TV Show Parents Are Just Like Us

NBC’s Up All Night is the latest comedy to tackle how one’s life is upended after you become a parent. And while it treads on the same ground addressed by other shows, including one of my favorites from the Stone Ages, thirtysomething, it does so in a thoroughly fresh way, circa 2011.


The most recent episode of Christina Applegate/Will Arnett’s Up All Night focused on the couple trying to regain their sexual mojo, with Arnett’s Chris leading the charge, trying to persuade his wife to ditch her sweats and her stained, ripped clothing the moment she gets home from work and instead don a silky cami and thong, even though she knows that she’s got a sleepless night ahead of her courtesy of their infant.


Applegate’s Reagan - who, in a 21st century twist, is the one who’s working while her attorney husband is an at-home dad who’s busying himself by taking advice from Gwyneth Paltrow’s web site and making homemade gnocchi - is barely squeezing back into her pre-baby clothes and is self-conscious about how she looks. “I just had a baby!” Reagan said to her colleague noting that she was wearing two pairs of Spanx just to fit into her outfit.


In a show 24 years removed from Up All Night, two different, well educated professionals were struggling with their own loss of post-baby intimacy, only it was the dad who was working and the mom who’d temporarily put her career on hold. The dad, Michael Steadman, was, like Chris on Up All Night, pushing to amp up their sex life only his wife Hope, who was still breastfeeding, wasn’t into it because she was exhausted all the time. Waxing nostalgic for their pre-kid days, Michael said to his wife, “I liked the fact that you were beautiful . . . that you had a dirty mind.”


On that score, not much has changed in the past few decades, at least what happens to a couple’s sex life after having a baby. What has changed? How the parents want to be seen by the world, at least when it comes to all things cool.


In the pilot episode of thirtysomething, which originally aired in the fall of 1987, Michael and Hope Steadman were kept up late by their neighbors who were having a really loud party in their normally quiet, residential neighborhood. They were exhausted, certain that their baby would be up any moment, and annoyed that the partiers didn’t realize on their own that they should pipe down. Also adding to Michael’s rage was the fact that he was ticked that his wife wouldn’t leave the baby with a babysitter and go away with him for the weekend because she didn’t feel ready to be apart from her child overnight. So what did Michael do? He ran down the stairs, while wearing just boxer shorts, and started screaming at the neighbors to turn down the music. They, in turn, yelled at him to “chill” and kept the volume loud while Hope got teary-eyed, wondering what had happened to her husband.



Although we weren't in the same demographic (I don't care how people perceive me, or us, which isn't the same as being dumpy and out-of-touch, and we don't have a social clan of any sort to that gives us "standards" to meet), I have read reviews of the show, and yours makes it very clear: it's an excellent take on parenthood. And fair to both the male and female partners (I love the dad who gains "baby weight"). I have noticed the trend toward hip-dom in parenting...designer diaper bags the size of large SUV's, with matching...everything. Even the family Behemoth conveyance, now that I think about it. Play dates with chablis. Manicures (wait, what?). My second son, six years behind my first, barely wrinkled our lives. Well, we are odd parents, who don't do the social whirl, and I have a flourescent scarlet crew-cut, and we don't care what the Joneses are long as their dog doesn't poop on our lawn when he visits. Otherwise he, and the four neighbor kids, and their friends, were welcome to our drive and yard.
But our friends were affected. They were used to weekends when my older son would be visiting his bio-dad's (sperm donor) family, and calling at 10 pm to go to a pub. Which sometimes we would do...and sometimes we wouldn't, depending on the crowd. Or staying up all night. Our new little person put a crimp in their plans...but not ours. We actually needed a Plan (no, I don't know any babysitters available for immediate help at midnight)...and the four-letter-word wasn't in their jargon.
Fine with us if they wouldn't be flexible. Our son is a sociable, friendly, people-person, with quiet, odd-parents. His odd-mom attends school functions, and is liked at school, as is odd-dad, because we are supportive, attentive, involved and interested (no PTA. I tried. It was a moron-a-thon). Parenthood is not easy, but who ever said it would be?
Kudos to you for giving "Up All Night" such an excellent review. How very nice. Maybe it will help some struggling parents see that the bells and whistles aren't so important...and that we really are all in this together.