The folks at Focus Features released the official teaser trailer for the movie Tully, set to open in theaters on April 20. The trailer is less than two minutes long, but as a mother of three, I felt years of emotions that I have only known since becoming a parent nearly seven years ago.
The clip opens with the sound of a baby crying in the middle of the night, and we see Marlo, played by Charlize Theron, shuffling her way to warm a bottle. The crying persists through rocking, walking, and even Mom’s attempt to make it stop by placing the baby in a car seat on top of the running dryer. Don’t worry — even during sleep exhaustion, Theron’s character keeps her hand on the seat while slumped on the floor.
We see Marlo juggling three young kids as she sidesteps toys and navigates bedtimes. We see the thankless and not-so-glamorous side of breastfeeding while she pumps and tries to stay connected by scrolling through her laptop at the same time. We see the stabby look she gives her husband Drew, played by Ron Livingston, when he expresses his sarcastic excitement about having frozen pizza for dinner.
Tully, the teaser tells us, is the story of motherhood in 2018.
Yup. While the exhaustion and devotion of motherhood has existed since babies have been born, the pressure to carry those burdens while maintaining sanity and self-care feels more topical than ever.
In fact, I had a small meltdown and picked a fight with my partner about this very topic this morning while the kids were ignoring my attempts to get them ready for school.
My situation is a bit unique in that I didn’t give birth to my children; my female partner is the biological mama to our three kids. She did the heavy lifting when it came to breastfeeding and was usually the one to get up in the middle of the night to feed the babies when they cried.
I admit that I got out of a few middle-of-the-night situations because my breasts didn’t lactate.
Even though I didn’t give birth to my babies, I have been the mama who has been home with them. It has always made more financial sense for my partner to maintain her career while I try to balance a work at home and stay-at-home mom role. She makes the bulk of our money, as well as carries our insurance and other important benefits.
I juggle my schedule and purposefully keep it flexible to be home for unexpected sick and snow days. I am more flexible to take the kids to school and pick them up. I maintain the kids’ social and extracurricular calendar. I keep the house clean as well as plan and cook our meals.
Here’s the thing: Both of our roles are important. And we have created these roles because they make sense. But being a mom is hard. The pressure she carries to support us is heavy. And the pressure for me to support us in all of the ways that keep our house and family running smoothly is a lot too.
Last night, she asked if I could adjust my schedule so I could take our twins to school — something she normally does — before I went in to my part-time, but very flexible job.
Then this morning, she asked me to work around her schedule again because of another work meeting she couldn’t miss.
Enter meltdown. I was in the middle of making lunches for three kids, working around the breakfast mess. Two of my children were dancing in their underwear instead of getting dressed for school. I was already trying to figure out what to get out of the freezer for dinner. I remembered that the kids hadn’t been bathed in over a week. And I was trying to figure out when I was going to meet a deadline for an article I want to write. Never mind the fact that I really need to find time to get to therapy and work out so I don’t completely lose my mind.
Suddenly my flexible schedule felt taken advantage of. And while I know it’s not the case, in that moment my time felt less valuable than my partner’s.
The mental and emotional load we carry feels like it can crush us.
Just as Marlo, Theron’s character, is about to be crushed by motherhood, there is a knock at the door. A woman stands on the other side. She smiles and says, “I’m Tully. I’m here to take care of you.”
We have no idea what that means, but I am certainly intrigued and plan to see the movie when it comes out in April.
Tully is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman. Cody won a screenwriting Oscar with Juno, and I expect her to bring powerful and truthful words to the screen again by telling the story of motherhood through the lens of love, exhaustion, and a stirring of restlessness.