With a title like I Feel Bad, NBC’s new family/workplace comedy might not inspire much confidence. Here’s the thing, though — it’s kind of exactly what moms need right now. If you are a woman who has children, you undoubtedly understand all too well the dreaded mom-guilt paradox. When you’re at work, you feel like a failure for sacrificing time with your family. When you’re at home, you feel like you should be focusing on work. Either way, mothers feel a constant tug in our brains telling us we’re not contributing enough. So, basically, we feel bad. All the time.
Enter I Feel Bad and its breakout star, Sarayu Blue, who is playing a maternal character that will resonate with all of us — but moms especially.
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Blue plays Emet, who seems to live up to the wildly misleading idea that women can “have it all.” She is the head artist for a video game (and can we just say, hell yes to female representation on TV in a stereotypically male field). She has a loving albeit slightly neurotic and insecure husband. They share three beautiful kids, and Emet’s parents even live with them. On paper, life is good.
But, you know, life is life. By definition, it is imperfect and messy and often looks nothing like we thought it would. This is where I Feel Bad draws its strength from.
For starters, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a show that focuses on a female character’s work life and family life. How often does that happen? Rack your brain and see how many examples come to mind. Women are an integral part of the modern workforce, accounting for nearly 47 percent of workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As for mothers, the Department of Labor found that 70 percent of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. It’s nice to see a show that tries to authentically tackle the struggle of doing well on both fronts.
In I Feel Bad, we see a woman who loves her husband, even when his neediness bugs the hell out of her. We see a woman who loves her kids very deeply but holds back her annoyance when their needs feel overwhelming. She’s trying to find ways to push that annoyance aside because she knows that this is her job, to be the best, most attentive mother possible.
It’s important that we see that overwhelmed, annoyed side of her because it’s so refreshingly honest. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed by your family. It’s OK to be tempted to trade them in for a few hours for the quiet house next door (which Emet does in the second episode). It’s OK, moms of the world, to feel like you want to help but also like you just want to take a break.
The beauty of I Feel Bad is that, in watching it, moms can feel like they’re being let off the hook. They’ll identify with the daily circus that is Emet’s life and hopefully find some catharsis in seeing the all of the daily average, frustrating and thrilling aspects of modern motherhood represented. I Feel Bad makes us feel a little bit better because it reminds us we’re not alone — and that’s huge, especially for a TV show.
Tune in to I Feel Bad on Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.