Parenting
Parenting

Media Myths About Stay-At-Home Moms

| by Suzanne Venker
It's amazing what a difference attitude makes. I should know: I've had my share of bad attitudes. Then when I have a good day with a good attitude, I'm reminded how significant this small change can be.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I drop both my kids off at school for a full day -- 8 to 3. My son is in kindergarten, and he has a split week schedule -- where M/W/F he goes half day and I pick him up at 11:30. Tuesdays and Thursdays are a constant reminder of what's to come this September, when both my children will be away from me every day from 8 to 3.

It's only then that I consider the concept of the 1950s housewife. Several months ago I wrote an article called "June Cleaver and Me" for a website. Here's a piece of it:

Nothing sounds more pleasant to me than June’s life. I have been home with my two children for the past eight years and have just begun June’s phase of motherhood. While I can’t say I didn’t work at all during the early years—I wrote my first book (while my daughter slept) somewhere between child number one and child number two and wrote a few articles here and there—I lived June’s life just the same. And I have to say that after living with an appendage attached to me wherever I go—even to the bathroom—the idea of settling into life without my kids for a large portion of the day is extremely enticing.

This pretty much sums up my feelings about this stage of motherhood. Where some mothers are sad, lost, and bereft at the thought of no longer having babies and small children around, I feel quite the opposite. Don't misunderstand: I do see babies and toddlers and long for them -- but I don't pine away for the daily grind of caring for them. I'd be happy to just have them for the day -- and then give them back. Like Grandma gets to do.

I say all this because I'm sitting here on a Tuesday with the day in front of me, and only a mother who's been at home full-time can appreciate the beauty of this new life. Which gets me to thinking about the image people have of mothers at home who have kids in school, the image that's perpetuated in the media. I think of movies like the one that came out not too long ago with Julianne Moore. She plays a 1950s housewife who lives in a dark house with one school-age boy and finds herself so mired in depression over motherhood that she considers suicide. Then there's the movie that just came out -- Revolutionary Road -- which is basically the same theme.

I think of this perception and I think, "God, all these movies are made by women who've never even been home." The producers and writers of these movies don't live our lives at all; they just assume this must be what it's like. Perhaps they capture this image to make themselves feel better about the fact that they've never desired a plain life of motherhood and apple pie. So they just assume that women who are home with school-age children must suffocate.

This is where attitude comes in to play. I don't believe that 1950s housewives ever suffered the way Hollywood pretends they did. I think they were as thrilled as I am when their children started school. True, they didn't have the same opportunities to work from home, as I do; nor did they have computers to stay in touch with the world. But many, many mothers went to work in some capacity -- far more than the media like to admit. And the rest became involved in politics and community affairs. Their time, just like mine, became their own again. They had the entire middle of the day for the first time since before they had children, and you can bet they took advtantage of it.

Indeed, most mothers embraced their newfound freedom and relished in it. They didn't curl up into a ball and think about killing themselves out of sheer boredom. Good grief, people.

Get a life.


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