Felicity Huffman Was Drowning in Motherhood
It's rare that you read something from a celebrity and think: wow, she really exposed herself. (Or at least rare for me because I always assume the PR person has written it all.)
But this post on motherhood by Felicity Huffman is very real. In it, the Desperate Housewife and mother of two girls, aged 11 and 9, talks about something that doesn't get discussed very often -- feeling lost in motherhood.
I often feel I am drowning in motherhood. It was really bad when my girls were younger, but it still exists now: When I am home I want to be away. When I am away I want to be home. I am no longer the person I was before having children, but not quite comfortable with whom I have become. I feel like I live in two different worlds and the oxygen supply in both is only sustainable for about four hours and then my system starts to stress and suffocate.
I think all mothers can really understand what she is saying there: that dichotomous feeling of wanting to be there with the kids and to be away, all at the same moment.
What really struck me was when she wrote about how her anxiety drove her to read all the right books, buy the right diapers and do all the right things but her quest for perfection actually drove her away from being a good mother.
Because being a good parent comes from your heart. The quest for parenting perfection takes a lot of time and may mean that you can check off all the boxes when you are awake at 3 a.m., but it also sucks the happiness out of being a parent.
Huffman's description of how she tried to make sure that she did everything perfectly, but yet felt no joy in parenting reminds me of many moms that I know. Their kids are immaculately dressed, eat diverse and healthy meals and go to all the right extracurriculars but their moms are racked with guilt every moment and are constantly worried about the next thing.
Huffman relates that her breaking point came when she was getting her kids ready to go to the museum for a stimulating afternoon after a busy work week. Her plan was to leave her husband, William H. Macy, at home to relax.
[I] packed an absurdly large healthy snack and we were now heading off on an all-day outing which I was determined to make fun and enriching. Bill, my husband, waved happily as we backed out. “Wait!,” one of my daughters yelled. “Why is Papa not coming?” I told her Papa had been working hard (true) and was staying home because Papa needed some Papa time (also true). “Huh,” she said “Papa gets Papa time and we get The Grump”. WHAT?! The Grump! After all my effort and exhaustion and sacrificing, she wasn’t going to remember the museum or the snack or the wonderful adventure. She was just going to remember that she was on an outing with “The Grump.” Something snapped and I knew what I was doing wasn’t working.
Huffman recounts that she has re-found her voice, and even listens to her own good advice -- sometimes.
Motherhood is complicated but also easy. There are few other things in life when you can know too much and too little at the same time -- and it isn't clear which is better. You can never worry enough and yet every worry is probably about the wrong thing.
Felicity Huffman says she has learned to accept her limits. Have you? Have you ever felt like you were losing yourself in motherhood?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about the teacher who got suspended for calling her students "whiners" in a blog.