Where is the Millennial Mom In Television?
Ten years ago, the image of the young mom was that of the stay at home mom who caters solely to her household and children; or the mom who spent six weeks recovering from the war of childbirth before returning to work, spending hours of her day traveling to the bathroom to pump.
These days, the millennial mom is changing the narrative of motherhood. She is the mom who wakes up at 5 am to work in her home office, sends the kids to school around 8 am, works out, makes a smoothie and then sits in her chair once more to begin her day of creative work or entrepreneurship.
The millennial mom is shopping, partying and traveling all while trying to find ways to balance the beauty of motherhood with the demands of a global desire to accomplish the heights her parents sacrificed for.
We see this woman on television right?
Negative. We don’t. If it’s not the mom who is being cheated on by her trifling husband, it’s the stay at home mom with no life that cries all the time.
She’s the mom who home schools her two special needs children, updating her business website in between meals and lessons. She is also the mom who works a full day as a teacher, picks up her baby from childcare and then sneaks away at night to perform spoken word at an open mic show; chasing her dream of being a full time, world renowned poet.
She isn’t (only) the mom who walks around with ratty clothes on or the woman who has “let herself go” after a few months of motherhood (which, by the way, is a ridiculous phrase in itself considering how long it takes to recover from childbirth; but THAT is a conversation for another day).
Or the working mother who is striving to be everything at her corporate job only to come home to a household that doesn't appreciate her. These narratives on television are the stories of women all over the world, the problem is, there are about 16 million other women who have been left out of the scene, and personally, I’m tired of it.
The twentieth century ushered in the suffrage movement, with women winning the right to vote. By the time the two-income household was commonplace, mothers were expected to play as big a part in society and the world as they did in their homes.
In the 80's, shows like The Cosby Show began to show motherhood in a different light. Clair was a wife, lawyer, and mother of five children, who valued the importance of maintaining a successful career and strong household simultaneously.
A decade later, the 1998 remake film “The Parent Trap” brings us an even more unique vision or motherhood. While the movie follows two twin girls, the mother is young, beautiful, divorced, and financially successful.
While many TV moms have careers, children, and husbands, they still lack the portrayal of a life of their own. What is it like to be a mom OUTSIDE of the house? Where are her friends? Where does she go when she isn't with her family? Is she ever NOT with them?
In 2018, we’re beginning to see a new emergence of motherhood. The girls who grew up watching The Brady Bunch and The Cosby Show are now becoming mothers and they have a very different story to tell. Millennial moms grew up as modern media emerged and therefore are very connected to it. We are older, more experienced, more mature, and savvier than ever before. We have college degrees,making us smarter and more informed than previous generations., and we value identity and third-wave feminism.
We don’t ask if we have to be a stay at home mom or a working mom; we ask “why do I have to be either one?” For millennials, having children doesn’t define who we are or nullify our dreams and desires. We are defining what it’s like to do motherhood our way, as opposed to the way that worked for our mothers. Enter, Jane The Virgin, a television series created by Jennie Snyder Urman. I began watching Jane the Virgin as research for an essay and found myself completely hooked on the show. Jane the Virgin is the first and only show I’ve ever seen that touches on every single experience of the millennial mom.
In the show, Jane is a young Latina mother who gives voice to the millennial motherhood experience. After binge watching the second season, I almost screamed aloud when I watched the episode about sleep regression. Not because I didn’t know that sleep regression was a worldwide phenomenon among young mothers, but because I had never felt so understood and
included in my life.
Seeing some of our biggest issues on screen, made me feel as if I was seen and known. It shed light on the reality that though these things may seem small to everyone else, they were big enough to make it onto a television screen.
Sleep regression. Breast feeding. Lack of sleep. Budgeting. The trials of love and marriage; these are all things that all mothers go through no matter the situation.
We often feel judged by others and let down by our friends and family and we are learning to balance the challenges of letting go of people and choosing ourselves over the opinions of others.
Jane the Virgin highlights these struggles ever so beautifully, with humor and grace and a lot, of drama. While watching this show, I can’t help but wonder why this is one of the only shows on television that speaks to this generation of mothers.
We need media that shows us it’s ok to be a mom, have our own lives, run our own businesses and not suffer the consequence of a cheating husband and distant relationships with our children.
It’s all about connection. We all want to feel deeply and see ourselves in a world that seems too big to swallow at times. Because at the end of the day, it's about representation, connection and belonging. When people feel connected, represented and as if they belong, they stay tuned.
So what is the problem? Has television intentionally ignored 16 million millennial mothers? Is society blind to the reality that millennials are abandoning old trends and creating new normals? Or maybe, the problem is that industry professionals aren’t speaking to the right people -- the right people being us, millennial moms.