There's watching TV for entertainment, and then there's watching TV for survival.
Anyone who has held a baby from midnight to 4 a.m., simultaneously willing themselves to stay awake and their child to stay asleep, using their one free hand to shovel muffins in their mouth and click that "yes, I am sure I want to keep watching" button that pops up when even Netflix wonders why you're still sitting there, knows the latter.
Maternity leave is the big leagues of television viewing. The stakes are high (passing out on your child is frowned upon, not to mention incredibly dangerous), the need is great (no, YOU try reading a book during a 3 a.m. marathon nursing session), and the hormones are real (I'm not crying, YOU'RE crying hysterically and clutching your baby to your chest because a polar bear cub lost his mama in that ill-recommended nature documentary).
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But don't worry. We got you.
These shows are engaging enough to keep you awake, not so loud that they'll wake the baby and not so involved that you'll miss much if you briefly nod off (when the baby is back in the bassinet, of course). They have enough episodes and seasons that you can hit "play" once and watch until baby outgrows that four-month sleep regression. And they'll make you laugh when you feel alone in the world, make you cry when you need a release, and there's nary a zombie (or abandoned polar cub) in sight.
After polling some new parents, here are the best shows to watch on maternity (or parental) leave, in no particular order.
1. "Gilmore Girls"
JK, "Gilmore Girls" is actually the No.1 best show to watch on maternity leave, hands down. First of all, there are seven seasons of 21 to 22 episodes each, plus the revival episodes. So say hello to your new best friends, mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and their kooky group of friends and family members. It's funny, it's soothing, and it takes you back to a simpler time ... or, at least a time before you had kids. Soon, even the theme song will help you (and your baby) relax.
2. "Call The Midwife"
Seven glorious seasons of BBC period drama at its finest, "Call The Midwife" tells the story of midwife Jenny Lee and the challenges she faces working in London's impoverished East End with an order of nursing nuns. It's interesting, charming, and will make you extremely grateful that you gave birth during the era of modern medicine.
3. "Grey's Anatomy"
It doesn't get any better than 14 seasons of a medical comedy-drama that hits you right in the feels, every episode. Follow intern (then resident, then attending — did we mention there are 14 seasons?) Meredith Grey's personal and professional passions evolve over the years with this hit show set in Seattle. Even (maybe especially) if you've already been following the show for years, the music, characters, and storylines are always a comfort to go back to.
4. "The Fall"
Come for the thrilling crime drama, stay for Gillian Anderson as a blond. Anderson plays a hotshot detective on the hunt for a serial killer hiding behind a family-man facade in "The Fall." Yes, it's a little heavy, but it's perfect for a break after watching 131 consecutive episodes of "Gilmore Girls." Plus it's set in Belfast, and it's always nice to check out distant cities when you feel like you may never leave your couch again. Also, did we mention Jamie "Mr. Christian Grey" Dornan is in it?
5. "This Is Us"
You're a new parent, so chances are you're crying on the reg already. Why not make the most of it by shedding some tears for America's favourite tear-jerker? NBC's "This Is Us" tells the generational story of the Pearson family: parents Rebecca and Jack, and triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall. Grab some tissues and settle in for an emotional roller coaster.
6. "Jane The Virgin"
Re-live your pregnancy glory days and prepare for life as a mother with this laugh-out-loud comedy about a virgin who gets knocked up due to a medical error. There are four seasons to keep you entertained well into the night as Jane (played by the delightful Gina Rodriguez) navigates her new life with the help of her sassy mother, sassier grandmother, and various love interests.
7. "Life In Pieces"
Episodes of this hilarious family comedy are short but sweet, and divided into four vignettes — perfect for when your attention span is about the length of the cursed baby cat nap. Season One, when Greg and Jen bring home their new baby and battle everything from sleep deprivation to unwanted advice, is especially relatable.
8. "Master Of None"
Calming, funny, but always poignant, Aziz Ansari's "Master of None" is perfect for when you just want to chill out. Snuggle your baby and sip a tea as you watch Dev attempt to make his way in the entertainment industry, find love, and experience friendship and family.
9. "The Office"
"The Office" never gets old, so whether you're watching it for the first or fifth time, you'll find yourself endlessly entertained by Dwight's antics, Michael's awkwardness, and Jim and Pam's "will they or won't they" love story. There are nine seasons, so if you decide to go down this road, you'll have something to watch until baby learns to crawl and your TV watching days are over (sorry).
