After the showing of the recent BBC drama The Cry, it’s interesting to consider how other dramas approach the struggles of motherhood, such as the upbeat Australian comedy-drama The Letdown, written by Alison Bell, and first shown on ABC in 2017.
The Letdown follows the story of new mother, Audrey (Alison Bell), some of the other parents at her new parents’ group, and all the daily struggles that accompany this drastic life change. The show incites realisations of the rift childbirth can create between partners, due to pregnancy’s strain on the body, resulting in sleep deprivation, and in Audrey’s case, the trauma of a complicated and dangerous birth. But in addition to the rift between partners, is the rift between friends. Social gatherings are instantly a problematic issue, with youth seemingly needing to be left behind once one enters the new phase of parenthood.
Furthermore, I feel that the show also highlights how it still seems to be very much the case that the mother is just that – the mother, with many of the main characters’ partners having little to no involvement with the care of the baby, and almost forcing the lead parent to be super heroes (quite literally shown during a parents’ careers show-and-tell day at a primary school). Although (thankfully), another prevalent character is a father who embraces his new role as primary caregiver, even if it is at the expense of his career. The show aims to demonstrate that rigid social norms are unjust – men are equally able and that men being the primary caregiver is acceptable too; it does not demean one’s masculinity.
Another drama that links to the show, is the film (also on Netflix) L!fe Happens, first released in 2011, and starring Krysten Ritter as the lead. Ritter’s character gets pregnant at a young age and the film follows a coming-of-age story line. Although the adjustment is tough, especially with judging parents and other judgemental people, it is doable. Making the leap to find new groups and try new routines can in fact be the very thing to make parenthood easier. A notion that I think hit home for me was that finding a partner whilst being a single mother or parent can be deemed almost impossible. The stigma attached to the young, lone parent is very much present; the awful slut-shaming and the stereotype that portrays the baby as baggage. Therefore, as a whole they are seen as too “much” and too heavy to handle, making single parents feel undesirable and afraid of being alone.
Both dramas are highly enjoyable and perspective changing, because both resolve to not sugar coat pregnancy and parenthood to some glamourous new stage in life; but rather that the transition is tricky and messy, and that is completely ok. It’s ok, to want to rip your hair out from stress. It’s ok to feel incredibly lonely. It’s not pleasant, but it’s normal whilst you’re struggling to adjust to new patterns, friends and lifestyles that will fit with this life-altering being.
Finally, these dramas help to remind you that whilst as a new parent you may feel like a complete zombie and social nightmare, your child will still be the most special being in your life, and completely worth it. Not realising this straight away is normal, so we need to stop the guilt and pressures of perfectionism.