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Thursday, November 15 2018 @ 01:08 pm PST

Burned Out Moms

General NewsMost of you are probably aware of the search that is going on for missing Oregon mom Jennifer Huston. It hits close to home literally and figuratively, so I thought I should add my two cents.

Disclaimer: I HAVE NO INSIDE INFORMATION. I'm not Jennifer, I don't know her, I haven't seen her. I wish I could help in the search but I have my own mom-duties. This is my own speculation based on regional knowledge, news reports and life as a mom.

She gassed up her SUV, bought trail mix, Gatorade and OTC sleeping pills, and got less than $100 from an ATM. This isn't suicide. This isn't a woman leaving her husband. This is a woman who just wants a little short-term escape. I get that. When the story first broke and she had only been missing a short time, I had a brief moment of cheering her on, because I imagined her getting some well-deserved sleep in a private parking spot somewhere. Now, of course, it's evident that something went awry.

Ever wonder about those "baby on board" placards on cars? Supposedly they're to remind other drivers to not endanger the vehicle, but in truth they are warnings that the driver of the vehicle is not in prime condition. With the kids in the car, the driver may be running on adrenaline, dodging flying objects and trying to block out screams. But when the parent is alone, the exhaustion hits. You're not directly responsible for another life at that precise moment. And both reckless driving (ah, the freedom!) and being drowsy at the wheel are distinct possibilities. Then you add the landscape in the area surrounding Dundee/Newberg. It's wine country and forests, with lots of roads to nowhere, deep gulleys, sharp curves and no shoulders to the roads. I used to drive that area a lot when WatchKitten was a baby and the constant turns would rock him to sleep, but it required both hands on the wheel at all times and constant vigilance. Reaching for a drink or snack on those roads could be deadly. It would also be highly possible to pull into the wrong person's driveway, and that's a scenario no one wants to think about. Family and friends have asked people to drive the back roads looking for disturbed vegetation, dented barriers etc, but unless they close the roads to non-searchers, those drivers could end up in a bad situation as well. You'd have to drive at a snail's pace in order to scan the area safely.

As always, there are questions for the husband and relatives. The husband has passed a polygraph, and to the best of my knowledge there's no reason to suspect that he harmed his wife. But I was uneasy about quotes of "he's the most patient person I know" and general comments about the perfection of the marriage. Perfection is pressure. And parenthood...the pressures in our culture are huge. But I suspect that the pressure got to her, not her husband. And whether it was an accident or a medical issue or simply waking up after her face was already on the news, a few hour's escape turned into something worse.

Jennifer, if you're holed up in some cheap hotel reading this, know that a lot of burned out moms understand your need to escape. We're hoping your sanity time just got a little out of hand. We'll pray and search, and we hope to cheer your homecoming too.

EDIT 8/7/2014: It looks like I was wrong, as her body has been found and her death has been ruled a suicide. It's a reminder that rational thought doesn't apply when someone is thinking of ending their life. After much consideration, I've decided to leave this post up, partly for humility and partly as a reminder that burnout is dangerous on multiple levels. If you feel the ground is falling out from under you, call a friend, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your life is worth more than you realize.


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