What “The Girl on the Train” reminds us about motherhood

“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.)

In this image released by Universal Pictures, Emily Blunt appears in a scene from, "The Girl on the Train." (DreamWorks Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)
Emily Blunt plays Rachel in “The Girl on the Train.” DreamWorks Pictures/Universal Pictures photos


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

In this image released by Universal Pictures, Rebecca Ferguson appears in a scene from, "The Girl on the Train." (Barry Wetcher/DreamWorks Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)
Rebecca Ferguson plays Anna.

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.

In this image released by Universal Pictures, Haley Bennett appears in a scene from, "The Girl on the Train." (Barry Wetcher/Universal Pictures via AP)
Haley Bennett plays Megan.

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:

On a couple’s four-year infertility struggle and the book they wrote.

On egg donation and surrogacy

On a woman’s journey toward surrogacy

On the pain of miscarriage

I’ve also written about how to better enjoy parenting and take the crazy out of it:

13 ways to better enjoy family life

Slow down and parent

Mothers’ New Year’s resolutions

A new book on how to enjoy and remember the “now” of parenting

After all, we don’t want to end up like Rachel, Megan or even Anna, do we?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s