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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Jun-06


Friday 23-June-06

Missing life

I watched a movie last night, 'Irreconcilable Differences' with Drew Barrymore at the age of about eight, 'divorcing' her parents (Ryan O'Neil and Shelley Long). The story is told through courtroom flashbacks of how Drew's parents met, fell in love became successful and split up. Through this process, Drew was alternately ignored, spoilt and used as an emotional football.

Although the movie is done with wry humor, it also has serious messages about being seduced by success and about staying connected with your kids. As we climb our career ladder, two problems can occur. First, we may become successful to the point where work becomes the most meaningful and rewarding thing in our lives. Secondly, once the heights are scaled, we may fear falling back to previous poverty and obscurity. And so work harder than ever as we cling to success, and in doing so lose touch with our families. 'It is all for them' we tell ourselves, though we seldom ask them what work-life balance they want us to have.

And so, as we work harder our home lives lose meaning and fall apart. Saddest of all, our children suffer in untold ways. In the movie, Drew won a separation from her unfit parents. Being a comedy, it all ended in happiness and reconciliation, although few real-life break-ups seem to get mended. Even when fractured relationships are patched up, things are never the same again. It's a narrow tightrope and a long way down.

Though I knew the rules and have thankfully managed to find some kind of balance, the movie gave me pause for thought. Wrapped up in comic parody, it contained a serious message and I wondered what unseen damage has been done, what parental opportunities lost.

Overall, the movie worked well, both entertaining and teaching, as good movies do. My wife and I mused later about Drew's real-life emotional traumas, wondering if it was family-related and whether she later reflected on its lessons. Who knows.

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