Mothering through the Zombie Apocalypse
I’m a fan of the television series, The Walking Dead, which is about a group of people struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the United States. It’s one of the few shows that both C and I jointly consider “Must-See-TV”. I’m not really a fan of the horror genre but I do love a good dystopian story. What this means is that I’m less interested in the zombies than exploring humanity through the quest for survival. Lucky for me, the show also seems to care about exploring that theme. Not so lucky for me is that this show is anxiety-inducing and I don’t mean that solely in the “I don’t like scary movies” way. What I didn’t expect upon watching this show is how my identity as a mother would affect me as a viewer. I haven’t been able to watch an episode without pondering how I would protect my son in such a horrific situation.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many child survivors portrayed in The Walking Dead, and the few shown are there mostly as plot devices or character development props for adult characters. On the other hand, there aren’t very many zombie children portrayed either so I often wonder what really happened to the mothers and their children. The likely answer is that the writers haven’t thought about this in any significant way since explorations of mothering are generally absent in the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre. Sure, you see mothers and their children but many times it’s the father-child (often father-son) relationship that’s explored (See, The Road, 2012, War of the Worlds, etc.).
In the first episode of The Walking Dead, we meet a father and his 12-year old son who are surviving after having lost the mother/wife of the family to the “walkers” (the term “zombie” is never used on the show). She is now a walker with some residual memory since she keeps returning to the house where the family has hidden out. We don’t get much sense of her personal story since the focus is on how the father is dealing with his and his son’s grief plus the responsibility of parenting and managing survival for two.
In later scenes, we meet the wife and son of the main protagonist, Rick. We see some mothering going on there but the emotional drama related to this family is mostly centered on the relationship between Rick and his wife, Lori, and the love triangle he’s unaware of. Plus, we’ve yet to see how Lori and their son, Carl, managed to survived the escape from their home. Did Lori have to do any fighting? How did she protect Carl?
This makes me wonder why writers don’t seem to find the stories of mothers compelling unless it’s to prop up a plot point or flesh out other characters. It can’t be because there’s a lack of material. Here’s what I imagine that mothering through a zombie apocalypse might look like:
- Mothers fighting off baddies, both human and non-human to protect their families
- Mothers using their ingenuity to use what’s available in order to meet their families immediate needs
- Mothers making hard choices about their families’ survival
- Mothers trying to find some semblance of happiness in the face of adversity
- Mothers sacrificing for their children or maybe even not sacrificing anything
- Mothers being tough
- Mothers being gentle
- Mothers sheltering their children from the truth of their situation
- Mothers being bluntly honest with their children about the truth of their situation
- Mothers grieving
- Mothers rejoicing
- Mothers doing whatever they are capable of doing at any given time
As you can see, I don’t think there’s any one way that mothering would be like during a scenario like a zombie apocalypse. We don’t even have to have a zombie apocalypse to know that mothers and their children are capable of surviving as best they can. Mothers across the world are mothering through adversity and they have been since the beginning of time. From the mother who is navigating incredible poverty with her children, to the mother who walked across a desert with a sick child for a chance at medical care and food, to the mothers who are mothering in the middle of war zones, there will be no shortage of stories.