Growing up, I spent a significant amount of time around kids. During my teenage years, I spent time with my brand new niece and nephews and as I transitioned to a life on my own with my husband, I was also a nanny for some local families. These years gave me valuable experience on what it might be like to be a mother, but nothing really prepared me for the real thing. Or for the commentary.
In recent years (and with the invention of the internet and social media), it seems that everyone has an opinion on motherhood – what works, what doesn’t, and how you’re doing it wrong. The new film, Tallulah, coming exclusively to Netflix this Friday will start a conversation about where women are coming from and how we are all just trying to do the best that we can with what we have.
The mommy-shaming debate is one that seems to affect everyone. From how to feed your baby to whether you work or stay home to cloth diapering to organic food to baby-led weaning to homeschooling and beyond, the list is endless as to what we as women can argue about. And instead of being united in a collective journey together, we instead are slowly pitted together – thanks to culture, the media, other women and more. What if we started to try to understand one another’s perspective and learn from one another rather than trying to play a game of one ups?
Tallulah begins that valuable conversation where you find yourself feeling sympathetic for an unsympathetic character and how that can play into your own life.
Sian Heder, the director of Tallulah and writer for Orange is the New Black, originally wrote the storyline “from a place of judgement and that not all women are meant to be mothers.” By the time she came around to making the film, she “was the mother to a sixteen-month old girl and six months pregnant with another on the way,” which is when her judgement completely vanished. She rewrote the script as “no one was a villian anymore” and instead portrayed that “people are only doing their best with the limited emotional tools that they have.”
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sian in a motherhood roundtable and hear her thoughts on the film and answer some of our most pressing questions. Given her shared story on motherhood, I thought I’d ask Sian about what she found to be the most universal element of parenthood that we all struggle with and her answer nailed it:
I think the feeling that’s universal for me is that you are always guilty. When you give time to yourself you feel guilty, when you spend time with your kids you feel guilty that you’re neglecting something in your life like your project or husband, or whatever those elements are. There is almost not enough time to be all those people we need to be to everybody.
Powerful and rings true with me – we try to juggle all of the plates, all of the hats and we cannot nearly find all the time to do those things – it’s virtually impossible. Yet, we all continue to do these things both simultaneously and individually.
Sian also had some fantastic insight on where this judgment on motherhood comes from:
I think that believing and rampant judgment sometimes comes from a good place. Obviously, children are the most innocent people out there so the fact that people feel protective or outraged when a situation involves a child is appropriate because kids can’t do that themselves. At the same time, there is so much anger and judgment and I think a lot of it does come from wanting to protect your own choices…I think people bunker in to feel good about the choices they made as a mom. So, if you breast fed until your kid was 4 years old, you want to believe that was the right thing to do. If you gave your baby formula from the beginning, you want to believe that was the right thing to do because we all want to believe in our choices as mothers.
One of the major takeaways from the film that I had is this idea that we believe we are an island – in motherhood, in life, as people, but as you dig deeper, there is this discovery that we truly are a village. We are on this journey together and when we take the time to invest in one another – we just might find that we are more similar than we think.
Tallulah, starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney, will stream exclusively on Netflix starting July 29. In the words of The Guardian, Tallulah is a “richly wrought story about two strangers from different backgrounds who come together over a stolen baby.” This dramatic comedy film from the Sundance Film Festival has the ability to get viewers to think twice before passing judgement on parents and each other.
We want to believe in our choices and we will do so to the end of time, but at what cost? What would happen if we looked outside of ourselves and truly invested in one another?