Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: When a Stranger Needs You
Courtesy Elisabeth Rohm
The actress, 40, currently plays Taylor on The Client List, and will next star as Dolly in David O. Russell’s latest film, American Hustle, to be released Christmas Day.
Her book, Baby Steps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not As I Expected), was released in April.
In her latest blog, Röhm — mom to 5-year-old Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — writes about recognizing when another mom is having a tough time — and helping her out.
You know the look you had on your face this morning as you woke up? That beautiful, focused and yet somewhat frazzled look that suggests you’d be lucky if you could get a comb through your hair as you manage your way through the routine before school time?
You make breakfast, straighten the bed, throw the dishes in the sink (you’ll do them later), get all the troops washed, brushed, flossed, dressed and out the door to your car to begin your commute to the daily drop-off, where you will then try to get to work yourself. (Lucky if you’re on time, ’cause traffic can be a you-know-what). Just a day in the life of parenthood, especially if you’re doing it solo, or as in our case, Daddy’s already gone to work by the time this ritual takes place.
It’s a look I feel creep over my face as I try to gracefully juggle all that’s expected of me. A look that I see on my friend’s faces as they sigh with the relief of having a fellow mom they can show the cracks in their veneer to.
I see it as I watch women in high heels and suits make their way through the grocery store with their little ones climbing all over their shopping carts like monkeys after a long day at work … after which you’ll still need to make dinner, clean the kitchen for the new day ahead, run the bath, throw a load in for clean clothes come morning, and then bed with books, giggles and talks about the day. Not to mention you may even still have work to do after they hit the sack.
You know the look, right? You might even have it spreading across your face right now as you try to manage it all, ladies.
It’s a look that I recognize, and this morning after drop-off I saw it on the face of a young mom who was waiting for the bus with her toddler. I’m not one to try to save the world. It was just a look that touched my heart while I too talked on a conference call and thought about all I had to get done before 3 p.m. It was hard to miss her neck craning to see if she could catch a glimpse of the bus that was going to take her someplace that seemed urgent and important on a weekday morning.
I could relate as I had a pile of calls to return, scripts to read, projects that needed my attention and a house to clean all before I’d make the trek back to Easton’s school for pick-up. Mind you, pick-up is a time of day that I anticipate with joy; however it’s a race for all moms to cram into those few fateful hours all that needs to be done professionally or personally so that we are the best and most sane moms possible.
Now let me start by saying I’m from N.Y.C. I’m street-smart. I grew up knowing not to talk to strangers and mind you, strangers are a part of your daily, hourly, minute-to-minute experience in city life. I know how to watch my back. Not to mention being a city kid makes you savvy. Generally speaking, I’ve got good instincts That’s all to say that I don’t make a habit of picking up strangers off the street and carting them to God knows where, and I certainly don’t propagate being unsafe, especially when you’re someone’s mama.
But as my car slowed down in front of the bus stop due to a firetruck passing, I couldn’t help but notice the look on this mom’s face. It was the look I’d had on mine all morning as I’d tried to do, over-do and be all things to all people, especially my sweet Easton. The child was clean and cared for and seated on the bench while the mom was surveying the landscape. Like her, I was in work/race mode to get everything done that was on my to-do list before school would let out and we’d be on our way to swimming, where all work would come to screeching halt.
I couldn’t help but notice myself in her and all of my friends. In my neighbor this morning who was daring to get some exercise in before she would head to the office, only to return home at 5 p.m. to a whirlwind house where being a mom who does it all is only celebrated once a year and noticed if you have a meltdown from stress and exhaustion. “Mommy needs a break.” Come on, you know it’s true. Look, I’m no Mother Teresa and can count on one hand the times I’ve picked up a stranger to help. But I stopped.
“Hi. You guys okay? Where are you going?” I asked. If had been far I’d probably have said no, but her destination was 20 minutes and just so happened to be a local college. So now add to that mix of work, home, kids, survival — the additional pursuit of education and the chaos of public transportation. OY! I think you ladies know where the story goes from here.
I casually said, “If you feel comfortable, I can drop you off. It’s easier than the bus. I’m a mom. I get it.” Jasmine put her 3-year-old son in the back of my car with the booster seat she was carrying, along with both of their school bags and piled in. I’m guessing they felt safer because my backseat was littered with toys.
Her son quickly befriended Easton’s Minnie Mouse as she told me how she had just gotten back from serving in active duty and was in her second semester of college. Jasmine’s goal is to be a surgeon. I’m so grateful for my education that I couldn’t help but be moved by her story of serving this nation, giving birth in Germany and then taking her military pay and putting it towards school so that she and her boy could have a good life and all the necessities.
Like I said, I don’t recommend this to you. The world can be a crazy place. We all know that. But in that moment, I trusted my instincts as a fellow mom and found I’d made one mother’s life a little bit easier. With a test that day, she got to school an hour earlier than planned. I could relate to the quest for a better life and to fulfill her potential not just for herself, but also for her child. I think we all feel that way. We talked about the importance of education and reinvention.
Anyway, as I was driving with Jasmine, I thought about how important it is that we come together more as a community of women and serve and support each other. That we take the time to notice each other and read the looks and feelings that are all too familiar for us parents who are trying to juggle all that we do. That we lend a hand to each other and continue to build a community amongst our friends, schools, neighbors and yes, even strangers.
It never hurts to recognize another parent and give them a knowing smile or a word of encouragement. Isn’t it really that simple? Don’t we all just need a little compassion and support — to be heard?
As I was blocks away from Jasmine’s college, we too were talking about the courage and energy it takes to continue investing in ourselves, the commitment to our kids that comes so easily being an invaluable lesson about self-love.
I may have given her a ride, which to an outsider could seem crazy. In the end, we both gave each other a little relief in sharing our mom dialogue and all it takes to get through a weekday morning. Women and community — two words that we created and sustain every day of our lives.
Until next time, Mom/Mama/Mommy. You rock.
— Elisabeth Röhm
P.S. As you probably all know, the American Red Cross is very close to my heart. I’ve been working with them for 10 years and am always looking for ways to help support their mission. If you feel like I do, Therafit is a great company that is donating funds to them. You can buy their amazing RED shoe called “The Deborah” and they will donate $20 from each sale to the American Red Cross. What could be better than shopping for a cause?!