“The Girl on the Train,” the best-selling debut novel by Paula Hawkins and its accompanying movie adaptation that is out on Friday, tells the story of three different women whose lives intersect. (I read the book and saw the movie in an advanced screening on Tuesday.)
Rachel longed to be a mother, but after a round of in vitro fertilization failed, she took to the bottle and her marriage ends. It’s as if she is filling the hole left behind by the absence of a child with the alcohol. She is lost and believes she needs to have the perfect family, husband included, to make her whole.
Anna became a mother easily. The former real estate agent, who is now married to Rachel’s former husband, has thrown everything into the work of being a mother. She is consumed
with doing the best for her daughter. The work of
motherhood is so hard for Anna that she has to hire a nanny to help her.
Megan is that nanny. Her husband wants her to have a child so they can complete the facade of having it all: the perfect house, the perfect marriage, the perfect child. He hopes that she will be inspired by seeing the perfect Anna and her husband, Tom, and their darling child, but the domesticity of Anna’s home makes Megan want to run away even more.
They are women who define themselves by whether they have, can have or even want a child. The way they formerly defined themselves — public relations professional, real estate agent, gallery curator — no longer apply.
Women do that to themselves. One of the single best advice someone gave me when I was pregnant with my now 15-year-old was not nap when he naps (which is incredibly wise and impossible), but to continue to have a life outside of motherhood. To have interests. To have me time. To have adult conversations. Moms forget to do that — a lot — and then they burn out on what is truly the hardest job of their lives.
Next week, I’ll be writing about Tribe, which is a space for moms to connect with other moms under the guise of working out. It really speaks to this idea that there has to be something more than just sitting at home. There has to be a connection to the outside world to make motherhood not feel so overwhelming.
And even though, I should identify most with Anna, the only current mother in this book, it is Rachel that makes my heart ache. Would her life and her path have been different if she had not struggled with infertility? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the pain of that feels very real.
I’ve written a few stories about infertility. Here are some of them:
I’ve also written about how to better enjoy parenting and take the crazy out of it:
After all, we don’t want to end up like Rachel, Megan or even Anna, do we?