Whether you’ve actually watched the show or not, chances are high you’ve at least heard of How I Met Your Mother. For 9 years, HIMYM topped the ratings for TV sitcoms and spawned a plethora of merchandise, bestselling books, pop culture references, catchphrases, fashion trends and even memes. So whether you thought the show was a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. rip-off or the best comedy on TV for almost a decade – or if you never even bothered to check it out – it’s likely you know some things about the show, one of them being that, for a show with the word mother in its title, it had very little to do mothers.
There were certainly some mothers thrown in every once in a while. We got overbearing, overprotective and meddling mothers, emotionally stunted ones, extremely liberal ones, and absentee and lying ones, and the show did put an effort into highlighting just how important mothers were regardless of their attitudes and quirks.
But up until the last season of the show, we knew very little of The Mother named in the show’s title. For 8 years, we learned about some of her likes and personality traits, never anything definitive, but enough to know that she was perfect: perfect for Ted, and perfect as both mother and wife.
It isn’t until the final season that we finally do get to meet this mysterious Mother, and we see that she is, in fact, perfect. She’s sweet, smart, kind and wise, ready to give advice and protect people she barely knows, and she is, in fact, Ted’s perfect soul mate, since they share most likes, dislikes and quirks. We never see much of her in her role as a mother, but we’re shown that she would’ve definitely been a wonderful mother.
Before meeting Ted, the Mother, – whose real name, Tracy, we learn minutes before the end of the series -, stumbled into each and every single one of the members of the gang while they were all in the middle of some sort of crisis. By patiently listening to them and offering wise and kindly advice, The Mother helped them all to bring perspective into their lives, to realize what they wanted and what they should do to get it, the way a mother would.
So finally, after 9 years, we finally meet the Mother and fall in love with her the way every member of the gang did, especially Ted, and we understand why she’s such a big deal in the story even though she’s barely in it. That is, until the last 5 minutes of the final episode.
HIMYM fans and casuals alike flooded the social networks to cry their indignation and outrage shortly after the final credits rolled, and they were not without reason. Aside from how 5 years’ worth of the character development of the protagonists was grossly invalidated with this finale, the character that fared the worst was the one with least amount of time in the series: the Mother.
In the end, the touching story of how long Ted waited for the Mother’s arrival into his life to finally set everything right, all the words he said about the wait having been worth it and all the praise to her perfection as a wife, mother, friend and woman, were all just a tool for him to convince his kids to let him date another woman. And not just any other woman, but the woman Ted had pursued ineffectively for the entire run of the series and who had proven, time and time again, to be insurmountably incompatible with him: Robin.
This wasn’t the story of how Ted met their mother, but rather the story of how he never got over Robin.
It’s not so much that the Mother died young – only 10 years into her relationship with Ted from some mysterious disease that’s never named and took about 15 seconds to discuss in the show. It’s the disservice that was done to her character and the importance she had in the series. The significance of this character, of whom so many beautiful things had been said for 9 years and who was supposed to play such a crucial part in Ted’s life, was reduced to a placeholder, a bridge, and – worst of all – just a womb.
At the end of the final episode Ted’s kids tell him that they know that this story was his way of asking their permission to go after their “Aunt Robin,” the woman who had rejected him more times that can be counted, broke up with him numerous times because she wanted neither marriage nor children while Ted did, told him several times that she only loved him as a friend, married his best friend, and then secretly started pining for him not long after she said I do to another man and he found his perfect woman.
That he would use the story of his life and his wait for their mother as a roundabout way of telling his kids he was ready to date again was disturbing enough, but it was the message that plot twist conveyed what made the most damage: the Mother had been a placeholder for Robin. She was nothing but bridge between the two different versions of Robin: the one that did not want Ted and the one who finally did, and worst of all, a woman to marry him when Robin didn’t want to and a womb to bear him the children Robin never wanted and could never have because she was infertile.
While infuriating, it isn’t rare to see mothers used in entertainment as nothing more than walking wombs, but that this entire show turned out to be another one of those cases outraged people who weren’t even interested in the series. Not that the show didn’t have its many instances of sexism and misogyny – especially through the fan-favorite character of Barney Stinson – but that this was done to the character that was supposed to be the special one was nothing short of disappointing and disheartening.
In the end, it was never about the Mother; she was but a detour in the eternal journey that was Ted finally getting Robin in a way that could satisfy both of them and which didn’t demand for either of them to compromise on what they wanted out of life: Robin got her career and her confirmation that marriage was not for her, and Ted got the marriage and kids he wanted from another person that was, conveniently, no longer in the picture.
And that’s no way to treat a Mother.
Lorraine Acevedo Franqui writes for Girl In Capes from Puerto Rico and holds degrees in English Literature and Psychology. Her main interests are young adult lit, anything related to The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts, assorted shounen mangas and cats.
Image via HuffPost.