The Single Mother Project: SMILF

In The Single Mother Project I am trying to get to the bottom of the negative connotations associated with single parents, by analysing (ish) films, TV shows and books that feature single parents. The good, the bad, and the ugly will all be discussed.

SMILF (2017)

I started this Single Mother Project in January. I’ve managed three posts. What can I say? I’m a single mum, working every minute I don’t have a 2-year-old attached to my leg. And also, I have a short attention span. But the brilliance of SMILF has inspired me to start up again. I love this show. I love Frankie Shaw. I haven’t girl-crushed like this since Kate Hudson rubbed my baby bump.

SMILF

I’d read a lot about SMILF (Single Mom I’d Like To F**K, for the record) before watching it. Mostly because my TV only seems to work on CBeebies these days, which Jack watches on the rare occasions we actually sit in front of it, while I am plugged into a podcast about murder in one ear to stop Topsy and Tim giving me murderous thoughts. And because I read Sunday Time Culture mag and go on The Pool & Refinery 29 to read about all the pop culture I don’t have the time to actually consume because I’m too busy being a single mum and too tired when I’ve finished being a single mum for the day to do anything but sleep.

But I made time for SMILF because it sounded funny, touching and gritty. And now I’ve watched it, and know it to be funny, touching and gritty.

Single mother character: Bridgette Bird, played by Frankie Shaw, who also created, writes & directs the show.

Bridgette Bird is a young, slightly impulsive, single mother living in South Boston. She’s doing her best for her beautiful son Larry, while trying not to lose herself completely in motherhood. In the first episode alone, she leaves her sleeping son alone in the house while she goes to buy junk food and then attempts to have sex in the bed where he lies sleeping (covered with a blanket). There are lines crossed and then crossed again in every episode, and while most would not actually ‘do a Bridgette’, I defy any single mother who says they haven’t considered popping to the corner shop for loo roll (or, more likely, wine) at 9pm when their child is sleeping soundly. Some say Shaw is trying too hard to shock. I say she’s just taking those thoughts and pushing the boundary into (theatrical) reality. That’s sort of how TV works, non? Bridgette Bird is not a terrible mother. She is a flawed, real mother, trying to make a better life for her son.

Aside from trying to make a better life for her son and trying to make a living (or at least rent), Bridgette is also trying to rediscover her sexuality as a mother. Expect Girls-esque scenes of nudity, discussions of widened vaginas, and more line-crossing. This is Girls for the Girls generation who has also pushed a baby out (or had one unceremoniously yanked out through a hole sliced in their abdomen).

Does SMILF break or add to negative connotations about single mothers? Neither. It makes its own rules. Bridgette Bird is a ‘hot mess’. She’s a caring mother. She’s clever, hard-working, impulsive, immature, selfish, selfless; she’s two people. The mother that she became the second Larry was born, and the woman she was before he was born. It perfectly sums up the push-pull of parenthood that’s all the more acute when you don’t have someone going through the same experiences by your side.

Single-mother take away:

In the first episode, when Bridgette is attempting an (ill-advised) romantic encounter, the guy catches sight of Larry, freaks out and suggests they rearrange for a time when Larry ‘isn’t around’. Never has a reply carried as much weight as Bridgette’s.

‘He’s always around.’

Thank you, Frankie Shaw. SMILF is so very brilliant.

Read more from The Single Mother Project

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