Earlier this week, I tuned into one of my favorite TV shows, Parenthood, and watched one of my favorite working mothers, power lawyer Julia Braverman-Graham, lose her cool. Julia, mom to a biological daughter and a newly adopted grade-school-age son has been distracted at work in recent episodes. She's been trying to help her new son, Victor, get adjusted to being part of her family.
After screwing up at work, screwing up at home and suffering a panic attack, Julia has a work life balance meltdown. Then, she's called into the office on her day off. When her angry bosses doubt her commitment to the partner-track, Julia makes a huge move: She quits her job.
Slate.com says her circumstances are particular, but Julia's part of a larger trend: pop-culture moms who take their jobs and shove 'em when work starts to interfere with family life. It gives Sex & The City's Miranda and Ed's Nancy Burton as other examples of this trend.
I'm left to wonder, does TV fail to provide working mothers with role models who explore options other than quitting when the going gets tough?
Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show made it look oh so easy to raise a house full of kids and work full time as a lawyer while her husband enjoyed his career as a doctor. Claire was frustrated at times, but she NEVER talked about quitting her job.
I like that Parenthood presented a real look at how job commitment can be questioned when a working mother seems distracted by what's going on at home. I think that's a realistic scenario and I'm sure other mom lawyers have had to face the same humiliating questioning of their commitment to their workplace that Julia endured.
While it makes for good TV to have Julia quit, I'm left to wonder, what's next for this family's breadwinner? Will she have the kind of discussion that real moms have with their spouses? Will she and her hubby talk frankly about her options and how the family will get by financially without the kind of salary a lawyer on partner track brings home?
I would like to have seen Julia discuss her options with her firm's management before quitting. I'm not fond of the all or nothing approach to work life balance. I'm not saying that Julia is a bad role model because she quit, but I hope Parenthood paints the aftermath of this type of decision as stress-laden as it did the events leading up to it.
As fan of the CBS show, The Good Wife, I enjoy watching Alicia Florrick at work as a lawyer and at home as a mom. But after the first season, her mother-in-law no longer watches her kids while she's at the office. We viewers have no idea how she pulls of her work life balancing act or whether it's the least bit difficult for her.
Readers, can you think of working mother role models on TV who you feel portray an accurate look at the work life balance challenges that women face? Do you find it a disappointment when a TV working mother quits her job?