by Meredith O'Brien
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about two portraits the NBC drama Parenthood  offered of mothers and work . They depicted a married lawyer and mom of one Julia Braverman-Graham as a workaholic whose at-home husband takes care of their daughter. Meanwhile her married at-home sister-in-law and mother of two, Kristina Braverman, is constantly being dissed by her 15-year-old daughter for not having a job.
Parenthood recently revisited the issue of moms and their career aspirations, dashed for the benefit of their children, with a tender episode centering on a pair of stories, one about Kristina and the other about her divorced mom of two sister-in-law, Sarah Braverman, who couldn’t get a job she wanted because of her lack of a college degree and wound up working as a bartender. By the end of this episode, “Perchance to Dream,” I had tears in my eyes.
First, there was Kristina, who decided to do a few days worth of political consulting for a friend who was running for lieutenant governor. Kristina used to work in the political world but left when she became a mother. After an awkward scene where Kristina realized that all her “work clothes” resembled something from Crystal Carrington’s closet circa 1989, Kristina went all Type-A on her husband Adam as she prepared to leave her two kids home with him so she could rejoin the world of the employed. (Her snarky teen daughter Haddie mocked Kristina’s enthusiasm by saying she was acting like she was going on a pilgrimage.)
Once she arrived at the office, Kristina role modeled what career on-ramping experts would say you should NOT do when you’ve been out of the game for a while. She wasn’t up on the new technology. For example, she had a paper-based, three-ringed day planner, whereas everyone else had a handheld BlackBerry kind of device and a laptop. She didn’t really get what Twitter was and accidentally referred to a Tweet as a “twit” and “chirp” in front of a pol whose endorsement she was trying to snag. But once she shook off the cobwebs, Kristina showed her mettle, breadth of knowledge and astute communications skills, so much so that she was offered her a full-time job working on the campaign.
When Kristina got home, she was a different woman. Her eyes twinkling, she proudly told her husband Adam that she loved how she felt when she was at work. To his credit, Adam was completely supportive of her returning to work, but as he started to list off all the things they’d need to figure out – getting his mother to babysit their son, find someone to drive their kids to their afterschool activities as well as their son to his therapy appointments – Kristina’s eyes brimmed with tears. As much as it was great to see Kristina receive intellectual validation – particularly in light of Haddie’s denigration of Kristina’s career – you could see it in her eyes; she was going to turn down this job offer. And turn it down she did, saying that there’d be other campaigns, but her children needed her and they’d only be young once.
My feelings of sadness for Kristina were counterbalanced by the story involving Sarah Braverman, who, when Parenthood began, had just packed up her belongings along with her two teens to move back home with her parents. I haven’t really been all that gung-ho for this character which is played by Lauren Graham (famous for her role as Lorelai Gilmore on the Gilmore Girls), but I like where Sarah’s tale seems to be heading.
For a few weeks now, Sarah has been trying to encourage her smart but unmotivated daughter Amber to apply for college, even offered to take Amber on a college tour and got them a one-night bartending gig at a university so Amber could be exposed to University of California faculty and students. (I don’t think Sarah knows yet that Amber blew off the SAT test.)
“You just can’t give up on yourself,” Sarah advised her daughter. Amber -- sensing regret in her mother’s voice about not graduating college -- later plopped a course catalog in front Sarah, told her SHE should go to college and said, “Don’t give up on yourself either, okay?”
Unlike Kristina’s daughter, at least Sarah’s daughter seems as though she respects her mother, maybe even likes her. It was nice to see that at least one teen give her mom some respect, instead of derision, for putting her dreams on hold in order to help her family.