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The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom

by Dawn on March 6, 2008
category: Pop culture

This week I caught the premiere episode of “The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom” on The Learning Channel (new episodes air Mondays at 10/9C). The concept of the show is this: regular, stay-at-home moms are selected to spend a week outside of their familial responsibilities to try doing the job of their dreams. It asks the questions “What if I pursued my dream job instead of becoming a stay at home mom?” “Could I do it?” and “Did I miss out on my true calling?”

After seeing the first episode centered on a SAHM of 10 years, Adrian Stark – who works as a fashion designer in a high-end California boutique for a week while her doctor husband, Bruce, stays home with their three daughters – I found that the show attempts to answer those questions in a bit of a confusing way.

Here are some random observations and reactions to what I saw:

1. It borrowed ideas from several familiar reality t.v. shows. When Adrian skipped town for a few days, she left a six-page to-do list for her hubby to follow – you know, instructions for how to care for the kids full-time. It was reminiscent of “Wife Swap” to see Bruce mocking the list, saying, “Moms take things so seriously!” To which Adrian responded, “If it doesn’t get done, it leads to chaos!” (I agreed with her completely. We moms know what we’re talking about when it comes to nitty-gritty, day-to-day responsibilities!) And as a viewer, I just knew Bruce was being set up to look like an idiot. A few minutes later, visions of “Supernanny” danced through my head as I saw the girls begin to lose control. As daddy kept up his laid-back parenting shtick, the younger daughters fought and threw things, leading to crying and general chaos. And finally, it seemed very “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” every time the “SLSM” truck parked in front of the Stark home. It’s this big, ominous black trailer acting as the “hub” of the show. Hostess Tracey Gold (yep, Carol Seaver in the flesh!) hangs out inside, surrounded by televisions, watching everything that happens like a modern-day “big brother”. It carried Adrian to and from her workplace and magically transformed her into a hip woman every time she stepped out of the truck (regular mom clothes weren’t going to cut it at the Bianca Nero boutique, y’all.)

2. The show required the mom to lie about everything she was doing. I wasn’t a big fan of that bit. I didn’t think it was necessary. Adrian’s husband and daughters were told that she was going to a spa for a few days. There were a few phone calls made to their home before Adrian left, and Adrian had to lie to her family about who it was. The show even provided a pair of black-pantsuit-wearing “assistants” to go into their home to clean and cook dinner while Adrian was out the first day. (I suppose this was all supposed to be in fun with its secret-agent covertness, but the humor was lost on me.) Near the end of the program, Adrian said, “I wanted to be a strong role model for my girls,” and then she sat down with them, saying, “I have to tell you all something. I have been lying to you. I know that’s wrong, but what I was doing was really exciting!” When they saw she had been designing gowns for an upscale boutique that had an occasional celebrity client (most dropped name: “Academy-Award-winning-actress-Jennifer-Hudson”), they all quickly let the dishonesty go. Somehow I don’t think my husband would be as understanding, but hey, that’s just us.

3. The on-the-job scenes were a stressful, high-intensity situation. Adrian was asked to design three dresses in three days (a task not even given on Project Runway!), but I don’t think she actually had to make all of them herself. Even though one designer kept telling her she was welcome at the studio, the others lurked around Adrian, giving off a nervous and strangely stoic vibe. They rarely assisted or gave her any concrete guidelines, but managed to hover over her with critiques and doubtful expressions. It would have made me crazy, but throughout the experience, Adrian did a remarkable job, creating three really pretty gowns in time for a last-minute (of course!) fashion show for some very important clients. The end result? Only one dress passed muster. The other two were “all wrong”. (I felt bad for her.) At the end of the experience, Tracey Gold asked Adrian, “Is the trade-off worth it?” As viewers, we’re led to believe that no, actually it isn’t.

4. The show seemed to imply that being a stay-at-home mom can’t be the dream job. It’s tagline read, “For anyone who has put their dreams on hold.” I can understand that a lot of us don’t always feel called to our position as moms, and sometimes wonder if there isn’t more out there for us. But for many moms, being a mom is their dream fulfilled. I would have enjoyed it if the show had explored this more. Even though Adrian admitted “It’s a beautiful gift to be a stay-at-home mom,” she never really said that much more about it.

