Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers from the July 9, 2018 episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, airing on PBS Kids.
If you’re a parent with little kids, then chances are Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is more or less a staple of your kids’ morning TV line-up. The popular PBS Kids show from Fred Rogers Productions offers kids daily lessons in navigating their emotions, which can sometimes feel much, much bigger than themselves. Just like Mister Roger’s Neighborhood did for generations of kids before it, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood isn’t afraid to tackle subjects that are tough, like anxiety and even divorce.
But recently, a new episode introduced a storyline I for some reason wasn’t expecting — one that showed my kids, and kids everywhere, a reality we often see in our own homes, but not on TV. On July 9, Daniel Tiger’s mom went back to work.
That’s right: Now kids as young as 2 can watch as Mom Tiger heads off to work each morning, just as their own mom does. And as everyday and “normal” as that may sound, the fact is, it’s a rarity in children’s programming.
It’s worth noting that Mom Tiger doesn’t get just any job, either. After spending three years as a stay-at-home-mom after Daniel’s little sister Baby Margaret was born, Mom Tiger puts on her tool belt and joins the workforce as a handywoman for the magical Neighborhood of Make-Believe. (Talk about cool, huh?)
“We were really excited, a lot of people working on the show are working parents themselves and we wanted to focus on this aspect of life,” says Christopher Loggins, a producer for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
As a working mother myself, this particular storyline means a lot to my family. In the July 9 episode, Daniel Tiger relies on his own creativity, imagination, and patience in order to deal with some of the changes that happen as the result of his mom’s new job and time away from the family. It’s a lesson I know that my own children struggle with during certain hours of the day too, when I am busy in my office. No matter how many times I try to distract or bribe them, they still come begging for me to stop working so I can play with them.
“Another strategy that Daniel learns is that you can be more than one thing and that is very much true for Mom Tiger,” Loggins tells Babble. “She is not only a mom but she has an important job in the neighborhood.”
After all, Loggins points out, it was Fred Rogers’ philosophy that every person is special and matters in their own unique way, and deserves the freedom to be different.
If you haven’t yet seen the episode, you may be as delightfully surprised as I was to see Mom Tiger throwing on a tool belt and heading out into the neighborhood to fix things. As a mom, I am constantly searching for examples of positive role models for my kids who aren’t afraid to break with traditional roles — and it looks like I just found one.
“We decided to give Mom Tiger what some might call a traditionally male job because we wanted to show young viewers that jobs don’t need to be confined to traditionally male or female,” Loggins tells Babble. He also adds that this wasn’t just a one-time storyline — now that Mom Tiger is the local handywoman, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of her at work from now on.
Showing kids at a young age that women can work in male-dominated jobs is a message I’m so happy my kids are getting. But as Loggins points out, sending Mom Tiger back to work is also about giving kids a lesson in emotional intelligence.
“The intention is to give the kids watching strategies on what to do when a grown-up is busy,” Loggins explains. “We all want to give our full time and attention to our kids as much as we can, but the reality is were all juggling responsibilities and in this episode, the mom is working and Daniel must look around him to find creative ways to entertain himself.”
Make no mistake, that is no small feat.
“But at the same time,” Loggins continues, “we were hoping that grownups watching would feel a sense of camaraderie to see a character on TV struggling with the same issues of balancing real-life responsibilities with family time.”
The most powerful takeaway for kids everywhere is that Daniel Tiger is giving kids a strong message that they don’t have to be upset or bored because a grownup isn’t able to help them find something to do.
“Children have the power and the ability to entertain themselves, they don’t always have to be told what to do by parents,” Loggins shares. “In this episode, we see that Daniel looks around and uses his surroundings to find something creative to do while his mom is working.”
Honestly, I didn’t need another reason to love the Tiger family … but it certainly looks like I have one.More On