Confessions of Real-Life Desperate Housewives

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Mommy Meltdown

If there's one scene this season that made an impact on real-life moms, it's the moment when Lynette begged Susan to watch her kids and then drove off, eventually collapsing in tears on a deserted soccer field. Anyone who's been at home day after day watching one young child -- let alone four of them -- has had moments when she wanted to run away.

"I watch Desperate Housewives largely to see what happens to Lynette, because her life is a lot like mine," says Jen Singer, 37, of Kinnelon, New Jersey, who left a career in advertising to raise her 7- and 6-year-old boys. "Raising children at home can be exhausting, relentless, and depressing. Lynette lets us know that other moms feel the same way and gives legitimacy to our feelings."

Like Lynette, some especially desperate mothers pop pills to get through the day. "People feel guilty complaining about their children and how overwhelming it is," says Dr. Elaine Rodino, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, California. While some women take prescription pain pills to dull their anxiety, women like Lynette sneak their kids' ADD medications because it gives them a burst of energy that allows them to be Supermom -- at least temporarily. "Someone like Lynette may only feel adequate if she is terrific at doing all the tasks assigned to her," says Dr. Rodino.

Luckily, Singer found a better way to cope: she started a Web site, www.MommaSaid.net, that let her vent and connect with other frazzled moms. "It was either that or taking up drinking, and writing seemed more productive," she jokes. "I could get my feelings out, disguised in humor, and then -- surprise! -- found out that other moms felt the same way."

Order in the House

Jennifer Szostak, 36, of Lake Forest, Illinois, has a close, loving relationship with her husband and 5-year-old daughter Megan. But, like Bree, she admits to being "obsessive" about keeping the house clean.

"I'm doing some sort of cleaning every day," she admits. "I can't stand piles, clutter -- if I see a hairball in the corner, everything stops until I get rid of it. I constantly keep mental and paper lists of everything I have to do, and I've taught my daughter to clean up, too. I want her to appreciate an orderly house."

Many women, like Bree, feel that the state of their house reflects their success as a wife and mother. "When you are a stay-at-home mom, very little in your life produces tangible results," says Szostak. "When I clean my house, I can stand back and say, 'I did that, and it looks really good.' It's a great sense of completion."

"Making no mistakes, not leaving a speck of dust in the house -- it makes these women feel like they're more successful," says Dr. Rodino. The problem comes when that quest for perfection takes precedence over normal family life, which can be chaotic and messy. When husbands and kids aren't allowed to feel comfortable in their own home (and are held to impossible standards), they often rebel. "The illogical part is that these women think they're being good wives and mothers, but it can be very annoying to the family," says Dr. Rodino. "It doesn't work."

Continued on page 3:  Dating Is a Drag

 

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