5. And she was offered a full-time job at the boutique by week’s end! I’m not sure if it will always work out this way in future episodes. After all we’d seen in the boutique, it didn’t seem too promising for Adrian, so I was wondering if there was any push from the producers to make this happen. In front of her family, Adrian was offered the job and told she had two hours to accept. Not only that, she’d have to start the following Monday. Talk about a big decision! And in such an environment of heightened intensity. It’s like going on a dating show and saying that the man you just met is your soulmate… when actually, it’s not such a great fit once the t.v. cameras go away. Adrian did accept the job, and it ends with the family in excited agreement that her dream finally came true. I just can’t help but wonder what’ll happen to their family’s dynamics now. The girls have never been in day care before.

So while it was interesting viewing, I felt conflicted when it was all over. Is the message in “The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom” that being a stay-at-home mom isn’t good enough? Am I a less interesting person because I’d rather raise my kids myself instead of pursuing a full-time dream job? And will all of the moms in future episodes readily abandon their posts to take the glitzy job that might be offered to them?

Did any of you watch this show? What did you think? (p.s. Even in the closing credits, Tracey Gold was still hunkered down in the stealth-mobile, watching everyone on those tv’s!)

14 Responses to The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom

  • Comment by Amanda
    March 6, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

    I haven’t seen the show, but I have seen the commercial. It sounds interesting.

    I totally agree with your fourth point! For me, I feel like getting to stay home is my dream job and I am seriously loving it. I also feel very fortunate that I got to have a career for five years before quitting. I worked at my job long enough to find out that that is not what I wanted to pursue as a career. I never feel like I missed out on anything or had to “put my dreams on hold.”

    Like I said I haven’t seen the show, but they expect her to design and construct three dresses with limited training? If she never had kids, she probably would have gone to design school and had the skills to do it right.

    Oh my goodness, this all sounds like a reality t.v. version of the movie, ‘The Family Man’!

  • Comment by Sharon M
    March 7, 2008 @ 5:35 am

    Doesn’t sound very realistic to me. But hey, what reality show is?

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    Comment by Kristi
    March 7, 2008 @ 9:09 am

    I did not see the show but obviously I didn’t miss out on too much. I think we all make the choice to be a SAHM or the choice to have a “career” early on. Trying to make the transition after that choice has been implemented can be very difficult on the family.
    I do like the idea of trying something new or trying something you’ve always wanted to do. I think that builds self confidence. It seems disrespectful that she had to give up being a SAHM to be something more glamorous. The show would have been more SAHM friendly had they offered her a part-time job where she could design dresses from home.

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    Comment by Heidi
    March 7, 2008 @ 9:22 am

    I can’t wait to enroll my son in soccer so I can be called a soccer mom. I just need a minivan to go with it.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amanda Jo
    March 7, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    The show made it seem like being a SAHM was a burden and gave the impression that if you’re not a career woman that your life just isn’t complete.

    I currently work at an AMAZING office with people I love – I couldn’t ask for a better working situation but taking care of my son is my number one priority and I dream of the day I can be a SAHM!

    I won’t be watching this show again – I found it insulting – and I’m not even a SAHM.

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    Comment by Jenny
    March 7, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    i didn’t watch the show, but after your summary i find myself thinking – was staying at home with the kids not a choice for her to begin with? and what were her reasons for staying at home? was it just because there was nothing better to do “out there?”
    i can totally relate with having dreams and hoping they will eventually be fulfilled someday, but i made the choice to stay at home with the kids because they are THAT important. and that won’t change even if i get offered “the dream job” tomorrow.
    i think at times all of us SAHMs feel like we want a life apart from our kids – we want to think about real things, to be appreciated for what we can contribute to society or maybe just to an interesting conversation … i’m sure y’all know what i mean. i don’t know, i guess i try to keep a healthy balance. i try to stay involved in community and life outside the walls of my house, sometimes without my kids. and i keep dreaming about my future and my life once this season is done.

