Becoming Donna Reed

Season 1: Episode 7 – Three Part Mother


The episode opens with Donna and Alex asleep in their bedroom. The alarm clock goes off and Donna begins to wake the household. As she goes to each family member she thinks of how wonderful they are.

Then the family is in the dining room. Jeff is anxious about his basketball game, Alex is practicing a speech he is giving that night, and Mary is anxious to hear back from an exclusive girls’ group she applied to. Jeff appeals to Donna to attend his game. Donna gently reminds him that she has been to all his games but tonight she promised Alex she’d go to his speech.

Jeff comes home from school overjoyed. He was told he gets to start in tonight’s game. In his enthusiasm he calls Alex and gets him to admit he’d be fine if Donna wasn’t at his speech. Alex assures Donna it is fine to go with Jeff. Then Dr. Graham comes and tells Donna it is socially and professionally imperative that she be by Alex’s side tonight. Donna feels torn between her two men.

Mary comes home thrilled to find out she was accepted into the girls’ group. She just needs Donna to go with her tonight’s meeting. Donna explains her situation and Mary feels betrayed. Donna is overwhelmed.

Alex comes home and all three confront her. Donna flees to the safety of her bedroom. Alex, Mary, and Jeff realize they have been pulling her in too many directions and go up to apologize. Their sincerity seems to revive her.

That night she begins at Jeff’s game, goes off to the start of Alex’s speech, makes it back to the game to see Jeff score, runs to Mary’s meeting, and make it back for the end of Alex’s speech. Back home, she tucks in her loved ones and gets into bed. As she dozes off, she hears the voices of her family calling her name and she smiles.


Everyone, even Donna Reed, gets overwhelmed sometimes.


I am so happy they showed that even the great Donna has a breaking point. However, I’d love to rewrite the end. Instead of Donna miraculously suspending the rules of space and time and managing, essentially, to be in three places at once, I’d love to have had the family give Donna and night off and see her curl up by the fire with a juicy novel and a glass of wine. I mean, her kids are all pretty well grown. They can give mom a night off.

This need to be all things, be at all places, and be perfect at them all is one of the traps we women are constantly allowing ourselves to be snared by. Having never been a man, I can’t speak for them, but it appears to me they are better at just letting things go. I am envious of this. If the house is messy my husband can just leave it and head off to do something fun. I know he is right. The house will still be messy when we return, it doesn’t have to be done right now. I get that on an intellectual level, really I do. But inside me, there is a pain. I need to have things neat and orderly before my brain allows itself to move on to fun. I’ll go, but the messy house will gnaw at me all day.

How crazy is that? Why do I let it bother me so much? I wish I knew.

Plan of Action

Donna, there are so many different ways to learn. Sometimes we learn a lesson by watching someone do things in the exact way we want to, and sometimes we watch someone do something and see a way to do it better. These are both essential learning strategies. For me, this episode was an example of the later. I don’t want to run around all night like a crazy woman, even if I can appear calm and lovely while doing it, like you. If the expectations of me are clearly ridiculous I am putting down my foot and saying enough-is-enough. Then I will pour the wine, snuggle on the couch, and read that juicy novel.