With a Healthy Attitude Towards Marriage, Self Care and Child-Rearing, Chilli from 'Bluey' Is the Ultimate Mom Icon

The matriarch is funny, cool and confident

bluey chilli mom icon photo of the heeler family
BBC Studios

With awards season in full force and in celebration of new episodes of Bluey dropping on January 12, it seems like an opportune moment to share my appreciation for what might just be the best damn female character on the small screen: Chilli Heeler. You see, like most parents, I had resigned myself to the understanding that children’s programming was mostly terrible, featuring repetitive storylines, atrociously bad writing and gender stereotypes offensive enough to make you want to quit the Paw Patrol and never wear pink again…all set against a backdrop of fluorescent colors and cheesy tunes. So, imagine my surprise when I came across a show that not only was delightful to watch (both in my preschooler’s eyes and my own), but also featured an animated anthropomorphic dog that—and I don’t mean this ironically—is a role model for moms everywhere.

For those not familiar, Bluey is an Australian kids’ show about a family of dogs: dad Bandit, mom Chilli and their two young daughters Bluey and Bingo. It’s funny, sweet, and manages to achieve the seemingly impossible when it comes to kids’ TV: to be engaging but not overstimulating, educational but not pedantic and—most importantly—actually enjoyable for the parents too. (It also incredibly has a following among non parents.) Each episode centers around the regular domestic happenings of this young family, typically through the lens of a wacky game that the kids have invented. But what the show is really about is the magic (and exhaustion) of child-rearing.

No small part of the charm comes down to the matriarch, Chilli Heeler. Chilli is funny, down to earth and quietly cool; she reminds me of my favorite mom friend from my son’s class. In other words, she’s exceedingly relatable and just the right amount of aspirational.

Like in the episode “Baby Race,” when Chilli perfectly captures the pressures of being a first-time parent. The new mom is stressing over Bluey’s crawling and walking, even asking the doctor if there’s anything wrong with her. And look, I have two kids now so some of that parenting anxiety has definitely lessened but you’d better believe that at my daughter’s one-year appointment last week I had a list of questions for the doctor about whether or not her behavior was “normal.” The pressure is real, people. Or in the “Hide and Seek” episode when Chilli is hiding in the shower and uses the time waiting for Bluey and Bingo to find her to do some bathroom cleaning. She’s playing and getting sh*t done—genius!

Perhaps most significantly, she’s a calm and joyous presence in her family’s life—and isn’t that exactly the type of mother we all aim to be? She prioritizes playtime with her kids while making time for self-care (“I need 20 minutes when no one comes near me!” she declares in one episode, echoing touched out parents everywhere.) She holds boundaries lovingly and firmly, but will also lose her cool when the occasion calls for it (in “Sticky Gecko” Chilli tries to get everyone out the door on time and eventually explodes in exasperation… a nearly daily occurrence at my house). She takes care of the “boring stuff” of parenting (like making sure everyone has sunscreen and floaties in “The Pool”) without resentment but with the expectation that it will be acknowledged and appreciated (“So boring things are important sometimes, then?” she says confidently).

Is it any wonder that Chilli was InStyle Australia’s cover star last February?

“She’s juggling motherhood with a return to work in airport security; she gets involved in family games but not without the odd sigh; she tells her daughters to ‘stick it to the man’ while also offering quiet, insightful counsel; and she loves dancing with her sister and listening to Pink Floyd,” reads the magazine’s profile of the character.

But it’s her relationship with Bandit that I find most compelling. Chilli and Bandit’s marriage is sweet yet realistic—the two often exchange eye rolls or exasperated glances at their kids’ antics, even in one episode admitting how much easier their lives would be if they had two Bingos instead (look, we all have a favorite kid, OK?). Even when they disagree (and they do—an entire episode is dedicated to it), they manage to fight fair by injecting humor and “talking” rather than squabbling.

Another reason why I love the Chilli and Bandit dynamic? She seems to leave the vast majority of parenting to dad. In fact, in the very first episode of the show Chilli is heading off to work while Bandit stays home and plays “magic xylophone” with the kids. Is this how most heterosexual couple dynamics play out? Don’t kid yourself. But is this an aspirational setup? You bet. Bandit may not be perfect, but he is definitely not half-assing fatherhood (in one episode, his daughters ask him why he sits at his computer desk on a yoga ball rather than a chair. “Because I wrecked my back changing your nappies,” he replies). He’s imaginative and always available for whatever zany game the kids have cooked up. Is it any wonder that Bandit makes many dad viewers feel guilty by comparison? To which I say—how refreshing for the media to instill DAD guilt for a change! (For what it’s worth, it’s actually very hard to channel Bandit’s constant playfulness at home—we tried it!)

Chilli also knows the secret sauce to a lasting relationship—good humor and keeping your spouse on their toes. For the latter, see the “Hammerbarn” store episode when Bluey tries to steal her sister’s pizza stone and breaks her pretend husband in the process, aka a garden gnome, and Chilli says: “This is what happens when you’re unhappy with what you’ve got. Someone’s husband eventually gets it.” Hear that Bandit?

I can’t wait to see what else is in store for my favorite on-screen couple and leading lady next season. Maybe an episode where both kids have the flu and the parents have to juggle working from home with sick kids? Or a storyline that delves into the challenges of gentle parenting? Something about what to do when your kid wants to invite every kid in their class to their birthday party but you can’t possibly have 40 people at your house? Whatever it is, I know Chilli will handle any obstacle that comes her way with her signature cool, calm and collected disposition. Because whether she’s worrying about the kids, prioritizing family-time and self-care or letting dad take the reins, Chilli just gets it. And I get to absorb her parenting wisdom while lying down on the couch with my 3-year-old sitting happily beside me.

17 Family TV Shows That Aren’t Totally Cringeworthy (or Mind-Numbingly Boring)

img 0936

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...