How becoming a single mother changed what I see in ‘Gilmore Girls’

When the news broke that Netflix is bringing Gilmore Girls back for a limited run, I was deliriously giddy as friend after friend tagged and tweeted, posted and texted me links to the articles that began flooding social media. My love for the mother-daughter duo runs strong, and nearly all my friends know it. Talk about ending my Monday on a high note.

So as everyone’s attention turned toward what the future would hold for the series and lists of wants and demands were composed (I’m going to need to see Jess in every episode, pleeeease), my mind reverted back to when I first discovered the show. It was a faraway time—-a time before smart phones and Google and Netflix, a time when the WB (R.I.P.) was airing some of the best shows on television.

It was during this time that I encountered Rory and company on my super cool 19″ silver TV/VCR combo. And I was  immediately hooked. I related to Rory on so many levels—he was a focused, introverted, academic over-achiever, and she lost her mind any time a cute boy walked by or kissed her in Doosey’s Market. And although I couldn’t relate to the  fictional opportunities granted Rory (private school, trips to Europe, anyone?), I was totally happy for her, if slightly envious.

As for Lorelai, I thought she was a cool mom, but she wasn’t exactly my model for parenting. She was a little too lax, a little too lenient, a little too boy-crazy for a mom. And she even made parenthood look fun occasionally—what’s that about? When Gilmore Girls debuted in all its streaming glory last year, I seized the opportunity to revisit my analysis of the show and its characters. But a lot had changed in those seven years. I was no longer a high school or college student whose biggest fear was bombing an exam; I was a twenty-something single mother chasing a toddler, an infant, and all of my professional dreams. And I’m happy to say I was wrong about Lorelai Gilmore. I underestimated her. While a flawed character (aren’t we all?), she absolutely slays it on the parenting front. Here’s why:

She’s doing it solo

Parenting is a tough gig, period. Take away a partner, and it becomes infinitely harder. Sure, Christopher is still in the picture… occasionally, unreliably, and only when he wants to be. And due to the strained relationship with her parents, she can’t initially turn to them for help either. Props to Lorelai for bearing that emotional and  financial burden alone.

She has dreams for herself

Lorelai works her way up from a maid to the Innkeeper to finally running her own successful business. Additionally, in the early seasons, she enrolls in business classes at a nearby college knowing that while it means less time with Rory now, it could mean a better future. As a mother and a woman, Lorelai is a model of self-sacrifice and investing in one’s self.

She prioritizes Rory over romantic interests

Like all of us, Lorelai makes some good judgment calls on the dating front (Max Medina, Luke) and some bad ones (Digger, really?). She never prioritizes these relationships over Rory, though. In season 1, she refuses to date a parent at Chilton because of how it might affect Rory (even if she then goes on to date her English teacher—whoops! I told you she was flawed). She is also very careful about her feelings toward and relationship with Christopher, as she knows how Rory must have spent many years dreaming of her parents together under one roof. What I once judged as unnecessary and foolish, I now recognize as a young, successful single mother searching for companionship and select opportunities at a social life.

She plays the bad cop, too

 Most of the interactions we see between Lorelai and Rory are happy-go-lucky. Between the witty banter, killer movie selections, and abundance of junk food and coffee, we want to be adopted into this family. But Lorelai sheds the parent-as-friend persona and brings in parent-as-enforcer when necessary. My favorite example is when she maintains that Rory will transfer to Chilton, even though she’s just met the cutest boy at Stars Hollow High. And who can forget the line, “Does he have a motorcycle? If you’re going to throw your life away, he better have a motorcycle.” Parenting with a side of sarcasm—I like her style.

Gone are my days of relating to Rory, I suppose. I am now the Lorelai in my life. And that’s okay. She’s pretty great too.

Lindsey Light is an English Professor by trade, a single mama 24/7, and an avid sports fan. Her current research, writing, and teaching interest is examining how gender roles are portrayed in American pop culture. Follow her on Twitter @much2learn and Instagram @linzlight.

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