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What F.R.I.E.N.D.S can teach about pregnancy, motherhood and more

The show that intentionally showcased a range of ways that people can experience motherhood.
December 21, 2020

8 Minutes

The Friends series put a lot of mums on the screen to make the audience consider the different realities of each of their unique situations they came from were pushed to. From broken condoms to breastfeeding, baby sitters, empty wallets, blocked credit cards and careers, everything is brought to life in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. They are so often unknown to or misunderstood by spouses, bosses, coworkers and the list goes on.

While the writer challenged the most common definition of family with a married father and mother with biological children, instead they showed a variety that included a liberal expansion of possible family forms.

#1 Gay Parenting

Gay Parenting - Absolutely Fine

Friends kicks off its devotion to “then” unconventional motherhood in episode two, when Ross discovers his ex-wife Carol is pregnant with his child and plans to raise it with her lesbian partner, Susan. 

Motherhood was a cherished goal for many lesbians, who often engage in a daily balancing act between patriarchal expectations and accommodating conventions of their normal daily life. That message was so consistent throughout the season and where Ross models a traditional father behaviour by giving him a GIJoy(a more masculine) toy over Barbie to his son Ben.

#2 Surrogacy

I Have Babies Coming Out of me - Surrogacy

One of the hardest thing they’ve ever got to do is surrogacy. Phoebe agrees to become a surrogate mother for her half-brother and his wife who is significantly an older woman. When is not able to conceive herself, she gives them the gift of babies for their wedding. Given the public debates of the time about the exploitation of birth mothers, selling babies, and the stigma around ’unnatural’ conception, it was a bold move.

With risk, the emotional investment involved in the cost of Vitro fertilisation, the plotline focuses on the emotional highs and lows Phoebe experiences, making audiences consider the situation from the surrogates point of view. Her biological mother asks her not to give up a baby by telling how hard it would be to give away an adorable puppy, yet she insisted that she will not repeat the family history and get pregnant deliberately rather by accident and give it to a couple who yearns for a baby.
Phoebe’s pregnancy does not by any means perfectly showcase the complex and diverse reality of surrogacy, but it does take a stance for it as a valid reproductive option.
There are scenes where she describes “I’m just the oven. It’s totally their bun” shows that this will be a fully gestational surrogacy.

#3 Single Mother

Single mother problems in FRIENDS Series

During Chandler and Monica’s wedding, it becomes clear that it’s not Monica but Rachel who is pregnant when Monica privately tells Chandler and the anxious face of Rachel scared as hell about what it would mean to do this “all alone”. Rachel is told by her mother, “you can’t possibly do this alone”, and that sentiment is echoed by her father, Ross, Joey, and various other characters offering advice about her unplanned pregnancy.

Now that it is it’s becoming common for children to be born to unmarried mothers, Friends explored the stigma that single mothers experience through Rachel long ago.

Throughout Rachel’s pregnancy the show makes clear that in spite of fears, single motherhood is a possible and commendable decision. Although she is having Ross’s baby, and there is an underlying sense that the two will inevitably end up together as the show’s core couple, it had was a beginning of unconventional parenting set up.

It is not easy to raise her baby alone and hence Rachel finds the support she needs to raise Emma not through the traditional marriage structure by asking Ross, but through her network of friends, family and co-parent to help her. There is never a question of giving up her career as a fashion executive and she manages to fight the post-maternity-leave stigma to continue her path of success.

#4 Infertility and Adoption

Infertility and Adoption

Monica is always longing for motherhood, and she is always being criticised by her own parents for being childless and unmarried in her mid-twenties.

She breaks up with ex-boyfriend) because he doesn’t want to have children, and she longs for the traditional family structure with kids, The cruel irony is that when she finally tries to have a baby with her now-husband Chandler, she can’t conceive. Monica’s uterus is an ‘inhospitable environment’ and her husband Chandler’s sperms were less competitive in reaching her uterus.

Chandler says, “My guys won’t get off the recliner and you have a uterus that is prepared to kill the ones that do!” When he invites his “spermestic” guy friends for dinner in an attempt to evaluate his suitability to father the child, we are reminded that nothing is normal or natural. Eventually, Monica and Chandler adopt the kid of unwed teen mother bringing economic and class issues to light along with comedy.

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