Working Parents on Cagney & Lacey.

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A fellow cop had been gunned down in a Japanese restaurant. The detectives from New York City’s 14th Squad had gathered in their lieutenant’s office to strategize for the investigation.

All except for Detective Mary Beth Lacey.

Her partner, Detective Chris Cagney, silently but emphatically motioned for Lacey to join the group in Lieutenant Samuels’ office. But Lacey was busy on the telephone. Arguing with her husband Harvey. About last-minute child care arrangements for their two grade school-aged sons.

Before the shooting threw everyone’s day into chaos, Lacey was slated to take her son Michael to his dentist’s appointment and to later relieve the babysitter in time to make dinner. Her husband was going to continue plugging away at his contracting work on a job site. Then one of her colleagues was killed, and all the other cops from the precinct were working unpaid overtime. They weren’t going home any time soon.

"I can’t get away," Detective Lacey told her husband. "Everyone’s staying on their own time."

"I know how you feel," he replied sympathetically, suggesting that they just skip the dentist’s appointment and try to see if they could get a neighbor to watch the boys through dinner.

And even though it had taken her a long time to get this dentist’s appointment, Lacey finally agreed to blow it off when she and her husband couldn’t reach an agreement on how to get Michael there. Frustrated, she slammed down the phone and then called her son Michael -- who was being supervised at home by a sleeping elderly neighbor while both of his parents were working -- and asked him to call and cancel the appointment.

The following morning, when Lacey explained that she’d have to work overtime to help find the cop-killer, her boys loudly complained about having to have another babysitter. Though her husband tried to blunt their criticism – "Your mother and I each have jobs of our own now, as well as taking care of you." – later that night, he was waiting for her at the kitchen table when she came home to tell her that the babysitter never showed up and that the boys made themselves cookies and milk for dinner. He said something had to give. "Well then," Lacey replied, "we got a problem."

"Cagney & Lacey" (1982-1988), the award-winning cop drama, was popular and controversial for featuring one of television’s first female detective teams. But amid the headline-making storylines about Chris Cagney’s (Sharon Gless) alcoholism and breast cancer, there was Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly), the working mom, quietly living a working class life in a New York City apartment building, married to a man who was a building superintendent and ran a fledgling contracting business on the side.
scarlett
08.02.07

It's refreshing to be reminded that we're not inventing the wheel, that there were shows that tried to mirror the real lives of working parents. Thanks for the reminder.