*This post is not sponsored by Netflix. All opinions in this post are my own, and based on my own experiences*
Every now and then, you find a gem of a movie or a show that just grabs at you in such an unusual way. Some of those gems for me would be This Is Us (I mean, who doesn’t just love that show!), Deadpool (I mean c’mon, they made fine ass Ryan into a mutant with a disfigured face and body in red spandex, with his face covered in about 75% of the movie, and still! I love him!), Steve from American Dad (the way he screams and sings can keep me laughing for days!), and listening to some of my favorite classic songs on Trolls. Yes, there are deeper movies and shows out there in the world that could and should tug at my heart, and they do – Hidden Figures is a must-watch! You will walk away feeling like you were denied a huge part of history, and a need to continue learning in order to be better-informed about that said history.
This week, the gem for me wasn’t a comedic one, but had a deep impact nonetheless – One Day at a Time.
So you might be asking…why is this show my new gem?
One Day at a Time is loosely based on the 1975 show of the same name, focused on a Cuban American family living in Los Angeles. A recently separated, single mom, Penelope Alvarez (played by Justina Machado) is focused on raising her two children – Elena and Alex – in Los Angeles. Her mom, Lydia (played by the magnificent Rita Moreno) lives with her, and is an asset in numerous ways. She offers much-needed assistance to Penelope and her children in their every day, and although hilarious, she also provides the family with a solid foundation. Schneider (played by Todd Grinnell) is Penelope’s landlord and has become a fixture in the daily lives of the family.
One Day at a Time touches on so many modern issues that impacts so many families.
The Strength of a Family
Through every episode, the focus point has been on the strength of a family. Even at the worst, most-stressed out moments, the family stuck together. Penelope is still navigating the waters of being a solo parent, trying to figure out how to raise her pre-teen and teenager. Her mom offers her and her children invaluable advice, and even learns some lessons herself.
During the show, Elena is about to turn 15 years old and is required to go through her quincinera. Her mom and grandmother try to convince her why she should go through with her quince; however, being the strong, socially responsible, and modern teenager that she is, she doesn’t want to participate in an misogynistic, antiquated traditions. Many teenagers can relate to her impassioned beliefs, especially since many millenials are socially responsible. In the weeks leading to her coming of age, she has found the courage to share with her family that she is gay. Penelope and her mom both struggle to deal with Elena coming out, but encourages her to be her own woman. Even when her father is dismissive of her choice, she holds strong to her decision and leans on the rest of her family to be there for her.
Family Runs Deeper Than Blood
Schneider is Penelope’s landlord and friend, but it runs so much deeper than that. He is there for the family as though they are his own. In fact, he doesn’t have that great of a relationship with his family, so the Alvarez family is his family. It’s beautiful how he helps the family – helping Alex with baseball, being there for Lydia (the grandmother) when her and Penelope were fighting, supported Elena and Penelope after Elena came out to the family, being the chauffeur for the extended family coming to LA for the Quinces, paying for Elena’s friend, Maria, to travel to Texas after her parents were deported and paying for her to return for Elena’s Quinces. Through it all, Schneider has been there.
The Rippling Effect of Separation / Divorce
After a separation or divorce, everyone is impacted by it. In Penelope’s case, she is dealing with her own heartbreak and loss of a partner, her kids are struggling with not having their father around as they have known their entire lives, for Penelope’s mom, she is still trying to get them back together. They are all struggling with this separation and impending divorce in their own way.
Dating After Separation / Divorce
When you first start dating after separation / divorce, it is truly an awkward one. You don’t know if you’re doing the right thing or whether or not you even want to start dating again. And if your ex comes back in the picture, it only creates a different level of complexity and awkwardness. Old feelings are bound to surface, and challenge your ability to move forward. Penelope experiences it all – just when she met someone and started dating, her soon to be ex-husband swoops in earlier than expected and completely takes over the family. She is loving seeing her family so happy, and it’s hard for the feelings not to return. She even ends things with this great guy because of it. But after finding out that the same issues that separated them were still there, she realizes that nothing has changed, and decides that she has to put her foot down and continue down the path towards divorce.
Military / Veteran Issues
Penelope is a recently-separated Army veteran, who struggles to get support from the VA to get an appointment with a chiropractor for her bum shoulder. In one episode, Penelope is on hold for much of the episode with the VA, awaiting a response from Jolene to schedule her an appointment with the chiropractor. It’s been over a month since Penelope submitted the requested paperwork; however, she still can’t get the appointment. After some time, Penelope finally speaks with Jolene, who suggests that Penelope call back on Monday since she had to catch the 4:30 bus. Although the VA closes at 5pm, Jolene indicates that she has to leave early and is dismissive of Penelope’s needs as a veteran.
Penelope’s soon-to-be ex-husband has also been through his fair share of issues. Before being deployed, he was a compassionate and loving husband and father. After his deployment, he experienced PTSD and drowned his issues with alcohol. This in turn had a direct impact on his family. He became an abusive drunk and threatened suicide on multiple occasions. He eventually took a consulting job in Afghanistan, and Penelope decided to pursue a divorce.
Disappointment & The Support System
The saddest and most touching part of all of the episodes occurs when Elena is stood up by her father during her Quinces. Elena waits for her father for their father-daughter dance, however, he leaves before the dance. He is angered and ashamed of her decision to be gay and for her family supporting her (Elena wore a beautiful white suit designed by Lydia instead of a traditional dress). You can see how frustrated and ashamed he was when she walked out in the suit; he couldn’t even look at her. When Elena came out on the dance floor and waits for her father to dance with her, he is nowhere to be found. Schneider comes in and confirms that he has left. Penelope decides to step in and dance with her daughter, saying the thing that brought me to tears, “I got you”. After a moment, Alex steps forward and embraces them both, then Lydia, Schneider, and Dr. Berkowitz (Penelope’s boss). It is a moment where they all realize that they have each other through whatever may come their way. As a single mom, there is no better way to see that you’re not alone and that there are so many people that love and support your children through it all. Every time I watch the episode, I start crying as soon as Elena realizes that he is not coming and I don’t stop until the episode ends with everyone coming to the dance floor, continuing to enjoy the party.
As I mentioned before, One Day at a Time is truly that – coming to the realization that in order to get through being a single parent, you have to take it one day at a time. If you focus too far in the future, it can become daunting and you can get overwhelmed by everything that you will do and experience. You will get worried about whether or not you are doing things right or if you will be sure to make your child into a productive member of society. Focus on each day and what needs to be done, and make sure to add in some time to show that love to your child through any means possible – through hugs, kisses, sitting with your child to do homework, doing a random craft, watching a movie together, reading a book – it doesn’t matter. Your presence is so important, especially in the case of an absent parent.
Many people have stepped forward to let me know that I am a great mom, and they ask me how I get through it with my sanity intact, and my answer is just that – one day at a time.