Editor’s Note: This post includes spoilers from Season 1 of The Letdown, now streaming on Netflix.
The other night I was cruising my Netflix queue when I came across a new show I hadn’t heard of before. It was called The Letdown, and it appeared to be a comedy about a group of new moms.
I was only looking to watch an episode of something light and mildly funny before drifting off to sleep — you know, the same nightly conundrum we all face when scrolling endlessly through Netflix — so I pressed play without giving it too much thought.
But before I knew it, I was hooked. Watching “just one episode” turned into me staying up past midnight, binge-watching the entire season. (In my defense, it’s only seven episodes long — but still).
In short: I was not let down by The Letdown.
The hilarious and brutally honest Australian comedy stars Alison Bell as Audrey, a new mom who’s struggling to master the learning curve of parenthood. It doesn’t take long to get where the tongue-in-cheek title comes from: We moms know “the letdown” typically refers to the release of breast milk when a baby is nursing. But it’s also how a lot of us sometimes feel when wading through the hazy, delirious, and utterly confounding early days of motherhood: let down.
Usually, I keep my binge-watching to a minimum (after all, I’m a mom of two — so I really value my sleep). But this show was so deeply refreshing that I couldn’t turn away. Each time the credits rolled, I was instantly ready for another.
The show’s realness kicks off from the moment we first meet Audrey — which happens when a drug-dealer approaches her car window in the middle of the night, after she’s been driving around trying to get her baby to sleep. While the show is billed mainly as a comedy (and trust me, it’s packed with many laugh-out-loud moments), it’s also a drama that doesn’t shy away from the raw humanity of new motherhood.
Like so many new mothers, Audrey loves her baby, but doesn’t suddenly see the world through rose-colored glasses the second her wriggling newborn is thrust into her arms. She’s not filled with immense satisfaction and joy, as we’re so often led to believe we should be. Instead, she seems to be searching for something through much of the first season — but for what, she isn’t so sure.
Making matters worse is the fact that Audrey also can’t seem to find the proper support she needs in this new stage of life. Her old friends seem to have abandoned her, and when she tries reconnecting, it’s clear they no longer feel they can relate to her. Meanwhile, her husband is busy at work, but distracted and failing to fully understand his partner’s struggle.
And then there are the challenges that come with being cooped up at home all day, tending to a baby without adult conversation. Audrey often teeters between boredom and overstimulation, wondering why her brain works differently now than it used to, why her baby won’t sleep, and what happened to her identity.
In the absence of a village — which she didn’t realize until now she so desperately needed — Audrey cautiously joins a mom group.
Ahem … sound familiar?
I know it does to me. While I never joined a mom group, I remember visiting parks and other mom and baby-clad places just hoping I would make a friend. More often than not, I felt like the least put-together person there. My hair was always thrown up in a messy bun, and most days, I donned an old, well-worn band T-shirt.
Whether or not others looked at me and thought I looked like a fish out of water didn’t really matter — I felt like one. I was simply hoping someone would look my way, smile, and engage me in conversation. But it all seemed so much harder than it should be. I was uncomfortable in my new role and I felt like it was plastered all over my face.
Audrey’s experience isn’t too far off.
Through most of the season, we watch her grapple with feelings that most of us have probably felt as new moms — the sinking feeling you don’t quite fit in, or that you’re failing at this mom thing. Her discomfort and awkwardness are just as amusing as they are relatable.
Most of us moms eventually find a way through the awkwardness and the embarrassment of not getting everything quite right. Hopefully, we find our tribe. But it’s not without effort, and a bit of discomfort. Because if motherhood is anything, it’s a whole lot of stepping outside our comfort zones — from making new friends to navigating what marriage looks like now that a kid has been thrown into the mix.
We all have mountains to climb.
Even though I’ve been at this parenting thing for eight years now, The Letdown offers lessons I still need to be reminded of from time to time. And I know I’m not alone in that one.
Because it’s so easy to get caught in the trap of believing that everyone’s perfectly curated Instagram feed resembles what’s really going on in their lives. The truth is far more grittier. Yes, motherhood is beautiful, but it’s also hard. And sometimes lonely. The Letdown doesn’t shy away from any of that, which is precisely what makes it the most down-to-earth show about new parenthood I’ve seen in a while.
If there’s one thing new parents need more of these days, it’s more brutal honesty to help combat some of that loneliness we often feel. We might not all have a defacto village or a quirky, oddball mom group like Audrey’s, or a bunch of neighbors bringing over lasagnas all the time. Sometimes, the village doesn’t exist — and we have to work really hard to make one for ourselves.
Either way, though, at least now we have Audrey.