You might not have watched Grey’s Anatomy — it’s a medical TV show — currently on Hulu — that’s already in its 18th season, which I think tells all about its popularity that you need to know. It’s created by Shonda Rhimes who is a veritable genius in creating very, very popular shows — I could name Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Bridgerton. There’s more but these are just the ones I watched or at least started to watch. But let’s get back to Grey’s Anatomy. The storyline from IMDB tells you what it is.
A medical based drama centered around Meredith Grey, an aspiring surgeon and daughter of one of the best surgeons, Dr. Ellis Grey. Throughout the series, Meredith goes through professional and personal challenges along with fellow surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital.
This whole article will contain spoilers. Many spoilers. You’ve been warned. (Oh, and some profanity, too, but not too much. I could do more.)
Dr. Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo) appears in the first season as a fresh-off-the-school bench medical intern, who accidentally slept with her future mentor Dr. Derek Shepherd (actor Patrick Dempsey). Of course, that begs for a hot romance starting between the two, and continuing for many, many seasons, along with the medical miracles performed by the couple and the other doctors in Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (initially called Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital). Going through the seasons, Meredith becomes more and more brilliant, more and more famous. What’s to hate, you ask me? Now, to explain that I must jump forward a lot.
I felt it at season 18 episode 2. I’ve felt it before, but not as strong as that. In this episode, Meredith, already a renowned and brilliant surgeon, travels to Minessota and is offered to lead a whole medical center to cure Parkinson’s disease — which currently has no cure. She mulls it over, because, as she said, “kids need stability”, and she — incidentally — has three. In the end, she accepts the offer, but not completely — she says she’ll do it part-time, so she’s going to stay with Grey Sloan but travel to Minessota once a week, and she’s going to do the research there for that miraculous cure.
And that’s where I lost it.
You know why?
Because it’s not even science fiction. It’s a complete fucking fantasy world.
She has three, I underline, THREE kids, and NO husband (Dr. Sheperd, alas, is long dead and she’s a widow). How, then, can she fly to Minessota EVERY EFFING WEEK? For days at a time, no less? And there’s her thinking there — kids need stability. Yeah, they do! But this is only a token thought, considering that her kids appear or are mentioned on the show once a month (if even that often) when she picks someone up from school or childcare. Currently, her youngest daughter Ellis is about 5 years old, her son Derek is 8, and the eldest daughter, Zola (adopted), is 11. This means that all the kids still require a full-time supervisor — as in the US, it’s normally recommended that one shouldn’t leave kids younger than 12 years old home alone. So… how?… And is picking someone from school once a month or so all that’s required from a parent these days? Or maybe just the parent who is a surgeon has this luxury? Or perhaps it’s just this specific single-mother-brilliant-surgeon-groundbreaking-researcher?
Who takes care of those kids?
And it’s not like the show doesn’t have characters who are also mothers but whose situation looks way more realistic. There’s also a single mom Jo Wilson, who only has one baby but one can see that she’s constantly tired, overwhelmed, and when she needs to do anything without the baby, her friend Link often helps her out.
Meredith Grey has two jobs, three kids, no husband, and seemingly also limitless energy, she is world-famous, does groundbreaking surgeries every fucking day, and she’s got time to see her boyfriend.
But guess what, they’re also both surgeons.
With careers that are just as demanding and schedules that are just as crazy. And, in the case of Amelia, also with a child. So how can they even factor in on such conditions, and where can any other single (or even married) mom get a couple of such magical sisters?
There’s also a daycare in Grey Sloan and all the doctors seem to drop their kids in, seemingly forever (how long is a surgeon’s shift? From what I know, in the US it can be anything from 12 to 48 hours). Based on how it looks, this daycare should work around the clock. One is left wondering, you know? Whose soul do I sell to get my child into one of these? And what about the kids who are too old for this magical daycare but too young to be left unsupervised — that’s, let’s be exact here, two of Meredith’s three?
I forgot to mention that there’s no grandmas or grandpas in the picture, ever, because according to the plot, they’re all dead. So, no deus ex machina help on that side. But even if that wasn’t so — how many grandparents in this century are really invested in helping out with their grandkids, in Western cultures? The general agreement seems to be that they’ve done their share — with their own kids, the parents. They have a right to rest. (I agree. But what rights do the parents have?)
I am not even talking about Meredith having been on a vent with a Covid for what, months? And then she miraculously recovers, but what’s even more miraculous is how her kids still aren’t in a foster home after her having serene conversations on some dreamy beach with Derek and other dead people, while in a coma for almost a whole season? Where’s Child Protective Services, who are very quick to appear in other such cases (when something like this happens with patients who happen to be parents) and speed the kids away in a blink? Why doesn’t it happen to Dr. Meredith Grey? Because her friends the doctors don’t snitch to the Department of Children and Family Services? Special treatment much?
So anyway, you get the picture. A single mom of three, with little external help, a world-renowned surgeon, saving lives and making fascinating discoveries, back from the almost dead with a limitless pool of energy and a love life. A love life!
Man. If you were to tell me that you’ve seen a unicorn this morning on your lawn and that it was shitting butterflies, I would believe your story over this plot every day.
OK maybe it’s not very realistic, but it’s a TV show after all. Why do I hate it all so much?
And I will tell you why. Because it creates the expectation. The impossible bar that is raised so high, no human mother can ever reach it.
And then you have women feeling like a failure because they can’t “do it all”. Because they thought they could! Isn’t it being propagated right here, from the TV screen?
“You can have it all”, it tells you.
And it’s a lie.
I have one child. Just one two-year-old. And a husband who is fully invested in childcare. And though we’re expats and have no family close by, at least a couple of times a year one of the grandmas comes for a month or even more, to give us a little relief. And due to the C-word, we’re both on home office. And we have a daycare, though it’s not a magical around-the-clock daycare they seem to have on TV so we have to pick our son up at 15:00.
And as most parents nowadays, we both have full-time jobs.
Can I just up and leave every week, for days at a time? Fucking no, I can’t. Wake up, Snow White, and smell the diapers. Do I have the physical and mental energy for making big discoveries? Huh. I am lucky to still have energy enough for my daily job, but something tells me I am not seeing any big raises or promotions any time soon.
Because you can’t have it all. Or do it all.
Because the child is a full-time job, a thankless, mind-numbing, exhausting routine, putting you through the wringer every day, leaving you with just enough energy to push the remote button for Netflix, when after the full day of work, the post-daycare family time, and finally, an hour-long bedtime ritual threatening to still end with crying every time (or after surviving the crying, too), you drop into the chair.
Oh, and don’t forget the work (and trying to make space for it in a place which isn’t intended for the purpose), and the C-word. And kids getting sick. Believe me, any kid in a kid’s institution does. They do it a lot. They do it so often in the beginning that it’s a wonder that any parent can keep any job at all.
And it adds up. It all adds up.