Documentary Club Is The New Book Club (For Me & My Friends)

by Lauren Jackson
5 women who are all part of a documentary club standing, posing and smiling
Courtesy of Lauren Jackson

My transition to being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) was a tough one. I was an intelligence analyst for nine years before my husband’s job ruined my career. He’s in the military and the military lifestyle, with its constant moves and deployments, is a career killer for most spouses. My daughter was two years-old when we were transferred to a new duty station and I was forced to quit the job I loved. I was devastated. I went from writing threat assessments on fascinating topics like espionage and terrorism to the mind-numbing world of Dora the Explorer.

Missing my career and starved for intellectual stimulation, I found myself analyzing cartoons. Why is Dora the Explorer always using a paper map? Map-reading is a dying skill set now that GPS services rendered them obsolete. Why does Daniel Tiger only wear pants to bed? Why isn’t there a driver on the trolley? I bet it’s part of a new Tesla line of driverless public transit vehicles. The Island of Sodor must have major air pollution issues with Thomas and his friends using all that coal…

Don’t get me wrong, I relished the time I got to spend with my daughter, but I desperately missed the intellectual stimulation from my job. My new friends in SAHM life were wonderful. We were in the trenches of parenthood struggling together through sleep regressions, potty training and picky eaters. That camaraderie and support got me through some tough times. I needed friends who were in the same phase of life, but I longed for adult conversations that didn’t revolve around diapers and nap schedules.

Before I got married and had kids, I was in several book clubs— a fiction book club, a non-fiction group, a book club that read books on politics (I majored in International Affairs) and a group that focused exclusively on books that were made into movies. I love reading and get emotionally attached to fictional characters. (Edward *sigh*) Books offer an escape from reality, expand your worldview, and help you relate to people from different backgrounds. I missed reading and discussing plots and characters with friends over glasses of wine.

Courtesy of Lauren Jackson

Two moves and two kids later I found myself in the same situation— new in town, with small children and desperate for adult interaction. At one boozy farewell party for my husband’s coworker, I pitched the idea to a few girls that we should start a not-so-serious book club. It was mostly intended as an excuse to get together and hang out, with some stimulating conversation on the side. Since it was my idea, I chose the first book—Midnight Sun, a sequel to the Twilight Saga that I had pre-ordered and was already planning to read.

We picked a date for our first book club meeting two months later because it is nearly impossible to find a few hours that work for everyone. Even with the lengthy delay, only two of us finished the book before the meeting. One girl made it halfway through and the other two girls didn’t even bother to pick it up. In fairness, they had never read any of the Twilight books and probably had no interest in reading a remake of the first book from a different perspective. We had a lovely evening hanging out, catching up and briefly discussing how Midnight Sun completely changed our view of Edward.

As we attempted to schedule the next meeting, it became painfully obvious that in the chaos of mom life none of us really has time to dedicate to reading. Then we came up with the most ingenious idea ever — Documentary Club. It was a game changer. We may not have time to get through an entire book in a month, but we can all carve out a few hours to watch Netflix.

We meet monthly, have dinner, chat about life and then discuss a documentary. So far, we have watched “The Social Dilemma” and “Don’t F*ck with Cats.” These documentaries sparked some of the most thought-provoking and hilarious conversations I’ve had in a long time. We spent hours talking about surveillance capitalism and the effects of social media on our kids and our own mental wellbeing. We also unanimously agreed that if any one of us goes missing, we should immediately contact the cat-loving internet sleuths who tracked down Luka Magnotta.

I hope Documentary Club, when committing to a book isn’t feasible, will catch on because it saved my sanity. Once a month for a few glorious hours, I forget all about potty training and motherhood doesn’t feel quite so stifling.