Hey, remember when you used to have a sex drive? No? Anyone? Well, Jamie and Claire's steamy love scenes in "Outlander" will likely rekindle what you might have thought was dead and gone. And if their fireside and hilltop romps don't do it for you, the plot of this porn, we mean, historical time travel drama, is compelling enough to keep you awake long after your partner has disappeared for his or her turn to sleep.
11. "The Crown"
The Queen of England wears a lot of hats (well, just one, really, and it's a crown, not a hat, but we digress), and one of them is "mother." Claire Foy is stunning as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Crown."
12. "Mad Men"
Critically-acclaimed "Mad Men" tells the story of advertising hotshot and family man Don Draper in 1960s New York City, when everyone is selling something. If Jon Hamm's Emmy-winning performance doesn't hook you, the 1960s parenting style will (the smoking! The drinking! And where are the childrens' car seats?!).
13. "Downton Abbey"
Allow yourself to be whisked away to a simpler time with British period drama "Downton Abbey." There's enough scandal to keep you entertained for hours at time, and the beautiful costumes and rolling English countryside will soothe even the weariest soul.
So, you just had a baby, and you're probably not following the news all that much, but you mayyy have still heard about Meghan Markle, a.k.a. the Duchess of Sussex. Watch the actress who won Prince Harry's heart play a paralegal in this smart legal drama.
15. "Switched At Birth"
This American teen drama is a guilty pleasure for many a couch-ridden mama out there. Maybe it's the classic premise: two teenagers from vastly different backgrounds discover they were switched at birth. Maybe it's the typical teen drama (boyfriends! Parents who just don't understand!). Maybe it's the fact that there are five glorious seasons to suck you in, but "Switched At Birth" is the perfect maternity leave show. Plus it's deeper than you might think, and — bonus! — you'll learn some sign language.
Have all your actual friends taken temporary leave now that you only respond to text messages at 5 a.m. and all you can talk about is your wrecked body and the consistency of your child's poop? Fear not! Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe are here for you. Re-live your youth with all 10 seasons of one of the most popular shows of our time.
17. "Mr. Selfridge"
WE ARE NEW PARENTS AND WE DEMAND MORE SOOTHING BRITISH PERIOD DRAMAS. Netflix heard your call, and answered with four seasons of "Mr. Selfridge." Watch American retail tycoon Harry Selfridge turn 1909 Oxford street on its head when he opens a glitzy new department store.
18. "Grace and Frankie"
Need a laugh? Need to feel better about your romantic relationship? Want to feel young again? Want to live in a beach house on the southern California coast? You just had a baby, so that's a "yes" to all of the above. "Grace and Frankie" is the show for you.
19. "How I Met Your Mother"
It's "Friends" for the next generation, and it'll suck you in big time. The premise is simple enough — decades from now, a man tells his children how he met their mother. But the characters and the comedy make this a show you'll quickly find as addictive as the sugary baked goods you never knew you needed until you could describe the sunrise each morning of the last month.
20. "Orange Is The New Black"
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll look at your baby and be grateful you didn't get busted trafficking drugs and you get to raise him or her on the outside. All six seasons of "Orange Is The New Black" are available on Netflix Canada, so you won't be lacking for entertainment.
21. "The Letdown"
Feel like you're looking in a mirror? You'll be hard-pressed to find a more realistic, gritty portrayal of new mom life than this Australian show. Watch Audrey struggle to get the support she needs from her local mom group and stressed-out partner. New parents may find the sleep training scenes particularly relatable.
22. "The Good Place"
Ever feel like an imposter in your own life? Then you'll relate to the plight of Eleanor, who wakes up in an afterlife reserved for only the most ethical people, and realizes she's been mistaken for somebody else. This show is so witty, you'll chuckle right through both seasons.
23. "Derry Girls"
Come for the music from your youth. Stay for ... more music from your youth. "Derry Girls" is a delightful comedy about teen girls set in turbulent Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.
24. "Baroness Von Sketch Show"
Warning: you might laugh so hard at this satirical sketch comedy that you wake the baby. But this Canadian gem, starring four powerhouse comedian actresses, is well worth it. There are two seasons on Netflix for when you need a pick-me-up.
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