Should Society Expect More From Mothers Than Fathers?
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 11, 2015
Mom changes her name to Ricki, leaves her children, moves to California from Indiana, and plays in a rock band, making little money and has little fame. Her children are deeply hurt. Her ex-husband remarries a woman who the children now consider their mom. She is called back to her adult children when one of them has an emotional crisis. The story unfolds from there. Ricki is filled with guilt and shame over her behavior and as a result is inclined to withdraw, but at the same time, she feels the pull to help out her children. Her children, both angry and grateful that she has come to help, give her painful mixed messages. Her ex-husband still seems to love her, and so he too, is filled with mixed and painful feelings. What is amazing about this movie is how Meryl Streep portrays the complicated and contradictory feelings, leaving me, the audience member, feeling as much for her, as I do for her innocent children who suffered from maternal abandonment. It is hard to “show up” for your children in ways that are meaningful, but it is even harder to do that after you have hurt them deeply. To face the damage she has done, while at the same time, attempt to repair a small piece of it, is the torment of this movie. Should Ricki never see her children again to spare herself and her children the complicated nature of hurt and forgiveness? Or, should she attempt to “mother” them despite the years and years she missed as they grew and developed into adults? These are difficult waters to navigate. The more primitive side of Ricki wants to stay away and say she has no money to see her children. The more sophisticated side of Ricki knows that where there is a will, there is a way, and so she can show up for them, in the way that she knows how to. Every parent can relate to the judgmental comment of, “how could a mother do that,” knowing the inherent gender disparity of that statement. Mothers can be hurt people who hurt their children and mothers can want to repair that. Embracing the complexity of that repair is the beauty of Meryl Streep’s acting. In the end, no one feels good, and that is not the goal. Less bad is “good enough” and after all, “good enough” is all any parent can hope for.