“If I’m not your mother, do I even exist?” bemoans Kyra Sedgwick as the character Jean Raines in the new ABC comedy “Call Your Mother.”

Sedgwick’s latest prime-time TV project is a leap into the absurd notion that empty-nest moms have nothing better to do than beg for inclusion from their beloved birdies who have fled. I scream to differ.

Moving cross-country to check up on her grown children because her son has not called her back in four days — that’s four, not 40 — Sedgwick’s character declares, “I’d still be breastfeeding if this was France.”

Such desperation seems more likely coming from mothers in “Bridgerton,” the 19th-century Shondaland masterpiece with marriage-peddling characters, than a 21st-century comedy.

Sedgwick, 55, is the mother of two grown children, 31 and 28. This Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning actor has done quite well in her three-decade career. Still, she told “Good Morning America,” “It’s a real crushing blow, honestly, when they leave.”

Plenty of highly visible mothers in real life — Vice President Kamala D. Harris, Jennifer Lopez, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Meryl Streep, Serena Williams, Jada Pinkett Smith — demonstrate you can have your independent career and motherhood, too.

These IRL role models are mothers by physical birth, adoption, marriage or other deliberate choices. They were fully formed humans before motherhood and competent as mothers, and those with grown children continue to be independent folks accomplishing much.

As a 62-year-old mother of three adult sons, I was someone with an identity as a journalist before they were born, I had a separate identity as a journalist, author and university educator while I was raising them, and now that they are grown, I am many more things than their mother still. Yet the media portrays an automatic evaporation of mission for women like me.

In this country, there were 43.5 million mothers from 15 to 50 years old as of 2014. Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that 86 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had given birth. Among those millions, there is no mom monolith.

Yet a prominent cultural narrative for American mothers is a binary choice of Absent Monster or Snowplow Mom. The stereotypes stretch from a detached, self-absorbed woman to a boundaryless dope, meddling and at times arriving uninvited with meatloaf.

Forged along the parallel pathway of binary tropes for women of virgin/whore, the mom narratives minimize or erase mothers who cultivate healthy relationships while maintaining a separate identity. They represent an extreme version of “intensive parenting,” as explained by Cornell University researchers who observed in a 2019 study, “Cultural norms of child-centered, time-intensive mothering and fathering are now pervasive.”

Dysfunctional story lines abound in which women are pathetic creatures unless minding children directly — as if the title of mother siphons a woman’s sense of self and purpose. In the 2019 Netflix movie “Otherhood,” Angela Bassett plays a mom so upset her son forgot Mother’s Day that she moves into his apartment uninvited. So much for Wakanda’s Queen Mother.

“The notion that women take their whole identity from their children is really right out of the 1950s,” says Jane Isay, author of four books, including her latest, “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today.

“I’ve interviewed hundreds of family members, and I did not find that,” says Isay, who hosts a webinar series for grandparents for the Rowe Center.

As for empty-nesters, “I found a time of adjustment. But the idea that women fall apart when their children grow up is not my experience.” A mother of two sons and grandparent of four, Isay says, “This is another way of minimizing the power of women.”

Koa Beck, author of “White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind,” says these images support “a one-dimensional assessment of women functioning as endless caregivers.”

Beck adds, “I think the care work that is demanded, expected and in some ways institutionalized from women casts them as an endless resource, to which their own needs, desires and development will always be subordinate.” (Infrastructural gaps such as a lack of universal child care and federal paid parental leave, she says, only further cement that role for many moms of younger children.)

Many empty-nester moms today are angling not to bother their adult kids but to get back to work.

“We serve many women who are at this exact inflection point, and who are seeking eagerly to rejoin the workforce, to find a place they can make an impact and put their skills to great use,” Colleen Curtis, chief community officer at the Mom Project, a talent, coaching and networking company with 350,000 members nationwide, writes in an email.

“The desperation we see is from a generation that felt like they didn’t really have a choice back then, but now they see there are more opportunities out there and they are excited/eager/stressed about how to make the leap and get a company to ‘take a chance’ on them,” Curtis writes.

Back to the TV moms. Yes, Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson comes off as near-perfect in NBC’s “This Is Us,” but she too can’t leave her three grown children alone. “Black-ish” mom Tracee Ellis Ross as practicing surgeon Rainbow Johnson does fine with her older two out of the house, but she has three more children still at home to occupy her. In “Filthy Rich,” Kim Cattrall’s character manages a televangelism empire as a widowed mother of three grown children who navigates — dramatically if not traumatically — the surprise arrival of three other adult children fathered by her late husband.

“Workin’ Moms,” a Canadian Netflix comedy starring and created by Catherine Reitman, is a rare view of young mothers who value their careers as much — at moments more — than their roles as baby mommy.

But happy, independent older mothers are few and far between.

“Golden Girls,” the sitcom that ran seven years starting in 1985, featured Bea Arthur as Dorothy, who respected boundaries with her two grown children, while caring for her own mother daily. Interestingly, “Empty Nest” was a 1988 GG spinoff centering on a physician father of grown daughters; he maintained his medical practice and intrusions on his children were not his raison d’etre.

Decades later we have CBS’s “Mom,” now in its eighth season, where dysfunction reigns as Bonnie, played by Allison Janney, oversteps boundary after boundary with her daughter, Christy (formerly played by Anna Faris but absent this season).

However inaccurate, these pop culture images of clingy older moms may ultimately serve one good purpose: as a cautionary tale.

“Perhaps seeing these stereotypes play out in pop culture actually helps the younger generations of moms to understand that there are more choices,” Curtis explains. “She need not sacrifice her whole identity to her children unless that is squarely her choice.”

Michele Weldon is an author, journalist, senior leader with the OpEd Project and emerita faculty member at Northwestern University. Her latest book is “Act Like You’re Having a Good Time.”

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