Martyr in the House.

House would seem like the last place one would go to find a brutally honest, scarily unflattering portrait of the sometimes complex emotions that accompany modern motherhood. Well, I suppose the Fox drama is the place to find all things brutally honest and scarily unflattering portraits of people, like the chief character Dr. Gregory House. But it hasn’t focused on the experiences of a mother, especially one trying to work and raise a baby. Until now.


Over the past few weeks, the show has featured a story arc about hospital administrator and Dean of Medicine Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) who became the foster mother of a newborn baby girl whom she hopes to adopt. After undergoing years of failed infertility treatments, the single, hard-working Cuddy was finally given a baby to sleep in that creamy yellow nursery she created in her home which radiates all kinds of gingham warmth. But Cuddy had a really rough transition from being a singularly focused, high-powered hospital executive to someone who’s a career gal and has added another job title to the mix: new mom.


Once that eagerly sought baby was finally in her home, Cuddy thought that her foray into motherhood should be utterly flawless and verbally beat herself up when it wasn’t. Like any mom with a newborn who’s also trying to work, her beautiful home had become messy, littered with bottles, diapers and baby junk as she literally balanced her baby on top of her while keeping her laptop computer upright on the sofa next to her. Cuddy was horrified when the state’s children’s services representative showed up early to inspect her home to determine if she was a capable foster mother for the baby. Though she passed his inspection (“You are heads and shoulders above most of the foster moms I visit,” the examiner said), Cuddy felt like a loser because her house wasn’t tidy and she was sloppily dressed.


A colleague, Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard), told her to focus on the fact that she’d passed her home inspection and would likely get to adopt the baby. Cuddy didn’t buy it. “I passed by their meager standard,” she said. “I failed by mine.”


Wilson shook his head and replied, “Why do women always do that . . . create ridiculous standards that no human could meet, with your careers, with your kids? You’ve got to be more like us men.”


“Be lazy?” she asked. “Blame others?”


“Get help!” Wilson said forcefully. “Most men in your position have a deputy and two assistants at work, and a wife and two nannies at home. You’re not Superwoman. Don’t be a martyr!”


brg65, that would be a great contribution to your class. It was so very, very tough to "enjoy" motherhood. And the heavy expectations I had of myself only made me a more tense mother. Some help from the ex would have helped, too. Things got easier when I became single, believe it or not, because it was just the baby and myself to clean up after, and to pay for, since I was the big breadwinner as well. It sounds like at least one of the House writers knows and cares for somebody who is beating herself up too much.


Love the show House, love your column. I'd love to show this clip of Cuddy in the classes I teach to expectant parents. They are caught up in the romantic notion of bringing home the baby. I don't want to be the bad guy and inform them otherwise, but I do subtly hint at the distress they might feel in the beginning. I share my own experience to make it less threat and more an example. It was a good 3 months before I fell in love with my daughter, and then 6 weeks before I felt connected to my subsequent son.


I'm so glad you wrote about this episode. I don't watch House regularly, but I did catch this episode and was absolutely struck by it. For the first 2 months after I had my son, I was convinced that I made a bad, bad mistake (I don't think this was just post partum). I didn't actually "fall in love" with him until he was 4 or 5 months old. I thought something was unbelievably wrong with me that I wasn't just overcome immediately. I was 37 when I had my son, and having him completely disrupted my life. was all I could do not to shout at the TV screen to Cuddy to hang in there, it will get better, you will love her.