No wonder moms like “Downton Abbey”










Both of my children, for reasons too long to go into here, were born via C-section.  One the one hand, that kind of stank  (fiery incision pain, inability to stand upright or use my abdominal muscles, etc.).  On the other hand, it had its pluses,including the fact that I got eight whole weeks of maternity leave as opposed to  six  (insert diatribe about how US policymakers need to learn from their more enlightened Scandinavian counterparts).    But one of the best things about having a C-section was getting to spend four whole nights in the hospital.

Yes, I said “getting to,” not “having to.”  Call me loco, but I loved my hospital stays.  I loved them because for the first time in my life, I could push a button and other people would come wait on me.  They brought me water whenever I asked for it.  They changed my sheets for me.    They helped me dress.  They  fixed me dinner and brought it to my bedside on a tray.  It was like Club Med, without the beach.   I am considering having a third child just so I can go back for more.

This obviously indicates something about my life, namely the fact that I (like most moms) don’t get a lot of pampering.   It also explains, at least in part, why I love “Downton Abbey.”

I’ve been a fan since Season One, and  this new season couldn’t come soon enough.  Watching the Crawley family, I get pulled into a beautiful fantasy about a life of leisure, a life without the drudgery of housecleaning and meal preparation and rushing out the door into the morning commute.   I get to live vicariously in a genteel world of ancient estates and devoted servants and ringing for tea.   And oh, it all sounds so lovely.

At the same time, I love the show because it also satisfies the flip side of my desire to be pampered: that side of me that I guess could be called my social conscience.  It’s a weird paradox that although I like being pampered,  I have a very hard time actually letting people do it.  I always feel as though there is something else that they could be doing for themselves, not for me.  That’s why the hospital stays were so nice: there was no possibility that I could do anything  for myself, so I was able to fully relax and enjoy the experience as much as I could, guilt-free.  And another thing that “Downton Abbey” does so well (much like “Upstairs, Downstairs” did) is show the harsh reality of being a servant and working very very hard for very very little reward.  You can’t help but feel bad for poor little Daisy the kitchen maid, or for Mrs. Hughes, who never gets to put her feet up with a good book.  (I don’t feel a whit bad for Thomas, though.  I have my limits.)

So “Downton Abbey” is not just an Anglophile’s fantasy about living in a lovely place and being treated like royalty.  It also acknowledges that even in a pretty world, there are people all around us who do difficult work on a daily basis and often fly below the radar of our consciousness.    In our own world, those are the people who pick our crops and empty our trashcans and clean our offices.   And — just as we see every time “Downton” ventures into the servants’ hall — their stories are fascinating and important, too.

And — spiritual musings aside —  I love “Downton”  for the sheer soap-opera drama of it all.  This season has not disappointed.  Oh, poor Edith!   (I was so devastated by what happened during the last episode that my husband finally had to say, “You do know she’s a fictional character, right?”)   And I would not have thought it possible in the first season, but Thomas’ shenanigans are actually making me feel sorry for Miss O’Brien.   And will Sibyl and Branson ever feel completely at home with her family?    Yes, I pretty much live for Sunday nights now.

Are a fan, too?  Do the same things that appeal to me appeal to you?  What do you think of the new season?

5 Responses to No wonder moms like “Downton Abbey”

  1. Ah, Downton!

    For whatever reason, I came late to the party, and spent a good deal of the time starting on Christmas day and the week or so after, being sick and getting hooked. Nestled in my bed, or on the sofa, wrapped up in blankets, Amazon Prime delivered up seasons 1 and 2 right there on my iPad. Hooked? Beyond hooked!

    I think that I love watching how the relationships unfold, so much of the human drama played out in such interesting ways. Another thing that I think of is the care and benevolence of Lord Grantham, when it comes to the servants – but that the servants are still, well, servants. Justice is served in the context of the time and place.

    It strikes me that Lord Grantham has found ways to forgive Thomas, and sticks by Bates. That reminds me of God’s mercy and fidelity. And along the lines of fidelity and transformation through love, what about Anna’s relationship with Bates, and how she cares for him?

    There is so much to explore, but those are some of the things on my heart.

    Your thoughts about your hospital stays there is something to be said about being cared for, and about how hard it is to let anyone do something for us, unless we have no choice. How I know that one well! (and yes -I am with you on the barbarian thing that US employers call maternity leave, and heck – I have never given birth)

    Thanks for this thought provoking post!

  2. I’m only one episode into the new season (thanks to my wonderful husband who gave up our typical Friday movie night to watch Downton with me) but it’s already wonderful. Carlos couldn’t stop laughing when the Dowager Countess mistook Lord Grantham for a member of the staff (because he wearing his black tie/dinner jacket) and asked him for a drink.

    It’s a unique view into life at another time and amazing to reflect on both the differences and the similarities one can draw to todays world. For Christmas Carlos gave me the book, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. I finished it off in the week between Christmas and New Years. It’s amazing to see how much inspiration for the show was drawn from the real life Carnarvon family at Highclere Castle. I definitely recommend it, particularly for when one one suffers from Downton withdrawal between seasons.

  3. That’s a really interesting point about Lord Grantham, Fran. “Justice is served in the context of the time and the place.” It is hard (for us Americans especially) to conceive of such a rigid class system and to see how one person has so much influence and power over others simply by virtue of the family into which he happened to be born. That happens on a limited level here, of course, but the world of “DA” shows it taken to another extreme. And I do like Lord Grantham a lot — I feel as though he is becoming a bit more enlightened (I guess he has to be, with Sibyl as a daughter!).

    Viki, Scott and I absolutely cracked up laughing when Maggie Smith thought her son was the waiter. I think that was the funniest moment so far. So well-acted, too! Also, thanks for the book rec. I have seen it in the stores and it’s good to know that it is worth getting!

  4. Ok, so I’m still trying to finish season 2 but I am DVRing (is that a word) the new season!! I love this show and I also started to watch the new upstairs/downstairs!!

  5. I haven’t seen the new “Upstairs, Downstairs” — is it good? Several years back I worked my through the original series from the 70s — took weeks to watch it all, but worth it! Great writing and memorable characters.