I really enjoyed watching ‘The Replacement’ on BBC1 recently (well actually we watched it on iPlayer because, if you have kids, who watches programmes when they are actually on?) as I found it really relatable to my experience of being in work before and after Willow was born. I probably should just clarify at this point that I can’t relate to having a creepy stalker lady try and infiltrate my life and take my job and baby or witness someone falling through a roof to their death. Thankfully the work/baby/work process ran a little smoother for me.
Much like the lead character Ellen, when I got pregnant I totally believed that I wouldn’t be off work for too long and that I would be raring to get back to work a few months after the baby was born. The programme brought back memories of the feelings of insecurity that creep in the closer you get to your maternity leave about the work you started but someone else will deliver or the new work you will be missing out on.
And then there’s the worry that when you come back to work you won’t be able to pick up where you left off or that your hard earned career will be chucked out with the afterbirth. Indeed, infuriatingly this does happen to some parents who find themselves side lined in favour of colleagues without children or who are offered no flexibility in their working hours so are forced to give up work because of the extortionate cost of child care or simply so they can be with their children for more than half an hour at the end of the working day.
The programme stirred up memories of how, when pregnant, I was determined to carry on at work as if everything is normal and you’re trying to ignore your raging hormones and backache and the desire to eat a whole cheese cake garnished with jalapenos with your hands. I was definitely not going to be that woman but alas hormones have other ideas so sometimes you just want to cry in the office, much like Ellen does, for no reason (cue a sneaky cry in the loos but please note I never ate a cheese cake with my hands in the office. Maybe once at home…).
This is all pre baby. Once your baby is here well, it’s a whole different story. Then you sail the sea of emotions about not wanting to leave them at all. In the programme Ellen started to realise the attachment and bond you form with your child is much stronger than any project you deliver. The protective instinct kicks in where you convince yourself that only you are capable of looking after your child and you start to hatch a plan about asking your partner to get a second job and eat baked beans forever so you don’t have to go back to work. These maternal feelings overwhelm you even though you never thought that would be you.
In the programme Ellen suffered little ‘comments’ from colleagues about her presence at work or the time she was spending with her baby. These comments are probably not meant to offend but I remember them sending me into turmoil about trying to achieve the best work life balance I possibly could (I’m still riding that rollercoaster) but when a meeting is scheduled for 4:30pm and you have to leave at 4pm because you’re still breastfeeding and your boobs will explode if you don’t latch your child on asap, there’s not really much of a choice is there? “Oh you’re leaving at 4 are you? Never mind…. You can catch up.” Yeah thanks for that.
I thought the programme really represented the emotions and problems faced by parents going on maternity and paternity leave but I was also slightly distracted by the wild inaccuracies in the programme. Firstly she had a baby that slept on cue every time as soon as she put her down in the cot. Nope, no way, it does not happen like that. Then there was the part where she was casually folding baby vests. Folding vests! There is no time to eat or drink a hot brew much less fold vests. That brings me on to their house. It was beautiful but like a show home at all times. Not a crusty muslin cloth, dirty baby grow or two day old piece of toast stuck to the couch cushions to be seen (not just me surely?)
Never once did she turn up to the office with baby sick on her shoulder. In fact her designer wardrobe remained unscathed by the baby, not really representative of what it’s like to have a new baby in the house, especially if it’s your first child. And as if you can take your baby to work in a trendy architectural office and it will sleep in the car seat (not advised for safety reasons anyway) while you design a trendy new block of flats and totally not disturb your über cool colleagues or think they won’t be slightly uncomfortable when you breast feed in a glass walled office.
All in all though I thought it was a really good programme (well episodes one and two, episode three got a bit silly and then delivered a disappointing ending). The subject matter was long overdue to be represented in a main stream TV drama – vest folding aside!
Did you watch The Replacement? I’d love to know what you thought of it. Leave me a comment and let me know.
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