Is she trying to tell me something?

We record two cartoons for our children to watch – The Berenstain Bears and Curious George.  They usually want to watch Curious George because there are more episode options.  Berenstain Bears comes on only once a week and they usually want to watch a “new” cartoon, or at least one they haven’t seen for a while. But recently Emma’s been asking to watch Berenstain Bears. “The new one?” I ask. “No. I want the one where Mama gets a job!” She seems unusually drawn to this particular episode.

I think it’s a funny irony.  I joke, “Is she trying to tell me something?”  But part of me cringes because I have some definite issues with the episode.

I guess I can see some good in it.  The story stresses how Papa and the cubs decide to do things to help out Mama while she’s gone, and Mama is able to put some time into something she enjoys and finds fulfilling instead of just being the helper for everyone else.  But honestly, it really bugs me on a level that I don’t think the children can pick up on.

What bugs me is that it is portrayed as Mama’s right to work, to turn her hobby into a business, no matter what implications it may have for the family.  When Mama decides to go to work, Papa and the cubs are surprised and apprehensive but everyone works together to make things work and everyone’s happy in the end.  But Mama didn’t discuss this family life-changing decision.  Papa and the cubs find out as she is headed out one morning to go to work (though she had “thought a lot about it” and talked with her friends who said they’d help her).  She gave them absolutely no warning.  This then leaves Papa with the need to balance his own work with caring for the cubs – because, frankly, even though the cubs learned they could help each other out, they still needed an adult to guide them a bit and an adult to prepare dinner, etc.  Good thing he could work from home, huh?

I was also bothered by the fact that Mama’s life wasn’t “complete” until she had turned her hobby into a business.  It wasn’t enough to have a hobby – she had to be able to earn money from it to be fulfilling.   Not that turning a hobby into a business is wrong – that’s probably the best way to start a business!  But the implication from the show is that Mama’s quilting talent being used solely to make much-loved quilts for her family was a waste of her talent.  She had amazing quilting skills, she could be successful!  And, of course, to be successful means earning money.  Because that’s how you measure importance and success – the money you bring in, right?

I, however, am very much of the opinion that something doesn’t have to have monetary rewards to make it worthwhile.  :)  And I believe that if you are about to make a choice that changes the way of life for your family, you should at least give them a heads up (and preferably consult with them as well).

So those are my issues with “Mama’s New Job.”

2 Responses to “Is she trying to tell me something?”

  1. Wow, you read way more into the story than I ever did as a kid. Also, wasn’t Papa a woodcutter way back in the beginning of the series?

  2. Yes, Papa was a woodcutter and a carpenter – so he could still work in his workshop beside the home during the day.

    These thoughts have definitely evolved over time for me… over a few book readings, yes, but more so over the many, many times listening to and watching the TV show courtesy of my 3-yr-old. :) And I think most of the themes that really bugged me were further elaborated in the show, whereas they may have gone either way in the book. Like Papa’s “Where are you going?” question the day she leaves for her job in the morning (and stays all day) which emphasized the sudden surprise, and the comments from the other bear women that started Mama thinking about starting her own business (they specifically said her amazing skills were being wasted, I believe). I got a bit of that from the book, but not nearly to the degree shown in the TV show. :)

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