Everyone has that show they watch on repeat. For me, it’s Friends. From the classic catchphrases like, “We were on a break!” and “How you doin?” to notable one-liners like “They don’t know we know they know we know,” I find myself constantly laughing out loud, regardless of how many times I’ve watched the episode. In fact, because I can’t stop watching Friends over and over, I tend to start laughing in anticipation of the joke I know is coming.
The world first met Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe 26 years ago on a Thursday night on NBC. Over the last two and a half decades generation after generation of teens, young adults and adults have been reintroduced to the top-rated sitcom thanks to reruns and streaming platforms like HBO Max, where all 10 seasons currently reside.
I never used to think about Friends through a mother’s lens; after all, it’s a sitcom about a group of 20-something-year-old friends navigating early adulthood. But the more I watch the show, the more I see myself in Rachel, Phoebe and Monica.
Dealing with real-life situations like hating jobs, the juggle of dating, marriage and babies, Friends provides younger generations a glimpse into a group of friends who are loyal, supportive and there for you and each other. And while it’s not always entirely realistic, it’s a 30-minute, mind-numbing escape from reality.
I’d be amiss not to mention Friends’ flaws, the lack of diversity in the characters and some of the jokes that are flat out socially unacceptable in today’s society. However, when it comes to motherhood, the sitcom tackles a variety of topics, taboo for the time they aired live, but very relatable to the modern mom. Each female character experiences mom-life in a unique way; the show touching on single motherhood, adoption, surrogacy, IVF and working motherhood.
After binge-watching the series maybe a dozen times over, I can confidently say below, in no particular order because I find them all hilarious, are some of the most relatable Friends episodes for moms—ones that will make you smile during that late-night feeding, when you feel like you’re the only dealing with a colicky baby, struggling to breastfeed or not sleeping a wink.
#8. “The One Where Emma Cries”
Ask any mom and she’ll tell you, sleep when the baby sleeps and never wake the baby. That piece of advice is why this Friends episode could have been called, ‘The One With The Rookie Mistake!” Rachel comes home from the hospital with Emma and like any new mom, me included, can’t stop watching her baby and misses her while she sleeping. Against Phoebe’s advice, Rachel wakes Emma up from her nap because, well, she made her. All I can say here is thank goodness for Aunt Monica, who finally gets Emma back to sleep!
#7. “The One With Ross’ Inappropriate Song”
Hearing your infant laughing is one of the most heartwarming sounds so it’s no wonder Ross and Rachel did anything to make Emma laugh, even if it meant singing Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” While I never sang “I like big butts” to my girls, I definitely took a page out of the characters’ songbook here and there, singing, dancing and looking a bit ridiculous just to make my girls laugh a little.
#6. “The One with Phoebe’s Birthday Dinner”
This episode portrays the difficulties any new mom has when it comes to leaving their baby for the first time. The friends are scheduled to attend Phoebe’s birthday dinner. As Rachel and Ross are getting ready to leave, they accidentally lock the baby in the apartment, alone. Ross’ mom Judy unlocks the door, but after that, Rachel can’t bring herself to leave Emma. So instead, Rachel, Ross, Emma and Judy all head to the restaurant together. While some may look at this as an extreme mom move, I get it.
I remember the first time I went out after having both my daughters; with my oldest daughter I left for an hour, to go to lunch, down the street, and I took a picture to document the event. And with my second I went to a 30th birthday party, which I left early so I could come home to breastfeed. Honestly, Rachel did what she needed to do and Judy enjoyed a good drink at the bar.
#5. “The One Where No One Proposes”
Rachel’s emotions are running high after she delivers Emma and Joey finally clears up his proposal misunderstanding. But what stands out to me in this episode is the breastfeeding scene. Rachel is joined by a supportive nurse, helping her get Emma to latch. The scene does include Friends classic humor as Joey stands by and watches Rachel whip out her boob, but it also shows that breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Rachel’s nurse reassures her explaining it takes some moms a while to get breastfeeding and that it will happen for her. It’s exactly what a new mom needs to hear at that moment!
#4. “The One Where Rachel Goes Back To Work”
Rachel ends her maternity leave early because she’s concerned the guy filling in for her will get her job. She ends up bringing Emma to work so she can give a presentation. But when the presentation gets moved up and Rachel has no one to watch Emma, she’s faced with having to sacrifice giving her presentation because she has no one to watch her daughter. It all works out for Rachel in the end and her co-worker kindly steps in to help, but the scene depicts the internal battle most working moms fight on a daily basis. Even now, 18 years later after the episode first aired moms everywhere are still trying to figure out that work, life balance.
#3. “The One Where Chandler Takes A Bath”
Before finding out the sex of their baby, Ross and Rachel go back and forth vetoing baby names. From Ruth to Rain to Sandrine the couple cannot agree. Apparently, art does depict life as most couples make name suggestions that are rejected by their partner throughout pregnancy. It’s one of the many reasons I read The Big Book of 60,000 Baby Names from cover to cover, multiple times.
#2. “The One With The Donor”
After finding out she can’t get pregnant, Monica and Chandler look into other ways to become parents. They start with exploring sperm donors and invite one of Chandler’s “perfect” co-workers over for dinner to secretly interview for the job. But in the end, the couple realizes adoption is the road for them and they begin that process. This is one of the many times Friends acknowledges families come together in many different ways and there are multiple ways to becoming a mom.
#1. “The One With the Embryos”
Ask any Friends fan and it’s guaranteed one of their all-time favorite episodes is when Rachel, Monica, Joey and Chandler battle it out in a game of trivia that results in Monica and Rachel losing their apartment. But, as the episode title reveals, so much more takes place than just Rachel not knowing Chandler Bing’s job. It’s when Phoebe finds out she is pregnant with her brother’s triplets. While a surrogacy storyline seems uncommon for a sitcom, it’s a way many people in the world become mothers. And having Phoebe as a gestational surrogate for her brother demonstrates the open-mindedness of the writers and gives the viewers a glimpse into the true gift of motherhood.