It’s here: the final season of Downton Abbey. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone. This show has brightened my Januaries since its premiere five years ago, letting me slip away from my suburban Silicon Valley existence and immerse myself in a world of tea trays and titled gents.
I’m not alone in my love for this series. It has a broad base of support, appealing to viewers of all kinds. But I happen to think that moms have a particular affinity for the saga of Lord and Lady Grantham, their family, and their servants. I think it appeals to the mom-demographic for a few very specific reasons.
1) We moms harbor fantasies of living like Lady Grantham. I don’t know about you, but I dream of a world where I have breakfast in bed every day, not just on Mother’s Day. I fantasize about being able to ring a bell and have other people bring me anything I need (or, more to the point, anything I want), be it a cup of tea or a freshly-ironed dress. And don’t even get me started about living in a beautiful house that I don’t have to clean myself. Downton Abbey lets us vicariously indulge in a pampered life, one that looks mighty appealing to the modern mom.
2) The show reflects our much-less-glamorous reality. As much as Downton Abbey feeds our fantasies about doing nothing more pressing than deciding what to wear for dinner, it also reflects what our lives really do look like. We moms can relate to the servants who zip around below stairs and behind the scenes, keeping the house running smoothly. We understand the frazzled feelings of Mrs. Patmore as she frantically bangs lids onto pots and tries to get dinner done on time. We all know that feeling of having to drop what we’re doing and help someone else. We don’t answer to the ding of a bell calling us to the drawing room, but we know how it feels to be summoned by the newborn who needs to be fed or the child who desperately needs help with a math problem. Putting others’ wishes above our own? We get that, we moms. We know how it feels to live a life of service.
And when Downton Abbey shows the servants in a rare moment of relaxation, sitting down and reading the paper or enjoying a glass of something in Mrs. Hughes’ office, I almost want to weep with happiness for them. They’ve earned it. We have too, moms, and let’s not feel guilty about occasionally putting our feet up or escaping to a café or the mall for a little time alone. (Even the servants get one afternoon off a week; isn’t it only normal for us to want the same?)
3) It shows the power of the mother-child bond. Is there any storyline more heart-wrenching than Edith and her secret child? All last season my heart ached for her as she rattled around the Drews’ farm like a lost soul, desperately wanting her baby. Those bonds are hard to break. And yet the show also shows the power of the bond between Marigold and her adoptive mother, who loved the child like her own flesh and blood. I know I wasn’t the only mom who was fighting back tears a few weeks ago when Mrs. Drew was holding Marigold on her lap, cuddling the child whom she raised and who would forever have a place in her heart. It made me want to go give my own kids an extra-tight hug.
4) Downton Abbey shows good mothering (and not always by the mothers). Much as I like Cora’s compassionate and relatively laid-back attitude where her girls are concerned, she’s not the best mother on the show. That honor goes to Mrs. Hughes (I just can’t call her Mrs. Carson; she’ll always be Mrs. Hughes to me). She is sensitive, encouraging, loving, firm when needed. She is loyal and willing to protect her flock – remember how she stood up to Anna’s terrible assailant a few seasons back? She expects high standards from her staff, but she’s also understanding when they fall short. She’s everything I want to be when I grow up, and she’s proof that one doesn’t have to give birth to be a model mom.
5) It makes us realize that being a woman in 2016 does have its advantages. Much as I love the fashions and pretty manners of the show – and yes, I think we could embrace such courtesy and politeness again – I can’t help but be aware that I have many more options in my life than either Lady Mary or Lady Edith. They also lived in a time when you made one false move and your reputation was doomed, a sad reality which keeps Edith from being able to publicly acknowledge her own child (though I do hold out hope that all will be revealed before the end of the season). All told, I’d rather live in the modern world, where I have more control over my future and where college and a meaningful career are options a woman can indeed pursue. (I wouldn’t mind it if men stood up when I entered the room, though.)
What about you? What do you love about this show? And what will you miss when [sniff] it’s gone?
Copyright 2016 Ginny Kubitz Moyer.