Throughout history, men and women, as a collective, have gone through so many different changes. From what is sociably acceptable behavior, what is expected of them to what they can wear, and if they can vote. Women, of course, have had to fight incredibly hard for their rights, for their voice, and are still fighting now. But it would be wrong to say that men haven’t also come up against their own road blocks in society. Their sexuality, their job roles, and how they are perceived and portrayed in family life are brought into question time and again. For every “A woman can’t be a bricklayer”, there is also “A man can’t be a nurse.” I’m not in any way, shape or form belittling the battle that women have gone through, definitely not, but what I am saying is that it’s not one sided.
I digress. My point is that, unfortunately we may always be fighting, and going through changes. It is pretty clear that the world is currently going through another shift visa-vie men, women and their roles in society. Gender equality, pay gaps, and the #MeToo movement are just part of this particular shift. Amongst all of this, there is also something new happening to motherhood. Or parenthood. With the birth of bloggers such as The Unmumsy Mum, Sam Avery Learner Parent and Why Mummy Drinks, to name a few, we are suddenly seeing a side to parenting that was previously quite taboo. And for those of you who aren’t aware, Sam Avery Learner Parent, is a… DAD. It’s not all about Mama’s anymore.
In the midst of all of this, Netflix have released a show called The Letdown.
As usual, I would just like to warn you that this blog DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS.
It seems to be widely excepted that parent hood is supposed to be perfect. That we are meant to be perfect parents with perfect children. We’re meant to have a perfect labor, and perfect latches, and blah blah blah.
Except it won’t be, and this notion that it should be is ridiculous, and unfair. Parenthood is feeling like your body has been torn apart; it’s cracked bleeding nipples, and endless “mum guilt”; It’s 3am feeds…and 4am…and 5am…and what’s that thing I used to do at night called? Sleep, I think?; It’s a suddenly weak bladder, and being scared to use the loo; it’s anxiety about leaving the house for the first time; it’s suspicious smells, hair loss, and just generally not feeling like you know what you’re supposed to do with this screaming bundle of joy.
No the perfect parenthood experience isn’t defined by having it all figured out and knowing what to do from day 1… or 2…. 3…. or 556. It’s defined by little moments. The baby smiling when you wake him up from a nap, or getting through a day without being puked on. Its knowing that whilst you might not have it all figured out, you are the perfect parent for your baby, and your baby is the perfect baby for you, and if you manage to get to end of each day with that baby going to sleep (haha) happy and healthy, then you did it.
You see, that’s what The Letdown is all about. Those early, frustrating days of parenting, and how we are all in it together.
Meet Audrey and Jeremy, new parents to daughter Stevie. Stevie doesn’t sleep during the night, and Audrey feels a bit unsupported, a bit tired, and generally a bit like she has no idea what she is doing. She joins a parenting support group, and there she finds out that she isn’t alone.
There’s Barbara, stay at home Mam (SAHM) of 3, trying to rid the world of the notion that a SAHM does nothing, when in fact its a full time job in itself; There’s Sophie, determined to trick the world into thinking that she knows all of the answers, when in fact she’s all about the self help parenting books; There’s Martha, a single lesbian Mam, who concieved through a sperm donor; Ester, the career Mam, and Ruben, her husband and stay at home Dad (I guess that’s a SAHD?) and Georgia, the InstaMam.
At the start, they can barely see eye to eye, and by the end they are the best of friends.
This show is great, because it explores such a wide variety of parenting struggles that we don’t normally see on television, and it normalizes taboo subjects, whilst also challeging the conventional set ups that we are so used to seeing.
In this small group, we have post-partem incontinence, a lesbian mother who concieved through a sperm donor, sleepless nights, a stay at home Dad whose wife chooses to return to work, after having an elective c-section. They openly discuss giving birth and breast feeding in public, and the “mistakes” they make on a daily basis.
It’s a show that manages to be hilarious, but at times heartbreaking as well. Audrey’s realization that actually her closest friends don’t understand what she’s going through as a new Mam, and she feels a bit abandoned by them. On an evening when she has plans with them, her husband is suddenly unable to take care of the baby, she has no choice but to take Stevie with her to the resteraunt, and they are all very uncomfortable with it. It’s lonely, and it’s upsetting. Quite a few of these images are raw and powerful.
That being said, there are certainly some areas that I would have liked to have seen more of, or in some cases, have them mentioned at all.
First of all, I would have liked to have maybe seen each of their birth stories in detail. One or two of them touched upon their labor stories, but that’s it. I have yet to see a film or TV show that portrays childbirth in a realistic manor, and I feel like if any show is going to do it, it would be this one.
Secondly, the return to “womanhood” or more accurately, the first period after giving birth. This features in a blink and you’ll miss it sequence, that is a little graphic, but again unrealistic as these things often are.
Finally, feeding. Feeding, for me, is one of the hardest things about having a new born. They say that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and it is natural in the sense that it is the way nature intended our bodies to work. However, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and this is not even mentioned in the show. I don’t know if this is because they weren’t allowed to be seen as glorifying formula feeding, or if they just didn’t think of it, but it would have been refreshing if one of the Mams had some form of feeding struggle, and formula fed their baby, even if it was combination feeding. If it’s okay to struggle with the day to day logistics of having a baby, if its okay to cry when they won’t sleep, why isn’t it okay to choose formula over breast, especially if you are struggling to get your baby to latch?
Whether you’re a new parent, or you have multiple babies, this show is worth a watch. It is refreshing, and just a little bit exciting to see that people are exploring these challanges and difficulties that so many of use face, in a way that is easily accessable, for anyone to digest. It’s the sort of show that makes you go “Yep, that’s the way it is, and don’t I know it”
Whilst parents new and old will love this show, it may struggle to gain an audience beyond that demographic. But if you are looking for a new, funny show, I do urge you to give it a go. It’s an important show that has come out at exactly the right time.