• The Letdown, or the Realization That My Life Is Now a TV Show

    "This new TV series felt as if someone wrote up the first few months of my life as a mother."
    by Sasha Lim Uy .
  • The Letdown, or the Realization That My Life Is Now a TV Show
    IMAGE courtesy of Netflix
  • I did not read baby books. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t enter motherhood blind. I understood that it was going to be 20 times harder than I could ever expect. I pored through information — but only on demand — and asked actual people for actual advice. The takeaway: I shouldn’t feel pressured when things don’t go according to plan.

    Being a naturally anxious person, I knew that I would have a panic attack if my baby weren’t within the developmental range mentioned in those textbooks (even if they do say at the bottom that every baby progresses at his/her rate).

    Instead, I obsessed over online forums. When you’re a first-time mom trying to make sense of a whole new life, you cling on to the slightest inkling of regularity. Yes, it’s normal for the baby to poop this much. Yes, it’s normal for them to sleep, eat, and do nothing else. Fr3shMama897’s baby can’t sleep on his own? Mine too! There’s a whole chat group dedicated to newborns who hate being swaddled, so I shouldn’t worry that mine is a standard Houdini.

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    Seriously, there is no greater feeling of relief than the confirmation that at least one other person is in the same boat as you. So when I chanced upon Netflix’s new series The Letdown, it felt as if someone wrote up the first few months of my life as a mother and turned it into a TV show. In the show, Alison Bell plays first-time mom Audrey who struggles with the joys and pains of motherhood and joins a support group to, well, gain some support only to find herself even more overwhelmed. The comedy-drama gets into the details of motherhood — from birth to baby to breastfeeding to sex (or the lack of).

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    Whether you’re a Stepford mom or a mom who’s close to a nervous collapse (*raises hand), there’s someone that’ll make you feel a little better about yourself on this show. Here are 7 Very Real Things in The Letdown.

    #1 There’s too much information out there.
    One primary reason I just skimmed through the necessary baby bibles — What to Expect, Baby Whisperer, Baby Love — was because I told myself that the baby was a human being. You feed the baby; you put the baby to sleep, you love the baby. Did I need references for that?


    Well, as Audrey and I learned, duh. 

    Back in our parents’ day, raising a kid was a formula of attending to basic human needs. While it wasn’t precisely clear-cut, it was much more straightforward than parenting today with all the science and research we have in our hands. Parenting has become a lot more complicated. There are so many different methods to try. Do you let them cry out? Do you make the most of them wanting to be carried to sleep? Which one is right? Which one is the best? I feel like my baby is some science project where I experiment with all these techniques.

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    #2 You’ll get stuck between the generation gap.
    At some point, you’ll find yourself stuck between your parents who tell you to chill out and that bigkis is a must (it’s not) and all your helicopter co-parents who scare you with SIDs just because you hinted at letting your baby sleep on his stomach. Unfortunately, in Audrey’s case, she has both a domineering mother-in-law and some intrusive friends.

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    #3 Mothers are the best and worst at judging.
    Other moms know exactly what you’re going through which makes them feel they have the right to comment on your parenting style. Even choosing to breastfeed exclusively (or not) can invite a few raised eyebrows. Moms are helpful, believe it or not. They want to share their experiences, what they learned, but it’s easy to come across pompous. 

    Sophie, for example, is probably the sweetest character in the entire series, but she’s also the most annoying as she unconsciously constantly reiterates just how textbook her baby is. Sure, she has incontinence, but any mother would take that over a baby who needs to be driven around at night only to get some sleep. With the exhaustion and the hormones, the kindest suggestion might feel like criticism.

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    #4 It’s okay to admit that you don’t miss your baby.
    In one episode, house husband Jeremy asks Audrey if she misses her baby Stevie. Audrey sheepishly admits that, no, even if she might sound like an ungrateful mother for saying so. 

    When I’m away from my baby, I would wonder what milestone I could be missing. He already rolled over when I was in the office, after all. I wouldn’t say that I don’t miss my baby, but I do occasionally miss the time when I could do things on a whim, not make plans, and, mostly, think about myself. I especially miss the time I could get a full night’s sleep.

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    Now, when my baby refuses to be put down, and I stay awake in the rocking chair, shushing him to a deeper slumber, I know that sometime in the future, I would look longingly back on these days. It’s a lesson on never taking these experiences for granted.

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    #5 Staying at home with the baby is harder than being in the office.
    Audrey’s lucky that she doesn’t have full-time work, although she does get a part-time job later in the series. The only mother in the support group with a high-powered job is Ester, so her stay-at-home husband takes over most of the usual mommy duties. 

    Ester is a manipulative, bossy shrew, but as a working mother myself, I do understand why she prefers to continue her job (apart from the apparent necessity that it’s their only source of income). Both jobs of motherhood and career are demanding, but at work, you know what to do point by point, you can communicate things quickly, and you can come up with a concrete plan. Best of all, you can quit — and having that choice makes things a lot easier. 

    When you have a job, you’re quickly recognized as doing something good for society, but being a SAHM is, to be honest, thankless. In another episode, Barbara was crushed when she wasn’t invited to talk during her son’s career day because according to the teacher, she didn’t exactly have a job to discuss. That didn’t stop her from barging in though, dressed as a superhero, and talking about her duties as a SAHM (pronounced sa-ham). She has the power to do everything fast (pack lunch, feed the baby, take a bath in a matter of minutes), make things go away (like the pain of a booboo), and she gets paid in hug currency.

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    #6 Social media is a bunch of phooey.
    It’s difficult not to compare, even when you constantly remind yourself that each baby is different. It’s soul-crushing to see a baby younger than yours sleep through the night while yours continues to feed every few hours. It’s stressful to see all these smiling babies when yours seem to be bawling 24/7. 

    One evening after the support group, Audrey goes up to her husband and tells him that their baby is the best-looking one, but the worst in the bunch. She doesn’t sleep through the night, she latches poorly, and she’s fussy. As a parent, you tend to go on hyperdrive pushing your baby to catch up with the rest of what you see, especially on social media.

    But like what Sophie says when Audrey praises her picture-perfect Instagram page, a lot of that is due to a good filter (Valencia, if you must know). An Instagram post is a second into the life of being a mother, so of course, you choose the best one to share. As a social media oversharer myself, I know that when I share a photo of my giggling baby, it’s not to make other moms jealous. It’s just my sheer bliss and pride over getting my kid to smile.

    #7 Your husband takes the worst hit.
    When you have all these things going for you, the demanding baby, the household, yourself, your lack of sleep, your husband becomes your least priority. Oh he understands, you tell yourself. Oh, we’re in this together, you tell yourself. Just remember, you were in this together long before the baby and long after.

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    Sasha Lim Uy eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled SPOT.ph's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She is a curator for Madrid Fusion Manila and currently works as managing editor for Esquire Philippines.

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