Baby Boom: Can We Have It All?

I just finished watching Baby Boom for what is probably the twentieth time. The first time I saw it, I was watching it on the recommendation of a dear family friend and I loved it. I still do, especially now that I’m smack dab in the middle of motherhood, and having seen up close what the things that are standard practice in business can do to working professionals and by extension to their families.
Out of curiosity, I went online to read some reviews of the movie as it came out at the time. The LA Times was unabashedly enthusiastic about it, Roger Ebert thought it was a charming fairy tale (actually, he called it “(…) a fantasy about mothers and babies and sweetness and love (…)”). I think it’s more than that. I think that underneath all the comedy and polish, the filmmakers were trying to express a sincere hope that things would be changing for the better in corporate environments, and that it was about time too. I think that they were expressing the belief that the realization of potential and the achievement of success don’t have to be binary as they had been up until then: you can either have it all or you can dip your foot in the pool at best.
A lot of reviews were firmly in the Ebert camp: having a family and a successful career? Cute idea, but a fantasy, of course. I suppose their reviews were written from the perspective of the status quo at the time. It does beg the question: were they worried that change would be detrimental for the economy or, more cynically, just uncomfortable for the established order? Or were they simply convinced that business would always stay the same and there would never be room for a more holistic approach in corporate America, or indeed anywhere in the world?
Perhaps on that, they were right. Even though great strides have been made in recent years, the commercial environment – more than being woman-unfriendly – is decidedly family-unfriendly. And before all the hard-working, self-sacrificing childless (or childfree, as they may prefer to call themselves) earners begin pre-emptively declaring that they will be the ones doing all the work for their slacking, uninspired, uncommitted, parenting co-workers: nobody is suggesting that companies simply put people with families on the payroll and then allow them to only work whenever they feel like it. Of course a responsible job should be taken seriously, and there will be times when more is required from work than will be comfortable to combine with family life. But especially today, in this constantly hailed 24-hour economy and with technology opening up hitherto unimagined possibilities for telecommuting, we should really already have developed more realistic views on work requirements and results, as well as what is and should be humanly possible and reasonably required. Just try this change on for size: efficient performance trumps hours worked. That would be an interesting experiment, no?
Tired people don’t work efficiently. Worried parents tend to shift focus on occasion. Does this means that parents who choose to be involved in their children’s lives should be cut from the workforce altogether? Or is it perhaps time for a new type of economy, one in which all aspects of a person’s life are granted equal value on balance? I think it is.
Baby Boom expresses the hope, even the optimism that this future does exist, per J. C. Wyatt’s speech upon rejecting The Food Chain’s offer. I like to hope it’s right, because by now progress should slowly be steering us toward a reality in which having a full life is truly possible.

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