During the first few seasons of Desperate Housewives, viewers get to know Lynette Scavo, an aspiring professional woman in the advertising and marketing field. Before having children, Lynette was at the top of her industry. Her colleagues and competition raved about her abilities and Lynette was looking at a bright future with many promotions ahead.
But after having kids, Lynette decides to take a step back from her role as a professional in the advertising field because her husband asked her to stay at home and care for their children. Lynette agrees to the task, despite her concerns about leaving the working world that she loved so much, because she thinks to herself, How difficult can being a stay-at-home mom really be after I have mastered the advertising world?
It turns out that the answer to this question is, very hard! Viewers watch as Lynette makes the transition from her high powered job in advertising to being a stay-at-home mom. Lynette is appalled to find out that not only is this parenting job harder than she thought, but she is actually unhappy and resents both her kids and her husband for the role that she has now stepped into.
In one scene, Lynette is at the grocery store with her children. Her children are loud, obnoxious and fighting in the aisles when Lynette runs into a previous colleague from her working days. The colleague asks what Lynette is up to and Lynette explains that she has stepped out of the advertising world to be a stay-at-home mom. The colleague states that this must be wonderful and Lynette engages in a mental battle with herself. She wants to say that it’s terrible, that it was the worst decision that she made in her life and that she misses her working days more than anything in the world. On the other side of her mental battle, she fears that she will be judged for such a negative assessment of her role as a parent. So she lies to the colleague and explains that “it’s great” instead of telling the colleague how she really feels.
Lynette starts to feel as if she isn’t made for this role as a parent. She is upset with herself that she was able to dominate the world of advertising, yet she can’t stay awake long enough to do all of the things that the rest of the mothers in town seem to be able to do so easily. Viewers watch as Lynette becomes too exhausted to meet her idea of what the perfect mother is supposed to look like. She is too exhausted to have a perfectly clean home with fresh baked goodies and homemade meals on the table each night, like it seems the rest of the moms in the town are capable of. She is too exhausted to volunteer to help with her children’s activities while still taking care of her younger children who aren’t in these activities yet, like again it seems like the rest of the moms in town are capable of. And she definitely finds herself too exhausted—and too disgusting—after a day of caring for the children to even think about having a romantic, intimate moment with her husband after he has returned from work.
Lynette develops a solution to the problem after she talks with another mom in the community: ADHD medication! Lynette begins to take ADHD medication because the stimulant that helps children with this diagnosis to calm down helps to give her a raging burst of energy that allows her to stay up late working on the cooking, cleaning, sewing and other tasks that she feels are a requirement to being a good mom in her community. But of course, Lynette’s plan fails and she hits rock bottom.
One day, Lynette has reached the end of her rope. She drops her children off at a friend’s house and retreats to a park where she cries while she thinks about her failures. Lynette’s friends find her and hear Lynette’s story, which she has hidden from her friends up to this point. She admits that she is a failure and that she doesn’t think she has what it takes to be a mom:
“I love my kids so much. I’m sorry they have me as a mother. I can’t do it. I’m so tired of feeling like a failure. It’s humiliating. Other moms don’t need help. Other moms make it look so easy. All I do is complain!”
Lynette has laid it all out, letting her friends know that she is a terrible mother who can’t stand up to the competition in this town. But Lynette is shocked to hear each of her friends—who currently have teenagers—tell stories about how difficult it was to raise their own children. One of the friends shared that she used to use her children’s naptimes to cry. The other concurs that parenting is really hard. Lynette is shocked to hear that the very people that she was comparing herself to have the same feelings about the difficulties of parenthood. She questions why her friends never told her this. One of her friends admits that maybe it’s because “nobody wants to admit they can’t handle the pressure.”
Wow…these words are so powerful yet so true. Moms of all ages of children are pretending to fit this mold that is created by the super mom mentality. They try to cook, clean, sew and plan the best birthday parties while they also change diapers, play with their children and attempt to have a life outside of parenting. These moms are crying during their children’s naptimes or escaping to the shower to cry alone (what a real life mom said she did when she couldn’t figure out how to calm her crying baby). They are constantly ruminating over their failures, thus stressing themselves out even more. These moms are continuing to push and push themselves towards perfection, which only causes more problems:
- The more these moms don’t talk to their friends, family and other support systems, the more stressed out and overwhelmed these moms become and the worse their obsession with being the perfect mom becomes
- The less that is shared with friends and family members, the more other moms are falling into the same patterns because no one is telling these moms what to truly expect
Lynette puts it beautifully during her conversation with her friends during that breakdown at the park: “We should tell each other this stuff!”
Please, take Lynette’s advice. When you think that you are overwhelmed and can’t do it, don’t be afraid to tell your spouse, friends and family that you can’t do it. Ask for help and be willing to share how difficult this job is. Join a moms support group to share your story and learn about the stories from other experienced moms. You would be surprised to find out how many other moms will give a sigh of relief to hear you say that you also find this job difficult, and they will share with you some of the difficulties that they have been having.
By doing this, you’re helping yourself by recognizing how unrealistic it is to believe that you can do it all, still have a great relationship with your children, husband, friends, family and co-workers, and still have some time to take care of yourself. But you’re also helping others who are about to be in your position. Wouldn’t you have loved to have heard from other moms that being a parent is really hard and that they feel every day like they are doing something wrong? Since nobody cared enough to help you, try to take the first step to help others who might be in your position in a few years without your advice.
Parenting is hard, so please talk about it!