Felicity Huffman used to be on my favorite TVshow, Sports Night. She played a woman who was a role model for the single, corporate gal trying to balance a 70-hour work week with testosterone, back stabbing and three-inch pumps. I guess it is the nature of
So Huffman was being interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday. I was watching passively because I had assumed it was going to be the usual “I was not hugged enough as a child” bowel movement of an interview. I groaned loudly when the eternally persnickety semi-journalist Leslie Stahl asked, “Is this the best experience in your life, being a mommy?” Those of us who have children know the condescending half-smile that usually accompanies that question. The standard, obligatory response, of course, is some variation of “Yes. It changed my life. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I’d give it all up…” blah blah blah.
That was what I was excepting from Huffman so I nearly choked on a spoonful of Chunky Monkey when she, visibly irritated, spat back, “No.”
Stahl’s face: horror.
Huffman: No. And I resent that question.
Yeeeeeeyawza! Stahl lookslike one of them EPRDF officials when they are confronted with unscripted questions: resentful, confused and totally unable to recover.
“Because I think it puts women in an untenable position. Because unless I say to you, ‘Oh, Leslie it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life’ I’m considered a bad mother. And just when I said no, you… [throwing her head back] you went back.”
Stahl tries to recover, thus digging herself in more.
“Well, let me ask it this way. Are you a good mother?”
Dude. S0 not another way of asking “is it the best experience of your life”. But why am I defending Huffman?
Huffman: I don’t know if I am a good mother.
Stahl tries on an ersatz clinical psychologist approach.
Stahl: You’re not there enough…? Or… you’re not patient enough?
Huffaman: Yeah.. No, I’m there enough. I don’t know if I am patient enough. I don’t know if I am teaching them the right things…”
Oh, yeah. Sister went there.
Motherhood is not the most beautiful thing I have done in my life. Rather, it has been the most uncertain, destabilizing entity to hit my life. All of a sudden my confidence plummeted, I lost my footing, I was filled with doubt and dread about being responsible for the wellbeing of another living, breathing human being. I spent countless nights debating and rattling sabers with my husband about morality, discipline, logic and latitude—and I can guarantee you no part of it was beautiful. I’ve agonized over what a complete basket case I’d be if I lost a child. Parenthood made me be what I had always resented: vulnerable, bourgeois and the champion of everything status quo. I started to fight to quell the rebel in me and gut check that part of me which made questioning authority prerequisite for fun. Alas now I was the authority. Parenthood turns you into a horrible cliché.
The first day I went back to work after having my son was honestly one of the worse days of my life. I hated feeling guilty for wanting to have a career, and believe me there is no lack of culture to make you feel like a bad mother: not wanting to stay home with the precious gift God gave you, not wanting to car pool with spoiled rug rats with entitlement issues, not wanting to set up insipid play dates, not wanting to have my kid tested for every new mutation of ADD, not wanting to be in the Mother-Son dance committee ... trust me, I've been on the hit list of every waif, neurotic, socialite housewife up and down the Gold Coast. You think standing up to Meles Zenawi is bad? Try standing up to entrenched, dipped-in-PTA parents. Ugh.
Being a mother tore through my Teflon shield of infallibility and I’ve spent many hours agonizing about the gargantuan responsibility I took on without really knowing whether I was equipped with the right DNA to handle it.
Parents who fawn over parenthood are either new parents who have not been slapped with reality, or closet drunks who need sip on sum'sum to cope with being slapped with reality.
I am not always sure I am a good mother. There, I said it. But that uncertainty is what makes me want to try harder. Motherhood might have made me obsess about imaginary germs, but it also got me to think about someone other than my narcissistic, yuppie self. The same pictures of Ethiopian mothers holding their emaciated kid now sears more deeply into my soul. And every time, every time I see a picture of a mother holding a portrait of her dead child, I am temporarily paralyzed by fear.
But being is a mother is why I am the most unlikely, unqualified political un-pundit there is. For the first time in my life I have started to think and write from my heart instead of my brain. I don’t know yet if that’s good. Politics is no longer remote and static. The business of law is no longer a business. I know too much about the environment, airline security, grocery shopping… practically every perspective I thought was a constant in my life has been slightly altered post-kid, and believe me I have an LMK (low maintenance kid). I can’t imaging what a raging bitch I would be if I had a fussy one.
I rage against the machine in
I don’t know if I am a good mother. I don’t know if being a mommy is the best thing that has happened to me. I know though that I want to make my world better.
I told you. Parenthood turns you into a horrible cliché.
I guess politics has to wait until the next blog.