I used to think that motherhood turned my friends into an exceedingly dramatic bunch. They would tell me how unbelievably tired they were describing a feeling of physical and mental depletion that never dissipated. I would listen with as much empathy as I could muster, while remaining somewhat skeptical. I thought I understood that level of exhaustion. After all, I had mono when I was a teenager, partied (almost) as hard as Gallagher in college, and became a teacher which is an emotionally taxing career. I knew about exhaustion, right? Wrong. When I had my twins, I was devoured by the fatigue my friends had described; consuming, life altering, exhaustion. I’ll fully admit that I was a cocky asshole that didn’t think being a mom would be as hard as it is; so was Debbie Gallagher.
Before I lay into the adorable redhead for her obtuse and entitled behavior I need to acknowledge that I feel for her. Debbie believed that getting pregnant with Derek’s baby would ingrain her in his family and give her a chance to have the stable, loving unit she had always yearned for. Though Fiona warned Debbie not to grasp onto these delusions, her younger sister dismissed Fiona’s concerns. Fiona begged Debbie to get an abortion. She told Debbie that she would not support her if she had the baby. Fiona also informed Debbie that she would not be living under her roof if she chose to keep the baby. Fiona did not slur her words. She was clear and forceful. Debbie knew Fiona’s position and was pissed about it for the entirety of season six.
For some reason Debbie was aghast when Fiona informed her siblings that they all had an obligation to shoulder the household bills. Debbie was contributing to the squirrel fund from an early age. Why was it so surprising to her that there was an expectation for financial participation? Debbie seems to think that now that Fiona has a stable job instead of the never-ending rotation of odd jobs she used to work, she can support the family more easily and has an obligation to do so. When Fiona was Debbie’s age, she was raising Debbie, Carl and Liam. When she was even younger, she was caring for Lip and Ian. She never had time to whine or feel sorry for herself. She had six mouths to feed, so idleness was not an option.
Many reference Fiona acquiring custody of the kids in season four as carte blanche for Debbie to do as she pleases with Fiona’s unwavering emotional and financial support. That’s not how it works. Fiona took custody of the kids, because she had to do so to keep them together. If she hadn’t, Debbie may have still been living in a home where she was forced to work for chicken nuggets.
The judge warned Fiona of the responsibilities that came with guardianship, but the Gallagher kids always had obligations that were weightier than those of their peers. In season two, Debbie was living a life beyond her years, running Gallagher daycare and getting rashes from the stress. Though she is choosing to feign ignorance, Debbie is aware of the way her family has always worked. Everyone did their part with Fiona taking the bulk. Now that Debbie is older, she needs to care for herself. Viewers cannot, at this point, simply reference Fiona’s legal guardianship as a valid argument. This is not a typical family. These are the Gallaghers. Where was the fairness for Fiona when she was forced to step into the position of matriarch at such a young age?
Being a stay-at-home parent is a luxury, not a right. Unless you have trust-fund, a partner that can provide for your family, or a penchant for scheming that rivals Frank Gallagher’s, your ass needs to work. Debbie isn’t the first parent that has struggled to find affordable child care when rejoining (or in her case joining) the workforce. I’m not denying that Debbie is in a difficult position. She is. She’s in a stressful situation of her own making and needs to work out solutions.
Now, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the advice that Svetlana gave Debs, though breast levitation is never a bad thing. Still Svetlana’s course of action was better thought out than Debbie’s plan to saddle Fiona with Franny/Harry. Parking your baby in a stroller with a post it note next to your sister’s bed while she sleeps is not a viable child care solution (Side note: The fact that Fiona did not wake up to the shrieks of an angry, confined baby is the magic of Hollywood. The babies of Shameless are made of fluff and unicorn dreams). Debbie needs to remember what Fiona told her in season six. Fiona is not her crutch.
Though I am not advocating stealing or law breaking, at least Debbie’s time as a klepto showed some level of drive and entrepreneurial skills. Instead of utilizing that money in a pragmatic way, she treated herself to a night nurse further cementing a complete disregard of her circumstances. In “I Am a Storm,” reality slapped her in the face repeatedly and maybe this ass-kicking was the motivation she needed. I’m hopeful that as the season progresses Debbie will tap into her inner Gallagher and find a way to pull herself forward. I’m still rooting for Debs. Are you?