Sarah Treem, creator of the television show “The Affair,” tells the truth about life as a working mom
Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried keeping it together for your family, your job, or your friends, while simultaneously falling apart. Many moms can relate — relentlessly so. Painstakingly so. Exhaustingly so.
And apparently regular moms like us aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure, the sting, and impossibility of “having it all.” Sarah Treem, creator of the Golden-Globe-winning television show “The Affair” and mother of two kids under five years old, is here to break it down for you: “having it all” ain’t glamorous — no matter who you are.
She wrote a powerful essay for Red Online entitled “The Truth About Being A Working Mother” and it’s so relatable you can almost hear the chorus of working moms everywhere singing: I’m not alone.
“As I write this, I’m alone in my house with my 4-year-old son and my 10-month-old daughter. My daughter has caught some virus that seems to be generating a really terrifying rash on 90 percent of her body,” Treem writes.
“My lovely pediatrician, who I’ve now seen three times in the last 10 days, isn’t concerned, but she doesn’t have to wake up every 90 minutes to comfort an inconsolable infant,” Treem adds. She also notes, that her son has been waking up in the middle of the night as well looking for his father, who isn’t home because he and Treem are getting a divorce.
You can feel the gut punch of all of this at once.
She explains that over the past five years she’s gotten married, had two kids, and watched her career blow up.
“Overnight, I became a bit of a poster child for ‘having it all,’” she writes. That’s the part we all see, from the outside. But what’s going on inside is often very different. Sometimes it’s messy, difficult, and draining as hell.
“I’m so tired and overwhelmed, I know I’m going to cry, but I don’t want to wake anyone up, so I go into the bathroom, I turn on the water, then I lay down on the floor, curl into a ball and cry there. Pretty glamorous, right?” she writes of showrunning while pregnant with her second child.
“You can argue that I should have seen this coming. What was I thinking, trying to run a TV show, support a new marriage and have two children at the same time?” she writes. She confesses that she was operating under the “delusion” that she could handle it, that she was tough, and could take all the stress in stride. And why shouldn’t she want all of these things?
“But I don’t think I wanted anything different than a 35-year-old man in my position would expect from his life. Two children, a happy marriage, and a white-hot career? Is that such a crazy thing to strive for?”
I find myself self nodding and guiltily doing the same damn thing (albeit not at the stardom, celebrity level obviously): writing an article for a publication that feels like a dream, taking breaks every 30 seconds or so because one kid needs hugs, and another needs me to look at their boo-boo. I’m also ignoring texts from my husband about weekend plans and looking at the pile of bills on my desk that I haven’t even had a chance to go through. I’m on my fifth cup of coffee and I have to pee. It feels like a tail spin.
The truth is many working moms are ambitious. We are also tough. We can handle a lot. But we all have a threshold, and from time to time we need help. I don’t care if you’re Wonder Woman, even she needs help from time to time. And that’s exactly what Treem realized.
“I regret not asking for enough help. I felt that I needed to prove I could do it on my own. I didn’t want anyone to see me as compromised because I was a woman.”
As women, it’s no secret that often we’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have children. We’re also expected to take care of our kids as if we don’t have jobs. It’s a no win situation. That’s why asking for help is important. Treem says when she finally started admitting to those around her that she needed help, she was shocked (in a good way) and thankful for the people that came forward.
“When I finally sent out an SOS call, I learned there is a whole underground railroad of women who are primed and ready to respond. We are all fighting the same fight. But for some reason, we believe we have to endure it alone.”
In the end, she’s learned a few big lessons that she wants to share with other moms. She recommends that moms admit and notice that being a working mother is hard, she suggests we ask friends for help, and that we be kind and gentle with ourselves. And finally, don’t be afraid of your story (even the messy details). Own that shit.
“Even if it doesn’t work out the way you expected it to. Even if it feels like failure. No matter what happens, it is still the story of your life and nobody else can tell it.”