When the babies are little '- the first six months, the first year -- it all lands on the mom. When you're pregnant, you're pregnant together. It's you and your husband, and it's this wonderful thing you're going through. But then the baby comes and it wants to be in your arms, nursing all the time. The beginning of motherhood was very lonely, bewildering and exhausting. My husband was involved and just great, but as they say in sports, you're the one climbing lead.
You've talked about your insecurities when it comes to motherhood. What do you wish you could improve?
I wish I was more patient, better at keeping things in control and keeping boundaries so I don't lose my equilibrium.
What kinds of boundaries?
Well, after about 5pm, I'm outta juice. I'm running on empty those few hours before bedtime. And so if the girls want five more minutes in the bath, I should say no, but what do I do? I give them five more minutes. And they ultimately get cranky and tired, and I get cranky and tired '- and then the train derails.
You've said the harried, out-of-control motherhood experience of your Desperate Housewives character Lynette parallels yours -- but we're sure it's a bit of an exaggeration. What elements of her lifestyle do you most relate to?
Four kids and no help? I'm not so sure it's an exaggeration! Probably her feelings of being overwhelmed, being unable to cope '- never getting it right.
No. [Pauses] Actually, I probably would have asked for help a lot sooner. I'd have said, "This is not going well, I need to move closer to my parents," or something. It takes a village.
Lynette's been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom. In your opinion, who's got the harder job?
Oh, stay-at-home, definitely. I've been both, and, for me, [as a working mom] you have to contend with the guilt and the feeling you're always short-changing someone. It's emotional. There are pros and cons of each. But you go to work, you have coffee, you get to have real conversations. There's room and air when you're at work. Even the drive to work can be a vacation! I think staying at home is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And single moms? I don't know how single moms do it. That's the hardest job.