Boob Tube Cravings

5 TV shows to watch during maternity leave.

Boob Tube Cravings

Whenever the topic of maternity leave came up inevitably--at least amongst my friends--there would be some mention of it being a great time to catch up on all the television I hadn't been able to watch because of, well, life. And in my mind, and my Hulu/Netflix/Roku cues, I had an extensive collection of series I intended to watch.

However, when I actually found myself on leave with babe in lap and remote in hand, my hazy, sleep-deprived mind found it very difficult to actually pick what I wanted to watch. I had a few false starts with shows that my previously bright mind and inquisitive nature would have found terribly satiating but my newly exhausted and easily distracted self found too complex or lengthy.


I eventually found my way--with the gentle guidance of a few pop culture-savvy non-exhausted friends--to a satisfying assortment of short-form entertainment. So, in hopes of making it easier for some other weary mama looking to snuggle in for some quality viewing, I've assembled a few recommendations and grouped them according to craving.

Chocolate: Comforting, familiar and easy to take in.

Felicity: Yes, it is dated. No, it was not groundbreaking television. But when you need something that is familiar and also capable of transporting you back to your younger self, Felicity is just the ticket. I remember watching it in my living room in Minneapolis as a high school sophomore and getting totally swept up in the romance of moving to New York for college, love, drama and all the other interesting scenarios Felicity served up in its four season run. And, for those of you who didn't stick around for the whole thing the first time--I dropped off after year three--I strongly recommend revisiting Felicity because "interesting scenarios" is pretty much the best way to describe JJ Abraham's trajectory for that last season without giving it away.

See also: Dawson's Creek, Gilmore Girls.

Spicy Thai: Interesting, moderately complex and addictive.

Top of the Lake: We had a few rainy days when we were stuck inside while on vacation, and decided to start this series one morning. Next thing I knew, I looked up the day was gone. I'll be honest, Top Of The Lake does move a bit slow at times, but I found those lags helpful for figuring out exactly what was going on. The acting is superb, the story--written by Jane Campion--very well woven, and the landscape it all plays out against is stunning. You'll want to watch the seven episodes as quickly as your little one will allow.

See also: Prime Suspect, Fargo.

Shortbread: British, tasty and vastly underrated.

Derek: This show is one of the best I've seen in the last few years. It is Ricky Gervais at his very best. Sometimes his humor can make me uncomfortable--I love the original Office, but it did make me squirm--but this show is a total departure from his normal approach. Derek plays a nursing home attendant who shares his unique and honest perspective of the little community he works amongst. The story is told with candor, humor and a tenderness that is almost totally absent from most television today.

See also: The Misfits, The IT Crowd

Raspberries: Nourishing, unique and you always wish there were more.

Sports Night: This is one of those shows that once you watch it and find others who have also seen it, you'll fall into immediate conversation--and probably friendship--because to know Sports Night is to love each and every episode and character. This was Aaron Sorkin's first television show, and it has all the trademarks of his work; smart characters, quick and endearing dialogue, and really great story arcs. It's also where you'll find a bunch of really fabulous actors popping up. It only lasted for two seasons, and I consider it a total bummer that we didn't get to travel further with our friends at the Continental Sports Channel.

Veronica Mars, Arrested Development

Pop Rocks: Childish, fun and necessary

Adventure Time: This is not the children's programming of your youth. In fact, I'm not entirely sure this is something I'll be showing my kid for a few more years. But it makes for some perfect maternity leave watching. The episodes are only 11 minutes long and have absolutely no basis in anything that resembles reality, so your spaced out mind can go on cruise control and you can enjoy this little gem of a show in short, easy to digest, bites. You'll be following Jake, the dog, and Finn, the human, on all their weird and obtuse adventures, and at times you won't know whether your mind is playing tricks on you or the show's writers have simply gone insane. But that's ok, just go with it.

See also: Broad City, Bob's Burgers

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    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

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    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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