So, which of the following was true of the day I tried to sit down with my BFF and watch Moms’ Night Out?
A. I had a “moment” wherein I threw out my coffee, locked the bathroom door, and ignored the noise in the other room.
B. I texted said BFF and told her to forget it, because there was just no way I could endure the whining. (I didn’t specify if it was mine or theirs.)
C. I realized that I broke the screener and used up all my chances to watch the movie, thereby ruining all of our chances to even see the movie (and my shot at writing about it for the deadline I had).
D. My car broke down, people broke into my house, the kids ran around naked, and the internet was down.
The good news is that the answer is not “all of the above”—but just barely.
It was the perfect introduction to a movie that I’ve seen so hyped in my circles that I couldn’t decide if I really wanted to see it or if I would be vastly disappointed.
Within the first five minutes, I knew the answer, and it wasn’t disappointment.
Ally, played by Sarah Drew, encapsulates so much about young motherhood that just can’t be put into words. The physicality, the frustration, the isolation, the desperation: it’s all there, in the first five minutes.
The next 93 minutes don’t disappoint either. There’s this feeling, as Lisa Jones recently wrote over at CatholicMom.com, that it’s almost creepy how close to home the writers got things. I mean, were they spying on me? Or is it possible—as older moms have been trying to convince me for years—that motherhood is neither as easy as “they” would have us believe or as “original” as it feels like it is when there’s pooplympics and dog drama and chaos going on 25 hours a day?
Moms’ Night Out has a simple enough plot: three moms want to get together and go out to dinner. They’re going to wear their nice clothes, including the heels from the very bottom of the closet. Their husbands are on board and encouraging.
And then? Well, then life happens. It’s not so different from motherhood itself, really.
It’s all too easy, as moms, to downplay what we do. It’s also all too easy to demand a perfection of ourselves that no one else expects, or sees, or imagines. We place a burden on ourselves that no one can carry.
What mom among us doesn’t recognize that feeling of failure that comes from the chaos of dealing with the unpredictability that is family life? What mom hasn’t looked in the mirror and failed to recognize the blessing that woman on the other side is to someone else? What mom hasn’t felt the ongoing challenge of humility, learned over and over and over, and looked back at who she was when she started and…sighed?
In Moms’ Night Out, we have a witness to life in a way that’s refreshing. It’s not sugar-coated. At all. Though it’s snort-your-coffee funny, it’s not funny at the expense of morals or attitudes. It’s hilarious because if you’ve ever had a kid, been a kid, or seen a kid, you know that family life is like that. And that if we don’t laugh about it, we’re going to probably lose our minds.
That’s true for the mom with little kids, for the mom with teenagers, and for the mom with adults. It’s true for moms who’ve given birth and those who’ve adopted. There is a common thread in motherhood, one that it’s tempting to overlook. We’re on the same team, and instead of giving in to the temptation to be divided, to compete, to be better or more or anything else, we should be building each other up. Even if it’s just by going out once in a while. Or watching a movie at a family kitchen table on a laptop.
There are so many lessons in Moms’ Night Out that are common sense, and that’s the inherent beauty of this film. Family isn’t just important, it’s the foundation. That doesn’t, however, make it easy. Do any of us really know what we’re signing up for when we become mothers, fathers, parents? Do we have any clue what’s ahead of us? But do we need to know, really?
Unlike so much of the family comedy stuff that fills the screens these days, from Disney to Nickelodeon to ABC, Moms’ Night Out isn’t snarky. There’s not an undercurrent of bitterness or criticism or wishing for more. It’s a celebration of the everything that parenthood and family life is, including the chaos and the crazy and the comical.
As I watched Moms’ Night Out with one of the women who reminds me nearly every day to become the woman God wants me to be, I couldn’t help but realize that, though this motherhood thing was never ever something I wanted, it is truly all I want now. It’s part of me, like my name or my eye color or my fingerprint.
Motherhood is real. It’s not a greeting card or a Pinterest board. It’s not a snapshot or a movie reel. It’s the moments that weave together in a tapestry that I could have never imagined when I dove into marriage, trusting God in a way I never had before. It’s the smiles that come from the memories we’re making in the here and now.
Of the movies I’ve seen in the last ten years, Moms’ Night Out is among the most important. Don’t just go see it in the theater: take a friend (or three) with you.
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