Working Moms Take it One Day at a Time.
As soon as you say the words, "One Day at a Time," two things pop into my mind: That boppy theme song and the 70s hair and clothes worn by the teenaged daughters Julie and Barbara (played by Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli). That was what I recalled from the show I used to watch as a girl . . . plus the episode where Julie ran away with her boyfriend Chuck.
But when I recently sat down to watch the first season DVDs of the Bonnie Franklin-divorced-mom-of-two-sitcom from a brand new perspective -- that of a working mom of three -- two other words came to mind: Lorelai Gilmore. Yes, Lorelai Gilmore, the single mom of a teenaged girl from the "Gilmore Girls," who graced the small screen 30 years after "One Day at a Time’s" Ann Romano (Franklin). After several hours of watching Romano’s antics, it became was clear that today’s single and divorced working TV moms owe a debt of gratitude to the ground-breaking "One Day at a Time."
"One Day at a Time," which debuted in 1975, surprised me for its cutting edge storylines and bold assertions from a burgeoning working woman. The series commenced with Romano -- who married at age 17 and had a baby nine months later – leaving her husband, piling her 14-year-old and 16-year-old daughters into her paneled station wagon and heading to Indianapolis to start her life anew. In fact, the first scene shows Romano, suitcases at her sides, literally leaping for joy on the front steps of her ex-husband’s house.
"You don’t have to worry about my mom, she’s a liberated woman," 16-year-old Julie told a friend over the phone in the pilot episode. And Romano, who took back her maiden name after the divorce, indeed was liberated, but that liberation was a rocky one. When her work as an Avon Lady and doing odd jobs didn’t earn her sufficient money to feed her family, she aggressively sought full-time employment even though she had little workplace experience and refused to compromise her dignity or depend on anyone else in order to get a job. She seemed more like a woman of today than of the 1970s.
What brought to my mind the modern-day incarnation of the TV single mom -- Lorelai Gilmore -- was Romano’s refusal to get married when the opportunity presented itself. In the premiere season of the award-winning show which ran for nine seasons, Romano, 34, was dating her divorce attorney David Kane, who asked her to marry him. And, even though she and her daughters loved him, as well as the fact that he dangled before them the opportunity for financial security while they were barely scraping by, Romano repeatedly declined his proposal. "For the first 17 years of my life, my father made decisions for me," she said. "For the second 17 years, my husband made the decisions. Now, for the first time, I’m making my own decisions." During another episode, Romano told her boyfriend that she no longer wanted to be dependent on anyone and had to test her wings.