Parenting during the pandemic is never easy, and being a tween during this time is no cakewalk either. But Netflix’s new movie “Yes Day” shows the world what it’s like when the roles between parents and their kids are switched, highlighting what it means to function as a nuclear family. Could this further predict what parenting will look like in the future?
Jennifer Garner plays Allison. She’s a full-time mom with three kids, and she’s looking to get back into work. Allison used to be fun, she says. A montage shows her skydiving, being spontaneous and marrying an equally fun partner. It highlights who she was in the beginning, but then viewers are taken back to the present day where she’s raising her kids with a protective and seemingly heavy hand.
Now her favorite word is “no” when all she used to do was say “yes” and take risks. But it’s hard to do that when you’re trying to keep three children alive, you know? In essence, her kids think she’s some sort of warden, and in a somewhat dramatic fashion, a parent-teacher conference displays what it’s like when the reigns are so tight that the children feel constricted.
On the other hand, viewers see Allison try to get a job and be turned down for having “too much experience.” She’s no longer young and impressionable. She’s now living in an ever-changing world where she’s constantly telling her kids no, and it becomes a theme when she tries for the job and she’s turned down in the same way.
On the one hand, viewers see this as a way for Allison to try and restart her life by taking on a position that she used to know and love. Now she’s trying to find that part of herself again, the self that somehow got lost while raising her kids. After the parent-teacher conference, her eldest daughter, Katie (Jenna Ortega), tells Allison that she is, in fact, not fun. Allison realizes that maybe she did lose herself; of course, it’s no fault of her own. It’s life. She’s painted to be the bad guy, but viewers are able to contrast her life with her husband’s, Carlos, when he goes to work.
First, the audience sees Carlos being the fun dad, the lax parent. He tells his daughter she can do something and then takes it back because “mom said no.” He gets to sing in the car with the youngest while Katie and her mom argue about why she said no in the first place. She’s 14 for goodness sake! (Or so she argues.)
But then viewers see Carlos at work, where he has to tell his employees the dreaded word, “No.” When confronted about it by Allison, his reasoning is that he wants to get to come home to where people like him. The children think he’s fun, but of course, that puts the mom in a bad position. She’s always the bad guy, and she has no support from her partner who’s supposed to help her raise their kids.
It’s a common thread within many two-parent households; mothers are stuck with child-rearing while their husbands are going to work — despite mothers sometimes choosing this lifestyle, it doesn’t excuse the lack of support. The movie specifically reflects on the way the pandemic has affected parenting. Viewers see the way middle-class women are once again stuck with most of the child care and housework, despite also having their own full-time jobs to worry about. Bogged down with personal and professional responsibility, there’s no separation between the two. Just as viewers see the way it changed Allison’s life, they see the way parents begin to lose their sense of self as their two worlds begin to blend.
“Yes Day” made me think about parenting and what it will look like in the future. With the second wave of feminism, more women entered the workforce, and in general, women were able to leave their home lives for the outside world. But that hasn’t released single and childless women from the pressures to start a family — whether they want to or not.
There’s been a decrease in women having children, and with the up-and-coming generations of 2021, the pandemic has made single women rethink having any children. They see the struggle it takes to raise children in a fractured society with socio-economic instability and rising climate crises. Women have valid reasons for not wanting to have children. However, the social pressure for women has lessened, as the pandemic has highlighted why it might not be such a great idea for some.
Aside from the external factors, viewers of “Yes Day” see that raising children with a partner means that it takes mutual understanding and sacrifice. Carlos sees the way Katie yells at Allison because her mother insists that she can’t go to a concert without her. It’s going to have an older crowd, and Katie would be meeting with older boys that she doesn’t even know. Allison, of course, doesn’t approve, but Katie insists the reason is that her mother just doesn’t like her growing up. However, it’s Carlos who finally steps in and tells Katie that she can’t speak to her mother that way.
Allison is constantly made out to be the bad guy, even after they enact what they call “Yes Day,” which is when the parents have to tell their kids “yes” for the entire day so their children feel like they have freedom. There are rules and parameters of course, but for the most part, it’s a great bonding experience for the family.
They go through a carwash with the windows down, have a field day and go to a theme park. Allison and Katie also made a deal. If Allison says yes all day, she’ll go with Katie to the concert; otherwise, Katie can go with just her friends. Katie ends up breaking the deal and goes with her friends anyway because, in a sporadic turn of events, Allison and Carlos get arrested — they fought with a woman over a large stuffed gorilla.
It does come out later that Allison is scared of her daughter growing up, but she’s not unreasonable. She wants to spend time with her family and she wants Katie to have fun. But as it turns out, Katie does need her mother. She has a bad time at the concert where her friend leaves her to go with boys she’s not comfortable with. She loses her phone, and she gets lost until her mother literally climbs on stage at the concert (where H.E.R. is performing!) and begins to sing Katie’s childhood song.
In the end, the other two kids, Evan and Ellie, also get into their own situation where a “nerd party” goes awry, and Carlos takes the responsibility to get the house in order. The audience sees Evan appreciate his father stepping up and how that influence affects parenting as well. Kids don’t always need a fun parent; they need guidance. Maybe some fun can be more integrated into their lives, which happens when there’s more support for the parents to lean on each other. This is seen in simple things, such as jumping on the bed or eating ice cream for breakfast.
All in all, Allison is finally seen as the fun mom, but “Yes Day” also shows how parents never want to be right about the bad situations they try to protect their kids from. Viewers also see that the biggest lessons learned can come the hard way. “Yes Day” shows the audience what it’s like to parent in the modern-day, but in terms of what parenting will look like in the future, maybe there will be fewer mothers taking on that responsibility, or at least not so soon.
It takes more than just mothers raising children to make parenting work in two-parent households. It’s a full-time effort on both parents’ parts, and it’s important that these responsibilities are shared equally between both parties so they can create a more fun family unit. Because then, they both will have more time to do the things they want to do — as individuals and as parents.