New Show Recap: The New Normal, Episode 1.14, “Stay-At-Home Dad”

This week’s The New Normal is all about child care arrangements and having realistic expectations of your parenting abilities. And also Rocky’s dreams of being a producer. But mostly the parenting stuff.

Bryan and David are interviewing prospective nannies and it’s clear they’re either holding them all to a ridiculously high standard (which is not unheard of) or just grilling them until they come up with a reason to not hire them. Both men apparently harbor dreams of being a stay-at-home parent, and evidently they have the financial freedom for one of them to be. Although we never hear a conversation about whose job pays more, or which job has the better insurance attached to it, so I guess we’re back to assuming that one of them is sitting on a rather generous trust fund or there’s some other undisclosed source of cash floating around in their lives. I’ll get back to that later, though. Bryan assures David that this is what he wants to do, though, so they decide to give it a test run.

The men held over to Goldie’s to give her an early birthday present of a spa week in Sedona in order to get their mitts on Shania to do a stay-at-home parent test run. The first night goes swimmingly, with Bryan and Shania staying up past 10 p.m. to watch My Strange Addiction with themed snacks. Later, Shania wakes up in the middle of the night and gets scared of some creepy looking shadows so Bryan tries to soothe her back to sleep, but just ends up falling asleep holding her. Then Shania wakes him up at 7:30 a.m. to remind Bryan that she needs to go to school. He sends her off with a lunch of an avocado, a club soda, and a wheel of brie, and then gets cornered by a couple other moms about providing decorations for a Princess tea party tomorrow. After he agrees, a stay-at-home dad with an infant strapped to his chest shows up to remind Bryan that there are downsides to stay-at-home parenting.

Bryan can’t use the washing machine because reasons? And after getting a call from Goldie and assuring her he’s got this under control, he gets a call from the school that Shania got sick so he has to bring her home and listen to her various demands for specific foods, entertainments, and comforts. By the time David gets home Bryan has given up. David looks openly smug about this development. The next morning David wakes up Shania with hot chocolate, has her breakfast ready and is prepped to go over her homework. Shania keeps trying to interrupt him, but he’s so excited he plows right over her until they get to the abandoned school and David realizes it’s Saturday.

David ends up hosting the Princess party, and the sugar hyped girls turn out to be a bit much for him and the party ends with a full Princess makeover desperately trying to keep the girls from exploring his and Bryan’s nightstands, which mysteriously contain see-through lotion that tastes like strawberries, according to one of the children. When Bryan gets home (but he was just in his home office?) David admits that he couldn’t do it either. They start interviewing nannies again, only to have Goldie show up to tell the men that no one’s a perfect parent their first time out. She tells them that “sometimes, it all falls apart” but that’s no reason to think they can’t be great parents. Then she turns around and heads back to the spa. Because round trip from LA to Sedona is”¦ nothing?

At the end, we get a voice-over about being lucky enough to have a partner to count on as Bryan and David prepare Shania for school together which turns out better than it did when they were trying on their own. They also describe being a stay-at-home dad as being “the hardest job in the world” which, you know, it can be but there’s a lot of advantages these two have that I’ll get to in a minute. In the meantime, though, their strengths complement each other and they’ll face the upcoming parenting challenges together.

While the men are working out their parenting arrangements, Bryan breaks it to Rocky that he wants to be a stay-at-home dad and Rocky laughs and makes a joke about David being a guest star on Girls because meta! Anyway, Rocky tells Bryan that she’s always wanted to be a producer, which you think he’d know what with her being his assistant who’s with him every hour of the day for the last several years, and so he leaves her in charge while he’s playing house with Shania. While Rocky does have some personality clashes with the cast and crew, the episode she produces is fantastic AND she shaved the budget significantly so Bryan feels comfortable with letting her take over for him when the time comes.

And now for the ranting. Oh, the glorious ranting.

Listen, I get that Ryan Murphy and company are trying to tell a story that’s not been represented before so they want to smooth some of the edges off. To a certain extent, Bryan and David have to be a perfect couple in every way to get the same kind of sympathy and empathy a less than perfect straight couple in a sitcom would get. But making up this fairytale reality where dropping $30,000 on a surrogate and thousands more on doctors’ visits, tests, and the birth is absolutely NOTHING to these men, and they have enough money left over that apparently both of them can stay home with their child takes it out of “Just a little too shiny to be real” and pulls it straight into the realm of fantasy. They have a huge house somewhere in the Los Angeles area. They have a guest house. They are spending probably somewhere near $100,000 just making this kid happen, and they sent their surrogate on a spa week. David went through medical school to be an OB-GYN, which tends to come with the kind of student loan debt that sticks around well into your 30s and he’s in a specialty that’s known for its insanely high malpractice insurance rates. If we even got a hint, a throw-away line or two about some massively successful project that Bryan is still making residuals from, or a settlement that one of the two men came into that left them with a lot of extra cash to sit around and earn interest, I wouldn’t be complaining. But we haven’t, and so we just have to buy into this fairytale existence that Bryan and David (and apparently all their friends; what was Monty’s job, exactly?) live. And it’s frustrating. I want to like these characters, but sitting here under-employed with a not inconsiderable amount of student loan debt weighing me down, watching them prance around like money is literally nothing while not acknowledging it at all is really trying my patience. Hearing these two saying parenting is “the hardest job in the world” when they have seemingly limitless resources at their disposal is hard to swallow. No, money can’t make you happy and it can’t raise your kids, but it can sure as hell remove a lot of obstacles.

Sometimes I wish Goldie would sit the two of them down and have a conversation about how parenting can be “the hardest job in the world” when you’re a teen mom without a high school degree, living at your grandmother’s house with an emotionally distant partner and working at the same time. I’m really not asking for much, just some kind of nod to the fact that Bryan and David are leading an exceedingly blessed life and most people confronting these problems are coming at them with a whole lot more on their plate than who’s better at getting up early.  Yes, families are changing and showing that a family that’s made with a surrogate and two dads is just as loving and wonderful as a more “traditional” family is great, but when your version of The New Normal is so far removed from anything resembling reality the message ends up a bit lost.

That’s my rant for this week. I’ll try to keep it to myself next week. Thanks for reading!

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