Messy Motherhood According to Lorelai Gilmore


Lorelai Gilmore: a mother and daughter lay on the grass smiling at each other.Gilmore Girls aired its pilot episode in October 2000 and 24 years later, we’re all still rewatching it on Netflix. The show follows the lives of mother/daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore as they navigate a messy but wonderful life together in their little town of Stars Hollow.

This is a show that millennials come back to time and time again for a sense of familiarity and comfort. Many come back to it during stressful periods as a way to shut off their brain and only worry about the goings-on in the Gilmore household. I (re)binge-watched the entire show during the newborn stage with my son asleep on my chest.

Some viewers come back to Stars Hollow because Lorelai Gilmore was the mom they didn’t know they needed. Other fans of the show find a bit of solidarity in Lorelai as they, too, navigate the messiness of motherhood. While Lorelai is by no means the ideal or perfect parent, she’s confident, headstrong, quirky, quick-witted, crafty, and her daughter’s biggest fan.

I’ve been rewatching (for the fourth time) this comfort show for a few weeks with my husband and started noting a few lessons we can learn from both Lorelai’s triumphs and failures.

Lessons From Lorelai Gilmore

1. You Can (And Honestly, Maybe, Should) Be Your Child’s Friend

I grew up hearing, “I’m not you’re friend; I’m your parent,” from my mother many times. There’s this belief that parents should not act as friends to their children — period. Yet, Lorelai Gilmore shows how you can have this role for your child and still be their parent.

Throughout the show, you watch Lorelai make this real and intentional effort to provide this safe space for her daughter while also maintaining the ability to discipline and put her foot down when necessary. She makes Rory laugh, lets her vent about the complexities of teenage love, and encourages her to eat ice cream and cry through a breakup just like any bestie would.

However, Lorelai is also not afraid to look Rory in the eye and tell her that at this moment I’m not your friend — but your mother. Lorelai calls her out on her BS. The best example is after she (and the town . . .) discovers Rory is the “other woman” when Dean and Lindsey divorce. She pulls Rory aside and tells her that her actions are not okay — point blank. That there would be consequences for everyone involved and that she raised Rory to be smarter than this. It might be a delicate balance to be Mom and friend, but Lorelai does it well.

2. Mama, Don’t Forget to Follow Your Dreams

One thing I was worried about before my son was born was losing myself to motherhood. I didn’t want to become “just a mom” and leave my dreams and interests behind. I’ve seen so many women who feel the need (thanks society!) to put their desires and goals on hold because they have this pressure to exist only for their children.

Lorelai has a dream. She and her bestie, Sookie, will buy this beautiful Victorian house and open their own Inn. She lets her daughter see her working her butt off to save the money for the deposit and fight tooth-and-nail to convince Taylor that The Dragonfly Inn is going to do wonderful things for the town. Even when there are setbacks (like the woman who owns the house says she simply cannot sell it while she’s living), Lorelai doesn’t give up.

Children can only benefit from watching their parents have dreams that they pursue. It shows them that they can do it too. They can do the big, hard, scary things that get them to their dreams.

3. You Can Be a Cycle Breaker

Parent On Board defines a cycle-breaking parent as someone who “intentionally changes generational toxic and negative familial patterns of behavior.”

You learn from the get-go that Lorelai has a very messy and difficult relationship with her parents, Emily and Richard. Lorelai comes from money and it was never a life that made her happy. It mostly just left her feeling suffocated. When she got pregnant with Rory as a teenager, she left because of the negative reactions of her family. There are noticeably toxic ways in which Emily and Richard speak to Lorelai. There’s a lot of gaslighting, condescending talk, and dismissal of feelings.

Lorelai shows in every episode how hard she works to avoid these same behaviors with her daughter. She wants Rory to have the freedom to be herself — something Lorelai feels she didn’t get to have. She does have moments, unfortunately, where she overcompensates for her upbringing. Emily was incredibly critical of Lorelai and often had wildly unrealistic expectations for a teenager. Lorelai gets caught up in wanting to avoid this so badly that Rory fails to learn how to handle criticism (think about how Rory drops out of Yale after Mitchum Huntzberger says she’s not good enough to be a journalist).

4. You Can Create an Open Line of Communication – For All Topics

There is nothing Rory can’t talk to Lorelai about. Lorelai and Rory are constantly talking – about everything and nothing. They can talk about deeper issues, like the ramifications of Rory’s father coming and going from their life to things like the plural of cul-de-sac being culs-de-sac. Once Rory and her first love, Dean, start getting serious in their relationship, Lorelai sits her down. She explains that she would like Rory to talk to her when she thinks she’s ready for sex. Lorelai clarifies that she doesn’t need to know right before but before (in her slightly awkward attempt to let Rory know that sex isn’t a taboo subject in their house).

I think this scene was so awkward but realistic for having THAT talk with your mom. The positives from parenting with sex positivity in mind are enormous. Like Lorelai, I want to normalize asking questions and conversing with my child so that nothing is taboo or scary. Too many children end up missing conversations about things as simple as how their bodies work because we inadvertently created this sense of shame around sex. Lorelai says nah, that won’t work for me, and I love that.

Lorelai Gilmore: a mother hugs her preteen daughter.As I mentioned previously, Lorelai Gilmore has her faults — all parents do. For all of her amazing parenting moments, she has plenty that make you cringe . . .

Notable Moments of “What Not to Do”

  • Dating Rory’s Chilton teacher, especially without talking to her about it first
  • Getting involved/meddling in Rory’s dating life because of her obvious preference for Dean over Jess
  • Choosing her pride over asking family for help (think the termite problem they face in Season 2)
  • Having Rory act as a middle-man between Rory’s grandparents and mother when they have (yet another) falling out
  • Simply handing off Rory and her identity/education crisis to Emily and Richard after Rory is arrested for stealing a boat with Logan
  • Getting married in Paris to Rory’s father, Christopher, and not telling Rory until after they got back to Stars Hollow

At the end of the day, though, these two portray a very human dynamic between mother and daughter. Lorelai may not make the right, or best, decision every time — but she is always going above and beyond for her daughter. Life is hard and a lot of us are managing our mental health and reparenting while trying to raise good humans.

Lorelai is a good reminder that some days we’re going to be rockstar moms and other days we might be just okay, survival-mode moms.

What’s a takeaway you’ve gained from Lorelai Gilmore?


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