Baby Boom: How far we’ve come, or not

I saw Baby Boom, a 1987 film starring Diane Keaton, the other day, and I loved it (but yes, had to cringe through some bits). But I just had to share it with you, and how much I really wish it was a relic to our past work lives.

Firstly though, Diane Keaton (playing J.C. Wiatt) is my girl. Love, love, love her. Not so much love for shoulder pads though. RIP.

So have we really made some strides?

Okay, this scene is amazing – it’s J.C.’s boss hinting that she’s up for partnership, but that she’s going to have to make some sacrifices. And then he grills her on if she’s planning on getting married to her partner, because “what if he wants a wife?” And  then goes on to explain how he can have it all because he’s got a wife.

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How far have we come? We’ve come to the place where this is un-pc, but probably not unthought. And it’s certainly not unfelt by both of the sexes – just last night I was complaining about not having ‘a wife’ for myself. I mean, who doesn’t want free labour?!

And then Baby Boom! A baby arrives on the scene. The baby, Elizabeth, is so damn cute. But also reminds me of a baby James Corden.

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Alright, in this scene below, J.C. is doing some guilt shopping because she is seriously considering adopting out her surprise baby (from dead relatives). You know what is AMAZING about this scene? The toy store guy is totally goading on her guilt for his own benefit “You’ve done the right thing J.C. You’re going to be partner for Christ’s sake! Your career comes first.”

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How far have we come? Um…. not at all… Pretty sure most ads to mums prey on that guilt factor a lot of the time.

Next we have a heart breaker, when J.C. decides that she will keep Elizabeth, and her long-term partner tells that he “just, I can’t”. It’s a beautiful calm scene of two adults, who both knew what the price of admission was to their relationship, can understand that something has fundamentally shifted with a baby in the scene.

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And moving onto this scene where J.C. is getting used to the whole deal of working and being a mum. Shock! Horror! Her baby comes to work for one day! She assures her boss “I’m hiring a nanny tonight. She’ll never be in the office again.”

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How far have we come? Well thanks to technology, hopefully a lot of parents have options like working from home available to them, and when child care falls through, they have some flexibility. But no, it’s still a total mum-shamer to bring your kids to work.

M*therF!#@ker of a scene where J.C. is told she’s being taken of the big account that’s earning her partnership because “I mean, you’ve lost your concentration.” Then she’s told she’s going to be put on a dog food account so she’ll have “more time for her child” and when she looks like she’s been hit with a bus, she’s told “swallow your pride, J.C.” It’s brutal, but done by a boss who is caring for J.C.’s wellbeing, right?!

The news settles in for J.C. and she tells her boss “I can’t go out there now”, he replies “well you gotta do what you gotta do.” And just like that, J.C. is unemployed.

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How far have we come? Flexibility, job sharing, maternity leave… yay! Options! I think there has been some improvement, so that hopefully poor J.C. wouldn’t have to take a crap account or leave. But the fundamental attitude to employees who have to drop and run for a sick kid? I don’t think we’ve evolved past that yet.

Ok… so J.C. leaves (is forced out) her job, and decides to head to Vermont for a lovely country life with her baby. Except it’s not lovely. And she fast runs out of money because the charming country house is a lemon. And then she has a nervous breakdown, and screams at the poor plumber “I need to work!!!!” Amen sister.

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And what do you you know – J.C. becomes a mumpreneur after stumbling into a niche market for gourmet baby food.

Ohhhh yes, that’s right, because if you can’t stand the work world, the next best thing is to make your own job. Also, I love that her business is the 80’s equivalent to an internet company – it’s a catalogue business.

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How far have we come? What bummed me out about this story line, is that it’s such an unrealistic play out of what happens for mumpreneurs. J.C. has the killer advantage of being a management consultant before building her business, but not all people have that experience backing them. In fact, a lot of mumpreneurs are at serious risk of falling into poverty in retirement because their businesses don’t make enough to make retirement savings. I don’t think we’ve moved forward at all.

Anddddddd then J.C. gets an amazing buy out off, co-ordinated by those schmucks that she used to work for!!! BOOM! She strutted in that place like a gangsta!

(Also, I love the irony of how poorly she would have been treated if she just ‘swallowed her pride’ and took the dog food account.)

But J.C. decides not to take the million-dollar offer, because “I mean, I have a crib in my office, and a mobile over my desk, and I like that. Well I don’t wanna make those sacrifices. And the bottom line is nobody should have to.”

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How far have we come? Well I think there’s some movement in the fact that it’s not just a women’s issue now, and people are starting to talk more about how this affects men. But I don’t know about you, I look up that ladder and see those people working incredibly long hours, and think ‘no thank you’.

End of the story is that J.C. ends up going back to Vermont to live a lovely country life with her new veterinarian boyfriend. Good for her!

And now we can go back to our modern lives in 2016, with far less shoulder-paddage.

But is it really that different?!

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  • 3 July 2016
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