The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom
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!)