parent opinion

'The Letdown is the most accurate depiction of motherhood I've ever seen on screen.'

When I watched the pilot episode of The Letdown, I didn’t think it would be a hit. That’s because I loved it too much. I felt like it was written so specifically about me and for me – middle-class slightly older mum, neurotic and frazzled, with bad hair – that almost no one else would find it interesting.

I definitely got that wrong.

Watch the official trailer for The Letdown below. Post continues after video. 

Watching this ABC comedy series has made me realise that I’ve never seen motherhood portrayed completely accurately on screen before. There have been way too many TV shows where babies have been born and then just faded into the background, because they’re not considered that interesting. The woman carries on with her life, dating hot guys and/or catching evil criminals, occasionally kissing the baby peacefully sleeping in the cot in the nursery. Or, if TV parents are shown struggling to get their baby to sleep, it’s all a bit of a joke.

What The Letdown has got so right is that for most women, babies don’t just fade into the background. When we were introduced to Audrey, played by series co-creator Alison Bell, her whole life revolved around her baby. She was overwhelmed by motherhood. She was floundering. There was a raw desperation in her attempts to get her baby to sleep. Any time Audrey tried to return to her pre-baby life, the gulf between her and her child-free friends felt immense.


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I remember totally relating to a scene at the start of the first season where Audrey turned up for a night out with her friends, baby strapped to her chest. I did exactly the same thing once. It made sense to me, because I had no one else to look after my baby, but all my child-free friends stared at me like I’d walked into the bar with a goat on a leash.

In its second season, The Letdown has gone darker. With season one ending with Audrey’s unplanned pregnancy, I assumed season two would show her struggling with two babies. Instead, she had a termination. A new mum having a termination would be seen as a risky storyline in a drama, let alone in a comedy. And yet, in Australia, women who have already had children are more likely to terminate a pregnancy than those who haven’t.

Then there was Sophie (Lucy Durack), suffering bladder leakage. Around 33 per cent of women who have had a baby experience urinary incontinence, but it seems that only 0.0000001 per cent of female characters on TV do. Go Sophie.


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And then there was the storyline that really hit home for me, about Barb’s drinking. There was a scene where Barb, played by the wonderful Celeste Barber, stared at the clock at 4.59pm, waiting for it to tick over to 5.00pm so she could open the fridge and pour herself a big glass of chilled white wine. Mums are often seen drinking on TV, but so rarely is that internal battle shown: the desire to numb the stresses of motherhood competing with the determination not to be a hopeless alcoholic who drinks during the day. I totally get that. There are plenty of days when I’ve counted down the minutes till it’s socially acceptable for me to pour myself a glass.

(Okay, so not everything in The Letdown is totally realistic. The birth in the disco happened way too speedily, although the placenta did look remarkably true-to-life.)

In the final episode, Audrey talks about shame in contemporary motherhood. She’s right. There’s so much shame, so much that women don’t talk about when they post their gorgeous photos on social media. The Letdown is doing its bit to change that. Maybe mothers’ groups – or parents’ groups – could kick off with an episode of The Letdown, then have everyone sit around talking about it.

The Letdown is real, and not only that, it’s great TV.

You can watch The Letdown on ABC iView

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