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Books & CultureJanuary/February 2005



The Real Life of an At-Home Mother
Desperate housewives

If modern mothers ever had an enemy, it is June Cleaver. Perhaps more than anyone else in history, June created in us the idea that the good mother spends her day happily meeting the needs of her family. She cooks a hearty breakfast, keeps a tidy house, and welcomes her weary charges home each afternoon with a plate of warm cookies and a tender smile. We never see June complain or wish for a more fulfilling role. We never see her sigh when she finally gets a minute to sit down only to be interrupted by yet another request from the Beav. She certainly never asks Ward to watch the boys for a night because she wants to go out for some "mommy time." June is the superhuman mother who sets us all up for disappointment.

The cult of the family has hijacked June as its mascot and made her even more inimitable by adding the weight of a child's spiritual well-being to June's already heavy load. Christian mothers today are expected not only to polish and iron and fix and fuss but to plan creative family devotions, volunteer to teach Sunday school, homeschool the kids, and build a family life that models the very heart of God.

Part of what makes the stay-at-home conversation so loaded is that women themselves often have conflicting feelings about their choice. Even mothers who love being home have days when they wish they were somewhere else. Traci told me, "After my first son was born, I telecommuted for a few months. During that time God really changed my heart. I realized that I would rather sacrifice the career I loved than sacrifice those early years with my young child. This is not to say that staying home was an easy choice for me. I missed work so much that sometimes it physically hurt. It took me a long time to be able to say ...

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