The swirling vortex of “This is Us” sucked me in about twenty seconds after it popped up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and every other social media outlet. It was free, it was streaming, and all the kids were asleep. It took one night alone while my husband was gone to play hockey for me to abandon all premise of parenting magazines or Goodreads lists. If this was wrong, I didn’t want to be right. Curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and ignoring the dishes and the toys and the dog, I pressed play. As a mom to multiples, it only took one glimpse of Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore), sitting on the floor, surrounded by dirty diapers and dishcloths with two out of three kids screaming to win my affection. I nodded, muttered under my breath “I feel you” and then binge-watched the next four episodes.
I didn’t breathe through the episode when Jack and Rebecca take their kids to the pool. I knew what was coming when you’re playing zone defense in a public place. Swimsuit bullying and near-drownings had me swearing off water sports until my twins were old enough to get their lifeguard certifications. But I kept watching. I waited for Rebecca to join a moms’ group or sign up for the PTA or attend play dates. It didn’t happen. I hoped it would, for her fictional health and well-being, but if we’re chasing some semblance of reality here, then it was not to be. Moms of multiples are in it for survival. We hunker down until it’s safe to leave the bunker.
As I fidgeted through commercials and cried at the end of EVERY EPISODE, it got me thinking. I knew why I was watching. It’s not often you see a mom on television in my situation, juggling multiples with all their double feedings and sibling rivalry and desperate pleas for attention. But why does everyone else in the world want to talk about this show? Why are celebrities tweeting quotes from Toby (Kate’s boyfriend)? Why do I have to hide from my phone and computer so I won’t have the latest episode spoiled for me?
It’s a paradox–a seemingly absurd proposition that millions of mainstream Americans would find a show about multiples obsession-worthy. And yet…it’s about more than multiples or parenting. It’s about connection. I don’t know a mother out there who hasn’t sat on the floor of her baby’s room and cried. I don’t know a mother who hasn’t doled out the speech on being “present” with the children when her husband rolls in past bedtime. Or a father who doesn’t struggle to walk the fine line between working hard enough to provide but still be home for dinner. I don’t know a girl who hasn’t been teased about her looks (middle school is brutal) or a boy who isn’t always in competition to be the funniest or smartest or most athletic in the class. I don’t know a soul who hasn’t felt lost in the world.
This is the paradox of “This is Us.” The premise is narrow: a family raising triplets (boy/girl twins and one adopted son) to love each other for better or worse. But the reach is huge: mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters fighting for connection in a world that spreads us thin. This is why we love “This is Us.” This is why we want to chant “Go Big Three” with Kate and Kevin and Randall. We want to jump on that train. We want a bond that’s not going to break. The show is an addiction. It lured me in with its multiples and motherhood, but it hooked me for good with the message that maybe, just maybe, we all want the same thing: to be assured that we’ll always have people to love us.
Feature image via Twitter – TV Guide
— TV Guide (@TVGuide) January 18, 2017