The episode opens with living room rug strewn with camping gear. Alex and Jeff are preparing for an overnight hike. Alex gets a call and it is clear that a medical emergency will prevent him from taking Jeff hiking. He tells Jeff and Jeff is devastated. Alex talks to Donna about how terrible he feels. They try to see if any other fathers are available to take the boys camping but none are. Donna decides she will take the boys camping. This plan is met with skepticism by both Alex and Jeff who make it clear that hiking and camping are impossible tasks for a woman.
The hike commences and we see Donna lagging behind the boys, burdened by a heavy pack. They arrive at camp and the boys run off to the stream. Donna takes a moment for herself. The boys return and ask about setting up camp. It becomes clear that Donna has no idea how to set up camp. They all go fishing but Donna, repulsed by the worms, returns in short order to set up camp. We see her struggling with a tent when a ranger stops by. He offers assistance but Donna just accepts a fire permit then sends him on his way. He leaves but tells Donna that there is a phone a half-mile down the trail if she needs it.
The boys return from fishing and find Donna stirring a fragrant batch of stew in a perfectly appointed campsite. They have a lovely evening of stories and food and go to sleep. Nature’s symphony keeps Donna awake.
They return home and Jeff brags to Alex about what an amazing camper Donna is. Alex is dubious and asks Donna how she pulled it off. She tells him it was, “Girl Scout ingenuity”. He confesses he sent the ranger to help her. She tells him she sent the ranger away. He calls the ranger station and Donna’s story is confirmed. Alex is perplexed. The next day a man from a full-service catering company knocks on the Stones’ door with a bill for services rendered. Donna called in professionals to set up camp. Alex says he will not pay the bill, but Donna uses her “big girl ingenuity” to convince him otherwise. (see episode here)
There is no shame in calling in professional help.
Holy gender stereotypes, Batman! OK, this is 1958 and I knew that going in, but the gender biases were a bit in-your-face in this one. Actually, the male characters still clung tenaciously to the stereotypes. Donna knew she would find a way to pull it off and she did; it just wasn’t the same way Alex would have pulled it off. The end result was the same: Jeff had his camping trip. In fact, we could argue that both Alex and Donna faced challenges in meeting their son’s needs. Alex had the skills to camp but was burdened by his job, Donna had no camping skills but her desire to make her son happy overcame her lack of technical know-how. Alex was not able to overcome his obstacle, Donna was. If I had a beard I would be stroking it and muttering, “Interesting, very interesting”.
At first I was annoyed that Donna pulled this off by calling in the professionals. I wanted her to have strapped her Keds tighter and figure it out for herself.(Yes, the woman hikes in classic Keds.) Then I realized that it is exactly this attitude that has so many of us running around like lunatics. We think because we are capable of doing everything, we have to do everything. We are supposed to wake up, run 8 miles to maintain our girlish figures, emerge from the shower perfectly dressed and styled, create a delicious, balanced, organic breakfast, calmly see our loved ones off, go to work and become the ideal career woman for 10 hours, come back home, clean the house, make a delicious, balanced, organic dinner, help with homework or catch up bills and such, become a lusty sex-kitten for our spouse, and get the sleep needed to repeat this performance the next day. For many of us, the need to be perfect in all these things leaves us frustrated and exhausted. If we can’t do it all, we feel like a failure. Donna knew her limits. She knew what mattered was that the boys had their camping trip. If she called in a little assistance to see to the pesky details, who cares?
I think this is excellent advice. When doing it all becomes too much, if we have the means, why not get a little help? I’d loved to have seen Donna turn to Alex when the bill arrived and say, “I made it happen, that’s more than you can say.” But that’s not Donna. She gets it done with grace and that is yet another lesson.
Plan Of Action
At this moment, my under-employed status means that I have the time for most household tasks. However, I do hope that this is a temporary condition. When I do resume full-time employment I will not expect myself to be Superwoman, though I may don the occasional bracelet and tiara. If it gets too much, if I get too behind, I can call in a cleaning service once a month to help me catch up. I can do drop-off service for my laundry instead of wasting time at the laundromat. I will seek help if I need it, help is good.