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    Comment by MommyJ
    March 7, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    Wow. I didn’t see it, but could totally see how I would have reacted just like you did if I had. I got married pretty young and had my first baby right out of college… so, I never had a career before I became a stay at home Mom. I do a little bit of freelance writing from home and dream of one day writing more, but for me it isn’t either/or. I chose to be with my kids… this really was my main dream and goal. Sadly though, it’s a perspective not often understood by the “world” in general. I think there are more of us out there that feel this way than one might think though… yeah, I don’t really appreciate the main message of the show. It is kind of insulting. Thanks for the recap… I wonder what other episodes will be like.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Dawn
    March 7, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

    Kristi: Excellent point. A more realistic job offer (or a scholarship to a design school for part-time training) would have seemed feasible.

    Amanda Jo: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I hope it works out for you to become a SAHM soon! I know I was more than happy to leave my job when my daughter was born to stay at home with her, but I can’t say that teaching middle schoolers was my lifelong dream. :)

    Jenny: I may have missed some of the details from the beginning, but all she said was she’d been staying at home w/ the kids for the past 10 years and went to a little bit of design school before they had kids… as for your other points, I absolutely agree with you. I never really had a “dream” job in mind before kids – other than being a singer (yeah right!!) – and so I am happy doing what I do now. Besides for me, the things I value most in life don’t really have to do with careers. I too try to keep up with others around me – by spending time w/ my husband, by serving at church and in the community, by making time for friendships, etc. I do like learning new things, but that’s more in the form of an adult community class like photography or something.

    MommyJ (and anyone else): If you watch future episodes, you’ll have to come back here and fill us in on what happens! I won’t be watching again.

  • Comment by Sharon M
    March 8, 2008 @ 12:31 am

    @Dawn — so, if they offered you a singing gig w/ Caedmon’s call, would you take it? :-)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by wendy
    March 8, 2008 @ 7:41 am

    Wow…I remember hearing about the show but did not get the opportunity to watch. I think now that I’m glad I didn’t. I chose to be a SAHM for 9 years and just went back to work last year. It has been really difficult. I really loved nearly everything about being a SAHM and now find myself reminiscing all too often. I enjoy my current job outside the home but I am still responsible for all I did while a SAHM. It really peeves me off when people assume being a SAHM is somehow less than fulfilling. It was, by far, my FAVORITE job ever.

  • Gravatar March 8, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

    i haven’t seen it but your review sounds right on target so I think i’ll skip it.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kate
    March 13, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

    I thought the show was fun. Of course some parts were silly, it’s reality TV! Everyone seems to be forgetting that. I’m a SAHM, but I have worked at times too. I think kids are first for most moms, but to say that having an interest or passion to use your brain in a different way is evil is kinda silly.

    Every situation is different that’s why I think watching the show is cool. I can’t wait to see how other moms and families handle the options….by the way, that’s all it is “an option”. Why is everyone thinking if women choose to work, they are not choosing their kids?!?!?!? They are picking one over the other.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sheila
    April 14, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

    I am a SAHM and have been for almost 9 years. I did go back to school and am currently working towards my master’s in education. I believe every woman should have the choice to stay at home or work. Unfortunantly, many mom’s don’t have the choice, and because we live in a cultural hegemony, this program is for the mom’s out their who are considering going back to work. The message is clear: being a mom is the most important thing. There is no mention about the father’s helping out and we all know if she does go back to work she will be doing the double duty which is probally more exhausting than most mom’s can handle. The question shouldn’t be should I work or shouldn’t I, if you financially have to then the question should be to the husbands. Will you help me with the household chores now that I help with the bills or not?

  • Comment by Dawn
    April 14, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    Sheila, you bring up excellent points! Yes, it’d be a total adjustment for dad to suddenly take on more responsibilities. A family change like that requires time to work out all the details, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing your story! Best wishes with your masters’!

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