Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ambivalent Mother . . . on Your TV This Fall

Noticed a mini-trend in TV shows this fall featuring an ambivalent mother?

Desperate Housewives has Lynette Scavo, the married, full-time ad exec, mother of four, who is distinctly unenthusiastic about the fact that, in her mid-40s, she’s pregnant with twins. In fact, during her first ultrasound, she didn’t even want to look at the screen and later said that there was a voice in her head telling her not to do this.

On Private Practice, single psychiatrist Violet Turner -- a recent victim of a violent crime where a maniac former patient cut Violet’s unborn baby out of her belly and left Violet for dead – said she feels so emotionally dead inside that she doesn’t feel as though she can care for her baby Lucas. So she brought the baby to his father’s home, Violet’s co-worker Pete, and left him there. When Pete has brought Lucas to work in the hope of getting Violet to engage and bond with her infant, she simply couldn't because she sees the baby as a living, breathing reminder of the attack that has traumatized her.

On Mad Men, set in the 1960s, Betty Draper just gave birth to her third child and hates her life. Parenting is the last thing she wants to be doing, particularly when it comes to dealing with her young daughter who’s acting out in anger because she misses her grandfather who recently died and everyone seems to think she should be “over” it by now. Betty doesn't realize she's still mourning too, even though she named her baby after her father and has seemed like she's favoring her infant over her two other kids.

On ABC’s new comedy The Middle, Patricia Heaton’s Frankie Heck does her best to work and parent, but winds up, out of sheer exhaustion, tuning out a lot of what her kids say, including when her awkward teenaged daughter talks to her and she only half-listens. She also forgets things all the time and her kids face the consequences.

Maybe it’s not a trend, but I’m finding these characters to be a breath of fresh air, mothers who aren’t all phony rainbows and unicorns when it comes to parenthood. They provide a nice balance.

Image credit: Karen Neal/ABC.


kdjmom3 said...

I agree Meredith; these moms are much more bearable than Carol Brady, Shirley Partridge, Mrs. Cosby, Hope and Nancy, Sela Ward from "Once and Again" (can't remember her tv name)--and even though Bess Armstrong (can't recall her tv name either) on "My So Called Life" wasn't a perfect person, she was still the perfect mom to Angela.

I wonder if this trend is borne out of the Brady Bunch generation growing up and realizing that parenthood isn't the way it was portrayed on tv, and that parents really do have favorites (though you'd never disclose it to your children) and that it's not always fun and you're not always full of energy and sometimes MOMMY NEEDS HER WINE!

Meredith said...

Carol Brady was much too perky and perfect, wasn't she. No mom could live up to that standard . . . or maybe we COULD, if we had a live-in housekeeper like Alice.

Anonymous said...

I guess I can't jump on the bandwagon in support of ambivalent mothers....I HAD one, and I can tell you, it leaves a nasty footprint! I have two teens, and I AM their mom. I am human. Sometimes I am in a bad mood. I am not carol Brady, that was not human. Human is ups and downs, but a child needs to know without QUESTION, that they are loved, and wanted, and that you are happy they are growing up in your home. people have bad moods, and get angry...but the love is always there.

Really people. Watch what you wish for, unless you have stock in the psychoanalytical associations of the nation, because a secure attachment in childhood is vital to a person's well-being.