Does ‘Incredibles 2’ get the work-life balance wrong?
The family in “Incredibles” are just like us. OK, yes, they are superheroes with super powers, but they, too struggle with the work-life balance. In the first movie, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) struggles with a job he hates, but it pays the bills. He’s looking for excitement, for the glory days of saving the day. His wife, Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) is his loving wife, who is much more practical as they settle into a new life away from their superhero days. And then, he gets called up (by the guy who ends up being the villain) to be a superhero again. He’s away from home, but checking in on the family — who later have to help him save the day.
In the new movie, the roles are reversed. Elastigirl is the one who gets called up to be a superhero and Mr. Incredible turns into Mr. Mom. It’s a rough go for both of them in the beginning as the roles are reversed. Yet, Mr. Incredible figures out things about baby Jack-Jack that his wife hasn’t discovered, he learns new math to help Dash and he tries to help teenage daughter Violet with her dating heartbreak.
His wife, feels torn between this exciting new job and what she’s missing at home. My favorite scene is when she’s on her super motorcycle racing off to stop a runaway train when she gets a call from Dash. Multitasking happens, and, of course, we all see that she isn’t really able to do both at the same time, certainly not both well.
She needs help. She needs it from her husband, but she also needs it from her kids, too.
And so, we accept that the Incredibles are just like us. And yet, why do we buy into the fact that Dad struggles as Mr. Mom and Mom struggles with the guilt of having to work outside the home? Does he really not know how to do anything for the kids? Did the kids just fall from the sky one day, rather than him being part of the raising of them since they were born?
Did she never have to be away from her kids, do any work outside the home until now? Are the kids helpless without Mom? Is Mom really the only one who can do the things that make the trains run on time at home?
As much as I can identify with the Incredibles family, it’s missing something. Moms and Dads share much more equally in the raising of kids these days. Dads pick up kids from school and take them to activities all the time. Dads even take kids to the doctors or cook dinner or wash the laundry. Moms sometimes work late or go out of town for work. Kids get help from both parents with homework. And that’s if there are two parents in the house. Sometimes it’s Mom or Dad doing all of it.
The 1950s are over — and truthfully, at least in my family, that stereotype never really existed. Both my grandmothers worked in the 1950s, my mother also worked in the 1980s, and I work in the 2010s. My grandfather helped his kids with homework, my dad made dinner and did carpool, my husband and I split the driving, the cooking, the cleaning, and we both work, a lot.
Why is it that “Incredibles 2” still in 2018 played into the hardship of dads as Mr. Mom and Mom and CEO? Our kids are watching and they deserve better than stereotypes.