bad Moms? What did you think?