moms’ night out
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?
Before I moved out to suburbia to start a family (which, because we didn’t have a child until eight years later, made me feel like I had been banished to the far reaches of the world) I lived in trendy, urbane Hoboken, NJ, across the Hudson from New York City. OK, so maybe it’s not as trendy as Brooklyn, but it’s still filled with bars, restaurants, and people. I do want my kids to be raised in the suburbs, like I was, but I often feel very isolated out here, especially because I don’t work outside the home. I miss the people, the hustle and the bustle.
I miss not having to get in a car to see my friends. I miss getting together for brunch, for dinner, for drinks. I miss pre-partying in someone’s apartment and then hopping in a cab or on the Path train to go to the city. Which is exactly why I was so excited to be having a real, honest-to-goodness night out for my friend’s birthday last weekend.
My parents came over to watch LM – they were staying over so we didn’t have to rush back – as I carefully decided what to wear. Back when I was a party girl, I wore jeans, or, if I really wanted to get dressed up, black pants. Now it seems like dresses are the way to go. I crafted an outfit very different from my every-day garb, and as I laid it out on the bed I caught a glimpse of my frumpy self in the mirror: yoga pants, oversized sweatshirt, rumpled hair (even though it was five o’clock), glasses. This is going to be a transformation, I gulped. I hope it works.
After showering, shaving, blowing out my hair and applying makeup (which always makes me feel like a clown because I hardly ever wear it; but then when I go out and compare myself to other women, I still look bare-faced), I put on my undergarments: Spanx, black tights and, ditching the nursing bra (hurrah!), one with actual underwire. I chose a black dress, black booties and a chunky necklace I borrowed from my mom (is that sad that she has more appropriate going-out jewelry than me?). I was ready to go.
My husband and I drove to Hoboken, luckily found street parking and went up to my friend’s apartment. Voices wafted down the hall as we approached the door, which opened to reveal old friends I hadn’t seen in years. But while talking to them, it felt like no time had passed – wasn’t it not that long ago that we had all gathered at that very spot before heading out to the bars? A visiting friend said that it felt like everything was no more than two years ago, although in reality it was more like ten.
I noticed that the other women were dressed in much the same outfit as me – mostly dresses, although there were a couple of fancy pants. I was glad I fit in. One of the men remarked that all the girls were wearing black, but then one friend exclaimed, “Not me! I’m wearing navy blue!”
We piled into cars to take us to the city. The squished-in cab ride also felt very familiar, and we joked and took selfies as we drove through the Lincoln Tunnel.
The restaurant we went to was Buddakan, known for appearing in the first Sex and the City movie. My friend informed us that the very table we were sitting at was the one that was featured in the film. This was not the first time I’d been to a spot that had appeared on the iconic show, but somehow it meant more to me now, as if it was a validation that I was still cool.
As we chatted, that sense of belonging you only get with old friends came over me. It’s hard to figure out exactly why we don’t see each other much anymore – some of us got married and (eventually, in my case) had kids, some didn’t; some moved away. But it’s difficult enough to keep up with our day-to-day tasks, let alone keep up with friends whose lives are different either in circumstance or geography.
I miss them all, though. I miss the feeling of being a part of something, of always having them to rely on, to hang out with, to go places with. I have a really great group of mom friends who I do those things with now, but they are still so new that we haven’t quite reached the level of companionship you have with people you’ve known for 20 years. Hopefully as our children grow those ties will be formed and I’ll have yet another gang of girls with a shared history and a deep bond.
We left the restaurant planning to go to a modern-day speakeasy, which my husband (aka Foggy Daddy) thought sounded pretty cool, but we ended up at another bar, which he did not. It was underground but played dance music (not FD’s thing), although it was not too crowded and there were places to sit. We danced and drank some more, but by this time it was after one, and FD said it was time to go. Feeling like a child being told what to do, I pouted, not wanted to leave my friends. But we said our goodbyes and got in a cab back to Hoboken, and from there drove back to the ‘burbs.
We didn’t get home until after three, which must be a record for how late I’ve gone to bed since LM’s been born (not that I haven’t been up at 3 AM; I just haven’t stayed up until that time). I rolled into bed, only to be awakened two hours later by my early riser. As I picked him up and we snuggled, I thought how much I had missed him in the hours we had been away.
Was it worth the tired fog I was in the next day? To return to the way things used to be for a night – yes, it was.
Do you have the same friends as before you had a baby? Do you sometimes miss having a different, pre-baby lifestyle?
I might keep this one short, because I’m exhausted. Very foggy today. And not because I got semi-drunk last night. (OK, that might be part of it.) You see, last night was moms’ night out.
My sister was visiting my parents with her two kids, so I invited her along to my mommy group’s night out. We got a ride so we could indulge in a few glasses of wine without worrying about driving, and as my dad dropped us off I told him we’d call him later to come pick us up. It felt just like high school.
Entering the bar, we got carded. I am now at the point in my life where that is considered a major compliment.
The bar was noisy and crowded, full of people who work starting the weekend a little early with a Thursday night happy hour. I felt a little out of place until the second glass of wine. Then it all started feeling a little familiar. I had been here before. A long time ago.
Conversation between the other moms and I revolved around our kids. Somehow it seemed hard to talk about anything else – until the guys came along.
A group of women at a bar will no doubt eventually attract men. One of the moms made up a story that we were out for a bachelorette (nevermind that we all had wedding rings on) to fool an unsuspecting guy. Another dude attracted our attention because he was a giant – turns out he was six foot ten – and he used our stares as a reason to come over and strike up a conversation. A dorky guy (the kind you can tell is really very nice, so it’s a shame he’s so unfortunate-looking) garnered our sympathy as he told us how he was there for a singles’ event that was held downstairs. A very attractive bald guy took our picture, which was posted to our mommy group Facebook page.
I found it difficult, though, to engage any of these men in conversation. I felt old, unattractive and frumpy. The outfit that I thought was so cool for my daytime tasks – corduroy jeggings and a flowy sweater – was hot and uncomfortable in the crowded bar. It had been so long since I had been in that kind of environment, and although I used to be a fairly successful flirter, I was definitely off my game – not that I wanted to flirt, however harmlessly, anyway.
It just seemed hard to figure out how to “be” in this environment in our new roles as moms. I didn’t want to talk to guys. But I wanted to talk with the other women about something else besides our kids.
The most awkward moments occurred when the guys would ask, “So what do you do?” How to answer that? We sheepishly avoided the answer, or mumbled, “I’m a stay at home mom.” To be fair, the guys took it pretty well, and didn’t immediately flee. Maybe they were actually intrigued. A hip Asian dude, upon hearing we were moms and deciding that he was down with that, pulled out his phone to show us a picture of his own mother. “She’s a total MILF!” he told us.
Eventually it was time to leave. We called for our ride, and as I put on my coat I wondered if I had wanted to flirt, did I still “have it”? I wasn’t sure if I either looked or felt the part; and I was oddly scared of rejection. Coming back to a bar was like looking back on my pre-baby, pre-husband life. I didn’t miss it, but I did miss being young.
As my sister and I walked outside to catch our ride, one of the guys we had talked to shouted to us in a congratulatory manner, “Moms!” He held up his cigarette in solidarity. We laughed and got in the car.