Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

The Troubled Mothers of Private Practice.

by Meredith O'Brien


Two mothers, both of whom walked away from their children, one because the birth of her son occurred at the hand of an assailant who literally cut her baby from the womb and left the mother to die, the other because her 15-year-old daughter became pregnant, refused her mother’s attempt to force her to have an abortion and now the girl wants to marry her teen boyfriend.


For a light, dramedy like Private Practice [1] that’s a whole lotta darkness they’ve got going on in the third season and it was quite a bold move on the part of the writers to be willing to cast two major characters in a bad light.


The past several episodes have focused a great deal on fertility specialist Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald). Naomi, a divorced mom of a teenaged girl named Maya, is the director of a medical practice located in the same building as her ex-husband Sam Bennett’s (Taye Diggs) medical practice, a business they once ran together. The reactions Naomi and Sam had to the news that their daughter was pregnant were starkly different. While Sam was angry and severely disappointed, he was willing to talk with and listen to his daughter, her boyfriend Dink (!) and Dink’s mother. “All the choices are bad,” he said.


Naomi, however, became unhinged, seeing the situation as evidence that she’d failed as a mother and put her own daughter’s future at risk. Her initial response was to mutter, “I can’t, I can’t” as she fled, eyes brimming with tears. A short while later, the strongly anti-abortion Naomi dragged her daughter by the arm into her friend Addison Montgomery’s ob/gyn office and demanded that Addison give Maya an abortion. When Maya said she didn’t want one, Naomi slapped her across the face and said, “I don’t care what you want. Give her an abortion.”


Things really spiraled out of Naomi’s control when not only did Maya decide against an abortion, but that she wanted to get married and move into the guest house behind her boyfriend’s mother’s home. Sam, who at first rebuffed marriage as preposterous (“My daughter, she’s just a little girl. She doesn’t need a husband.”), slowly warmed to the idea, for lack of any better options, agreed to sign the consent form and started planning Maya’s wedding.


Naomi kept saying, “No” or “I can’t” each time Sam tried to talk to her about it, though she did walk into Sam’s office, issue a few directives about wedding planning and then left declaring, “That’s all I can do. That’s all I can do.”


Mother of the year, Naomi ain’t. Seriously.


Another character, single psychiatrist Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) has also been spotlighted recently as a troubled mom who nearly died after a former patient performed a crude C-section after injecting Violet with an immobilizing drug so she could steal Violet’s baby. Most of Violet’s storyline last season consisted of the suspense over which of her two lovers had gotten her pregnant. Then the emphasis dramatically shifted from who’s-your-daddy to Violet’s downward psychological spiral after her son Lucas was born when she feared that, in her dire mental state, she couldn’t properly care for him. So she turned him over to his father, her colleague, Pete Wilder (Tim Daly).


The fact that Violet left her baby became a sore spot with Naomi. For example, when Violet pointed out that Naomi has always opposed abortion and how forcing Maya into an abortion just wasn’t like her, Naomi lashed out at Violet and said, “You walked away from your child. If you could live with that, I can live with this.”


Later, when Naomi was in her “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” phase, Naomi said she finally understood Violet’s actions, a statement with which Violet vehemently disagreed: “I didn’t walk away from my child because I couldn’t deal with him or because I wanted to control what he did. For me, walking away was the most awful thing in my life, but I made a choice because I thought it was in my child’s best interest. I was just too damaged to do anything but hurt Lucas, so I walked away, not to avoid him or to control him, but to save him.”


Frankly, I was surprised that the Private Practice writers made the choice to have two formerly warm female characters behave in ways that could and do, leave them wide open to harsh criticism from the fans. The moms are either wildly rash and emotional (Naomi) or making clear-eyed but unpopular decisions which run afoul with the apple pie ideals of motherhood (Violet). I can’t decide whether or not I love that the show’s writers are daring to provide alternative visions of mothers in crisis, while the dads are behaving with relative calm, as much calm as one can display when your daughter’s going to be a teenaged mom and your infant son’s mother is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Over on Private Practice’s message board [2] these developments have prompted the show’s fans to engage in a vigorous debate over Naomi’s behavior and questioning whether the character has been out of line.


What do you think about the way Naomi and Violet have been handling their mom issues?

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