Winter is the perfect time for snuggling on the couch watching DVDs. I’ve been watching the first series of Mad Men – it is brilliant! I borrowed it from my local library – I am sixth in line on the reservation list for the second series… I don’t think I can wait six months to see it. I also borrowed the first two series of Family Ties – a trip down memory lane indeed, I know the episodes so well as I used to record them on our family VCR and watch them over and over and over… I had a bit of thing for Michael J. Fox.
Watching Family Ties now, twenty-eight years later (no! …could that much time really have passed?) my focus was changed. As I watched the episodes this time I pondered the character of Elyse Keaton, her role as a mother, wife and professional. Growing-up watching this show I looked to Elyse as an innovator, a modern woman. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up – basking in the after glow of the feminist revolution. I was going to have it all. But watching her character now so many years later I saw what I had failed to see at the time. Her marriage with Steven Keaton still mirrored many gendered norms – note when there are guests to the house it is she that cooks, offers drinks and plays hostess. At the time I had seen a promise of all that could be – I could grow-up and be a professional person and have a family – the very fictional Elyse made it all look so easy. The reality for me however is that working and raising a young family just isn’t for me. I have come to the decision to put part time work on hold and resume leave with out pay until next year. The reasons are many (and worthy perhaps of a post in their own right) – small financial gains, child care issues and peak hour travel – but the stress of juggling is perhaps the factor that resolved my decision. Trying to fit everything into the week – has it always been this way? Neither Mad Men nor Family Ties reference this constant sense of being time poor that I feel gnawing away at me.
After watching both TV shows I am left very surprised to discover that I relate and empathise so much more closely to the character of Betty Draper in Mad Men (series one) than I do with my childhood role model Elyse Keaton. I relate to Betty’s sense of being lost, the eerie presence of being in and yet somehow watching your own life, the loneliness of being at home with small children and her sense of anxiety. Some things change and some stay the same – but now I am left wondering has Elyse ever really existed (metaphorically speaking – I know that she is a fictional character!) Does the woman, the mother, the professional really exist in such perfect synchronicity? …or does something have to give?