The box-office smash really gets us.
Based on the true story of three totally real, totally amazing African-American working mothers, Hidden Figures was number-one at the box office over Martin Luther King Day Weekend 2017. And it's no surprise: Those lucky to have had the day off could get a dose of pure movie magic coupled with a glimpse into the inspiring, uphill battle these women of color fought, with authentic footage of Dr. King woven in. While racism and sexism are the most obvious obstacles to these brilliant women's success, the main characters, all NASA employees in the 1960s, were/are also moms (the world is fortunate to have protagonist and mathematician extraordinaire Katherine Goble still in it). And there are several moments in the film that have the power to wreck any working mother—or sympathizer. If you didn't have a day off work while your daycare was open, I highly recommend using an elusive date night to see this. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
1. When you learn that Katherine (played by Taraji P. Henson) is a single mom of three daughters. Valerie Glassman, an assistant dean at Duke University and mom of a three-year-old boy, was so impressed that the women had these incredible credentials...and children. "I couldn't fathom achieving all that and having three girls. For Katherine to do that all as a widow? I was so impressed."
2. When Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) demands that everyone on his team work late and suggests they call their wives to let them know. Some supervisors still don't consider that sticking around after-hours isn't an option when your kids depend on you, and not every household is held together by a stay-at-home mom.
3. When Katherine comes home late from work to see her children smiling and the dinner table set, she instantly thinks it's a special occasion. We're the ones who tend to make life lovelier for everyone else. So when Katherine is confronted with this anomaly, she assumes she's tardy for a birthday party rather than believing the sophisticated setup is in her honor. But she was right: This wasn't a just-because event. The solo mom was about to get happy news that'd change the rest of her life.
4. When Katherine chides her daughters for still being awake when she gets home late (sense a theme?). Then, in a guilt-inducing scene we've each lived, the girls tell their mother they merely waited up for her to say goodnight.
5. When Katherine's daughter accuses her of being away for "300 hours." “Was Mama gone for 12-and-a-half days?” her sister responds to the absurdity of the notion. “No, but it felt like it,” the other sister admits. And then Katherine says what all moms who miss their children while working think: “Felt like it to me too.”
6. When you learn that Katherine's mother lives with her and looks after the three girls. How else could a single mom making far less than her white male colleagues afford care for three children?
7. When Katherine has to work late and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), who have kids of their own, wait around to give her a ride home. Working mothers can't do their very difficult jobs—of earning an income and raising a family—without support on the job. Katherine's friends had her back, even when it meant sacrificing their own time with their beloved husbands and children.
8. When the only jewelry Katherine is allowed to wear is a pearl necklace, but she can't afford one. She seems to be her family's sole means of support. There's no budget for high-priced accessories that NASA has deemed appropriate when she has to clothe and feed three little ones, and possibly her mother as well.
9. When Mary's husband doesn't initially support her desire to advance her career with more schooling. As writer Stacia L. Brown explained in a NewRepublic.com article:
"At a church picnic, Mary and her husband lightly bicker about her desire to obtain even more education through admission to a segregated engineering program. Her husband balks both at the loftiness of the goal and at the additional time she’d be spending away from home. He angrily spoons collard greens onto their son’s plate, as Mary stands her ground. She warns him not to cause a public scene ... but she also knows he has a point: If she wants his support, she can’t retreat further from the duties of home. When he relents, so does she, backing up his chiding of the children to eat their greens."
Happily, he comes around and even gives Mary mechanical pencils before her first day of class.
10. The fact that you never see any of the working mothers go to sleep. When would they?
Written by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.