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Is Lesley Stahl A Good Mother?

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The 13-year-old is in the throes of studying for finals. The other night she developed a mysterious stomach ailment and was hunched over the dining room table wailing dramatically. "I feel just AWFUL!" Being the intuitive mother that I am, I immediately recognized it as an attack of nerves. Here we go again. She always gets this way before a test. I used to think she had chronic appendicitis or kidney disease and rush her to the doctor. Only to be advised in the manner of a dense child that stomachaches in this age group are "common." After discreetly rolling my eyes, I told her to do some deep breathing then made her a cup of peppermint tea.

Why middle schoolers have finals to begin with is a sore point with me. Next thing you know they'll be taking AP classes in Quantum Physics. But that night the Golden Globes were on so I really resented the timing. You'd think, her school being in Hollywood and all and some actor-parents being dimly famous, that the administration would be aware of these touchstones in the entertainment community. In LA the Golden Globes are practically a holiday! But for some perverse reason the school insists on following a traditional calendar.

Which left me with a dilemma. How was I supposed to deal with a panic attack and finish answering the English questions to "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" AND watch the Globes? There's only so much multi-tasking a modern woman can do. And while I normally don't get this frantic over awards shows, this time I had an agenda. I was desperate to see if Felicity Huffman would nab best actress for "Transamerica."

I don't actually know Huffman. Though I occasionally, during a dry spell, interview celebrities as part of my fascinating career. I once saw Huffman and hubby Bill Macy in the Hollywood Hills up at the Hollywood Reservoir while I was running. They both had on workout clothes and were standing by the rail talking and smiling. They looked happy.

I also, I confess, have not watched a single episode of Desperate Housewives. Despite the many efforts of my neighbor Max the wardrobe stylist. "Omygod, it's HILARIOUS!" she says. While I am perfectly capable of watching campy television, so far I've resisted. Too much like my own life only without the diverting sexual escapades. I mean, who wants to watch four gorgeous women having fabulous sex week after week with a parade of attractive hunks? I'm not that much of a masochist.

Then the night before the Globes I happened to catch Huffman on 60 Minutes, and now I might just have to give in and watch the show.

Huffman, I gather, plays one of the main characters. I think it's the manic mama whose kids are always driving her insane. Or is that redundant? Lesley Stahl was interviewing the 40-something actress, the hook being Huffman's astonishing rise from anonymity to fame. It was a dumb and hackneyed premise, but Huffman handled it with candor and charm.

Do people recognize her now? Stahl asked breathlessly. Not exactly. Huffman then told of being tapped on the shoulder in the grocery store. Ah, she thought blissfully, someone wanting her autograph! Instead the would-be fan asked, Are the tomatoes on aisle 10? Or something like that.

And then things got really interesting. Normally I like Stahl. She's bright and tough, though I think she may have overdone it on the plastic surgery. I also felt she was the right choice to interview Huffman. As a woman who's fought her way to the top, I figured she'd be sensitive to the indignities of being an older woman in a profession obsessed with youth. As opposed to, say, the bloviating Mike Wallace.

Boy was I wrong. Here's an actress who admitted not working for a year. How therapy helped her overcome a painful bout with bulimia. An experience that also informed her ability to portray her gender-bending role in "Transamerica."

And what did Stahl career gal extraordinaire focus on?

Huffman as Happy Mommy.

Huffman, to my undying gratitude, was having none of it. When Stahl asked the mother of two little girls and accomplished actress if motherhood wasn't the best experience of her life, Huffman looked at Stahl as if she'd channeled Pat Robertson.

And then--bless her wicked heart--Huffman said, "No, no, and I resent that question. Because I think it puts women in an untenable position, because unless I say to you, 'Oh, Lesley, it's the best thing I've ever done with my whole life,' I'm considered a bad mother."

But Stahl didn't stop there. Even though she looked startled.

"Do you think you're a good mother?" she asked.

By now I would have clobbered Stahl. Or I might have asked, Well, Lesley, do you think you're a good mother? What with all that traveling around the world to dangerous countries, interviewing terrorists and dictators and the like?

Instead Huffman said with obvious emotion, "I don't know if I'm a good mother." And went on to say that she's not sure if she's teaching her daughters the "right" things. Who does? At that point I went a little crazy and started to applaud.

Why do women always get asked The Mommy Question? Why is it assumed that for successful women motherhood is the apotheosis of fulfillment? I don't even know if he has kids, but can you imagine Stahl asking Keanu Reeves that question? Excuse me, Keanu, but isn't fatherhood just the best? Or, say, Kiefer Sutherland from the hit TV show "24"? Ridiculous.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when Huffman got the nod from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for best actress for her performance in "Transamerica."

Gee that woman can multi-task!

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