'The Big Bang Theory' Season 11 Episode 17 Recap: Howard and Bernadette's Work-Life Struggle
We have a date! It only took nine months, but on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon and Amy finally decided that they'll tie the knot on May 12, 2018. The venue might be a little harder to confirm, especially with May being only two months away (oh, and the nuisance that is Barry Kripke), but based on our conversation with executive producer Steve Holland, Shamy fans have nothing to worry about. Bottom line, we're gonna get to a wedding this season.
Still, that doesn't mean things aren't going to get calculus-level tough over the next six episodes. In "The Athenaeum Allocation," Sheldon and Amy set their sights on the private Athenaeum club at Cal Tech, where Albert Einstein was a member. Unfortunately, Barry Kripke has decided to throw his birthday party on the same date at the same location, because of course he would. Leonard—who basically created this mess by lying to Sheldon about a membership at the Athenaeum in the first place—tries to do whatever he can to make amends, but Kripke stands in the way. In typical Big Bang fashion, it's all cute and sweet, but it's secondary to the real meat of tonight's episode—Bernadette and Howard's struggle to balance two kids under two, plus their careers. (And by the time the credits rolled, Shamy still didn't have a venue, so there's that. Problem not solved.)
So let's focus on Bernadette and Howard instead, k? Their scenes perfectly illustrated the conundrum parents often face after welcoming home a newborn and what happens when maternity and paternity leave ends. I'm not a parent, but I've watched enough friends raise kids (not to mention, I've pulled enough all-nighters with my job) to appreciate some spot-on truths when I see 'em. Here are the 10 ugly but true ones that Big Bang got absolutely right.
1. The Store Cashier Asks Bernadette When She's Due
When will strangers learn it's never OK to comment on a woman's body, whether they think she's pregnant or not? Unless you're absolutely certain (and even then, how do you really know?), a woman who is not pregnant never wants to hear you ask when she's due, and a woman who has just given birth never wants to hear that either. So unless a woman brings it up herself, just don't, OK?
2. Howard and Bernadette Realize They Might Actually Love Their Kids More Than Each Other
The Wolowitzes take turns obsessing over one-year-old Haley and one-week-old Michael, with Howard observing that he didn't know he was capable of loving someone so much. Bernadette can't stop gushing either. This turns into Howard describing details of the lengths he'd go to protect his kids. Perhaps he'd even take a bullet for his kids, but not Bernadette. It's not a sexy conversation, but plenty of parents have probably thought the same thing.
3. The "Who's the Better Parent?" Game
Howard realizes how challenging it is being at home with the kids, but it's also extremely rewarding. He admits to Raj that he kind of wants to be a stay-at-home dad, but Bernadette is the better parent. Apparently she's also doing better at her career, so it's a no-win for Howard. He eventually (but temporarily) decides he's going to be the one to stay home. Except…
4. Bernadette Does and Doesn't Want to Be Full-Time at Work or Home
Howard suggests one of them stay home. Bernadette assumes he means her and is annoyed that she’d have to give up her job and everything she’s worked for. When he says he means him, she doesn’t like that either because then he gets to stay home and bond with the kids. Howard is confused because she just said she shouldn’t have to give up her career, to which she counters with, “I don’t want to have to, but if I want to, I should get to.” The verdict? They're both back at square one.
5. The Breadwinner Shouldn't Necessarily Dictate Who Goes Back to Work and Who Stays Home
Howard then suggests that Bernadette go back to work because she makes more money. But then Bernadette fires back and asks Howard, "Well, don’t you think you should make more money?" (Good point.) Howard's response: "I think it's pretty sexist of you to say a dad can’t stay at home with his children." Bernadette's retaliation? "You know what else is sexist? The phrase suck it, and yet, here we are!"
6. The "Who's the Better Parent?" Game, Part II
The next day, Howard takes the kids out out before Bernadette even wakes up. He tries to prove that he can do this—and do it amazingly well—but Bernadette says he'll never be able to keep up the pace. She's right; he can't. But truthfully, neither could anyone.
7. Work Can Be a Salvation for Any Parent
Bernadette stops by her office to have lunch with Penny but gets pulled into the perks of her job when her assistant fetches her favorite coffee drink and cute cookies. Then when a fellow colleague asks Bernadette for help on a project, she falls right back into boss mode and relishes the moment.
8. Howard Realizes He's Not Superman
While Bernadette is having lunch with Penny, Howard's back at home, completely passed out from one afternoon with his two kids. Raj comes to the rescue, and Howard asks why he thought he could do this on his own. Raj's answer: "Parenting is hard. I've seen and smelled things I can't unsee or unsmell." Doesn't take a parent to know that.
9. Bernadette Realizes She's Not Superwoman
Bernadette fesses up to Howard that during her brief afternoon at the office, "They gave me cookies and no one peed on me. I miss that so much." She also says she took a two-hour nap on her office couch, which prompts Howard to admit that he took one on the floor.
10. You're Going to Be Tired for the Next 18 Years
After Howard's nap, Bernadette asks how he feels, and Howard says, "Honestly? Still tired." Same goes for Bernadette. Which proves my own mother's point that no matter if you try to catch up on sleep after all-nighters, it's never a proper replacement for a regular sleep schedule. By the end of the episode, the Wolowitzes still haven't figured anything out except for the fact that they're too tired to even make their way up to the bedroom, and they fall asleep at the kitchen table. Yep, welcome to parenthood.